14 Cutest Towns in the Finger Lakes + Hidden Gems

As a New Yorker, the towns in the Finger Lakes rank as some of my personal favorite getaways in the state! These majestic lake towns offer a special blend of tranquility, art, outdoors, farm life and a young population thanks to nearby universities like Cornell. 

From the museums to wineries and cider houses to the artisan vibes of places like Ithaca, the Finger Lakes offer different kinds of experiences. Here are the best Finger Lake towns and what to do in/near each one. 

BTW, for outdoor enthusiasts, this area is also home to some of my favorite New York state parks!

The Best Towns in the Finger Lakes

1. Ithaca, New York ★

Located in the heart of Cayuga Lake, the progressive town of Ithaca is one of the easiest launching pads for exploring the Finger Lakes. It is home to the prestigious Cornell University and Ithaca College, which adds intellectual charm and makes it one of the finest to live in New York State.

But what makes Ithaca truly amazing, is the proximity to outdoors gems like Buttermilk Falls State Park ★and Robert Treman State Park which boasts gorgeous hiking trails, stunning waterfalls, and natural swimming holes! 

If you love shopping, I highly recommend a stop at the Ithaca Farmers Market ★. It’s a local gem for regional produce, crafts, and artisanal goods! I come here every time I visit Ithaca. But beware it’s only open on weekends from May to October.

For art and history lovers, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art houses captivating exhibits while the State of the Art Gallery has local contemporary art. For history, the Museum of the Earth transports you through millions of years of fossils, interactive displays, and engaging exhibits. 

For breweries, visit the Ithaca Beer Company ★, Ithaca Ale House, and Personal Best Brewing. For cider traditions, Hollenbeck’s Cider Mill offers yummy cider, apples, and donuts. 

Where to Stay in Ithaca, NY

Choosing where to stay might make or break your experience in Ithaca. Good for you as this part of the Finger Lakes offers various impressive stays.

  • La Tourelle Hotel & Spa: This luxurious retreat offers modern amenities in natural surroundings.
  • Firelight Camps: For even more immersive nature but keeping the amenities, consider glamping here!
  • Argo’s Inn: This charming 12-room boutique hotel offers a curated stay with a gorgeous cocktail bar (that you can visit even if you’re not staying here!) 

2. Geneva, New York

On the northern tip of Seneca Lake sits Geneva, a small cozy little town that bridges other major towns in the Finger Lakes. It’s just 23 minutes from Canandaigua in Western Finger Lakes and 40 minutes from Watkins Glens.

There’s more to Geneva than being home to the prestigious Hobart and William Smith Colleges. The Smith Opera House is a cultural gem that hosts various performances and events transporting visitors to a bygone era of elegance and entertainment. Don’t miss the Rose Hill Mansion for its 19th-century architecture and to appreciate its timeless charm.

For an interesting culinary experience, reserve a spot at FLX Table for a community dinner with strangers sharing a curated multi-course menu. Or drop by Kindred Fare for a farm-to-table dining experience.

For beer, my favorite in town is Big aLICe Brewing Finger Lakes which has a big lawn and offer activities. It’s also LGBT+ welcoming. Yay! There’s also Brewery Ardennes Taproom & Kitchen nearby. For wine, consider booking this Seneca Lake wine tasting tour.

Where to Stay in Geneva, NY

Geneva on the Lake is the loveliest hotel you will find in Geneva! Aside from its comfortable rooms and accommodating staff, the place flaunts a beautiful lakeside view, a great restaurant, and a friendly location to the downtown.

3. Skaneateles, New York ★

One of my favorite small towns in Upstate New York, Skaneateles is famous for its lake which holds the crown for the clearest lakes in the state. To take in all its beauty, take a guided boat tour with dinner or rent a watercraft exclusively for you! If being on the water is not your thing, Thayer Park is one of the best locations for beautiful lake views! The lake is also located right downtown!

What I adore about this town is how walkable the downtown is! For boutique shopping here, walk to The Local Branch for high-quality, handcrafted selection of clothing and antique items. For men, Sea Culture is another spot for impressive and unique clothing. But my favorite shop? Skaneateles 300.

Treat yourself to a nice dinner and cocktails at Elephant and Dove. This Mexican restaurant in Upstate New York boasts delicious specialties with health-conscious options and high quality ingrediants.

Where to Stay in Skaneateles, NY

Wake up to amazing views by staying at a waterfront resort in Skaneateles. But if you’re more fond of gardens, you also have the option to stay at a nearby inn.

  • Sherwood Inn: Along the shores of Skaneateles Lake stands this 1807 hotel that offers a serene and charming and historic escape.
  • Mirbeau Inn & Spa: Inspired by French elegance, this inn indulges guests with a relaxing spa retreat within a dreamy property.

4. Canandaigua, New York ★

Canandaigua offers a charming and tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of nearby Rochester city life. Visit the Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park, where magical gardens surround a stunning mansion giving you a glimpse into the region’s rich history. For those seeking a deeper connection with the past, the Ganondagan State Historic Site ★ is a must-visit cultural center that works to preserve and share insights into the area’s Native American heritage.

For a NY winter getaway, head to the nearby Bristol Mountain Ski Resort’s slopes. When it’s not snowing, joining a luxurious two-hour sunset cruise on Canandaigua Lake might be what you’ll need. Then couple it with a tour to Canandaigua’s wine trails for beautiful vineyards and exquisite wines that reflect the region’s uniqueness. 

You can also take a Canandaigua Lake brewery tour for a walkthrough of the best ones in town. But if a tour is too much, make a stop at Young Lion Brewing Company, a women-owned brewery that boasts a wide selection of choices. 

For coffee, a visit to Working Class Coffee will greet you with a welcoming atmosphere, aromatic brews, and amazing food. They have the best chocolate banana bread, too! 

Where to Stay in Canandaigua, New York

If you’re yearning for a luxurious and relaxing lakeside escape, The Lake House on Canandaigua ★ is unparalleled for its amazing rooms, breathtaking lake views, barrel saunas, and free yoga classes!

5. Watkins Glen, New York ★

Watkins Glen is one of the most popular Finger Lakes towns, famous for having the incredible Watkins Glen State Park ★ right there downtown! This park boasts gorgeous  trails, lush gorges, and one of the most breathtaking waterfalls in Upstate New York. Also, if you want a unique equestrian experience, nearby Painted Bar Stables ★ offers guided horseback tours through beautiful landscapes. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or a beginner, you will have a great time here!

You’ll also love the Seneca Wine Trail’s sprawling vineyards and historic, award-winning wineries, each with its unique character. For the ultimate immersive experience, consider booking a Seneca Lake wine tasting tour to explore the artistry of winemaking, too. 

For food, Graft Wine + Cider Bar offers special Dominican-American fusion plates. For a taste of authentic barbecue, Nickel’s Pitt BBQ stands as a local gem –get the buffalo parm chicken wings here! Or, Grist Iron Brewing Company ★, which seamlessly blends craft beer. Then there’s the classic Elf In The Oak, which has some of the most coveted sandwiches in the region.

Where to Stay in Watkins Glen, NY

Watkins Glen is home to a range of lodging options, from contemporary hotels to townhomes that ensure beautiful lake views.

6. Corning, New York ★

Corning is a small city of 11,000+ population, but for many of us (especially NYCers) it’s another cute Finger Lake town! Known for its iconic glass heritage, it has earned a global reputation for arts, craftsmanship, and technological advancements in glassmaking. 

Do not leave here without stopping at Corning Museum of Glass ★. This massive museum offers art, live demonstrations by skilled artisans, historic exhibitions, a vast collection of glass art spanning centuries and cultures. You can make your own glassware, too!

Beyond the glittering displays of glass art, Corning boasts historical treasures such as Corning’s Rockwell Museum ★, one of my favorite museums in Upstate NY! It takes you through 19th-century American painting and artifact collections. I love that they highlight BIPOC artists and history, too. For more local history, you can also visit the Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes, a historic inn and tavern that will take you back to the 1800s.

Gaffer District, Corning’s Downtown, is also a great spot for amazing boutique shops, restaurants, and breweries. Visit The Quincy Exchange, a culinary oasis, and Hand + Food, which has a unique menu, then cap off your day at Liquid Shoes Brewing for the most tasty brews in town!

7. Aurora, New York

Aurora gained recognition for being the hometown of Pleasant Rowland, the creator behind American Girl. After attending Wells College, she revitalized the town over the years to what it is today, making Aurora’s structures part of the National Register of Historic Places list. 

She also began MacKenzie-Childs’ ceramic collection! You can visit the cute shop, but be warned it was sold so now it doesn’t have the same local hand-made charm. 

Don’t leave town without stopping for drinks! Savor a delightful range of craft beers in a charming atmosphere at Aurora Brewing Company or take a guided exploration of the local craft beverage scene with Crush Beer & Wine Tours. Expert guides will lead you on a delightful journey through Aurora’s brewery and winery offerings. 

Where to Stay in Aurora, New York

Indulge in the quintessential charm of the town by staying at the Inns of Aurora. These luxurious inns offer a blend of elegance and modern comfort for a tranquil escape. 

8. Auburn, New York

Auburn is an easy stop if you’re on your way to other towns such as Skaneateles and Seneca Falls! And the biggest reason to stop here? It is home to Harriet Tubman’s house ★! Pay homage to the iconic abolitionist and get a glimpse into her remarkable life and the Underground Railroad. 

You can also go back in time to the Seward House Museum, the former residence of the former Secretary of State. Its preserved rooms and artifacts offer a window into the 19th-century political landscape. And for more legacy of equal rights and social progression, there is the NYS Equal Rights Heritage Center & Auburn NY Visitor Center

Nature enthusiasts can visit the Charlie Major Nature Trail which offers a tranquil escape for hiking and contemplation. Follow it with a visit at Prison City North Street Farm & Brewery to savor the outstanding flavors of locally crafted beers.

9. Seneca Falls, New York

Seneca Falls is known as the birthplace of the women’s rights movement in the USA! So don’t skip the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. In it sits Wesleyan Chapel, where the First Women’s Rights Convention was held. 

Stop at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge if you like birdwatching. It offers a scenic experience and walking trails.

For good and cheap shopping, head to the Waterloo Outlet mall.

And for craft brews, stop by Fall Street Brewing. They have coffee, cider, kombucha, wine, and cocktails, too! Just a hop away, Fleur De Lis Brew Works also offers artisanal brews and a welcoming ambiance. 

Seneca Falls is also close to the most popular towns of the Finger Lakes, making it the perfect base if you’re exploring multiple towns in the northern and eastern part of the region. It’s between 15-50 minutes to Auburn, Skaneateles, Syracuse, and Geneva. Plus, it has the most affordable Airbnbs and home rentals!

10. Penn Yan, New York

Penn Yan is Keuka Lake’s “capital” and a great place to launch kayaks! Go ride with Shoreline Rentals, which offer superb service for reasonable prices! 

If hiking is your thing, visit the Keuka Outlet Trail, which promises cute views, historical remnants, and a rejuvenating connection to the outdoors. Here you’ll see Cascade Mill Falls and Seneca Mills Falls.

Discover the local wines of Finger Lakes on the Keuka Lake Wine Trail by booking this tour. Keuka Spring Vineyards is a standout that boasts stunning vineyards and award-winning wines. For beer, visit Abandon Brewing Company, a unique brewing haven that offers a diverse selection of winner craft beers.

If you happen to crave for some caffeine, Amity Coffee is a cozy place that features aromatic and expertly crafted brews and a warm, inviting atmosphere. For some refreshment, Spotted Duck Creamery ★ adds a touch of sweetness to the Penn Yan experience. Their artisanal ice creams are a must-try!

11. Mount Morris + Geneseo, New York

The main attraction in Mount Morris, without a doubt, is Letchworth State Park. Often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” it captivates visitors with its breathtaking landscapes and dramatic gorges carved by the Genesee River. Spanning over 14,000 acres it boasts lush forests, majestic waterfalls, and scenic vistas. Enjoy its extensive trail system and witness the awe-inspiring power of nature!

This popular SUNY college town is also 10 minutes away from Geneseo! Hence, take a short trip to Indian Fort Nature Preserve, which invites nature enthusiasts to explore scenic trails and diverse ecosystems. The Wadsworth Homestead, on the other hand, is a historical gem with architecture and estate that offers a glimpse into the region’s rich past. 

Where to Stay in Geneseo, NY

Discover the perfect accommodations for your stay in Geneseo, NY, where charm meets convenience.

12. Hammondsport, New York

Hammondsport is a quaint village famous for wines and antique shops. Due to its location, this town offers some of the cheapest stays in the Finger Lakes area–making it an affordable launching pad.

Some of the many antique shops here include the Crooked Lake Antiques and Opera House Antiques for unique finds. They offer nice collections of vintage items, cementing the town’s reputation as a haven for collectors.

If you’re a fan of aviation, book a ticket to Glenn H Curtiss Museum to explore the life and legacy of the pioneering aviation and motorcycling legend.

Spend your in-betweens at Hammondsport wineries. The most famous one you can’t miss here is Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery ★, where a premier wine-tasting experience is a must-have! For an unforgettable visit, savor rich traditions and timeless vintages at The Pleasant Valley Wine Company, the oldest winery in the Finger Lakes.

13. Ovid + Interlaken + Trumansburg, New York

Sandwiched closely between Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake, these three towns make for an easy day trip full of gems! While Tumansburg is the biggest, Ovid and Interlaken offer quaint farms, gorgeous country vibes, and cute small businesses. They’re all a short drive from each other!

The biggest attraction in this area is Taughannock Falls. Cascading 215 feet into a stunning gorge, this breathtaking beauty is one of the highest waterfalls in the Northeastern United States. The state park’s hiking trails and majestic waterfall creates a mesmerizing backdrop. 

In Ovid, visit The Pumpkin Stand ★ for an enjoyable time of picking some pumpkins. In Interlaken, the seasonal Lively Run Goat Dairy ★ is the best place for artisanal cheeses tastings while the Finger Lakes Cider House ★ is great for a cider tasting experience. 

In Trumansburg, go to the farmers’ market for amazing produce, live music, and food and The Honeybee Embassy for a curated selection of locally sourced bee-related products.

For wines, these are the best places in the area: 

II. Frequently Asked Questions: Towns in the Finger Lakes

What is the largest town in the Finger Lakes?

With a population of more than 30,000, Ithaca is the largest Finger Lakes town. And Auburn comes in a close second.

What are all 11 Finger Lakes?

The 11 Finger Lakes are Canadice, Canandaigua, Cayuga, Conesus, Hemlock, Honeoye, Keuka, Otisco, Owasco, Seneca, and Skaneateles.

Which Finger Lake has the most wineries?

Surrounded by 35 wineries, Seneca Lake has the most wineries among the Finger Lakes.

Which is the best town in the Finger Lakes to stay?

The best choices, especially for first time travel to the Finger Lakes are Ithaca and Watkins Glen. But my favorite is Skaneateles. And if you’re coming from Western New York, then consider Penn Yan or Canandaigua.

Where is the best place to live in the Finger Lakes?

Ithaca, Skaneateles, and Corning are best places to live in the Finger Lakes.

Why do Finger Lakes wineries close at 5?

Generally, wineries often close at 5 PM due to local regulations and to allow winery staff to maintain a work-life balance.

What is the largest or longest trail in the Finger Lakes?

The main Finger Lakes trail spans over 580 miles, with additional branch and loop trails branching off from it. In total, the whole Finger Lakes Trail System provides a hiking network covering at least 900 miles.

III. Related Blog Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *