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The Finger Lakes, New York: Taste the Good Life

According to Native American lore, the New York’s Finger Lakes were formed when the Great Spirit cast his hand upon the most beautiful land he had created. The region teems with nature’s bounty, from the scenic beauty of its lakes, waterfalls, parks, farms and villages to its fertile soil, lake-moderated climate and culinary abundance.

Second only to California as a U.S wine producer, it is our third-largest in dairy production. Ontario County is one of the largest cabbage producers in the world.

picnic of locally sourced foods, Finger Lakes , New York
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picnic of locally sourced foods, Finger Lakes , New York

There are roadside stands, farmers markets, pick-your-own farms, wine trails, and food festivals. With a seemingly limitless selection of fresh, local ingredients to eat, there are plenty of choices on how and where to enjoy it, from an al fresco picnic to fine dining prepared by top chefs.

The Finger Lakes region is steeped in history and tradition, with lakes mansions, gardens, museums, arts and entertainment, antiques and spas. It’s a place to savor the good life–as close to the earth as you choose to get– in a spectacular backdrop with a storied past.

Carry your memories home in the form of your favorite locally-created specialty foods, wine, or unique locally-created tableware. You’ll find gifts for everyone on your list.

There are fourteen counties in the Finger Lakes region. While most of our time was spent in Ontario County, we added some other compelling destinations.

Victor

sea scallops with sweet corn, golden chanterelle, black truffle, and thinly sliced chorizo at Warfield's, Victor, New York
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sea scallops with sweet corn, golden chanterelle, black truffle, and thinly sliced chorizo at Warfield’s, Victor, New York

Dinner was nearby at Warfield’s, in the Constellation Building (Constellation is one of the area’s largest wine producers). From the Pork Belly Risotto and Sea Scallops with Sweet Corn, Golden Chanterelle, Black Truffle, and Chorizo to the profiteroles and New York wines, we were off to a great gastronomic start.

Kathleen Tully Houser, Grandma Hattie’s Tea Party, Victor, New York
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Kathleen Tully Houser, Grandma Hattie’s Tea Party, Victor, New York

Retired primary school principal Kathleen Tully Houser has a passion for fashion, lives in a purple house and makes new creations from her collection of vintage glass, china, linens
and silver. We dined on an elegantly presented local specialty, buckwheat pancakes, and much more at her Grandma Hattie’s Tea Party in Miss Lillian’s Tea Room, shown in the former location in the Ichabod Town Homestead, but now on Main Street.

reconstructed 17th century bark longhouse, Ganondagan, Victor, New York
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reconstructed 17th century bark longhouse, Ganondagan, Victor, New York

A reconstructed 17th century bark longhouse stands in the only State Historic Site in New York State dedicated to Native American History, Ganondagan. Once home to an estimated 4,500 Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) who grew corn, beans, and squash, “the great sustainers”, it was here that warring Nations came together and threw their weapons into a hole beneath a White Pine tree, the origins of the phrase “to bury the hatchet”. When Louis XIV ordered the Senecas eradicated over control of the fur trade the settlement was abandoned. Self-guided trails are marked with Native America art and descriptions.

Fiori Ice Wine and cheese at Casa Larga Vineyards, Fairpoint, New York
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Fiori Ice Wine and cheese at Casa Larga Vineyards, Fairpoint, New York

Casa Larga Vineyards in Fairpoint, just north of Victor, is renowned for its award-winning wines, most notably its Fiori Ice Wines. Stop for a tour and tasting. Rain or shine, September and harvest brings the lively Purple Foot Festival, the largest grape stomping event in the Eastern USA.

Canandaigua

Named Canandaigua “The Chosen Spot,” by Native Americans, this county seat has an historic downtown area lined with Victorian homes, churches, a stately court house and City Hall, galleries, and unique shops and dining options. The Finger Lakes Visitors Connection office is in a charming brick house at 25 Gorham St.

Entree and dessert crepes are made to order and breakfast is served all day at Simply Crepes. It’s Crepes Bendict, Crespella Florentine, apple wood smoked bacon, Oatmeal Creme Brulee and more at Sunday Brunch, a local favorite.

honey, Canandaigua Farmers Market, New York
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honey, Canandaigua Farmers Market, New York

Saturdays June-October you’ll find all you need for your own gourmet picnic at the Canandaigua Farmers Market— Amish homemade baked goods, sauces, pickles, jams, maple products, honey, produce, specialty food products and more.

almond bark and other specialty chocolate at Sweet Expressions, Canandaigua, New York
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almond bark and other specialty chocolate at Sweet Expressions, Canandaigua, New York

Local chocolatier Denise Chaapel makes specialty chocolates at Sweet Expressions. Be sure to try the chocolate covered potato chips and the ever-popular almond bark.

Penelope Pankow. F. Olivers, Canandaigua, New York
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Penelope Pankow. F. Olivers, Canandaigua, New York

Find the local hostess gift of choice at F. Olivers, which opened this spring. Sample flavor infused, single varietal, extra virgin olive oils and pair them with aged and flavor-infused balsamic vinegars from Italy. The oils and vinegars are stored in fustis, dispensing tanks made in Italy, to ensure freshness and are bottled on the spot.

With fun classes, samples, meal coaches, recipes, meal preparation demonstrations, and ever-popular takeaway meals, the 110,000 square foot Wegman’s is no ordinary supermarket. Try some local Lively Run goat cheese or Hartmann’s sausage, made down the street. Thursday night antique car shows and a Friday night wine bar and jazz quartet, full dine-in facilities, it’s an attraction in itself.

Lily pond, Sonnenberg Gardens, Finger Lakes, New York
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Lily pond, Sonnenberg Gardens, Finger Lakes, New York

Sonnenberg (“Sunny Hill”) Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park was owned by philanthropist Mary Clark Thompson, whose father was Governor of New York, and her husband, Frederick Ferris Thompson, President of New York Bank, now CitiBank.

Sonnenberg Gardens, Finger Lakes, New York
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Sonnenberg Gardens, Finger Lakes, New York

It was a summer home and supplied the produce and floral needs for their NYC home.

Sonnenberg Mansion, Finger Lakes, New York
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Sonnenberg Mansion, Finger Lakes, New York

Admission includes the Queen Anne-style mansion, greenhouses, gardens and seasonal guided walking tour. Friday nights it is illuminated for Moonlight Strolls.

Cooking class at New York Wine and Culinary Center, Canandaigua, New York
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Cooking class at New York Wine and Culinary Center, Canandaigua, New York

Sample NY State and international wines at the New York Wine and Culinary Center, 800 S. Main St. Learn how to pair foods and wines, take a class in the hands-on kitchen, visit the Tasting Room, or enjoy a meal at The Taste of New York Restaurant upstairs, where chefs demonstrate their artistry with New York foods and wines.

Canandaigua Inn on the Lake is within walking distance of Canandaigua’s historic district.

Naples

Just outside Naples, County Road 12 Overlook offers one of the best views of the Finger Lakes. Naples, on the south end of Canandaigua Lake, is the Grape Pie Capital of the
World.

Monica Schenk, the town’s Grape Pie Queen and proprietor of Monica’s Pies, began making grape pies in 1983 to use the family farm’s excess Concord grapes. With a roadside stand
outside her mother’s kitchen and the motto “Try before you buy”, she has grown to baking over twenty-five varieties and shipping 10,000-15,000 pies annually.

Artizanns Gallery, Naples, New York
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Artizanns Gallery, Naples, New York

With the work of over 200 artists in a 90-mile radius–jewelry, pottery, hand-blown glass, mixed media, paintings and sculpture, fiber arts and more– you’ll complete your holiday shopping with ease at Artizanns Gallery, named for proprietor Suzanne Farley.

Suzanne Farley and Dr. Frank-en-Wine, Artizann's, Naples, New York
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Suzanne Farley and Dr. Frank-en-Wine, Artizann’s, Naples, New York

Summer weekends, Artizann’s holds the popular “Artists in Action…On the Front Porch”.

Try traditional afternoon tea or a light lunch next door at Dallywaters Tea Room and Art Gallery. Or dine at the historic Naples Hotel an 1895 Federal-style brick hotel furnished with
Victorian antiques.

Joseph’s Wayside Market is one of the largest open air farm markets in the Finger Lakes Region. There’s even an on-site bakery.

Imagine Moore Winery, Naples, New York
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Imagine Moore Winery, Naples, New York

John Lennon fans will enjoy the art at Imagine Moore Winery, in a 1865 restored grape-colored barn. Tim Moore studied Viticulture/Enology at the University of California at Davis and produces some exceptional wines with uniquely designed labels featuring his children.

John Brahm holds a degree in Pomology, the science of growing fruit, from Cornell and worked for 23 years at nearby Widmer Wine Cellars. Beginning with his wine sauces, he and wife Katie established Arbor Hill Grapery. The gift shop, run by daughter Sherry, is known for “Everything Grape and More” and is a great place to sample wine and NY cheeses and to stock up on locally made gourmet food products. The Ambrosia dessert wines befits its name of nectar for the gods. Ask John, a great storyteller, how his wine is tied to a French count, Benjamin Franklin, Ethan Allen, and a little town in Vermont.

Brown Hound Bistro, Naples, New York
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Brown Hound Bistro, Naples, New York

Brown Hound Bistro, Naples, New York
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Brown Hound Bistro, Naples, New York

Next door to Arbor Hill, in a 100 year old house decorated with local art, is the local favorite for breakfast, lunch, or dinner– Brown Hound Bistro. Owner Trish Aser and Chef Jean-Louis use local food and wines to create entrees like the Spicy Maple Pork Chop and handmade ravioli with Sweet Meats pasture raised lamb and Lively Run feta.

The Wizard of Clay, in geodesic domes in nearby Bloomfield, creates fun and functional tableware and household items featuring their signature Bristoleaf pattern and crystalline glaze porcelain. Their vases were featured on HGTV.

Geneva

Geneva is known as the Lake Trout Capital of the World, and Seneca, the deepest of the Finger Lakes, connects to the Erie Canal system. Stiver’s Seneca Marine offers 1 1/4 hour boat rides from Long Pier.

The Farm Store at Red Jacket Orchards, Geneva, New York
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The Farm Store at Red Jacket Orchards, Geneva, New York

Geneva was a center of the plant nursery business, home to the Sterns, developers of Miracle-Gro. When the Nicholson family bought an orchard on Routes 5&20 in 1958 for a plant nursery, they put up a roadside shed to sell fruit from the existing orchard. The fruit business blossomed and their 600 acres are now run by the second and third generation. Red Jacket Orchards has been featured in Gourmet Magazine and their products are also in Whole Foods Markets. Sample the ciders, juices and nectars made by pressing whole fruits–no additives. Our favorite: Tart Cherry Stomp.

The Mike Weaver Drain Tile Museum is in the John Johnston House, just south of 5&20. John Johnston brought two pattern tiles from his native Scotland to the area crockmaker, who made an eventual 72 miles of tiles for Johnston’s 320 acre sheep farm. This earned Johnston his reputation as The Father of Drainage Tile in the United States. Weaver began collecting tiles in 1950. His collection grew to over 500 pieces, some of which is in the Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, MI.

Rose Hill Mansion, circa 1839, is a National Historic Landmark named for Robert Selden Rose, who built the house now used as a reception center. The mansion was built by General William Kerley Strong, who sold it to Robert Swan. Many of the Empire-style furnishings were owned by the Swan family, who installed a crop-enhancing drain tile system that set the standard for others.

Belhurst Castle, Geneva, New York
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Belhurst Castle, Geneva, New York

Belhurst Castle, with three hotels, a ballroom, winery, gift shop, restaurant and new spa was voted One of the Most Romantic Places in New York State. Among the colorful residents and owners was the reclusive William Henry Bucke, alias Henry “Bucke” Hall, who embezzled funds from the Covent Garden Theater in London, married his stepmother, and came to the United States under his assumed name. In 1885 Carrie M. Young Harron, saw the property, bought it that day, divorced her husband, married her manager, had the house torn down and began a four year fifty man project, Belhurst Castle. The house was later sold to Cornelius J. “Red” Dwyer, who opened it as a speakeasy and gambling casino.

Geneva On The Lake, Geneva, New York
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Geneva On The Lake, Geneva, New York

Photos of politicians and celebrity guests line the reception area of Geneva on the Lake. Former President Clinton played basketball in the parking lot. This AAA Four Diamond resort overlooking Seneca Lake was modeled after Villa Lancellotti in Frascati, Italy, with Italian marble fireplaces, wall tapestries, Ionic columns and wood-coffered ceilings. Built in 1914 as a private home for businessman Samuel Nestor, it became a Capuchin monastery, was converted to luxury apartments, and is now an elegant resort hotel. With live music nightly, dine indoors or on the terrace overlooking formal gardens, classical sculptures, the pool and lake.

Worth the trip:

From Indian trails to stagecoach paths, Route 5&20 was one of the first transcontinental highways. It’s the Authentic American Road Trip. The 135 New York miles include farm stands, historic sites, wine tastings, outdoor recreation, unique eateries, quaint villages, antique shops, theme parks–even a Jello Museum.

MacKenzie-Childs studio, Aurora, New York
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MacKenzie-Childs studio, Aurora, New York

The production studio of MacKenzie-Childs is on a 65 acre Victorian farm overlooking Cayuga Lake in Aurora.

MacKenzie-Childs Farmhouse Tours, Aurora, New York
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MacKenzie-Childs Farmhouse Tours, Aurora, New York

Free guided tours of the 1870s farmhouse showcase the renowned majolica tableware, enamelware, and home furnishings.

MacKenzie-Childs table setting , Aurora, New York
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MacKenzie-Childs table setting , Aurora, New York

MacKenzie-Childs, Aurora, New York
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MacKenzie-Childs, Aurora, New York

A 15 minute video of the production process runs in the retail shop. The grounds are open 9:30-6:30 daily.

Enjoy lunch overlooking the lake at the nearby Pumpkin Hill Bistro, in an 1820s farmhouse reassembled on this site in 2001. To extend your stay, try an area B&B like the lakeside E.B. Morgan House.

Nearby Waterloo is the Birthplace of Memorial Day. The Memorial Day Museum, appropriately decked out in red, white, and blue. In Seneca Falls, said to be the backdrop for the movie It’s A Wonderful Life, see names like Zuzu Cafe and Clarence Hotel. Learn why the first Women’s Rights Convention was held here.

Farther afield, the world-renowned Corning Museum of Glass features international glassmaking from its creation through history.

There no better time to visit the Finger Lakes than in autumn when the colorful foliage, harvest, and maple
sugaring season give rise to special festivals and events, including culinary competitions.

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