From the dozens and dozens of wineries on the slopes of Seneca and Cayuga, to the pristine waters of Skaneateles, to the magnificent gorges of Watkins Glen, these lakes embody the very soul of the Finger Lakes region. Add to that a quintessential college town, the center of the women's rights movement, and the tallest waterfall in the Northeast, and you've got a region just brimming with things to do.
- 1 Auburn — a major crossroads in the area, with some urban amenities and historic attractions
- 2 Geneva — a small city and a good jumping-off point for a circuit of Seneca Lake wineries
- 3 Ithaca — Cornell University and Ithaca College make for a classic college town atmosphere, set amidst gorges and waterfalls
- 4 Seneca Falls — a center of the women's rights movement in the 19th-century
- 5 Skaneateles — the quintessential lakeside village
- 6 Trumansburg — closest community to Taughannock Falls, the tallest waterfall in the Northeast
- 7 Waterloo — what might be the birthplace of Memorial Day
- 8 Watkins Glen — most famous for its famous winding Watkins Glen International race track
- 9 Weedsport —
- Finger Lakes National Forest — a true mixed-use wilderness, unique within the state
The eastern Finger Lakes encompass all of Tompkins County and parts of seven others: Ontario, Seneca, Yates, Schuyler, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Cortland Counties. The New York State Thruway constitutes the northern border of the region. In the west, the land between Seneca and Keuka Lakes separates east from west. The eastern lakes reach into the outermost suburbs of Syracuse.
The eastern Lakes are strongly associated with Syracuse, which lies just northeast of the two easternmost lakes—in fact, Skaneateles Lake provides much of Syracuse's water supply. Within the region, Geneva, Auburn, and Ithaca are the major population centers, and each one has a credible claim to being the area's cultural capital as well.
Three major Interstate highways serve this part of the Finger Lakes. Interstate 90, the New York State Thruway, is a popular toll road that travels between Albany and Buffalo, passing just north of the Finger Lakes and into Syracuse. I-81 runs just east of this region, south from Syracuse to Binghamton. In the south, I-86, the Southern Tier Expressway connects the Erie, Pennsylvania area to the New York City area; although it doesn't pass through the Finger Lakes, it provides easy access to the region's north-south state routes.
Speaking of which, a number of well-maintained state routes traverse the rest of the region. They do mostly travel in north-south directions due to the direction of the glacial valleys. Take I-86, I-90, or U.S. 20 east-west first, then turn off onto the appropriate north-south route.
Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport (ITH IATA) is at 72 Brown Rd, about five miles northeast of Ithaca. Commercial service is available, but limited; Delta, American, and United provide daily service to their hubs in (respectively) Detroit, Philadelphia, and Newark.
If those options don't fit your itinerary, you'll probably want to fly into Syracuse International. If you have your own plane, or have chartered one, you can try Whitford's Airport, which is just north of the Thruway near Weedsport. There are a number of private airstrips scattered throughout the region as well, but you'll need prior arrangements to land at one of them.
Driving through the vineyards is one great way of finding things to do in the area including some nice opportunity to explore a community that is rich in fine dining and offers vineyards that are alluring and well sourced in the Ny Region.
- A total solar eclipse on Monday 8 April 2024 crosses the north of this area from about 3:20PM local time. The track of totality is northeast from Mexico and Texas to Ohio then straddling the Canada–New England border.
The tiny village of Aurora is perhaps best known as the home of Wells College, a small liberal arts (and formerly women's-only) college. But home decor enthusiasts know it as the home of Mackenzie-Childs. The company is renowned for its creative and colorful furnishings. The Annual Barn Sale in late July attracts discount-seekers, some of them coming from quite a distance.
The Cayuga Lake Wine Trail is the oldest wine trail in the country, established in 1983.