Savoring Finger Lakes Wine Country

Hammondsport, NY
Hammondsport, NY

This is part five in our Summer Road Trip series. We have already talked about road trippin’ Maine, Maui, Florida, and California.

Recommended Time: 1 week

We’d be remiss not to include the Finger Lakes in our Summer Road Trip series. We’re fortunate enough to call the country’s second-largest wine region home. With more than 130 wineries and more than 50 microbreweries, distilleries, and cideries, there’s a favor to tantalize even the pickiest of palates. And, of course, summer is the best time to enjoy those eleven glacially-carved, finger-like lakes that stretch across south-western New York. Warm summertime temperatures bring with them lots of opportunities to enjoy those lakes—whether you want to swim, kayak, boat, or just lounge lakeside with a glass of Riesling. Let’s not forget those idyllic small towns found at the head and foot of each lake. Each town has its own set of charming characteristics, compelling visitors to keep going from one to the next.

My beloved Y-shaped Keuka Lake, as seen during a scenic flight.

My beloved Y-shaped Keuka Lake, as seen during a scenic flight.

Start your Finger Lakes journey with a visit to Skaneateles (pronounced Skinny-atlas), a small village at the north end of Skaneateles Lake. Here, you can browse art galleries before boarding a cruise with Mid-Lakes Navigation to help deliver the mail via water—one of the only places in the country where this still happens.

Photo: shutterjet

Next, head to Ithaca, home to Cornell University, and lots of fantastic along Cayuga Lake (pronounced Kay-you-ga). “Ithaca is gorges,” indeed, with scenic hiking trails and Taughannock Falls, the tallest waterfall in New York State—yes, even taller than Niagara!

Photo: Brook Ward

Continue your wine tour in Watkins Glen on Seneca Lake, which is home to more than 70 wineries, and year-round festivals to celebrate all the favors coming from them. Make sure your itinerary includes stops at Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, Wagner Vineyards (which has a brewery), and Finger Lakes Distilling on the east side of Seneca Lake, and Hermann J. Weimer Vineyard and Glenora Wine Cellars on the west side. No visit to Watkins Glen is complete without hiking the trails to see 19 waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park, or driving your own car around the famed NASCAR racetrack at Watkins Glen International.

Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State Park

Hop one lake to the west, and rent a vacation home on Keuka Lake (pronounced Q-ka), if you have the time. “Y-shaped” and the most scenic of all the Finger Lakes, Keuka is known for its pristine beauty and world-class vineyards. Tour Pleasant Valley Wine Company, the oldest winery in the Finger Lakes circa 1860, and taste the most award-winning wines in the Northeast at Dr. Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars.

Make Corning your final stop on your Finger Lakes itinerary, and allot for a couple of days to explore this arts and culture mecca nestled in the heart of Wine Country. Corning has been dubbed the “Crystal City” for its deep roots in the tradition of glassmaking.

Two new galleries. Photo courtesy of Iwan Baan and The Corning Museum of Glass.

Two new galleries. Photo courtesy of Iwan Baan and The Corning Museum of Glass.

The Fortune 500 company Corning Incorporated (maker of products like Gorilla Glass that covers your smartphone) has its headquarters there, and the world-famous Corning Museum of Glass draws 440,000 visitors a year to this small city of 11,000 people. Plan to spend at least five hours at this amazing museum, where you can not only explore 35 centuries of glass art, but you can watch live glassblowing shows all day every day, and even make glass yourself. The museum recently opened a new Contemporary Art + Design Wing, which is absolutely incredible, and will—without a doubt—make you see glass in an entirely new light. And if you plan to visit, drop me a line! I work there and would be thrilled to give you a tour.

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Spend the rest of your time exploring the vibrant downtown Gaffer District, which has been the model for many a Main-Street restoration project. Also stop in to see the Rockwell Museum, which features art about the American experience. It’s unusual to find such a large collection of Western art east of the Mississippi, but this museum showcases it with great flair!

Have you been to Finger Lakes Wine Country?

Places

Skaneateles, NY, United States

Ithaca, NY, United States

Watkins Glen, NY, United States

Hammondsport, NY, United States

Corning, NY, United States

Skaneateles, NY, United States

Ithaca, NY, United States

Watkins Glen, NY, United States

Hammondsport, NY, United States

Corning, NY, United States

Photo Byte Friday: Entrances

Gateway to Napa Valley Wine Country.
Gateway to Napa Valley Wine Country.

This week’s FriFotos theme is “Entrances.” For me, that means passageways into something new and exciting, or catching a glimpse of beauty.

Outside a chalet in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland.

The entrance to Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle, Washington.

A peek through the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California.

A glimpse into a beautiful cave along the Na Pali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii.

Entrance into a garden at Middleton Place in Charleston, South Carolina.

A moment captured from the entrance to a vineyard in Finger Lakes Wine Country, New York.

And just for fun, I’m standing at the entrance to Google in Palo Alto, California!

New Space, New Inspiration: The Contemporary Art + Design Wing at The Corning Museum of Glass

View from above the new Contemporary Art + Design Wing. Photo courtesy of Iwan Baan and The Corning Museum of Glass.
View from above the new Contemporary Art + Design Wing. Photo courtesy of Iwan Baan and The Corning Museum of Glass.

I’ve been a little absent around here for the past couple of months, so I’m here to explain. This is a travel blog, and like most travel bloggers, I feel compelled to tell you about my favorite far-flung destinations, and encourage you to book a trip there, too. But often, we overlook the gems that are right in our own backyards.

As some of you know, my day job is pretty awesome—I do the PR for this incredible place called The Corning Museum of Glass—and we’ve had just a few things going on lately. On March 20, we opened the new $64 million, 100,000-square-foot Contemporary Art + Design Wing, a space that essentially doubles the size of the museum, and allows people now—more than ever before—to see and experience glass in a new light.

I knew my first post after my absence had to be about this new space—and it had to convey the grandeur of it all. This is the world’s largest glass museum—a major attraction that annually welcomes 440,000 visitors from 30+ countries to a town of 11,000 people in the Finger Lakes of Upstate New York. Pretty impressive! I wanted my post to tell you how we just opened two new spaces that are the largest of their kind anywhere in the world: the largest space for the display of contemporary art and design in glass, and the largest space in which to watch a live hot glass demonstration. I wanted to let you know how truly special this place is to the art world, and to me personally. I’ve been involved with the museum in some way for the last decade, and it is one of my favorite spots on earth. I’ve tried to write this post several times, but somehow, my PR need to extol every virtue has made it practically impossible to keep the word count under control. (I’m notoriously long-winded, but surely I should be able to wrap this up in less than five single-spaced pages, right?)

So, instead of listing the impressive facts and figures related to this museum, and particularly this new space, I’m going to let some of the work I’ve been involved in tell that story. The New York Times, Travel + Leisure, and any number of CMoG blogs I’ve written do that justice, as well as this awesome special show, for which I received a credit I never thought I’d have to my name: executive producer! A HUGE thank you goes to this incredible local news team. What a fun project to be part of!

Now, I want to focus on a few reasons why I love the new Contemporary Art + Design Wing:

Contemporary glass is truly inspiring. This may come as a shock to you, but I am not a museum person. I want to be so badly, but alas, I am not. I go to any and all I come across on my travels, and I always find something to appreciate in them—mainly pieces of glass—but spending hours on end looking at paintings on walls just isn’t my thing. And typically, I loathe contemporary art. I just don’t understand it. I’m fairly artistic, and if I feel like I can make it, I don’t understand why it’s in a museum.

But glass has always been the exception for me. It is absolutely captivating. I love the fact that contemporary artists from varied backgrounds are so fascinated by this material that they want to see what they can do with it. They work with glass artists to realize their visions, and in doing so, are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in glassmaking. The new works on display are some of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever seen at any museum around the world. I can’t believe how lucky I am to get to see them and be inspired by them every day.

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I have a newfound love for architecture. Aside from the incredible glass this new wing holds, the building itself is an absolutely astounding work of art. With stark-white curvilinear walls and an entirely glass ceiling made up of 900+ skylights, the architecture in the space is unlike anything you’ll likely ever encounter in another museum. I don’t pretend to know the first thing about architecture, but after hosting so many amazing architecture journalists in the past few months, and seeing their excitement over the building, I’ve realized what a big buzz this Upstate NY museum has created in the architecture world. It’s all been extremely fascinating, and has made me even more proud of the building, and of the incredible team of people at the museum who said “yes” to such an ambitious design.

I especially love the contrast between the bright white galleries, where every detail is hidden in the walls, and the new all-black, highly industrial Amphitheater Hot Shop, where every nut, bolt, and screw is exposed. I heard it best described as a “child’s drawing of how you hold up a building.” That space used to house the blowing room or “hot end” of the Steuben Glass factory, a luxury glass brand that closed in 2011. The idea was to turn that space into the finest hot shop in the world, while preserving the integrity of the building where such fine glass was produced for more than 60 years—and they certainly succeeded.

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The Amphitheater Hot Shop is a place where dreams are realized. This place is my new favorite hang-out. Watching a glassmaking demonstration is completely awe-inspiring. I’ve seen hundreds of them during my time at the museum, and I could happily watch hundreds more and never grow tired of them. Glassmaking is an art form that can’t be learned from a book or YouTube, which is rare in this day and age. It’s a tradition that’s passed down from teacher to student—from one generation to the next. I’ve heard it described as a family tree that goes back to the very first Roman glassblower, some 2,000 years ago. They’re all connected by their deep love of the craft and passion for this dazzling material. It’s hard not to appreciate what’s going on in front of you as you sit there and watch a blob of molten glass come to life.

This new hot shop is one of the most capable spaces for glassmaking in the entire world. Practically anything you can image in glass can be made in there. Just in the month it’s been open, I’ve had the privilege of watching the best living glassmaker create enormous works, giant ants and bombs take shape—that was cool!—and glass and metal bond successfully for the first time ever. Even more than that, I’ve enjoyed watching the gaffers who work for the museum showcase their talents. I can’t even imagine what’s in store for that space as time goes on, but it’s going to be incredible.

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I could go on for days, detailing all the reasons I love this space. It’s been described as “transformational,” and I completely get that. I was one of the lucky few that got to see this space during construction and installation—which was inspiring in and of itself—but now seeing visitors enjoy it as much as I do is truly gratifying. Although I haven’t worked there long, and played a markedly small role in the project, I’ve never been part of anything that has inspired me more.

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If The Corning Museum of Glass wasn’t on your bucket list before, I hope it is now. Drop me a line if you’re ever in the area. I’d love to show you firsthand how amazing this place is!

What to know if you go

The Corning Museum of Glass is the world’s largest glass museum. There you can see glass, see glass being made, and make glass yourself. Browse 35 centuries of glassmaking history, be inspired by live glassmaking demonstrations, and then create your own piece of glass during a Make Your Own Glass experience. The museum is located in Finger Lakes Wine Country of Upstate New York, between 4 and 6 hours from many major cities in the Northeast, including NYC, Philadelphia, Boston, DC, Cleveland, and Toronto.

Places

The Corning Museum of Glass

The Corning Museum of Glass, Museum Way, Corning, NY, United States
800.732.6845

The Corning Museum of Glass

The Corning Museum of Glass, Museum Way, Corning, NY, United States
800.732.6845
www.cmog.org

Visit Ithaca Encourages People to do Exactly the Opposite

Due to a "ridiculously stupid winter," Visit Ithaca encourages people to go to Florida instead.
Due to a "ridiculously stupid winter," Visit Ithaca encourages people to go to Florida instead.

Let’s be real. It’s freaking miserable in New York State right now. February is always a rough month, but for some reason, it’s particularly bad this year—“ridiculously stupid,” you might say. Although the snow totals aren’t as great here in the Finger Lakes as what our neighbors to the northwest experience in Buffalo, it’s not too much fun to be here in the winter. And anyone who tells you differently—aside from hardcore skiers and kids with a snow day—is lying.

But that’s not stopping national news outlets from talking about a small Upstate New York town today—and for once, the story isn’t about an impending snowstorm!

Visit Ithaca, the tourism board for Tompkins County—one of 14 in the Finger Lakes—decided that with the wind whipping outside and the temperatures dipping below zero, they’d rather be in Florida. And so should everyone else.

The VisitIthaca.com homepage pop-up encourages people to visit the Florida Keys, causing one Florida tourism rep to wonder about job security.

The VisitIthaca.com homepage pop-up encourages people to visit the Florida Keys, causing one Florida tourism rep to wonder about job security.

“That’s it. We surrender. Go to Key West instead.” That’s what the pop-up banner on VisitIthaca.com read on Monday, February 16. Despite how “gorges” Ithaca may be—and it is beautiful in the winter, too—the tourism folks aren’t sugar coating how much that fresh layer of powder actually sucks. It’s too darn cold to enjoy all that beauty. Come in the spring.

I’ve lived in Corning, NY, all my life—just under an hour from Ithaca. I love living here. It’s so picturesque. The 11 glacially-formed, crystalline bodies of water stretch out like fingers. 130+ wineries and vineyards dot their shorelines. Idyllic small towns that have been equated to Norman Rockwell paintings are in abundance, each one more charming than the last. It’s one of those gems of a destination. You come here, and you know you’ve discovered someplace special.

But there’s a reason winter is the slowest season.

I used to work in tourism marketing for the Finger Lakes region, and while there are a lot of things to do here in the winter, a mid-February vacation wasn’t always the easiest sell. Any talk about Upstate NY in February is about leaving it.

Except for today, ironically enough.

Sure, when the Today Show, CNN, Yahoo! Travel, People magazine, and a whole host of other outlets covered the story, they relayed Ithaca’s message to “visit the Florida Keys this week,” because “it’s for the birds here now.” But what that actually did was put Ithaca—a town encased in snow and ice—on everyone’s radar. Not convinced? Their webpage that typically has 1500 hits a day during the winter got more than 80,000 today!

It seems so counterintuitive. What tourism organization in their right mind would use those precious tourism dollars to promote another destination? Even a representative for the Florida Keys was surprised, calling it the “wackiest thing I’ve ever seen in my life from a tourism marketing standpoint.” But a county tourism office couldn’t dream of buying the publicity that Ithaca got today. It’s genius, and I bet there’s a lot of PR people out there who wish they’d thought of it first. Despite the fact that no one wants to come here in February, people may now be more apt to visit “when things thaw out”—just as Ithaca suggests. Which, let’s be honest, is good for the entire Finger Lakes region.

So, I tip my PR hat to you, Visit Ithaca, for suggesting people do exactly the opposite. What a brilliant way to ensure visitors to the region for many months to come.

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