Monday, September 14, 2015

Watkins Glen, New York

The Fingers Lakes, well known for its many wine trails, may seem like a stretch for a family vacation, but it's definitely worth a visit for the surreal scenery of Watkins Glen State Park and other outdoorsy activities that the kids will enjoy.

What to Do

People come from across the country to experience the almost otherworldly hike at Watkins Glen State Park. I actually took that photo above – it’s not a Windows computer screensaver! In just one mile of easy hiking along the Gorge Route (there are many steps, but nothing my 4-year-old couldn’t handle), you’ll encounter more than a dozen waterfalls and simply spellbinding views.

After you’ve had your fill of magical scenery, interact with cows, sheep, pigs and turkey at the Farm Sanctuary, a shelter for farm animals that aims to educate visitors about factory farming.

You can also spend a day on the Seneca Wine Trail, where you’ll find plenty of activities for the adults, sure, but also Red Jacket Orchards, a sort of winery for kids, where they can sample juices, jams and fruits.

Where to Eat

We had a lovely time lunching at the laid-back and kid-friendly Village Marina, which offers quality pub food, local beers and wines, and a can’t-be-beat view of Seneca Lake – dine outside if the weather cooperates.

For dessert, visit Colonial Pottery & Creamery, a small shop selling the best homemade ice cream I’ve had outside of Cape Cod. There’s an active beehive on the premises, and if you can find the queen bee, you’ll get a free small cone. It’s a challenge your kids won’t be able to resist accepting.

What’s Nearby

The Corning Museum of Glass, in Corning, NY, is about half an hour south of Watkins Glen. The museum offers live glass-blowing demonstrations, glass-making workshops for kids and adults (mine made some really cool tic-tac-toe boards and pieces), and a large selection of Christmas ornaments at the enormous gift shop to commemorate your trip.