When I first happened upon this part of the country, I was driving west on I-90 during mid-summer traffic and had to get off. Heading south off Exit 42 and onto Route 14 and letting my intuition be my guide proved to be a serendipitous choice! I left highway Hell and landed in Heaven—meandering along Keuka Lake on Route 54A. I couldn’t believe the breathtaking beauty of the vineyards alongside the lakes. I compared it with the wine country of Vevey, Switzerland, and vowed to come back. I didn’t know that British Airways Magazine called 54A “the most picturesque driving route in the world!” On that night, I was alone with my dog “Baci,” and we stayed at the funky, never-been-renovated-but-cool Old National Hotel.
This summer Baci and I came back to the Finger Lakes with my husband Highroad Cam, and we visited two of the 11 glacier-cut lakes. There’s so much to do here, from visiting the internationally known winemakers and vineyards to enjoying the historic towns.
Downtown Corning, New York dates back to the late 1800s. The refurbished buildings on Market Street offer boutiques, ice cream shops, restaurants, and a brewery. Tommy Hilfiger is from nearby Elmira and has an outlet here. The Soul Full Cup was our favorite coffee shop for lattes where we could bring Baci to sit outside at their street side tables. Atlas Pizza also has outdoor tables. For homemade ice cream, try Old World Café and Ice Cream.
The impressive Rockwell Museum was an interesting surprise because of the paintings and sculptures depicting the Wild West of America. Their outdoor deck is a great place to survey Market Street and the surrounding countryside. They have a wonderful children’s art program.
The Corning Museum of Glass attracts 500,000 visitors every year. The museum explores the use of glass from the beginning and has examples going back 35 centuries to ancient Egypt. The exhibits are gorgeous and everyone loves glass! There are free glassmaking demonstrations going on throughout the day. The international gift shop has eight boutiques that seem to go on forever. I’m forever indebted to Corning Glass for making the gorilla glass on my smartphone! My favorite part was making glass flowers with an experienced “gaffer” and unwrapping the beauties when they arrived home!
The Cellar is a wine bar and restaurant on Market Street with 40 different wines by the glass, some local. I was going vegan that night so I ordered their beet ravioli with cashew nut “goat” cheese—one of the best dishes I have ever had! Their eclectic menu ranges from Italian to Indian to Mexican to good old American. It was Cam’s and my anniversary that night and we picked the perfect restaurant.
The Market Street Brewery has a nice patio and they brew their own beers on- site. A flight was $7 and enabled us to taste all 6 of their beers. We enjoyed their American fare and Baci came along with us and sat just outside the patio fence.
The Radisson Hotel at the end of Market Street was convenient and pet-friendly! The hotel staff particularly love dogs and every time we came in, Baci was greeted with dog biscuits!
The quaint town of Hammondsport is a charming place to have lunch or breakfast before heading up to the wineries, but you can also have lunch at many of the wineries like Heron Hill, which is also pet-friendly. We had a delicious farm-to-table lunch here on the deck, explored their gift shop, and tasted several of their wines. This area is especially famous for its Rieslings, because of the climate and the terroir, and owner John Ingle made a name for himself when he focused on making Rieslings.
At Dr. Frank’s Vinifera, we met Meaghan Frank, who explained that her great-grandfather, Dr. Konstantin, grew the first European grapes—such as Chardonnay, Cabernet, Pinot Noir, and of course, Riesling—in the Finger Lakes. This notion was previously thought to be impossible because of the cold climate, but Dr.
Konstantin was from the cold Ukraine and had grown the grapes there, so he knew it was possible. Thanks to Dr. Frank, over 100 world-class wineries have sprung up in this dense area. Tastings are free of charge, so be prepared to sample many! Meaghan started with their Célébre Rosé, a sparkling pink Champagne-style bubbly from Chateau Frank, and moved through their award-winning Rieslings and then to their red wines. Their economical Meritage from Salmon Run was particularly memorable. My favorite was their semi-dry Riesling. Bring a cooler, as you’ll want to take home several bottles or even cases!
Keuka Lake was beckoning, so we went cruising with the father-son team of Captain Joe and David Luppino in an antique (made the same year Cam was born!) Chris-Craft called the Knot Driftwood. They were as lovely as the views from the boat and the three-hour cruise (for up to four people) includes drinks and a local cheese-and-fruit platter.
Before leaving Corning and heading up to Watkins Glen, we went flyfishing with Greg Heffner of Conhocton River Fly Shop. The river is 10 minutes from the Radisson, and Greg’s knowledge of the sport and his calm demeanor made for a relaxing and fun morning—and one of us did catch (and release) a trout!
Corning and Hammondsport and the lush Finger Lakes countryside are ideal in the summer, spring, or fall. We love it!
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