New York Finger Lakes
The Iroquois attributed these long, relatively narrow lakes to the Great Spirit, who laid his hands in blessing on this particularly beautiful area of upstate New York. Unless the Great Spirit had eleven fingers, though, it’s more likely that glacier activity carved them out eons ago.
Most are deep—Cayuga and Seneca, the two largest, are 400 and 632 feet deep respectively, about 37 miles long and framed by steeply sloping banks. The parallel lakes cover an area no more than 100 miles across in a bucolic region where farm stands still work on the honour (or trust) system, and the sleepy Main Streets of 19th-century towns like Geneva, Skaneateles and Hammondsport invite strolling and antique hunting.
The American women’s rights movement was born in Seneca Falls on July 19, 1848. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a local mother of three, organised the first Women’s Rights Convention (whose Declaration of Sentiments declared that ‘all men and women are created equal’); today, the town’s Women’s Rights National Historic Park includes Stanton’s house. A whiff of the region’s countercultural tendencies can be found in Ithaca, home to Ithaca College and Cornell University on Cayuga Lake. Boats criss-cross the lakes, and you can jump aboard the 48-foot postal boat that services Skaneateles Lake, one of the country’s last water routes for mail delivery.
With soil and topography that mimic the best of the German wine-growing districts, the Finger Lakes ‘boutique’ vineyards—today numbering more than 100—are recognised as some of the country’s best, especially for their Rieslings and chardonnays. Six wine trails lead visitors to wineries and picnic areas with spectacular lake views, the most popular being Keuka, considered by many to be the prettiest of the lakes. Keuka Wine Trail includes the pioneering Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars, outside Hammondsport, and nearby Pleasant Valley Wine Company, whose eight historic stone buildings and lavish Visitor Centre add up to one of the best tours in the region. Taste with abandon on the Wine Tour Trolley of Seneca Lake, a seven-hour trip leaving from Geneva, with five stops including Standing Stone, one of the region’s best wineries, and let the trolley’s designated driver get you back to your lodgings.