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By Stephanie Ham

My family and I spent several days last fall in the Finger Lakes region of New York State and were thrilled to learn how much it had to offer.  Whether you’re looking for spectacular hiking, unparalleled views, or unique wine and beer, this destination is an excellent – and easy – weekend getaway from Escape’s New York rental location.

Trail at Watkins Glen State Park

Heading North From The New York Depot

You can reach the southern tip of the region a little over four hours after leaving the Depot.  You’ll have a few options to choose from when selecting your campsite.  The Finger Lakes National Forest, located between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes, offers both paid sites ($15/night) in three campgrounds (Backbone Horse, Blueberry Patch, and Potomac Group) as well as free, dispersed camping.   

Places To Camp During Your Fingers Lake Road Trip

My family opted to camp at Watkins Glen State Park campground. While we frequently choose dispersed sites, we decided to treat our 5 and 7-year-old girls to some unexpected amenities: there are several large playgrounds, an in-ground pool, and bathroom and shower facilities available here.

Whether you stay at this campground or not, dedicating a day to exploring the trails at Watkins Glen is an absolute must.  There are 19 waterfalls within the park, most along the popular Gorge Trail.  This trail is a historic trail constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps after a flood in 1935, and it is a wonder of stone walkways, stairs and bridges.  Wear sensible footwear and be prepared to get a bit wet…as the trail will in fact take you directly under some of the waterfalls.  Our girls were thrilled!

Two Goats Brewing

Some Things To Do After A Day Of Adventures

If you are thirsty after your long day of hiking, head 15 minutes over to Two Goats Brewing in Burdett, NY.  While we always make it a priority to find one or two local breweries on our travels – this one was such a hit.  Just a tiny brewpub, but it boasts a massive view from a large, covered patio overlooking Seneca Lake.  If you’re hungry…they serve one sandwich.  Really!  The Beef-on-Weck is a regional favorite with a somewhat ambiguous history…the one thing that is certain is that it’s delicious. 

The next day, we opted to explore some of the region’s wineries – after all, the region was named the United States’ top wine regions in 2018.  There are more than 100 wineries to choose from, and from our experience, you can’t go wrong.  We enjoyed the opportunity to wander through the vineyard at Lakewood Vineyards in Watkins Glen, NY, and the quiet patio at Red Tail Ridge Winery in Penn Yan, NY.

Watkins Glen State Park

In Case You Need Something More Family-Friendly

If alcohol isn’t your thing, there are some awesome family-friendly activities in the area.  The Rockwell Museum in Corning, NY, has hands-on, kids-approved activities and games that include scavenger hunts and I-Spy.  The Ithaca Children’s Garden is a 3-acre public children’s garden featuring a story walk, troll house, and “anarchy zone.”  We chose to cool off on our last evening at Lakeside Park in Watkins Glen, which was a very large and very awesome public park ($5 parking fee for non-residents) with playgrounds, BBQ grills, a splash pad, and a swimming beach on Seneca Lake. 

If you want to break up your trip on the way back to the Depot, you’ll be passing through the Pocono Mountains, where several excellent hiking opportunities are available.  Or for any fans of The Office, your route will also likely bring you through Scranton, Pennsylvania…perhaps hit the Steamtown Mall on this self-guided tour?!

Rooftop sleeper on a campervan

Book Your Campervan And Plan Your Finger Lakes Road Trip Itinerary

No matter what activities your family prefers, the availability of affordable camping options and variety of sights and activities in this region make it a can’t-lose option for your next long weekend getaway out of the Escape NYC Depot – book your trip soon!  Happy vanning!

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