Watkins Glen in the Finger Lakes Region of New York was recommended by our good friends Nealys on Wheels and who wrote an enticing blog post and lured us with stunning photographs. The promise of wine and natural beauty was enough for us to put Watkins Glen on our radar. And, since it was in line with our trek from Maine to northern Indiana we were game to give it a try.
The Finger Lakes are a series of deep water lakes formed as glaciers advanced and retreated which carved out deep chasms that eventually fill with water. Serene lakes, wonderful waterfalls, rolling hills, and quaint towns make this a very attractive area for tourists looking for a rewarding escape in upper state New York.
The lake’s weather and earth’s terroir have generated ideal conditions for grape growing and make this region one of the states most productive wine regions bearing the accolade as the largest and most acclaimed winemaking region in the Eastern United States. While many grape varietals flourish here, Riesling has become the signature grape. We quickly realized that our short stay was going to be fast and furious and we would not be able to do and see (and drink) everything.
But before we even started exploring the Watkins Glen area we put wine aside and made a dash south to the town of Corning, New York where we found one of the most interesting and impressive museums – The Corning Museum of Glass. When I proposed the museum there was a little eye rolling from Betsy but once inside the door we were both blown away. It is a marvelously well-done mix of glass history, technology, contemporary art, ancient glass pieces, demonstrations, hands-on glass blowing, gift shop, and so much more. When told our ticket was good for two days we realized just how in-depth the museum was.
Throughout the museum are various demonstration areas where you can witness glass being blown, broken, and how fiber optics are made. The glass blowing demonstration theater was state-of-the-art with video monitors (even inside one of the ovens) so you could see what was happening and a narrator to explain the process.
The museum covers over 3,500 years of glass in multiple galleries and floors. In 2015, the museum opened a 26,000-foot gallery that displays contemporary art and design in glass. The lighting system in the gallery uses a sophisticated light-filtering system with diffusing roof skylights, providing the majority of the lighting required to view the art which makes for a stunning presentation.
Other galleries show the different ways in which glass is used in art, craft, and design from all corners of the globe.
In 1915, Corning Glass Works developed Pyrex and the history of this great American dish is told in a special exhibit. Some of the success behind Pyrex was the integration of women into the design process who brought style and design into the product which became known as “America’s Favorite Dish.” Can you imagine a bridal registry in the 60’s and 70’s that didn’t include a Pyrex item?
Just a few blocks away from the glass museum is the Rockwell Museum which features American art. The museum is housed in the Old City Hall building built in 1893 and restored in 1982 to permanently house the museums collection. The Rockwells (no relation to Norman Rockwell) are local business owners who amassed a diverse collection of American art and artifacts. The diverse collection includes a mix of nineteenth-century American paintings, historic bronzes, and Indian artifacts as well as twentieth-century modernists, illustration art, and contemporary photography. (Note: if you buy a combo ticket for the Corning Museum of Glass and the Rockwell Museum you can save a couple of bucks.)
With a couple of museums under our belts, it was time to start sampling some wine and seeing what all the fuss of the Finger Lakes wines was about. We set out to tackle a couple of wineries, have lunch, and enjoy the spectacular Fall foliage. Hazlitt 1852 caught our attention and we hit it on a day that the tastings were free. While they draw a following for their sweet wines (like Red Cat which they call the “Official Wine of Good Times”), we preferred their dry wines and decided to buy a bottle. After a delicious lunch at Stonecat Café we stopped at Atwater Estate Vineyards where the comfortable and relaxed tasting room has a great view of their vineyards and Seneca Lake.
Finally, we would be remiss if we came to the area and did not stop to admire the characteristic waterfalls. From gently cascading waterfalls to steep drops, waterfalls are a common occurrence but don’t feel you have to hike a strenuous trail to see them either as many are visible form the road.
Our quick stop in the Finger Lakes was just enough to decide that we need to come back.
Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.