A Romantic Getaway to the Finger Lakes

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Going away for a honeymoon after getting married is a tradition that dates back hundreds of years. Today, a honeymoon is traditionally taken to somewhere exotic and maybe a little luxurious – or at the very least kind of far away from home and all the family you've been entertaining while they were in town for your wedding.

When thinking about our own post-wedding honeymoon, Elliot (my now-husband) and I knew that we wanted to go somewhere epic. I wanted to take him to New Zealand, my favorite country and a place he'd never been.

But I wanted to go in New Zealand's summer/autumn months, which didn't really line up with our October wedding (October is early spring in NZ). So we decided to postpone our “big” honeymoon for 6 months and go on a “mini-moon” immediately following the wedding instead.

Amanda and Elliot in the Finger Lakes
Elliot and I on our mini-moon!

What is a mini-moon?

A mini-moon is exactly what it sounds like: a “mini” or shorter honeymoon, usually taken somewhere closer to home.

When thinking about where we could go for our mini-moon, I had a few criteria in mind:

  • It had to be within a half-day drive from where we live.
  • It needed to be somewhere neither of us had been before.
  • It had to be somewhere that we could easily spend 3-4 days without being bored OR overwhelmed.

In the end, we decided on the Finger Lakes region of New York state.

Hammondsport, New York, in fall
A little fall color in Hammondsport, NY

It was a place neither of us had been (but one that I'd been invited to explore as a blogger a couple times in the past), was only a 4.5-hour drive from home, and was a great mid-October destination.

Plus, we knew there would be plenty of romantic things for us to do there.

Romantic things to do in the Finger Lakes

Elliot and I aren't your “typical” newlyweds. Since we've been together (and lived together) for years, we didn't really want the type of honeymoon where we'd hide away in a resort and do pretty much nothing for 4 days. Instead, we wanted a little big of variety and adventure to go along with a dash of newlywed romance.

Our Finger Lakes itinerary, therefore, included things we both liked, from easy hikes to a distillery tour to a visit to “Mark Twain country.”

Fall colors at Watkins Glen State Park

We discovered that there's a lot more to do in the Finger Lakes region than most people realize.

If you want to plan your own mini-moon (or just a romantic long weekend getaway) to this part of the US, here are just a few of the things you might want to add to your itinerary:

For the wine lovers: Wine tasting

Wine tasting at Dr. Frank's
Wine tasting at Dr. Frank's

The Finger Lakes region is quite well-known for its wineries, so it's no surprise that there are multiple “wine trails” to choose from. The largest is the Seneca Lake Wine Trail with 35 member wineries, but you can also check out the wine trails around Cayuga and Keuka lakes.

Elliot and I visited two wineries near Keuka Lake – Bully Hill Vineyards and Dr. Konstantin Frank Wine Cellars. Dr. Frank's (as it's often called colloquially) is famous for being the place where the first Vinifera vines were planted, sparking a renaissance in winemaking in the United States.

Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery

But don't stop just at wine – the Finger Lakes Wine Country is home to more than 100 wineries, breweries AND distilleries. There's the Finger Lakes Beer Trail for those who love craft beer, and Finger Lakes Distilling for those looking for some locally-crafted spirits.

Finger Lakes Distilling
The tasting room at Finger Lakes Distilling

Elliot especially loved our distillery visit, where we got to try whiskey, gin, vodka, and even soju that are made with local grains and grapes (yes, they make a lot of their alcohol using area grapes and wines!).

And if you *both* want to enjoy the local wines and spirits safely? Consider booking yourself on a day trip that includes transport, like this Seneca Lake Wine Tasting & Tour, this Keuka Lake Winery Tour, or this Finger Lakes Brewery Tour.

For the nature lovers: Chase some waterfalls

In the Southern Finger Lakes on the shores of Seneca Lake you'll find the small town of Watkins Glen. This little town is most well-known for it's state park, which features a waterfall-filled gorge.

Elliot and I spent a couple hours walking the gorge trail and taking photos of ALL THE WATERFALLS.

Waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park
Rainbow Falls in Watkins Glen State Park
Rainbow Falls – The most famous waterfall in Watkins Glen

Pro tip: Allow at least 2 hours to walk the entire gorge trail out and back; more time if you know you're prone to taking copious amounts of waterfall photos like me! And be aware that there are about 800 steps to go up/down along the trail, depending on which direction you're going.

The Gorge at Watkins Glen State Park
Don't let the number of steps dissuade you, though – the Gorge is so worth it!

After checking out all the waterfalls in Watkins Glen State Park, we also went to see a couple in the tiny town of Montour Falls – because you can never see too many waterfalls, right?

She-Qua-Ga Falls in Montour Falls, New York
Montour Falls has a waterfall at the end of Main St.!
Eagle Cliff Falls at Havana Glen Park
And don't skip the short walk in Havana Glen Park to see Eagle Cliff Falls – it's beautiful!
At Eagle Cliff Falls

For the history lovers: Get to know Mark Twain

Even though Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) lived all over the world, he actually spent many summers in the city of Elmira, New York, after he married his wife Olivia Langdon. (Did you know that? I'll admit that I had no idea!)

When in Elmira, Twain and his family usually stayed with Olivia's sister Susan Crane at Quarry Farm. Twain complained that there were never any quiet spaces for him to work and write, so he had a small study built on a hill away from the house. It was in this study that Twain wrote many of his famous novels, including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Mark Twain's Study in Elmira, New York
Mark Twain's Study!

The study was eventually moved to the campus of Elmira College in order to preserve it, and now you can visit it!

You can also visit the burial site of the entire Clemens family at Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira. (I realize this may not be the most romantic-sounding thing to do on a honeymoon, but both Elliot and I weirdly enjoy old cemeteries!)

Mark Twain's gravesite
The whole Clemens family is buried in Elmira.

For the art lovers: Glass in Corning

The town of Corning is a bit south of the Finger Lakes themselves, but is definitely worth adding to your itinerary, especially if you love art! Corning is known for its glass-making, and is home to the Corning Museum of Glass.

Corning Museum of Glass
The museum itself is striking in its architecture.

We spent half a day at the Corning Museum of Glass admiring its exhibits and gawking at all the cool glass demonstrations. You can even blow your own glass here for a fairly reasonable price, which is really fun!

Corning Museum of Glass

And the town of Corning itself is super cute. I highly recommend spending some time shopping along the main street in the Gaffer District. Here you'll find a mix of boutique shops and restaurants – head to Vitrix's glass studio if you want to pick up some locally-made glass at fairly reasonable prices.

Corning, New York
Corning's Gaffer District

Where to stay in the Finger Lakes

So how do you turn these itinerary suggestions into a romantic mini-moon? I think a lot of it has to do with where you stay. There are so many adorable little towns around the Finger Lakes, and plenty of unique hotels and B&Bs to choose from.

Our favorites included:

1. Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel

Located in (can you guess?) Watkins Glen, the Harbor Hotel is the largest hotel around, with rooms that look out over Seneca Lake. The hotel is luxurious but not pretentious, and was named the best waterfront hotel in the US in 2016 by USA Today's 10Best. We enjoyed the window seat in our room, the comfy beds, and dinner at the Blue Pointe Grille. (Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book a room here!)

Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel
Our room at the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel was beautiful!

2. Vinehurst Inn & Suites

The little town of Hammondsport on Keuka Lake charmed our socks off. It's small and cute, and also really close to some of the best wineries in the Finger Lakes. A few minutes outside of town is the Vinehurst Inn & Suites, where we spent our first night in the Finger Lakes. It's a cozy, homey sort of place, and we ended up with one of the suites complete with fireplace and two-person jacuzzi tub. Perfect for a mini honeymoon! (Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book a room here!)

We also stayed at the Radisson Inn in Corning, which is perfectly positioned for exploring the Gaffer District in Corning.

Where to eat in the Finger Lakes

Another big highlight of our mini honeymoon in the Finger Lakes was all the delicious food we ate. I'm not usually a foodie, but we had so many good meals in really cool spots that I decided I had to highlight the best ones!

1. The Cellar, Corning

My favorite place we ate was The Cellar in Corning. It's a modern fusion restaurant that has a huge wine menu (presented on a special iPad) and some really cool tapas dishes. Elliot got a bowl of pork ramen that left us both drooling, and for dessert we had s'mores complete with “tableside campfire.” Everything was delicious, and it was just a really fun dining experience.

S'mores at The Cellar in Corning, New York
Our tableside campfire!

2. The Elf in the Oak, Burdett

With a name like “The Elf in the Oak,” how could it not be an awesome spot for lunch? With an emphasis on homemade sandwiches served up in a cozy cottage-like setting, we thoroughly enjoyed this spot. They have a nice patio, too, with views out over Seneca Lake.

3. Pleasant Valley Inn, Hammondsport

If upscale dining in a historic home is more your style, check out the Pleasant Valley Inn in Hammondsport (it's right across the street from the Vinehurst Inn). I was obsessed with the cool wall paper inside, and the fact that they do a caramel popcorn sundae for dessert.

Pleasant Valley Inn in Hammondsport, NY
Pleasant Valley Inn

I can also recommend eating at Bully Hill Vineyards, Louies Hanover Square in Horseheads, Glen Mountain Market Bakery & Deli in Watkins Glen, and the Market Street Brewing Co. in Corning.

Make it more romantic

Want to add some extra romance to your Finger Lakes honeymoon?

Go for a massage – we did a couples' massage at the Namaste Event Spa & Wellness Center in Horseheads.

Take to the skies – you can go for a seaplane tour of the region with Finger Lakes Seaplanes, which would be especially beautiful in the fall. Sadly it was too windy for us to do this when we were there, but it certainly would be a perfect honeymoon activity.

Make art together – I mentioned earlier that you can make your own glass at the Corning Museum of Glass, which is a perfect activity for couples. Make ornaments or a picture frame together, or maybe sand-blast some cute Mr. and Mrs. pint glasses.

So who's ready to plan a mini-honeymoon (or even just a weekend getaway) to the Finger Lakes?

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Thanks to Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes for hosting us on our mini-moon. As always, though, all opinions are 100% my own.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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17 Comments on “A Romantic Getaway to the Finger Lakes

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  1. You missed the best part of the Finger Lakes! Taught Taughannock Falls, Cayuga Lake, northern Seneca Lake, Skaneateles, Canandaigua, Seneca Falls…so much more than wineries!

      There’s more than wineries in this post, but it’s tough to cover it all in just a few days! Hoping to go back to the Finger Lakes soon to see even more.

    Thank you Amanda! This i\has been so helpful for us. My fiancé and I are planning a mini-moon to the Finger Lakes this October as a getaway before our bigger grander Honeymoon next Summer. This has given me great ideas for planning!

      I followed very closely to your itinerary. You have done a great job. Thanks for sharing all the details.

    We absolutely love the Finger Lakes! There’s so much to do in any season you go! Beautiful shots of Watkins Glen!

      I can’t believe I’ve never been! Definitely something for everyone there.

    This sounds like the perfect not-quite-on-the-international-tourist-trail destination. Being someone who is not married or in any relationship at all, I must also say that it seems like it would also be a great place to head with a couple friends? Also I’m not sure if I ever said it, so congratulations to you and Elliot!!

      The Finger Lakes would also be great for a girls’ getaway, or a trip with any friends; there’s a lot to do and see!

    This looks like a great place for a mini-moon (I had never heard about that, but it’s sticking around now!). The waterfall that towers over the main street looks beautiful!

      We enjoyed it and I would definitely go back!

    Damn, the place looks so promising for a relaxed holiday; no doubt you chose it for honeymoon. Waterfall at the end of the main street, COME ON! Perfect!

      If you love waterfalls, this is the place for you! And yes, we had a very relaxing time, though still had plenty of adventures too!

    This sounds like a great little getaway trip! I have seen photos recently of this area, but wasn’t all that familiar with it otherwise. Definitely a place we’ll put down to check out as we’ve been wanting to explore the side of New York that isn’t the big city.

    We also had a similar plan in that we got married back at the end of July in Grand Teton and want to go to New Zealand for our honeymoon. But with our schedules, we have to aim for big trips in the summer, or during their fall/winter. In the interim, we have a couple of small, getaway trips to tide us over until then!

      This is a great part of New York to spend some time in. It’s completely the opposite of NYC!

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