Discover - Experience - Savor - Inspire
Local Insights

Kimberly Thompson's blog

Explore. Experience. Savor. Inspire.

Today's blog is going to be a bit more personal than the ones I typically write. After three years, it's time for me to leave the Steuben County CVB. I've learned so much here, and have fallen head over heels in love with the Finger Lakes. I always knew it was a special place, having grown up in Painted Post, just a few minutes from Corning—but I, like so many naïve young folks, never appreciated what was right in my backyard. I recall saying to my parents on more than one occasion, "There's nothing to do here!" I quickly realized how wrong I was when I started working in tourism for Corning & the Southern Finger Lakes. I now believe with my whole heart that the Finger Lakes is one of the greatest undiscovered gems left in the world today. And here's why:

Diversity of Experiences

I've traveled pretty extensively, and have yet to come across a region that is more beautiful, down-to-earth, and diverse when it comes to experiences. It's one of the things I love about helping people discover the Finger Lakes for the first time. They may have heard it's a great wine region, but they have no idea it's a world-class center for arts and culture, and has fantastic outdoor activities. The Finger Lakes is probably the most well-rounded region I've ever been lucky enough to explore. You can visit a world-class museum in the morning, have lunch by the lake, rent a kayak or go for a hike in the afternoon, following it up with wine and beer tasting, and then try a painting or pottery class in the evening. Really, what other place can you do so many different things in the very same day?

Glass, Buffalo and Airplanes: A Classic Combination


Speaking of the varied experiences, let's touch on some of the attractions we have here, shall we? I have always had a very special place in my heart for glass, having been a tour guide at The Corning Museum of Glass during high school and college (and it's coincidentally where I'm now returning). As the world's largest glass museum, it allows visitors to not only explore the 3500 years of glassmaking history, but to see glass being made at the Hot Glass Show, and then make glass themselves! It is a fantastic museum, and an essential stop on any Finger Lakes itinerary.

But there are other truly exceptional museums in the area, as well. Take the Rockwell Museum, which houses the largest collection of Western Art east of the Mississippi. Who would think you could experience the Wild West in Upstate NY? Look for Artemus the Buffalo on the Rockwell's façade. I love how his name embodies the Rockwell's—and perhaps Corning's—philosophy: "Art is a must."

The Glenn H. Curtiss Museum is another treasure, telling the story of Hammondsport's favorite son. He had his hand in everything with an engine, from motorcycles, to RVs, to airplanes. He manned the first pre-announced public flight in history, flying above Keuka Lake in 1908. The museum has an astounding collection of motorcycles, planes, boats, and more local history artifacts.

More than a Wine Region


I knew very little about wine before coming to work at the Steuben County CVB, but I have earned an education I will appreciate for a lifetime. I could ask for no greater classroom than Finger Lakes Wine Country, where you can sip and savor the flavors from more than 130 wineries. The Finger Lakes was voted the "World's Most Beautiful Wine Region" by readers of Budget Travel (2010), and it was listed in Sherman's Travel's Top Ten Value Destinations (2011), making it the world's most affordable wine region, as well. Keuka Lake is home to some incredible wineries—and it's really the beginning of the story when it comes to Finger Lakes wine history. Visitors can explore the wine caves at Pleasant Valley Wine Company (U.S. Bonded Winery No. 1), and see why past presidents have served the champagne made there. You can taste the history at Dr. Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars, where founder Konstantin Frank first introduced vinifera grapes into the Finger Lakes' cold climate. You can even hear the story of Walter S. Taylor and his epic battle to keep his name—visit fun-filled Bully Hill Vineyards, where they have a distinct wine pairing: "Wine with Laughter."

Many people know about the award-winning Finger Lakes wines, but they may not realize the plethora of breweries that can be found here. There are more than 50 micro-breweries that have popped up in recent years, adding to the flavors coming out of the region. And the breweries are starting to make a name for themselves—just look at Keuka Brewing Company, which recently won the F. X. Matt Memorial Cup at the TAP New York Craft Beer and Food Festival, declaring it the Best Craft Brewery in New York State! (I, personally, am not a beer fan, but certainly appreciate the fine flavors I've sampled at the many breweries I've visited—and I can vouch for the awesome root beer than many of them make!)

Small Towns with Big Hearts


Idyllic Hammondsport, located at the head of Keuka Lake has often been described as something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Before I started working at the CVB, I'd never been there. It didn't take long for me to realize there was something special about this little town built around "wine, wings, and water." When it was nominated for the "America's Coolest Small Town" contest through Budget Travel in 2012, it just made sense—Hammondsport's cool factor would finally be discovered. Although it was a hard contest to win, the title fit Hammondsport like a glove. The following year, Corning also received a big accolade when it was named the "Most Fun Small Town in America" in the Rand McNally Best of the Road contest. Have you watched the video yet? I loved being part of these contests. Watching everyone rally together to support these towns was truly inspiring. And I feel so privileged to call the Coolest and Most Fun Small Towns in America home.

I could go on for days about all the reasons I love the Finger Lakes, but this post is already far too long! I hope I've helped you discover a few reasons why your sights should be set on Corning & the Southern Finger Lakes as your next vacation destination! It truly is a remarkable place—trust me! Request a travel guide to help you plan your trip, and remember to check back for new blog posts about great events and more reasons to visit the Finger Lakes.

Thanks for reading along. Cheers!

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Ask the Local Expert, Attractions, Cool and Fun, History, Museums, Outdoor Recreation, Wine Fun

The Master Craftsmen series highlights people who have truly excelled in a craft or skill, and who are bettering the experience for visitors to Corning & the Southern Finger Lakes. Each month, we'll take a look at one of these craftsmen, from artists to chefs, and even outdoor guides. These are the folks who have trained and excelled in a particular area, and are passionate about what they do. They want to share their expertise with you. Today, we're focusing on someone who has made outdoor recreation an art form. Lance Locey of Keuka Watersports helps craft lake fun for visitors to Keuka Lake.

If there's anyone who knows how to have a good time on Keuka Lake, it's Lance Locey. He grew up a self-proclaimed "laker," spending his entire life on the shores of Keuka Lake.

"I was born into it, and now my wife and I are passing the 'Laker Life' on to our two young children," he said.

Opening Keuka Watersports just made sense. "Life on the lake is the life for me and my family," Lance said. "Opening a watersports business is the Finger Lakes just seemed to fit the next stage of my life.

"The lake always draws you back," said Lance, "no matter how far away you are or how long you've been gone."

Rent boats, jet skis, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards.
Rent boats, jet skis, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards.

Lance's customers come from all over the country, and love returning to the lake every year to take advantage of the boat, jet ski, kayak, and stand-up paddle board rentals. Check out the many boat rental options, including a Boat Club Membership, which essentially allows you all the benefits of owning a boat without actually owning a boat.

Many of the rentals at Keuka Watersports require advanced reservations, but if you find yourself in Hammondsport on a nice afternoon and want to get on the water, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards are available to rent by the hour at Champlin Beach at the head of Keuka Lake.

After folks spend a day out on Keuka, they tell Lance they "don't want to leave." His reply as he and his family head out for their evening cruise? "That's why we live here, so we don't have to leave!"

Lance Locey and family enjoying an evening on Keuka Lake.
Lance Locey and family enjoying an evening on Keuka Lake.

For some lake fun this summer, contact Keuka Watersports at 607.569.2889, visit them on the web at KeukaWatersports.com, or "like" them on Facebook.

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Attractions, Cool and Fun, Master-Crafted Series

In every charming small town, there's a most idyllic part—a main street. It's a hub of sorts. It's got arts and culture, fantastic shopping, and amazing dining experiences. It's the home of countless festivals and happenings throughout the year. It's a gathering place for locals and tourists alike. It's essentially the heartbeat of the town.

Anyone who has visited Corning, NY unabashedly proclaims their love for Market Street. It really does have it all: charming cafes, elegant restaurants, inspirational art galleries, beautiful antiques and glass, and hands-on experiences. People say it's big-city quality in a small town. Any season of the year, it's the hot spot for events like Cabin Fever, GlassFest, Sparkle, and even a Ferrari show! There's always something going on.

Events in Corning's Gaffer District
Events in Corning's Gaffer District

Right in the heart of Market Street is Centerway Square, which Travel & Leisure named one of the most beautiful town squares in America, giving a special nod to the brick-paved pedestrian plaza and period street lamps.

But Market Street has been gaining some more attention lately. A conference focusing on making downtowns more environmentally friendly was recently held in Corning. In attendance was the director of sustainable communities for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Kaid Benfield. He's an expert when it comes to urban solutions and sustainable planning and development. Something about Market Street struck a chord with him—and he's experienced many a main street in his line of work. He wrote a blog about his visit that was featured in the Huffington Post.

Benfield pointed out some things that make a "main street" like Market Street thrive—one of which was a great pedestrian experience where walking, browsing, and lingering are encouraged. Another was viable local businesses, of which Market Street has many. They give a certain authenticity to the area, which is hard to come by in chain stores and shopping malls. Make sure to check out Benfield's entire article.

While Market Street is a fantastic place to spend an afternoon—or several days—that wasn't always the case. In the early 1970s, Market Street was a classic example of urban decay. That's not exactly something the Corning Glass Works, headquartered in Corning, wanted when they were trying to recruit new employees. It was said that spouses of prospective employees cried when first driving down Market Street. The flood damage produced by Hurricane Agnes in the summer of '72 only added to Corning's woes. Thus, in 1974, the Market Street Restoration Agency was created to improve Corning's appearance and stabilize the downtown commercial area. It was so successful in this mission that the Corning example, along with several other National Trust projects with other cities, lead to a national Main Street program, aimed at economic revitalization and preservation of existing buildings.

Historical photos of Market Street
Historical photos of Market Street

Long gone are the days when anyone cried driving down Market Street—except perhaps on their way home from a fun-filled vacation. In fact, Market Street was recently named one of the "Top Great Place in America" by the American Planning Association. Corning was also featured as May's downtown of the month by the International Downtown Association. And, of course, Market Street is at the very heart of the "Most Fun Small Town in America" (Rand McNally). If you haven't checked out the video that won us the title, you really should!

Whether you want to attend a festival, shop the day away, or simply sit and listen to the music that fills Centerway Square, make sure to visit Market Street during your next Finger Lakes trip. Discover for yourself why so many other small towns try to model their own after our charming historic district.

Do you have any great memories or stories to share about Market Street? Please leave a comment below!

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Attractions, History

Everyone knows the Finger Lakes is a perfect vacation spot during the summer months. Just check out a recent blog for a few of the best ways to soak up a Finger Lakes summer! The lakeside allure, the fabulous wines, the up-and-coming beer scene—they're all great draws to the region in the warmest of months. But did you know that the Finger Lakes is quite the shopping mecca? Especially when it comes to antiques—it's a treasure hunter's paradise!

The Hammondsport Area Antique Shop Hop is the absolute perfect time to explore the many treasure troves that surround Keuka Lake. From 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on June 14 and 15, visit six antique shops and browse everything from antique furniture and hand-woven rugs, to glass and jewelry—and everything in between!

These shops include Crooked Lake Antiques & More (8428 State Route 54); Opera House Antiques (61-63 Shethar St.); Hammondsport Mercantile (57 Shethar St.); Lime Berry, Art & Antiques (64 Shethar St.); Aroma Coffee Art Gallery (60 Shethar St.); and Wild Goose Chase Antiques (10266 County Route 76).

"The antique shop owners of the Hammondsport area truly love the synergy of all of the shops working together to help their clients find the perfect treasures for their home," said Melissa Carroll, owner of Lime Berry. "The idea of having the event focused around visiting each of the shops and seeing each shop's offerings and style is a fantastic way to connect all of the businesses together!"

Diane Albright with Wild Goose Chase Antiques echoes Melissa's sentiments:

"This event gives the antique shops a chance to work together to promote the area and gives the customers an opportunity to experience the diversity that the Hammondsport area has to offer in the way of antiques shops. In the process, customers get to experience the beautiful views of Keuka Lake as well as a wide variety of other businesses and restaurants."

Make sure to check out the Antique Shop Hop to enhance your antique collection, or perhaps start a new one. You'll find pieces from around the world, but you'll also discover a lot of local history represented—from vintage Finger Lakes wine collections to lake and boating memorabilia.

Rediscover the past through antiquing around Keuka Lake! While you're here, make sure to check out our Tiffany & Treasures Trail where you'll discover the best of the fire arts of yesterday and today.

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Events

Each month, we've brought you a blog written by our staff, telling you about their favorite things to do in the Finger Lakes, and why they love promoting the region. Check out blogs from Kim, Kevin, and Erin. Today, meet Danielle Roman, our Director of Sales & Marketing.

1. How long have you been with the CVB team? What do you do?
I have been with the CVB since August 2004, so I will celebrate my 10 year "anniversary" this summer. As the Director of Sales & Marketing, I am responsible for telling the rest of the world why Corning & the Southern Finger Lakes is a great place to visit - whether that be as an individual, family, conference, bus tour, reunion, or sports team. I am responsible for advertising, attending travel shows across the Northeast U.S. and Canada to represent the county's tourism businesses, direct sales calls to speak with tour operators and meeting planners about bringing their groups here, and making all those marketing opportunities available for every tourism business in the county. And I sleep...sometimes.

2. Are you from the Finger Lakes Region? If so, what makes you stay? If not, what drew you here?
I am originally from Canisteo, home of the world famous Living Sign, and my parents still live in the same house where I grew up. I didn't always think that I wanted to stay. I went to college at Wells College in Aurora, NY (east side of Cayuga Lake), lived in Florence, Italy, for 3 years, and lived in NYC for 6 years. I was working at the Regent Wall Street Hotel in lower Manhattan on 9/11. After that I re-evaluated my life priorities and realized that "home" was where I wanted to live.

Canisteo Living Sign
Canisteo Living Sign

3. What makes the Finger Lakes special to you, and why do you love telling others about it?
There is something reassuring about the small towns of the Finger Lakes, like the Coolest Small Town and the Most Fun Small Town, the relaxed pace of life, and the peacefulness and tranquility of Keuka Lake that no big-city excitement could compete with. So, I moved home, and a few years later, found myself telling the rest of the world (and getting paid for it!) about the very things that drew me back to Steuben County.

4. Let's play tourist! Tell me what you'd do with your family or friends on a weekend in the Finger Lakes.
Partly because it's my job, and partly because I've always been a "talker," I can go on forever about interesting things all over the Finger Lakes! I enjoy bragging about the unique shopping in Corning's Gaffer District (especially the shoe shopping at Bass and Heels & Hobos). I love relaxing with a glass of Heron Hill Riesling while enjoying a meal at Snug Harbor Restaurant, and I enjoy the drive (albeit, along an Interstate highway) between Avoca and Wayland, where the scenery is breath-taking, especially in the fall.

Enjoying Watkins Glen State Park
Enjoying Watkins Glen State Park

5. If there's one thing you wished everyone knew about the Finger Lakes, what would it be?
That our winters aren't as snowy as people think. The unique micro-climate of the lakes makes our area practically tropical. OK, maybe that's exaggerating. And I say this even though Mother Nature has ruined my birthday parties since I was a child - there is a lot to do in the winter. Visit a museum - the world-renowned Corning Museum of Glass, the unexpected Rockwell Museum, and my personal fave, the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum. Visit a winery (also because that helps keep you warm) - I like anything that starts with "Riesling".

Glenn H. Curtiss Museum
Glenn H. Curtiss Museum

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Ask the Local Expert, Attractions

This series highlights people who have truly excelled in a craft or skill, and who are bettering the experience for visitors to Corning & the Southern Finger Lakes. Each month, we'll take a look at one of these craftsmen, from artists to chefs, and even outdoor guides. These are the folks who have trained and excelled in a particular area, and are passionate about what they do. They want to share their expertise with you. Today, we're focusing on a great historian, Kirk House, who is the director of the Steuben County Historical Society. He has crafted the art of bringing history to life.

Kirk has always been fascinated with history. He grew up next door to a public library in Rhode Island, and couldn't read enough history books. He found he had a knack for story telling. He moved to Steuben County more then 20 years ago, becoming the director of the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum. He made it his mission to learn all he could about life of the great aviator, and to share the story with the world. He went on to become director of the Steuben County Historical Society, where he still works today. When he began the job, he proposed a mission statement of "Saving Steuben Stories - Telling Steuben Tales," he said. "To learn the history... to communicate it other professionals... and then to pull up a seat by the fire and tell the tales. That's how I live my life. My job is to be a storyteller for Steuben County."

We asked Kirk to share a few of his very favorite postcards from Steuben County's past. Let's take a look at Kirk's Top 5 picks!

1. The Finger Lakes Trail goes through Bradford, and it's still one of our loveliest rural towns. The split-rail fence wouldn't be in use today, but otherwise it's still just as great a place as this postcard suggests.

 

2. This aerial view of Painted Post captures the busy industrial history of the county, but also shows how that river could be quite a threat (before flood control) in days gone by.

 

3. Most people in America had never seen an airplane back in 1913. Hammondsporters had so many they were blasé (or at least that's what they told the tourists). Many of the homes and structures in this Keuka Lake scene are still there today.

 

4. Bath was celebrating its sesquicentennial back in 1943, right in the middle of World War II. This postcard is fun because the Red Cross ladies are skillfully avoiding the horse drippings. Liberty Street is asphalt now, rather than bricks, but all those commercial blocks are still busy.

 

5. I really like this one, because it makes me imagine having worked in Hornell at the railroad shops, all the livelong day. If I were taking the trolley home to Canisteo along this route, I suspect I'd feel a lot more relaxed by the time I got there!

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Master-Crafted Series
Keuka Lake

In this day and age, people are bombarded with images and advertisements from beautiful places. Just glancing through my Facebook newsfeed this morning had me dreaming about no fewer than a dozen far-off locales. While I probably follow more tourism boards than the average Facebook user, I'd venture a guess that the majority of people see at least one image of a tourist destination each and every day. And if you frequent Pinterest, you see thousands. There's so much beauty in this world - so many places to explore. So how do you sift through it all to decide what to do with that measly 2-3 weeks of vacation time per year? 

I don't have all the answers for you. I certainly wish I did. I'm not here to help you figure out if you should go on safari in Africa, or backpack across Europe. There are lots of bloggers out there to help you with that, like Landlopers, Adventurous Kate, Amateur Traveler and Everything Everywhere. I'm here to introduce you to a destination that holds a special place in my heart. I want to help you figure out if amid all the beautiful places you see every day, Corning & the Southern Finger Lakes is a place you'd like to spend some of that precious vacation time.

So, what sets us apart? What gives us the edge? Are you ready for my best sales pitch? Ahem... here we go!

Here are the top 5 reasons Corning & the Southern Finger Lakes should be on your vacation planning radar:

  1. Are you a wine lover? The Finger Lakes is the second-largest wine-producing region in the United States!

    Enjoying the view and a glass of Finger Lakes wine.

    Yes, really. Not only was it named "the world's most beautiful wine region" by readers of Budget Travel, but it earned a place on Shermans Travel's list of Top Ten Value Destinations in 2011, making it the world's most affordable wine region, as well. The Finger Lakes is home to more than 120 wineries, including Dr. Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars, the most awarded winery in the Northeast, and Pleasant Valley Wine Company, which is U.S. Bonded Winery No. 1. Oh, and we have beer, too! Upwards of 50 breweries have popped up in less than a decade.

  2. Do you consider yourself "fun" and "cool"? That's awesome! We are, too!
    Best of the Road Coolest Small Town

    While Hammondsport plays host to some major names in wine, it also possesses a very distinct cool factor, which helped it earn the title of "America's Coolest Small Town" in Budget Travel's annual contest (2012). Last year, Corning was voted "Most Fun Small Town in America" in Rand McNally's Best of the Road contest. Check out how much fun we have in our video that won us the title!

  3. Our museums are really amazing!

    The Corning Museum of Glass

    I know what you're thinking, but hear me out. The Corning Museum of Glass is the third most-visited destination in New York State, right behind New York City and Niagara Falls. It houses the most extensive glass collection in the world, visitors even make their own glass - something travelers can do very few places in the world. It's rare for a small city to have one world-class museum, let alone two! The Rockwell Museum has been called the "Best of the West in the East," offering one of the finest collections of Western Art in the US (and is the largest east of the Mississippi). Both The Corning Museum of Glass and the Rockwell Museum are free for kids and teens 19 and under, making them great value destinations for families. Also check out the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, where you'll learn about the famous Finger Lakes aviator.

  4. Keuka Lake

    There's water, water everywhere!
    Take some time to relax. You're in the Finger LAKES, after all! Keuka Lake has long been regarded as one of the most picturesque of the Finger Lakes, in all its distinct "y-shaped" glory. It's the perfect spot to send a relaxing day on the water, surrounded by acres of vineyards in the hillsides. Whether you take in the scenery from a sailboat, kayak or even Jet Ski, you'll feel refreshed after breathing in that cool lake air. Yahoo! Travel even recognized the Finger Lakes as a top lakeside vacation! What more convincing do you need?

  5. We've got fantastic events like GlassFest and the Wineglass Marathon!

    GlassFest

    Every Memorial Day Weekend, things get HOT in "America's Crystal City." We kick-off summer with GlassFest, a four-day celebration of the fire arts - from glass to pottery. Join us for exciting events, like the fame-off flameworking competition, live musical performances, and wine and beer tastings. The American Bus Association named GlassFest to their top 100 events in the North America for 2014, showing how much it has grown since its inaugural year in 2010.

    Wineglass Marathon

    Did you know Corning & the Southern Finger Lakes is home to one of the "16 Best Marathons in the World"? Now in its 33rd year, the Wineglass Marathon is becoming quite the sought-after event, even receiving recognition from Away.com as one of the Top Ten Destination Marathons. More than 5,000 runner participate in the Wineglass full and half marathons the first Sunday in October each year, making the journey from Bath to Corning surrounded by the beautiful colors of a Finger Lakes' autumn. 

So, what do you think? Are you convinced a trip to the Finger Lakes is one that's worth spending some of those vacation days on? We were hoping you might think so! You can always check out our website for travel planning help, browse our full events calendar, and request a travel guide.

Looking forward to welcoming you to beautiful Corning & the Southern Finger Lakes!

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Attractions, Cool and Fun, Museums, Outdoor Recreation

Each month, we've brought you a blog written by our staff, telling you about their favorite things to do in the Finger Lakes, and why they love promoting the region. Check out blogs from Kim and Kevin. Today, meet Erin Cassidy, our eMarketing Manager.

Erin loves our alpaca friends!
Erin loves our alpaca friends!

Q: How long have you been with the CVB team? What do you do?
A:
I have been with the CVB 5 years. I'm the eMarketing Manager meaning I live in the digital universe. I manage CorningFingerLakes.com, the email newsletters, the social media and our digital advertising.

Q: Are you from the Finger Lakes Region? If so, what makes you stay? If not, what drew you here?
A:
I was born and raised in the Syracuse area, and grew up to appreciate Upstate New York's beauty - but I can't say I loved all the lake-effect snow that came with it! It was going to school in Ithaca that made me a true believer in the power and allure of the Finger Lakes. Staring at Cayuga Lake from my dorm room, I would get lost for hours. Now that I live in Elmira and work in Corning, I love that I get to enjoy and promote all that Steuben County has to offer. We only get a fraction of the snow, just enough to make things pretty without getting buried.

Spending the day on beautiful Keuka Lake
Spending the day on beautiful Keuka Lake

Q: What makes the Finger Lakes special to you, and why do you love telling others about it?
A:
Growing up, my family would spend our summers visiting friends on Keuka Lake and I remember thinking it was the best place on Earth. Then it was all about learning to swim, taking boat rides, and enjoying the beautiful scenery. Now that I'm older, I appreciate that the wine is pretty darn good, too! I have even converted my Maryland-native husband into a Finger Lakes wine snob. It's not just the treasure of childhood memories that makes the Finger Lakes special. There's just a magnetic feeling in the air when you meet the people who grow the food and make the wine that makes you relax and use all your senses to take it in. And now that I have a 2-year-old son, I love that my "mom job" is to introduce him to the best place on Earth!

Enjoying a sunny, ice cream-filled day in Corning!
Enjoying a sunny, ice cream-filled day in Corning!

Q: Let's play tourist! Tell me what you'd do with your family or friends on a weekend in the Finger Lakes.
A:
Anyone who visits me has to answer one question: "What wine do you like to drink?" I then create a wine tour just for them. No matter what kind of wine they like, I insist on a visit to Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars because I think the history of Konstantin Frank is fascinating and provides a good base to understand and appreciate all the 100+ thriving wineries in the Finger Lakes. Visits usually include a trip to The Corning Museum of Glass but I also love to surprise my guests with the awesomeness that is the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum. The history is astounding and Baby J likes to play with the interactive kids display, he looks adorable in aviator glasses.

Baby J hammin' it up at the Curtiss Museum!
Baby J hammin' it up at the Curtiss Museum!

Q: If there's one thing you wished everyone knew about the Finger Lakes, what would it be?
A: I wish everyone was more familiar with the history of Glenn Curtiss and his contribution to aviation history. He may not have gotten his plane up "first" but his involvement with the US Navy and advancing the technology of making planes fly faster and better is worth noting in more history books. His museum has a lot going on because Glenn Curtiss was a man who had a lot going on. From motorcycle speed records to planes to RVs, Curtiss never stood still for long and neither did his brain. 

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Ask the Local Expert, Attractions, Museums, Wine Fun
Wineglass Marathon

Several months ago, we all made promises we were determined to keep. How are you doing on those New Year's resolutions? Lots of people list things like "save money" or "lose weight." For quite a few people, there's a big ambition on their list: to run a marathon. It's a lofty goal - one that will take a lot of hard work and dedication, but one that's most certainly attainable.

If you're one of these people, or even if you've run a marathon before and set a goal to run another, we're here to tell you why the Wineglass Marathon might be the one for you.

Fall in the Finger Lakes
Fall in the Finger Lakes

1 - It's not just a race, it's a "destination marathon!"

In its 33rd year, the Wineglass has become a sought-after "destination marathon," attracting upwards of 5,000 runners from all over the country - and the globe. Set in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, a fall backdrop provides stunning scenery for the flat, speedy race the first Sunday of October each year.

There are plenty of activities throughout the Finger Lakes region for runners and their families to take part in, either before or after the race. From making their own glass at The Corning Museum or Glass or Hands-On Glass Studio (where the award-winning marathon medals are made) to wine and beer tasting on Keuka and Seneca lakes, there's so much fun to be had on and off the course! Why not start planning your visit by requesting a travel guide!

Wineglass Marathon
Wineglass Marathon

2 - "Small -Town Race; Big-City Feel"

We asked one of the race directors, Sheila Sutton, why someone who made a resolution to run a marathon should pick the Wineglass. "Wineglass Marathon is very well organized and has incredible volunteers from start to finish," she said. "It isn't so crowded that you can't 'run your own race' and achieve your desired goals. It's a lovely course that is also very flat and fast, making it one of Boston's top qualifying races.

"It's a 'small-town race' with a 'big-city feel' and lots of extras," Sutton continued. "There's fantastic schwag for all the runners. It's also a great area with lots for all to do. It is the perfect course if you are striving for a special time, or just to complete your first marathon/half marathon."

Wineglass Runner

3 - It's not too late to start training!

The Marathon is on October 5, giving you plenty of time to prepare for race day! Typically, training time ranges from 12 - 18 weeks. If there's one piece of advice Sutton can give first-time marathoners, it's to "do the work upfront and enjoy the journey."

"Find a good training plan and follow it," she said. "But don't beat yourself up if you miss a day here or there." She noted that the book Four Months to a Four-Hour Marathon by David Kuehls serves as a great beginner's training program. Runner's World Smart Coach is also a great plan to follow. If you need some extra support, find a running club to train with. Share some other great training plans/suggestions in the comments below!  

While you're training hard, make sure to register for the marathon (or even half marathon if you're not sure you're ready to conquer a full). Both races sold out by Memorial Day last year, and are on track to do the same again this year.

Volunteers hard at work stuffing bags of goodies for the runners!
Volunteers hard at work stuffing bags of goodies for the runners!

4 - The volunteers are AWESOME!

It takes a lot to put together an event like the Wineglass, and the volunteers do not go unnoticed by the runners. In fact, the majority of the comments mention them! "When I ran Wineglass this past go 'round, I was blown away by how great the volunteers were," said one runner. "I may have asked one to marry me!" This year's marathon will require more than 2,500 volunteer shifts to make it all possible. That's about one volunteer for every two runners - quite an impressive ratio. The community support that's involved in the Wineglass Marathon is truly something that makes it stand out among races.

If you know anyone (even family here for race day) who would like to volunteer, please have them sign up for a spot! 

Award-winning glass medals
Award-winning glass medals

5 - It's a pretty big deal!

Now's the time we get to toot our own horn. If you're not convinced yet, perhaps you'd want to be a part of the race named "Speediest" Marathon by Runner's World, with the "Best Schwag" (also Runner's World), and the race with the 7th highest percentage of qualifying runners for the Boston Marathon. The hand-crafted glass medals have also been on the list for best marathon finishing medals several times in Marathon & Beyond magazine. The Wineglass Marathon also has the highest percentage of female runners for any race that isn't an all-women's marathon, with 54 % women on average for the full marathon. If that's not enough, Away.com named the Wineglass one of the Top Ten Destination Marathons, right up there with the Bermuda Triangle Challenge, the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon, and the Athens Classic Marathon in Athens, Greece. Oh, and did we mention you end the race on Market Street in downtown Corning, recently named the Most Fun Small Town in America!?  

So, are you ready to sign up? If you promised yourself you'd run a marathon this year, it's definitely not too late to start working toward your goals for Wineglass Weekend.

 

Have you run the Wineglass Marathon before? What makes it a good race for a first-time marathon runner? Offer some words of advice and encouragement in the comments below!

 

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Events, Wineglass Marathon
Experience! the Finger Lakes Keuka Wine Tour
Experience! the Finger Lakes Keuka Wine Tour

I've been to the wineries around Keuka Lake dozens of times. I work with them constantly, and feel I have a pretty good understanding of their history and significance in the wine industry. But last week, I saw them in a whole new light.

Experience! the Finger Lakes, a wine tour company out of Ithaca, has long been putting together a wine tour on Keuka Lake, and I was lucky enough to be part of the test group. Last week, we ventured up to Keuka Lake on what seemed to be one of the coldest, snowiest days of the month - and that's saying a lot this winter! - but despite the howling winds and snow squalls, the wine warmed us, and the tour blew us away completely.

Snowy but fun day tasting at Heron Hill Winery
Snowy but fun day tasting at Heron Hill Winery

Through the Tasting Glass: The Wondrous Wines of Keuka Lake is the brainchild of Laura Winter Falk, owner of Experience! the Finger Lakes. She hand selected four wineries to include on her tour, tying them together for the sake of historical significance and contributions to the Finger Lakes wine story. She likes to think "there's something in the water," she says. Every time she thinks of innovation in the Finger Lakes, it somehow always occurs around Keuka Lake. (Glenn Curtiss, anyone?) The name of the tour made her think of Alice in Wonderland, she said, and the "Drink me!" potion that made her change sizes. In the same way, Laura believes there's magic in the waters of Keuka Lake!

Although people will be able to book this wine tour by itself (for $135 per person), the Radisson Hotel Corning has put together a phenomenal package around it, featuring not only the tour, but a two-night stay, a $100 gift card to the on-site Ageless Spa (for each guest!), a four-course dinner at Grill 1-2-5 restaurant, tickets to The Corning Museum of Glass and more! Check out the full details and pricing!

Last week, Laura took staff from the Steuben County CVB and Radisson on a test tour, in hopes of not only helping us sell it to others, but giving us a deeper appreciation for this area we're lucky to call home. Laura is a sommelier, and is very knowledgeable and passionate about wine. The drive to Keuka Lake flew by as Laura quizzed us with history about Finger Lakes wine production - something she does at the beginning of all her tours.

Lesson in sparkling wine at Chateau Frank.
Lesson in sparkling wine at Chateau Frank.

From pre-Prohibition wineries to famous families, so much of the history of Finger Lakes wine takes place on Keuka Lake. Timed perfectly, the story ends with an introduction to vinifera wines, first brought to the region by Dr. Konstantin Frank from the Ukraine - just as we pulled into the parking lot at Dr. Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars.

If you take this tour for no other reason, it should be for the "extras" you get that aren't available to visitors on a regular wine tasting trip around the lake. Our visit to Dr. Frank's started with a behind-the-scenes look at Chateau Frank, the building next to the winery where sparkling wine is produced. Learning about the process from the maker himself truly makes you appreciate tasting it that much more. Realizing he touched each bottle more than two dozen times throughout the process opens your eyes to how much craftsmanship and skill goes into the process. The journey continues in the tasting room with an in-depth story of the Frank family and their contributions to winemaking history. Taste the award-winning wines paired with local cheeses while overlooking Keuka Lake and some of the oldest vinifera vines in the country. Dr. Frank's is offering a 20% discount in the wine shop to all who tour with Experience! the Finger Lakes.

Fantastic lunch at Heron Hill Winery
Fantastic lunch at Heron Hill Winery

The next stop is Heron Hill Winery, where each guest receives a welcome glass of wine upon arrival. After enjoying the view from one of the top ten most spectacular tasting rooms in the world (Travel & Leisure magazine), a gourmet lunch is served, paired with a flight of wine. The lunch was delicious, and I'll let the picture - and our smiles - speak for themselves. The menu will always be filled with local ingredients - and even in the dead of winter, they did a fantastic job!

Chocolate and wine pairing at Ravines Wine Cellars
Chocolate and wine pairing at Ravines Wine Cellars

After taking advantage of the 15% discount in the retail shop, the tour leaves the west side of the lake to journey up the east branch. The morning was spent learning about history and tradition - the story of how the Finger Lakes came to be such a force in the wine-producing world - and the afternoon focuses on exploring the innnovation currently taking place on Keuka Lake.

Ravines Wine Cellars pairs its award-winning dry European-style wines with various kinds of locally-made chocolates. It's an experience that will certainly enhance all your senses! McGregor Vineyard offers a cozy tasting experience with guests seated around a table. You'll get to taste wines made from varietals grown nowhere else in the region, one of which is the famous Black Russian Red, which has an almost cult-like following among its fans. Both wineries will also offer a discount to Laura's groups.

Yummy snacks!
Yummy snacks!

Much appreciated on the ride home is the snack basket and souvenir water bottles Laura provides. She surprised us all with several mementos to help us remember our experience on the wine trail - something she does for all her groups.

Cozy tasting at McGregor's
Cozy tasting at McGregor's

Needless to say, I thought the experience was exceptional. I had a little prior knowledge about the tour, but it exceeded my expectations in every possible way. From the fun way she explained the history, to the deep appreciation you gain for the wine, to the many extras the wineries include for Laura's groups, I thought the tour was top notch. If you're someone who enjoys learning about what it is you're tasting, and you want to be treated like a VIP, this is certainly the tour for you.

And remember to check out the great deal the Radisson Hotel Corning has put together. Booking it will only help make a phenomenal experience even better. Note that there are select weekends for this tour, but more dates will be added soon.

  • Book the Tour 
  • Book the package at Radisson Hotel Corning

Cheers to a wonderful exploration of Finger Lakes wine!

Cheers from snowy Keuka Lake!
Cheers from snowy Keuka Lake!
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Attractions, Dining, Lodging, Wine Fun

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