Solar Eclipse Interplanetary Getaway

By now you have probably heard, on April 8th, 2024 the moon and the sun will do their dance and cast the world into darkness. Sort of. While certain parts of New York State will be in the path of totality (i.e. the most complete darkness), the phenomenon will only last a few minutes.

While total solar eclipses are a rare and unusual to witness (the next eclipse that will traverse the contiguous United States is slated for 2044), we have been embracing the solar system for quite some time here in the Finger Lakes.

From Corning’s role making the world’s largest telescope to the special glass it developed for space shuttle windows, from Walter Taylor’s infamous blackout parties at Bully Hill to daredevil speed demons like Glenn Curtiss who helped pave the way for space travel, from Heron Hill Winery's most popular wine for the past twenty years (Eclipse White and Eclipse Red) to a renowned glass artist whose wife is an astronaut.

As a prelude to viewing the solar eclipse in person, spend a fun-filled weekend Exploring Steuben and our connection to the stars.

Eclipse Weekend Itinerary

Day 1

Corning, NY
Friday April 5th, 2024

Telescopes, Space Shuttles, Megaplanets, and Otherworldly HeeChees


Glass loves light. Only seems appropriate to take advantage of the sun before its light gets blotted out and what better place to do so than in “America’s Crystal City” where you will find the world’s largest museum devoted to glass art and artifacts and an historic district with over 100 boutiques, galleries, studios and restaurants.

Stroll the small town where, in 1880, glassblowers helped Thomas Edison’s incandescent lamp find its way out into the world and learn about the magic and mysteries of glass including Corning’s longstanding connection with the stars.


Glass Telescope

World’s Largest Telescope

“In 1928, the famed astronomer, George Ellery Hale, had a vision. He wanted to build the world’s largest telescope at Palomar Mountain in California—a research instrument that would allow scientists to view the skies as never before.”

Hale enlisted the aid of Corning Glass Works and in 1934 the company attempted creating the worlds largest glass mirror at 200 inches (double the largest mirror at the time). During the pouring, a mishap occurred and the attempt was ruined, however Corning’s physicist and engineer decided to let the mold cool anyway turning that failure into an opportunity to experiment in making the world’s largest single piece of glass. After all, how often would anyone get a chance to see how something that enormous handled the annealing process (the gradual cooling necessary to prevent the glass from cracking or breaking)?

Corning successfully made a second mirror which took a year to cool (or anneal) properly before making its way to California.

You can see the “imperfect disk” on display at The Corning Museum of Glass. (One Museum Way, Corning, NY 14830)

You can also learn more about “The 200-inch Disk and the Hale Reflecting Telescope” and see images HERE. But if you visit The Corning Museum of Glass, you can see  that first “imperfect disk” on display which is so much cooler!


Space Shuttle Launch

Space Shuttle Windows

Corning Museum of Glass is more than a museum of art and history (we’re talking the world’s largest museum devoted to glass art and artifacts), it’s also a place where you can learn about science thanks to the Innovation Center where you can also learn about the special glass needed to make windows for the space shuttle (glass needed to withstand the extreme heat generated on re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere). That same special heat-resistant glass is used today in the museum’s hot glass shop to provide behind-the-scenes views of hot glass in a furnace that’s over 2,100°. Read more about the space shuttle glass HERE.


Mega Planet
courtesy - The Corning Museum of Glass


Renowned glass artist, Josh Simpson has a special connection with space which comes through in his remarkable paperweights, including his 100-pound megaplanet which he he was commissioned to make by the Corning Museum of Glass as the museum’s 1,000th paperweight. Simpson’s wife is astronaut Cady Coleman who spent time in space and has inspired some of his most stunning work. Learn More.


courtesy - Vitrix Glass Studio


Originally inspired by the novels of science fiction master Frederick Pohl, Heechees have become the calling card of Vitrix Glass Studios located on historic Market Street. (77 W. Market Street, Corning, NY 14830)

In Pohl’s iconic novels, Heechees are an advanced fictional race of interstellar travelers who explored Earth’s solar system long before mankind emerged. Vitrix’s fascinating hand-blown glass pieces transcend all categorization, expressing a fantastical personality all their own.

With their fantastical shape of colorful whorls adorning a clear or black stem, these abstract glass sculptures resemble the swirling bands of light that make up the Milky Way. The individual ribbons of glass carefully wrapped one-over-the-other are not only the most challenging aspects of creating the Heechee, but they also convey a sense of movement, as if traveling among the stars, and the inescapable influence of gravity which, it turns out, is an essential tool used by master glass artist Tom Kelly in creating these unique and colorful pieces.

On weekdays, during working hours, visitors to the Vitrix shop can watch Tom and his team making various glass objects ranging from snow people to HeeChees.


Day 2

Hammondsport, NY
Saturday April 6th, 2024

Speed Demons, Blackout Parties, and (of course) Wine


The small town of Hammondsport, located at the southern end of Keuka Lake (the only Finger Lakes not shaped like a finger) is the birthplace of the Finger Lakes Wine Region which started in Hammondsport nearly 200 years ago. And it was there that the Vinifera Revolution took place over 60 years ago forever changing winemaking in the Northeastern United States. Hammondsport was also known as “The Cradle of Aviation” from 1907 until WWI, as most of the experimentation and advancements in early American aviation happened there thanks to Glenn Curtiss.



Glenn Curtiss on Bike
courtesy - The Glenn H. Curtiss Museum

Speed Demons

In a way, you might say that bicycles helped pave the way for rocket-ships and space travel.

The ways people travel have evolved over the years, as more and more technologies are invented to provide an ever-increasing ability to go fast. One small town boy who translated his need for speed into a career as an inventor and transportation pioneer was Glenn Curtiss.

Born in Hammondsport in the late 1800s, Curtiss loved to race bicycles as a boy. Cycling—still a somewhat new means of transportation—offered the rider a faster way to get around than running could do, though for some that still wasn’t fast enough. One day, Curtiss, who was also a tinkerer, built a motor intended to help a dirigible fly. Before sending the engine to the balloonist, Curtiss strapped it onto a modified bicycle frame and sped across a sandy beach in Florida becoming the “fastest man on earth.”

In many ways, that one feat changed the world. For Curtiss was drawn into the world of aviation where he went on to receive the first pilot’s license issued in the United States. He won the first aeronautical award in the country and soon became “the world’s foremost flier.”

You can learn more about Glenn Curtiss and his contributions to aviation HERE. But the best way to see for yourself just how remarkable his achievements were is to visit the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum (8419 NY-54, Hammondsport, NY 14840) where you can see replicas as well as authentic vintage motorcycles and airplanes on display.


Blackout Labels

courtesy - Bully Hill Vineyards

Infamous Blackout Parties

Did you know that the founder of Bully Hill Vineyards (8843 Greyton H Taylor Memorial Dr., Hammondsport, NY 14840) was the official artist for NASA? Yeah, we didn’t think you did. Walter Taylor was a bit of a renaissance man, a pilot, artist, marketing genius, and farmer. He was also a person who stood up for his beliefs even when they went against accepted practices. At one time, the Taylor Winery was the largest producer of sparkling wine in the country. As the wine industry relaxed some of the regulations on winemaking, allowing for the addition of water and for tank cars to bring in juice from other parts of the country, Walter gave a speech at a wine event in California only to return home to the family winery and learn he had been given the boot by his uncles.

With the help of his father, Walter was undeterred and founded Bully Hill on the original site of the Taylor Winery. He made his own wines, created his own labels, determined to make authentic NY wines that only used New York grapes and that weren’t watered down. Of course, along the way, Walter was forbidden from using his own name on his labels, so he invited local Cornell and Ithaca College students to blackout parties where they would black out the names from existing labels.

You can learn more about Walter’s remarkable David versus Goliath story, "Irreverent Genius," HERE.

Better yet, visit Bully Hill Vineyards to see some of Walter’s original art (after all, how many winery’s have their own pop art gallery) and grab a bottle of Space Shuttle Red to take home.


Heron Hill Eclipse Wine

Eclipse Wine

When it comes to wines that have a natural connection to a total solar eclipse, none seem more apt than Heron Hill Winery’s most popular table wines Eclipse White and Eclipse Red. These wines (both are blends) have been Heron Hill’s most popular wines for the past two decades. Some years, you can even enjoy Eclipse Rosé. Learn more about Heron Hill’s wines HERE.

A winery known for its sustainability efforts, Heron Hill (9301 Co Rd 76, Hammondsport, Y 14840) has received acclaim for its wines and also for its ambience being named by Travel & Leisure magazine as one of the “Top 10 Most Spectacular Tasting Rooms in the World.” What better place to spend an afternoon enjoying excellent vintages and taking in the stunning beauty of the region.


Day 3

Elmira & Corning, NY
Sunday April 7th, 2024

Haley's Comet, Soaring, and Half Moon Cookies


Mark Twain Study

A Haley’s Comet Connection

You might know that famed author and humorist Mark Twain was born shortly after Halley's Comet appeared in 1895 and he even made a prediction that he would “go out with it” as well, dying a day after the comet was at its closest to Earth.

He called himself and the comet, “two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.”

But did you know that for twenty years Mark Twain spent his summers in Elmira, just twenty minutes from Corning, writing his most famous classic stories? Known about town as Sam, for he was Samuel Clemens here, Twain summered with his wife’s family at Quarry Farm and even had a special writing study built overlooking the river.  He endeared himself to the locals and still holds a place in their hearts. You can visit Twain’s grave in Woodlawn Cemetery. While the Study where he wrote his classics has been moved into town and has a permanent location on the campus of Elmira College. (800 Park Pl, Elmira, NY 14901)


Eileen Collins Display


National Soaring Museum

While you’re in Elmira, stop by the National Soaring Museum (51 Soaring Hill Dr., Elmira, NY 14903) and learn about astronaut Eileen Collins, a local aviator who became the first woman to pilot a space shuttle.

Less than twenty minutes from Corning, you’ll find the National Soaring Museum at Harris Hill. Known as the country’s Soaring Capital, you can take glider rides from late April until October most years and enjoy silent soaring over the valley below.

At one time, children could attend the Eileen Collins Space Camp at Harris Hill learning about Elmira Native and NASA astronaut Colonel Eileen Collins as well as various aspects of flight. There’s a special display about Collins in the museum, as well as an assortment of gliders and sailplanes depicting the heritage of motorless flight and intended to promote soaring and aeronautics.


Half Moon Cookies

Half Moon Cookies

Swing by Lights Bakery in Elmira (211 W. 2nd St., Elmira, NY 14901) for some delicious half-moon cookies for the road. Any journey to the stars requires the right fuel and one taste of these delicious, fluffy, cake-like frosted delights and you’ll feel like you’re already floating in the Milky Way.



Day 4

Eclipse Day
Monday April 8th, 2024

Millions of people will be journeying to the stars today (okay, maybe not literally, but they’ll be out and about trying to get the best views of the solar eclipse) and you will undoubtedly find thousands of them rolling along (and eventually parked) on the same rural routes and byways you will be traveling to get closer to totality (the nearest spot to Corning and Hammondsport will be Penn Yan, at the northern tip of Keuka Lake).

From what we understand, most people who witness the eclipse (hopefully wearing the proper protective glasses) depart almost immediately after the sun reappears.

So we’d suggest enjoying the whole shebang from one of the wineries overlooking Keuka Lake where you can observe the sky-show while treating your taste buds and lingering afterwards to allow all those other folks time to get out of the way. Just a suggestion.