The Finger Lakes Travel Guide

USA  #5 in Best Places to Visit in New York State

Free Things To Do in The Finger Lakes

If you have extra time, Watkins Glen International is worthwhile.
  • #1
    Things to do in The Finger Lakes
    View all Photos
    #1 in The Finger Lakes
    Recreation, Shopping, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Recreation, Shopping, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Located about 23 miles southwest of Syracuse, Skaneateles Lake is the sixth-largest of the Finger Lakes. The name means "long lake" in the Iroquois language and indeed, the 16-mile-long lake crosses three counties: Onandaga, Cayuga and Cortland. The historic Skaneateles Village dates back to the Revolutionary War and is filled with local shops, restaurants, inns and bed-and-breakfasts. The sparkling, clear lake is a favorite for boating and fishing. 

    Many recent visitors to Skaneateles Lake said it was a favorite stop and loved the charming, historic town, saying that both dining and shopping were excellent. Visitors also commented on the lake's calm and clean "crystal clear" waters and said that even though it's off the beaten path it's well worth a visit. Several recommended one of the local boat tours, such as those provided by Mid-Lakes Navigation, as a way to learn the history of the area. 

  • #10
    Cornell University
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    #10 in The Finger Lakes
    Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Founded in 1865 by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White, this Ivy League private university is located in Ithaca. When you're not exploring Cornell's 745 acres, head to Collegetown for budget-friendly eats and university apparel, or nearby Cayuga Lake for more outdoorsy pursuits. 

    Recent visitors said the campus is gorgeous – especially in the fall – and an ideal place to take photographs thanks to the beautiful old academic buildings (many of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places). You'll also spot stunning views of the surrounding lakes from the campus's hilltop perch (specifically, the Libe Slope Overlook). Some reviewers bemoaned the lack of available parking and recommended visiting on a weekend when there aren't major university events (hint: avoid homecoming, commencement and home football games). You can view a calendar of events on the university's website

  • #11
    Watkins Glen International
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    #11 in The Finger Lakes
    Sports, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sports, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Since 1948, Watkins Glen has been one of the premier racing facilities in North America, hosting everything from the Formula One United States Grand Prix to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Legendary drivers, including Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Tony Stewart, have tested their skills on this course, and visitors can follow in their footsteps with the Drive the Glen program. Guests can take two laps on the 3.4-mile course and also receive a commemorative finish line photo. The venue also hosts large regional events, such as the Finger Lakes Wine Festival.

    Visitors from all over the world love the Drive the Glen program, calling it the highlight of the trip, and recommend arriving early to avoid long lines. Others enjoyed watching practice rounds and taking in the scenic views of Seneca Lake (both of which can be experienced for free). 

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