Swimming holes and going wild: 7 things to do in Southern Tier before summer ends
New York is full of cool small towns and quaint villages, each with its own distinct flavor. Whether you’re into farm-to-table fine dining, eclectic art or just need a day away, there are lots of local-ish destinations to explore before summer's end.
Explore a small town
Next head to the Rockwell Museum, to view an impressive collection of work by American artists, including Warhol, Remington and Wyeth. Finish your day in the Gaffer District, where shops and restaurants, including The Quincy Exchange by Finger Lakes chef and master sommelier Christopher Bates, await.
Skaneateles, located at the north end of Skaneateles Lake, has an array of upscale shopping and dining options, from Imagine's fine handmade jewelry to Bluewater Grill's dockside dining. Explore the pristine lake by boat or bliss out at Mirabeau Inn & Spa. Just outside of town is the Skaneateles Conservation Area and enchanting Aurora, home of Wells College and the Inns of Aurora, is just a short drive away.
Halfway between Binghamton and Ithaca, Owego is home to the Early Owego Antique Center, a multi-level antique store. Chow down at The Owego Kitchen, open for breakfast and lunch, or at colorful Las Chicas Taqueria. Take a stroll along the Owego Riverwalk and refuel at Carol’s Coffee and Art Bar, where sandwiches are named for famed artists and the paintings on the wall are for sale. Spending the night? The Belva Lockwood Inn was once a girls' school and is named for its principal, a U.S. Presidential candidate.
Have fun at the NYS Fair
The Great New York State Fair dates back to 1832, making it one of America's oldest state fairs. It's also one of the biggest, with more than 1.3 million fairgoers walking through its Syracuse-area gates in 2019, including more than 147,000 in a single day.
And let's be real here: the NYS Fair is the best state fair. Where else can you drink Finger Lakes wine slushies, marvel at a life-size butter sculpture, ride a scream-inducing midway ride, learn about New York agriculture and history, stuff yourself with spiedies and salt potatoes, and catch a free Nas concert? Probably not Texas.
This year's NYS Fair runs from Friday, Aug. 20 through Monday, Sept. 6, with free vaccines offered for those not yet vaccinated.
Before the colonization of the Americas, the Haudenosaunee people lived for centuries in what is now known as central and northern New York. The Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor tells the story of the five Haudenosaunee nations — the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga and Mohawk nations — of the Iroquois Confederacy.
A National Historic Landmark, Ganondagan is the only New York State Historic Site dedicated solely to Native Americans.
Ganondagan features a full-size longhouse, a 17,300 square-foot interactive multimedia center that tells the story of the Haudenosaunee’s contribution to New York state and the world.
Interested in more local history? Take a trip to the Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls.
The rolling green hills of Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen is the forever home of content cows, happy pigs, clucking chicks, goats, sheep and more. Tours of Farm Sanctuary give visitors a chance to get up close with the rescued animals — selfies are encouraged — and to learn why #friendsnotfood is good for people, animals and the planet. Advanced booking of Farm Sanctuary tours is required.
Eagles are awe-inspiring and easy to spot at Montezuma Wildlife Refuge near Seneca Falls, where the once-endangered bird was successfully restored using European falconry techniques. You can spend the day at Montezuma, which spans over 10,000 acres and is part of the Atlantic Flyway, providing critical habitat for migratory birds Hint: Early morning is the best time to see bald eagles.
Keep cool, naturally
For outdoorsy-types who like the rush of waterfalls and life-affirming dips in brisk lakes, New York has endless places to keep cool. Check with the park offices on current water conditions before heading out for a swim.
Ithaca is gorges, with scenic waterfalls and swimming spots. Located in Robert F. Treman State Park, Enfield Falls (also called Lower Falls), is a popular spot with both locals and visitors. For thrill-seekers, there's a diving board, while a natural wading pool is perfect for families with kids. Bathrooms/changing rooms make it the perfect swimming spot for hikers exploring the park’s rugged trail system.
Green Lakes State Park, just five miles east of Syracuse, features two meromictic lakes; the upper and lower levels of the lakes don't mix, resulting in a stunning clear blue color year-round. In addition to swimming, there's camping, trails and a Hippocampe Beach/All Terrain wheelchair is available so people of varying abilities can get outside.
Harris Hill in Chemung County is home to the National Soaring Museum, which is open year-round. But for those who want to experience motorless flight firsthand on a sailplane through the neighboring Harris Hill Soaring Corporation, the opportunity is only seasonal; the soaring season ends in October.
The gliding experience costs between $125-$150 and limited to a single passenger. All glider pilots are FAA-certified and will point out the sights of the beautiful Finger Lakes landscape below. Flights are weather dependent and must be purchased in advance online.
If you're bringing kids along, check out the Harris Hill Amusement Park for kiddie rides, batting cages, go-karts and mini-golf.
Want to get out on the water? In Broome County, both Dorchester Park in Whitney Point and Nathaniel Cole Park in Harpursville have canoe and kayak rentals. Boat rentals are cash only, with discounts for veterans and seniors citizens. Contact the park offices before to check water conditions.
If you've never experienced a Cayuga Lake sunset, do it before the summer ends. Discover Cayuga Lake sails away with evening sunset, night sky and dance party cruises, as well as family eco-cruises. Check out the calendar here.
STATE FAIR CONCERTS:Nelly, REO Speedwagon, Dropkick Murphys and more
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