Travel to the Finger Lakes in New York – Episode 529

categories: USA Travel

Travel to the Finger Lakes in New York - What to see, do and sip in the heart of New York State.

Hear about travel to the Finger Lakes in New York as the Amateur Traveler talks to Lillie Marshall from Around the World “L” about this area of water and wine.


Both Lillie and Chris were guests separately of the Finger Lakes Tourism Board and the Corning Glass Museum. Chris was there in Spring and Little in Summer. The highlight for both was the Corning Glass Museum which is an art museum, a glass history museum, and a glass technology museum all in one. It also has an extensive program of hands-on glass making which both took part in, including glass blowing.

One of the prettiest posts in the Finger Lakes is the Watkins Glen State part with a narrow gorge cut through layers of grey slate. It is a great easy hike, including behind a waterfall. Chris also took part in the Drive the Glen opportunity to drive 3 laps on nearby Watkins Glen Speedway.

The Finger Lakes is a wine region and even a California wine snob like Chris was impressed with some of the wines they offered. Sitting at one of the many wineries with a view of one of the nearby lakes is a great trip even if you aren’t drinking.

Lillie and Chris both enjoyed the local restaurants and farm to table food, specifically some of the great restaurants in Corning.

Lillie and her family also enjoyed Elmira New York which was the home and final resting place of Mark Twain.

For small towns, lakes, and vine cover hills, for hiking and glass blowing, come to the Finger Lakes.

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Show Notes

Around the World “L”
Corning Museum of Glass
Watkins Glen State Park
Mark Twain
Mark Twain Country tours
Finger Lakes
I LOVE the Corning Museum of Glass in Finger Lakes, NY
Visiting the Corning Glass Museum
Visiting the Finger Lakes – Wine, Glass, Art and Speed
My New Favorite State Park: Watkins Glen, Finger Lakes
Make Your Own Glass Project in Corning, New York!
Fabulous Food in the Fresh Air of the Finger Lakes, NY
The Finger Lakes, NY Town of Elmira is Full of Surprises!
Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel ?
Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel (reviews)
Driving the Watkins Glen International Raceway – Video #84
Lovely Vineyards of the Finger Lakes, New York
Radisson Hotel Corning
Radisson Hotel Corning (reviews)
The Celler Restaurant (reviews)
Poppleton’s Bakery Cafe (for breakfast) (reviews)
Hand + Foot Restaurant (reviews)
Waterfront Restaurant – Hammondsport (revews)
The Finger Lakes, NY Town of Elmira is Full of Surprises!
John W. Jones (ex-slave)
John W. Jones Museum Project


on Travel to Buffalo, New York – Episode 507

Tucker wrote:

Just listened to this one yesterday… Excellent review of the Queen City, BUT… She should’ve tried the wings! Our Western NY wings are far superior to anything you’ll find elsewhere. Sort of like visiting Germany, but not having any bratwurst, just because you can buy Johnsonville brats at the grocery store!


works for me, although again I would not pair them with a sweet dessert wine like we did when we were in town


No, sir! Better paired with a Genesee beer, or Southern Tier Brewery’s “One Buffalo” beer. I really enjoy your podcasts. Keep up the good work!

Jennifer asks:

One question that is always on my mind when hearing about people who live overseas. I’m listening to the podcast on Prague from several years ago, and the couple talking about Prague seem to move about to different countries often. How exactly are they able to do this? Anytime I look at living overseas it seems there are so many rules and regulations that keep foreigners from being able to easily move there. Job opportunities are limited, because employers have to justify hiring a foreigner over a local worker. Yet I’m always hearing about those who just pick up and move to where ever they want, and stay years, with no problem. i’d love a podcast that explains exactly how they do that??…

Work and Travel Around the World – Episode 194
Indie Travel Podcast
The Budget Minded Traveler Podcast
Tropical MBA podcast

Travel to the Finger Lakes in New York - What to see, do and sip in the heart of New York State.


Chris: Amateur Traveler episode 529. Today the Amateur Traveler talks about wine and NASCAR, gorges and glassblowing as we go to the Finger Lakes region of New York State.

Welcome to the Amateur Traveler, I’m your host Chris Christensen. And then let’s talk about The Finger Lakes.

I’d like to welcome back to the show Lillie Marshall my friend from Boston who is been on the show once before talking about Ghana in Africa but has come back to talk about The Finger Lakes in New York. Lillie welcome back to the show.

Lillie: Thank you. I’m excited to be here.

Chris: And I should explain, this show is going to come as a surprise actually to the Tourism Board of The Finger Lakes who invited us both and two separate occasions to come visit them and also the Corning Glass Museum which we will definitely talk more about later on. And I told them at the time we were not planning on doing an Amateur Traveler episode because I really wasn’t sure that it made the list of it was worth flying to and all the things that I have, and the more I’ve been thinking about it over the summer thinking, I had such a great trip.

Lillie: We really loved it.

Chris: We should talk about it on the show. And I knew that you had a similar experience, I think you went before I did. I went in late spring time.

Lillie: I went in summer during July.

Chris: Okay, of last year. And why should someone go to the Finger Lakes in New York?

Lillie: What I loved is that there is really something for everyone. And all of this in a setting of natural beauty, so it’s these gorgeous lakes and rolling green hills. You have wineries, you have delicious farm to table foods, you have art in the Corning Museum, you have hiking in Watkins Glen, you have amazing history and literary background with Mark Twain in Elmira New York. Really it’s something for everyone.

Chris: Excellent. And when we talk about The Finger Lakes we’re talking about a region that is in the other half of New York away from New York City, closer to Buffalo but in the middle. And it’s a series of lakes that look like some giant scratched long thin Lakes from north to south that were created by glaciers alone…

Lillie: Or by Wolverine.

Chris: Or by Wolverine exactly. It has that sort of look. With those big a surprise to me at the trip and I mention that we got invited by the Corning Glass Museum and I think that’s a great anchor for a trip. I did not realize how much tourism they already get to the Corning Glass Museum.

Lillie: It’s a world class museum. And it’s actually my favorite museum I think I’ve ever been to. It is unbelievable both for the range of ancient glass and modern glass and the classic pieces and these really surprising new pieces, but then also the architecture of the building. And to top that off you can watch glass being made, there’s a whole education set of it and there is a wing for children as well. My toddler was able to play there and we were able to make glass too. We saw people from all over the world, it’s a huge draw.

Chris: Now I’m assuming your toddler was not blowing class.

Lillie: He wasn’t blowing glass, we were blowing making gorgeous flowers which I’m now looking at on my mantel. But he was in the same room but the other side chaperoned by Grandparents with two little protective goggles and he was sticking stickers on to a vase. And then the, the experts came and put it in the sand blasting machine, so when it came out, you took the stickers off and there the little ships. In his case of dinosaurs on the vase.

Chris: Excellent. Now you mentioned that it was an art museum, so it’s an art museum, a technology museum, a historical museum of glass which goes back to the Roman times at least and then somewhat before that…

Lillie: Egyptian.

Chris: Egyptian times. So, it really has an amazing collection of things throughout the ages made of glass and blown glass and all sorts of things going back to original glass beads. Then there is this experience and I was amazed how many people actually do take part in the glass making activity, I think it’s one in four or something like that.

Lillie: Oh wow.

Chris: Take part in the glass making. And in the summertime especially which is their busy season, they set up outdoor glassblowing facilities and they have just a number of different facilities for that. And also, I was looking for my number in my article but I’ve got a couple different articles linked to Lillie’s article and my article about The Finger Lakes and also about The Corning Museum. But as I recall the average visit length is at least four hours. Which is unusual. We talk about museums all over the show but here’s the dirty secret. As I’m often done a lot of museums by about an hour. It’s like “Oh this’s really cool, I really like that, okay, now let’s do something else.” And this was not that. But it’s almost like it’s three or four different museums at the same time.

Lillie: Exactly.

Chris: And I’m a big nerd. I like the technology part that was showing me how glass fibers change things as much as I enjoyed the glass art but the making of the glass. You’ve got your flowers and I’ve got beautiful glass bowl next to me.

Lillie: And then there’s the gift shop too is the whole other part which is dangerous both because you’re worried about breaking things but also because everything is so pretty, wanna buy everything. So yeah there’s about 10 different parts to it. And for anyone listening I can’t emphasize this enough, when someone told me about this museum I thought, “Oh it’s gonna be dull, what am I gonna do? Look at some vases?” But it’s so cool and so beautiful and so fun.

Chris: Yeah. It really was a terrific and that I think is one of the reasons that I wanted to do this show is, it is an anchor. For me there has to be an anchor to someplace. So, here it is the museum currently gets 460,000 visitors a year and the average visit is four and a half hours long. 20% to 25% of the visitors take part as we did in the hands on glass making. And you should, you absolutely should. I understand if you’re afraid of working with hot molten glass, I completely relate to that. But they were really amazingly good in terms of real hands on education.

Anything else we want to go on and on about with the Corning Glass Museum before we get to some of the other things are going to do in the area?

Lillie: Well I’d add on that Corning itself as a very hip town. We had some good meals there, I have an article about all the food that we ate in The Finger Lakes but two of the places are in Corning itself and we didn’t stay in Corning but that could also be a great place to stay because it’s such a pleasant town.

Chris: We did stay in Corning, where did you stay?

Lillie: We stayed in Elmira, because there’s a Holiday Inn there and I haven’t seen a Holiday Inn in a long time and I was feeling kind of snooty about it, but it was a fantastic experience. It was really family friendly breakfast included hot breakfast and it was really convenient as well to the historic sites of Elmira, the fun sites but also all the Finger Lakes destinations.

Chris: They offered us a stay in a hotel overlooking Seneca Lake. A beautiful location, high end hotel, so more expensive. We were traveling with some friends from college and they were going to give us, I think a media rate and the friends were gonna pay so much, we went…We don’t really need to stay someplace fancy, we ended up staying in The Radisson, right in downtown Corning. It’s at the end of Main Street.

It was an incredibly convenient location, we walked to the Corning museum. It’s just across the river, I don’t know maybe a 15-minute walk from there. And it’s just a block or two from some of the nice restaurants that you were mentioning on. I loved Corning’s downtown, I really did.

When I think of so many of the downtowns in the US what they were sort of 10, 20 years ago, where they were boarding up a lot of stores, really there wasn’t a lot going on. There’s quite a lot happening there, there’s quite a lot of antiques, quite a lot of glass oriented things. There’s a lot of artisans and things like that but then, because Corning is a thriving company. Not only did they invent fiber optics and Corning wearing Pyrex but they also currently make Gorilla Glass, it’s used in the iPhone and other smart phones. They’re doing pretty well.

And the town reflects that because it is largely a company town. If Corning, went away I think Corning the town would be hurting but it’s not right now. And now you talked about restaurants. Did you have a favorite restaurant that you ate at in Corning, just looking at that area right now?

Lillie: There were two I was looking back at the article and getting really hungry. We ate at The Cellar and the picture I have is of a deconstructed tamale with a local farm fresh produce, it was delicious. And we ate at Dippity Do Dahs Ice cream as well. But I mean there were so many they gave us a list of places that they recommended and there were tons of them.

And I wanna point out about Corning, that when I thought about Finger Lakes I didn’t know anything about it but I pictured everything being centered on the lake and aquatic activities. And so it’s interesting that Corning is not far from Lake but it’s not on the lake, right?

Chris: No, it’s not.

Lillie: It’s not on any of them. So it just shows that the diversity of activities in the Finger Lakes.

Chris: It is on a river and actually water power is one of the things that put Corning there and also the abundance of trees. You mentioned it being a green area. It is a very beautiful, very forested area in general just for hundred miles in any direction as far as I can tell. And that’s actually what brought Corning there because glass especially at the time that Corning founded that factory, needed access to coal, it needed a lot of fuel because it is a very energy intensive process. In fact, one of the interesting things now is, if you go on a celebrity cruise, they have a Corning Glass blowing demonstration on these ships now.

Lillie: Wow.

Chris: And they had to invent a glass blowing furnace that would work on electricity because that’s not how they have traditionally worked. But that is really one of the things that put it out there away from the cities and things like that, as it needed a lot of fuel glass is something that takes a lot of energy to create. Because you’re melting rock, basically. If you haven’t thought about that I mean, it really does make a lot of sense.

You mentioned The Cellar, we also went into The Cellar. I had a good dinner there but I’m gonna recommend what one of their friends had which was the chicken and waffles with sorghum or hot sauce maple syrup.

Lillie: Oh, that sounds so good.

Chris: Which was probably the most interesting thing. And my wife’s dessert was a do it yourself smore kit. Where they bring the flame to the table and they had homemade marshmallows from one of the…actually one of the place I think we ate breakfast at down the street. And I’m drawing a blank on the name of the place but it was wonderful and that’s in the article that I wrote.

Yeah, we enjoyed that, we had probably also enjoyed hand and foot also. Which was a little more casual louder, certainly more of a local place, in fact, the person who is our guide into the glass making industry, the one who showed us how to make glass basically, she recommended hand and foot and said that’s really where a lot of the people from Corning hang out. And so it’s more of a fun vibe, but it’s a loud place too but good food there as well.

Lillie: Thanks. And I am think laughing about farm to table marshmallows.

Chris: Excellent. Of the other things that you did, what else should we highlight?

Lillie: Watkins Glen. Picture big blaring lights, sparkling fireworks it was so beautiful. My new favorite museum now is the Corning Museum of glass, my new favorite state park that I’ve ever been to is Watkins Glen. I mean it’s these deep gorges, waterfalls and you can get to this all within a three-minute walk of the parking lot. So it’s just an easy win fantastic travel experience.

Chris: And when you say Watkins Glen, first of all we have to talk about the other Watkins Glen in a minute but the Watkins Glen State Park is one of the state parks that I think could be a national park. It is very cool.

Lillie: That’s exactly what I was thinking, every…the whole time I was there, I was angry that it wasn’t a national park. It’s so cool…

Chris: There are some really wonderful state parks in many states as well and this is one of those. It’s not that large, you can hike the whole place in half a day probably. But very, very cool and I loved it from the parking lot. Just even driving in, and even if you weren’t able to do a lot of stairs and hiking, I still think it’s a place that I would recommend you stop. But it’s this layers of slade that this river has carved through this meandering, very narrow channel and you hike up to and behind a waterfall and it’s very beautiful, I really enjoyed Watkins Glen State Park as well.

Now when we were there in spring, you couldn’t do all the hiking yet, because this is slade portions of the walls fall off in the winter time. And so it’s closed in winter and they had to go through and basically knock off some chunks that were unstable before they would open up the whole thing. And so we couldn’t do the whole length of it, but quite spectacular.

Lillie: It’s amazing, and not to be missed.

Chris: But we also did the other Watkins Glen.

Lillie: So what is that?

Chris: That is the International Raceway.

Lillie: We did not do that. I was pregnant at the time and had a toddler, so I don’t think that was not an offer because of that.

Chris: Well, yes, could be. So I am not a car guy, I love to do a good road trip and things like that but I’m not a racing guy, especially. So this is a NASCAR race track. It is the only NASCAR race track that is a Formula One Grand Prix track. So it’s not just an old baller or something like that, it’s quite more complicated than that. Although they use a more simplified version for when they do NASCAR there. But you can get out and you can drive the track.

And now they told us that you can’t just go as fast as you can, there’s a car in front of you, that your pace car, that’s going something like 55 miles an hour. You have to stay behind them. But it still is actually pretty fun. There’s a video up on the site, of us driving the track. And now I’ve sped a video just for timing sake.

Lillie: Cheating.

Chris: Cheating, yeah. I’ll be completely honest, it’s not that we were going that fast but it’s fun because it is a Grand Prix track which is banked and has all sorts of curves and things like that. It was fun. Now the funny thing was, our friend who was driving, so I wasn’t driving because it wasn’t my rental car. We met up with friends, they are from Troy and he wasn’t driving his car because he had broken his wrist and so he was driving this rental car that wasn’t quite up to the challenge.

So this is the thing, you wanna rent something a little fun if you’re gonna drive the Watkins Glen racetrack. But we also went out to where the media is and things like that, that media center. Anybody can, I think it’s $25 a car, do three laps around this racetrack. So if you’re a big NASCAR fan, it might be a big deal but even for someone like me that isn’t, It was fun.

Lillie: That sounds great.

Chris: You talked about being snotty. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it but we really did and it was fun to actually it was fun for me not to drive it but to be able to video it and be able to share that with you.

Lillie: That’s awesome.

Chris: And of course you stop at the winner’s circle and take your pictures between your second and third lap, I guess you do.

Lillie: Are there women in bikinis with flags?

Chris: There were not. Now see that would have made it better. I’m not above that. Well, and then we should talk about wine because this is a wine region. And we just did a show for you who are listening two weeks ago on Nap and Sonoma. And I’ve definitely learned to be more of a wine fan. I was gonna say swear, but that’s I think stretching where I am.

I drink a lot more wine and enjoy wine more and know a little more about wine because I’m in California and because I’m in California, when I’m outside of California, I do get to be a wine snob. Because we have some very good wines, world class wines here. And so I expected because of the region we’re in, which is a cold weather region. Really. Right, it gets warm in the summers but it gets very cold in the winters, that it was going to be more like the German kind of wines and I think they’ve been known.

Well they’ve been known for a lot of cheap jug wines for years and then what happened was a number of years ago, some people started really bringing in more prestigious, more interesting techniques and doing smaller quantities of better wine. And I expected that the German wines, the Rieslings and things like that would be pretty good because we’re talking about that region with the same kind of weather as you’d be having along the Rhine in Germany, where they grow that.

What I didn’t expect is, how many different types of interesting red wines we had. And how many of them I’d never heard of. They had wines from Georgia and I mean the country not the state and Russia and Moldova and all of these wines that had come from basically colder regions in Europe. And had been brought over here because again it was fairly similar, probably they are most fun. Our favorite wine or it was the MacGregor Vineyard, I don’t know if you got there.

Lillie: Oh, we didn’t get there, no.

Chris: It was not on our list. So we had a list…official list that we were going through the Tourism Board and then one of the people who was pouring us wine, and the first place we went to which was Ravines Wines Cellars. Which we enjoyed but we said something about enjoying the red that he was pouring and he said, “Oh, you’ve gotta go next door.” And McGregor Vineyard has a Russian red wine. They have two different wines that are coming from Russian red grapes which we very much enjoyed.

And we also enjoyed the-their type of wine tasting and all the wine tastings here versus, we just talked about wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma $20-25 a person, you may or may not get money off of what you buy. Here it was like $5 a person or free. Depending on where you were.

McGregor’s, I think was a little more expensive and it was…sorry, it was $5 a person but you had snacks with it too. They had some local cheese and they had some other things that you could eat and your sitting more at a table with this gorgeous view of the lake. We we’re out looking here on Keuka Lake and…

Lillie: Love that lake.

Chris: Just a wonderful experience. I mean just the whole thing with good wines, good friends, some tasty food. We ended up buying some jam there as well as wine. And so just that was our favorite but we really enjoyed all four or five vineyards that we went to.

Lillie: That’s awesome. So you may notice my awkward silence at this point. So I was secretly pregnant during…

Chris: You were strictly pregnant?

Lillie: Yes.

Chris: You didn’t tell the Tourism Board that, I won’t be drinking one.

Lillie: I think I did some hinting. But what I wanna point out is that we did end up going to two wineries and they were completely enjoyable, even though I wasn’t drinking wine. I had some artisanal bubbly grape juice in one of the places, and in the other places I had snacks and just took in the view, which is just gorgeous. It’s beautiful. The two that we went to were Wagner Vineyards, which I’d highly recommend and that was near Stonecat Cafe which was a delicious place to eat, and that’s on Seneca Lake.

And then the other one we went to was on Keuka Lake which I loved and it was called Dr. Konstantin Franks, it cracked me up as a name. But that one was stunning. You could see the lake in the distance beyond the rolling green of the grape vines and we sat on the porch and just ate snacks and my husband had some wine. I loved it.

Chris: Well, and we should underline that. One of the things is, tastings there was actually free but also when I said someone went and brought in these interesting different types of wines, that someone was Dr. Konstantin Frank. And this is a family run vineyard that is run by his descendants, I wanna say grandchildren now, it’s been a while since Dr. Frank, I think it was 40 years ago or something like that.

And so even for instance, the place where we were drinking the Russian Red, they were crediting Dr. Frank for bringing those grapes in, in the late 1950s. I said 40 years ago. Okay, a little more later ago than that. And so, that is a significant historical vineyard, where really he started to go from, we just make cheap jug wine here in The Finger Lakes too, no, we can grow things more interesting than that.

Lillie: And I wanna emphasize how beautiful Keuka Lake is. I left my husband trying to corral the toddler who was running around everywhere because I had to take pictures. I was just running through the fields of grapes and snapping away at the reflection of the sky in the water, it was gorgeous. And there’s a town nearby called Hammond’s Port that was ranked as one of the cutest small towns in America that I would recommend checking out.

We found via Yelp a place called The Waterfront Cafe that was right near Dr. Franks, that was fantastic. It was right on the water. And so you could be out under parasols on the water, or you could be inside behind glass and air conditioning but still right under water, which is what I look for in summer outdoor dining, is to be right there with the water but also have the option of being inside.

Chris: Well, and you went in summer and I went in spring. I would say from your description the lakes are prettier in summer.

Lillie: Oh, interesting.

Chris: We were still at the point where a lot of the trees were starting to get their leaves again. And so it was beautiful but I think it is probably prettier in summer. Now on the other hand, we had no crowds. I don’t know what that was like in summer time.

Lillie: It wasn’t terrible. There were certainly people around, but I’d say it was manageable because The Finger Lakes is a huge region.

Chris: It is.

Lillie: If it’s too crowded in one area, you go to one of the other hundred something vineyards and have your wine.

Chris: Right. Well, and I like the fact that there are things to do like the hiking which we mentioned and then in the summertime you can do more of the boat lake tours and things like that. It was a little too early, a little too chilly. When we were there for instance, I don’t think that boat was running on Seneca Lake yet that went out and toured the lake or things like that. So, I would say that best time to go might be in early summer. If you can, before the schools get out. You are a school teacher, as we’ll talk about a little later. So before the schools get out is not the time that you would usually travel.

Lillie: True.

Chris: Other things that you did in your particular trip, that we should talk about.

Lillie: I think that summarizes the highlights and looking back at my articles now…no, we’ve got another one. Elmira is a very interesting town, it’s on the southern outskirts of The Finger Lakes. But some things to point out there. There is the Tanglewood Nature Center, where there is a giant stuffed bear that you can take a hilarious picture of with your child. And there’s all sorts of educational nature activities there. There’s a street painting festival there, in July that I have some fantastic pictures of just the whole town coming out and painting different artistic works…

Chris: A street painting? So not chalk art, but paint?

Lillie: It’s called The Street Painting Festival but it looks like it was chalk.

Chris: Okay, that’s typically what I expect when I see street art.

Lillie: And then we took a trolley tour of Twain country, because Mark Twain spent a lot of time in Elmira because his wife was from a prominent family there. And if I may quickly share a Mark Twain story of how he met his wife, I think it’s very romantic. He was on a boat trip and befriended a young man, and as they were hanging out, he caught a glimpse of a picture of the man’s sister that the man was holding. And Mark Twain said at that moment, “I’m going to marry that woman.” And so he followed him back to Elmira and wooed Livy until she agreed to marry him.

Chris: I had never heard that story. That’s funny…

Lillie: So you can see his final gravesite is in Elmira. And unfortunately, they’re all sorts of graves surrounding him of family members because he had tragedy after tragedy in his family life.

Chris: I did not know that. The other thing we did in Corning that I forgot to mention is, there is another museum there, which is The Rockwell Museum, formally the Rockwell Museum of Western art.

Lillie: We did not have time for that. Tell me about that.

Chris: I enjoyed that now. I already mentioned that usually a museum for me is, I really enjoy it, I go for an hour and then I’ve done. And the Rockwell is that museum, it’s not a huge museum you can pretty much see everything in about an hour. But it does have especially with a Western art. It does have an amazing collection of both well-known pieces and interesting pieces [inaudible 00:25:25] Frederic Remington and Charles Russell and those sort of things. Landscapes from the Hudson River School.

They are expanding into other things. They’re now affiliated with The Smithsonian’s. They’re gonna be having more temporary exhibits that are going to come from the Smithsonian collection and things like that. But I thought it was worth seeing. And there’s actually a shuttle that goes back and forth between the Corning Museum and that museum. And then also the parking lot where they shuttle people from for the Corning Museum.

So yeah, I thought it was interesting, you can get a pass that, gets you into both but again, I thought it took about an hour and I thought it was an interesting collection, especially if you’re a fan of Western Art.

Lillie: There’s a lot of culture in that small area that, that I think is going to make it more and more popular over the years.

Chris: One thing we did not do, but we had just a little taste of it. I mean taste, in a very little sense is, when we were at one of the particular restaurants and this was the Veraisons Restaurant. And Veraisons is out on one of the other lakes that is escaping me but it’s at Glenora Wine Cellars. And we did a local cheese sampler. And we really enjoyed a lot of the local cheeses as well and made me wish we had more time to go explore what there was out there.

Now, they also gave us…they had two different cheese plates. One was a vegan cheese plate and the other was a more traditional cheese plate. I really enjoyed the traditional cheese plate, the vegan cheese plate made me glad I am not a vegan. To be completely honest, it might be quite enjoyable if you’re a vegan but I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the regular cheese. But that was interesting and I did make the think that that is something that I’d like to do, and this is funny because coming from somebody who wasn’t…who is expecting to enjoy it myself but wasn’t expecting to ever talk about the next time I go.

Lillie: Yeah. And yet there was one of the things that as I’m trying this cheese, “Oh, next time we’re back, we’ll have to try that.” Now of course I don’t live anywhere near The Finger Lakes anymore, so we’ll see how long they took…this is my second trip to The Finger Lakes. My first one started with an automobile accident and that was pretty much all that we saw was…

Lillie: That doesn’t sound like fun…

Chris: This one was much better. I would have to say.

Lillie: I agree with you. I keep saying to myself, the next time I go to The Finger Lakes, my next time is I want to do more aquatic activities because there are these lakes and I didn’t get to do boating or swimming on that visit. So that’s next on the list for me.

Chris: Right. Well and I’m sure it was more conducive to swimming when you were there than when we were there.

Well, this is going to be a shorter episode. I think The Finger Lakes are probably more like a long weekend kind of destination, we were there for three days and really felt like we got a really good three days’ worth. I didn’t feel I needed to be there for seven. I don’t know how you felt.

Lillie: I actually wished we’d had more time. I just felt like there were so many different things that I wanted to do, that I really wanted to dedicate a full day to. So I’d say a minimum three days. I mean if you have no choice and you have to do one thing, I’d say Corning Museum or Watkins Glen State Park and then you have gotten something good, but I think there’s enough.

What I was picturing was hanging there somewhere on the lake and just having some lazy days with wine and swimming and boating on the lake. That’s what I was missing as the other part of it.

Chris: Right. Well, and we mentioned Corning Museum, I said the average visit time was four and a half hours, we were there all day.

Chris: Basically by the time we were done with Corning Museum, we were pretty much done for the day. I think we’re there from 9:00 to 4:00 or something like that. And then it was pretty much take a break, go get some dinner.

Lillie: I think it’s a region that’s conducive to taking it slower than usual, not rushing from thing to thing.

Chris: Right. Well it is a little hard to get to, we should mention that. There aren’t a lot of flights and there is airport in Endicott, smaller airport that you can fly into…we were planning on flying in, we were actually planning on flying in the Corning jet but that just didn’t work out. And that is not something that’s available to everybody, anyway. But we just drove in, we drove in from New York City and it’s not a bad drive. It’s about a half day drive in there through some very pretty terrain but it does take a little while to get there from that area.

And it would take a while to get there from Buffalo or Rochester or some of those areas as well. Less so, there’s also a bit of a four-hour drive also up to the capital district. The Albany area which is where our friends were from, we drove back with them and flew out of Albany.

Lillie: Yeah. For us, it was very easy because every summer we make a pilgrimage from Boston to Cleveland to see my in-laws. And so it’s right half way through and you have to take a detour from the very fast highway. But it was I think about six hours from Boston. So highly doable from Boston.

Chriss: Excellent. Well, anything else we wanna say about Corning and about The Finger Lakes region?

Lillie: The last thing I wanna share is this story that I heard in Elmira. It’s about a man named John Jones who was an escaped slave in the mid-1800s. And I was just really moved by hearing his story when I was in Elmira. He became one of the underground railroad people who helped…I’m looking at the article now so I get the numbers right. He helped 860 former slaves escape to freedom, and he was based in Elmira through this. And during this time, at the same time, he was also helping bury Confederate soldiers who had died in the local prison camp.

And what really moved me is he buried almost 3,000 Confederate soldiers and he did it with such precision and care that their families were really moved by it and actually allowed them to stay in that burial ground, rather than bringing them down to the south. I just felt like there were layers of history in Elmira that were really powerful.

Chris: Oh actually one thing we didn’t mention about the Corning Museum, free for kids 17 and younger. They really do want people to enjoy it.

Lillie: Appropriate for a toddler, surprisingly.

Chris: That is very surprising actually. You were talking about the gift shop and I thinking, well, we did not have the same sort of fear you did going into the gift shop I think.

Lillie: But everything is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass Walls. So it was actually no problem.

Chris: One thing that made you laugh and say, only in The Finger Lakes/

Lillie: So they that made me say only in The Finger Lakes was, in The Corning museum the lunchtime buffet was actually extremely delicious. But it had food from all over the world. So it had a Chinese section, it had an Indian section, it had a Japanese section, and I looked around and there were tourists from…

Chris: That was the reason for it. Yeah…

Lillie: …all of the parts of the world. And so it just made me laugh and say, “I hadn’t thought about this region before but look at all these people flying entire days to get here.”

Chris: Well the interesting thing, the very smart idea with the idea of them being on the Celebrity Ships too, is they are putting the word out there about the museum in particular to a much larger audience that wouldn’t have heard about it through that as an ambassador program. And a lot of people who’d do that on the ship, who blow glass on the ship, you literally can do that. Then come later and visit the museum as well.

Lillie: It’s brilliant.

Chris: Most beautiful spot. Where you’re standing? What are you looking at?

Lillie: I’m standing on the edge of gorge in Watkins Glen, seeing the ribbons of silvery rock and a waterfall is crashing overhead above the path.

Chris: Excellent.

Lillie: And my toddler is screaming.

Chris: And your toddler screaming? We didn’t have that part, we just had the waterfall crashing. And finish this thought, you really know you’re in The Finger Lakes when, what?

Lillie: You really know you’re in The Finger Lakes when you are holding a glass of something delicious. Be it artisanal grape juice as I was or wine. The sun is streaming through it and you’re seeing the lake glinting in the distance beyond the green house.

Chris: You practice that didn’t you?

Lillie: Nope.

Chris: Really, well, I am impressed. And if you had to summarize The Finger Lakes in three words, what three words would you use?

Lillie: Natural, delicious and diverse.

Chris: Our guest again has been Lillie Marshall. And Lillie we mentioned you have two different websites aroundtheworldl and Why do you have two different websites and why should we go to one versus the other?

Lillie: So in 2009 I left the country to travel the world by myself and since then I have evolved to be married and have kids. But chronicles my travels. When I got back to America, my mother said, “Your website is all about you. What about other people?” So Teaching Travelling is me interviewing other people with the loose framework of Teacher Travelers, however, I’ve profiled all sorts of different types of people from a clown, teaching, clowning in Afghanistan to a traditional teacher travelling on their vacations.

Chris: Excellent. And we’ll have links to both my articles and Lillie’s articles about this area in the show notes for this post. Lillie, thanks so much for coming back in the show, so sorry I haven’t been to Boston recently to see you but…

Lillie: We miss you.

Chris: I heard from Tucker who had a comment on Episode 507 which we did on Buffalo New York. Just listen to this one yesterday. Excellent review of the Queen City but she should have tried the wings. Our western New York wings are far superior to anything you’ll find elsewhere sort of like visiting Germany but not having any bratwurst, just because you can buy Johnsonville broths at the grocery store.

And I commented that I agreed but I would not pair them with that sweet dessert wine, which is what I did the last time I was in the Buffalo area. And Tucker agrees that they should be better paired with a Genesee beer or a Southern Tier Breweries, one Buffalo Beer. Really enjoyed your podcast, keep up the good work. Thanks so much Tucker, go to Buffalo, try the wings.

I heard from Jennifer, who used to chat button on the website to ask me the question, one question that is always on my mind when I hear about people who live overseas. I’m listening to the podcast on Prague from several years ago, and the couple talking about Prague seem to move about to different countries often. How exactly are they able to do this?

Any time I look at living overseas, it seems there are so many rules and regulations that keep foreigners from being able to easily move there. Job opportunities are limited because employers have to justify hiring a foreigner over a local worker, yet, I’m always hearing about those who just pick up and move to wherever they want to and stay years with no problem. I’d love a podcast that explains exactly how they do that.

And I wrote back to Jennifer but I’ll pass along to you as well. We’ve talked about that on the show once that I can think of episode 194, which was Work and Travel Around the World. But it’s not something that we tend to focus on here, so I’m gonna refer you to couple other podcasts. Indie Travel podcast talks more about that, my friends Craig and Linda over there who’ve been on the show before. You also might get some information from Jackie Nurse at The Budget Minded Traveler Podcast who is an upcoming guest on the show and also another friend.

And then I would also recommend not in a travel space, shows like The Tropical MBA that deal with expat life and living abroad sort of issues and starting businesses abroad. But in general most of the people who I know who do this, are working for themselves. And so they are working remotely in some fashion, so they’re not trying to get a local job. Although Lisa, in The Working and Travelling Around the World, hope so did get several local jobs, although honestly, some of them were under the table.

So yeah, not something we’re gonna go into great detail because there’s so much information out there. It really rates its own podcast. With that we’re gonna end this episode of the Amateur Traveler. If you’ve any questions, send an e-mail to host at or better yet, leave a comment on this episode at You can follow me on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram as Chris2x. And as always, thanks so much for listening.

Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

5 Responses to “Travel to the Finger Lakes in New York – Episode 529”

Lillie Marshall -- @WorldLillie -- Around the World "L"


Big thanks for the interview, Chris! I had a great time chatting with you and look forward to reader comments and questions.

Kate Withiam


I just listened to The Finger Lakes episode and it was fun to hear an episode about the area where I grew up. I just wanted to add some comments about some other areas of The Finger Lakes that weren’t covered in the podcast. I grew up just north of Ithaca, so my focus was a bit north of the Elmira/Corning area. Ithaca is a fun town to spend a day or two (or three). Check out the fabulous farmer’s market, wander Ithaca Commons, explore Cornell University Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell Plantations, and the Laboratory of Ornitology. Also there’s the Paleontological Research Institution/Museum of the Earth. Hike and swim at Buttermilk, Treman, and Taughannock State Parks. For more serious hiking head over to the Fingerlakes National Forest. For dinner, there’s Moosewood, Just a Taste, Maxie’s Supperclub, Mia’s, and Northstar. Or for something more casual try Ithaca Bakery, Wegmans, or Viva Taqueria. Also Hazelnut Kitchen in Trumansburg is lovely. There’s a lot of great ice cream in Central New York: Purity in Ithaca, the Dairy Bar on the Cornell Campus, Cayuga Lake Creamery in Interlaken, and Cream at the Top in King Ferry. For other fun food adventures check out the Finger Lakes Beer Trail, the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail, and the Finger Lake Cider House. A couple other interesting towns worth checking out: Seneca Falls has the Women’s Rights National Historic Park and for an old-school diner experience, head over to Connie’s Diner in Waterloo and Auburn has the William Seward House and the Harriet Tubman House and some excellent beer and food at Prison City Brewery.

Debbie Meritsky


So nice to see another great article about the amazing Finger Lakes, but you’ve hit only the very tip of the iceberg via the tourism agencies favorites. As a top destination Bed and Breakfast in the central Finger Lakes region, we know that there are so many offerings from Cultural, water, outdoor, food and more that were missed. When you’re back in the area, look us up, we’d be happy to share the many ways we guide our guests to everything in between and beyond!



Thanks Debbie!

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