The Finger Lakes region of New York is an absolutely fantastic getaway destination any time of the year. The area is transformed into another worldly winter wonderland for a few months each year, so the appeal is a little different during this time. While freezing cold temperatures and unpredictable snow storms may scare away some travelers, there are still plenty of reasons to plan a Finger Lakes winter getaway.
Planning your Winter Getaway: Activities
While some activities are provided all year long, there are variations. There are also plenty of winter-specific things to do this time of year. The Finger Lakes region certainly gets its fair share of snow and cold weather during the winter months, so there isn’t a shortage of winter activities most years.
Finger Lakes Wine Tours
When visiting the Finger Lakes, no matter what time of year, a wine tour is at the top of most lists. Wine tours during the winter in the Finger Lakes can be especially great because there are fewer visitors.
While you’ll need to plan ahead a little more, as some of the wineries limit their hours more during the offseason, sipping wine while looking out over the snowy scenes of the lakes just offers a different experience.
To make the planning easier and to have a safer experience, we recommend hiring a driver and taking a private wine tour. Then, you won’t have to worry about who in your group is going to be the designated driver. Also, if you’re not comfortable driving on wintery roads, a hired driver can eliminate those worries.
We recommend booking one of these private Finger Lakes Wine Tours.
Take a Keuka Lake Wine Tour.
Take a wine tour on the southern end of the Seneca Lake Wine Trail.
The Finger Lakes region is also known for its deep gorges and stunning waterfalls.
Many of the gorge and waterfall trails around the area, especially those in the state parks, close for the winter due to the amount of snow and ice build-up on the pathways. This definitely makes for unsafe conditions.
The one waterfall you can see in the winter is Taughannock Falls. This gorge is much wider and the trail has no stairs, making it safer, so it remains open.
From Ithaca, head north along the west side of the lake, and after a short drive, you will find yourself at the state park.
A short, flat trail leads to the base of the waterfall, where you can view the single-drop giant of the northeast. This one is taller than Niagara Falls!
The winter blankets of snow add a different experience to the park, so you’ll want to see this one for yourself.
There are also other winter activities nearby, so you can certainly make a day or a weekend trip of the experience.
Downhill Ski & Snowboard at a Local Resort
Though you won’t find the tallest or the most difficult runs in the Finger Lakes, there are a few options to get out and get downhill in the Finger Lakes. These are 5 spots you should consider visiting:
The closest, Bristol Mountain, is near Canandaigua Lake on the western side of the Finger Lakes. There are 39 slopes and trails on the mountain. The scenes from the top of the chairlifts are breathtaking, too. If you enjoy night skiing, this is a great place to visit as 96% of their trails have lighting.
Another spot you can visit, on the opposite side of the Finger Lakes near Skaneateles Lake in Tully, is Song Mountain Resort. A little smaller than Bristol Mountain with 24 slopes, there is still a variety of runs and also room for future development of the area.
Less than 20 minutes away, further to the east, is Labrador Mountain. You can purchase an inter-mountain pass to be able to ski or board at both Song and Labrador mountains during your visit. Labrador Mountain also has over 20 trails to enjoy.
Greek Peak Mountain Resort
While Greek Peak Mountain is a little further away, about 30 minutes east of Ithaca in Cortland, NY, it’s also larger than the first three mentioned above. There are 56 slopes to ski and the variety of terrain is a little wider. While beginner trails exist, there are also some trails considered “expert” or double-black diamond, as well as some glade skiing available. A hotel at the base of the mountain provides convenient accommodations if you want to spend a weekend enjoying the Greek Peak Mountain Resort.
Holiday Valley Ski Resort
While this resort is the furthest on this list from any of the Finger Lakes (a 2-hour drive from Watkins Glen), it is also the largest. Holiday Valley is a weekend ski and snowboarding destination for the region, drawing visitors from all over including Toronto, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland. There are 60 designated runs, 39 of which are able to be used at night, too. Plenty of lodging is available at the resort through the Inn, condos, and townhomes. The small town of Ellicottville is a cute place to explore, too, so you’ll want to spend the weekend!
Cross-Country Ski on a Local Trail
If nordic skiing is more your speed rather than zooming down a steep hill in the alpine variety, there are plenty of options for trails. Difficulty ranges from beginner to expert.
If you bring your own skis, you’ll certainly have more options, don’t worry if you don’t have any! There are rental options in a few different spots!
Cross Country Ski Trails (No Rentals):
- Finger Lakes National Forest
- Genesee Country Village and Museum
- Keuka Lake Outlet Trail
Nordic Ski Trails (With Rentals):
- Bristol Mountain
- Greek Peak
- Lime Hollow Nature Center
- Cummings Community Nature Center
- Podunk Cross Country Ski Center
Slow it down a little more and experience the winter wonderland on snowshoes, instead! Similar to cross-country skiing, there are locations both where you bring your own snowshoes and where you can rent to try them out!
The trails are very similar to those used for Nordic skiing. Please be mindful of those enjoying other wintertime activities and practice good winter trail etiquette by doing things like staying out of the ski tracks.
The Finger Lakes National Forest hiking trails transition nicely to winter recreation activities. Trail descriptions are applicable year-round.
Bring Your Own Snowshoe Areas:
Snowshoe Rental Locations:
- Greek Peak
- Lime Hollow Nature Center
- Cummings Community Nature Center
- Podunk Cross Country Ski Center
Kids (or kids at heart) can enjoy the sledding hills, too. There are plenty of hills in the region, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find one!
Check out Rice Hill, where you can bring your own sleds or toboggans (just no metal runners permitted!). The hill is located on the north side of Taughannock State Park, and it is open to the public for enjoyment.
Onanda Park on the western banks of Canandaigua Lake also has a great old-time sledding hill.
Prepare to walk back up to the top for the next run. There isn’t any easy way, here. It’s just like the old days!
More organized snow tubing is also available at Greek Peak and Holiday Valley. For a fee, tubes are provided, and you can ride to the top of the hill on a conveyor. You can enjoy sailing down the snow-covered slope with less effort!
Ice skating, Indoors or Out!
With so many lakes in the area, there are plenty of opportunities to get out on natural ice skating surfaces. There are also indoor skate rinks if you don’t feel comfortable braving the natural ice on the lake.
Rice Hill is also a great spot to go for outdoor skating, as there are 2 small ponds near the sledding hill for skating. There is also a warming hut for when you get cold, heated by a wood-burning stove.
Some outdoor locations are monitored more closely than others for their thickness and safety, so be aware before you undertake this activity!
Here are a few options for indoor skating rinks:
- Greater Canandaigua Civic Center
- Geneva Recreation Complex
- Nasser Civic Center Ice Rink, Corning
- Lynah Rink, Ithaca
- Cass Park Ice Rink, Ithaca
If you like to fish during the warmer months, but haven’t tried out ice fishing, there are plenty of spots to do so. Even if you are a seasoned ice fisher, it is always fun to try out a new spot.
I’m no expert in ice fishing, so I can’t share any secret spots or hidden gems. If you’re not local to Finger Lakes but want to try your hand at ice fishing while you visit, check out IceShanty where you can get in on some of the local chatter.
Visit a Museum
To learn something new, head to a museum. There are plenty to choose from! The Corning Museum of Glass and the Strong Museum of Play in nearby Rochester are more lighthearted options.
While you’re in Corning, you can also check out the Rockwell Museum. It’s an art museum affiliated with the Smithsonian.
The Women’s Rights National Historic Park and the Women’s Rights Hall of Fame are both located in Seneca Falls.
Visit Harriet Tubman’s home in Auburn, NY, and learn about an important figure in the history of the Underground Railroad.
There is plenty of history in the region for many segments of US history. Explore one or explore them all! The choice is yours.
Appreciate History at the Seneca Art & Culture Center
Explore the Ganondagan State Historic Site on three outdoor trails where you can learn about trees, medicinal plants, and the Seneca people’s history.
After you’re done exploring the outdoor trails, head inside the Art & Culture Center to experience some of the interactive exhibits and videos.
The site is open year-round, typically from Wednesday to Saturday. Check ahead to ensure there are no maintenance or upgrades being performed during your anticipated visit. There is an entrance fee of $6 for adults during the winter months.
Enjoy a Show at the Smith Opera House
Opera is not the only thing happening at the Smith Opera House!
From symphony and ballet to “brews and bluegrass,” there are shows and events for many different tastes.
Don’t let the name “opera house” scare you away from a fun evening.
Because many of the wineries close in the late afternoons and early evenings, darkness sets in earlier, and the temperatures can be very cold, you’ll need something to do after the sun goes down.
Look to the Smith Opera House for a fun event.
Finger Lakes Winter Events
Many events go on throughout the year in the Finger Lakes, but these are two great winter activities to plan your getaway around.
There are plenty of holiday events and shopping opportunities, as well as slow weekends in the early months of the year.
The Watkins Glen Village Christmas, for example, completely transforms Watkins Glen into a Christmas celebration for one night. A Christmas parade and musical entertainment fill the evening while you can wander around and shop at the vendor festival.
End the night with a large fireworks show from the pier out over Seneca Lake.
You can also spend your weekend on a wine and cheese adventure. Check each lake’s wine trail options for wine and cheese, or other food, pairings. What better way to spend a winter weekend?
Keuka Lake Wine Trail Events
Seneca Lake Wine Trail Events
Canandaigua Lake Wine Trail Events
Cayuga Lake Wine Trail Events
Where to Stay on Your Finger Lakes Winter Getaway
Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel
Right on the shores of Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen, the Harbor Hotel provides a convenient launch point for the rest of your exploration of the Finger Lakes. Plus, the snowy views out over Seneca Lake can feel straight out of a winter wonderland.
The Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel provides comfortable rooms, an onsite restaurant & bar, and other thoughtful touches that you’ve come to expect from a four-diamond award-winning property
Belhurst Castle & Winery in Geneva
Considered one of the most romantic places to stay in New York, this spot is perfect for couples to cozy up on a winter getaway.
Lodging options include modern rooms, cottages, and historic castle rooms. You’ll find everything you need onsite if you don’t want to leave, including Belhurst wine and Mabel’s craft beer, a spa, and restaurants.
Inn at Taughannock Falls
The Inn at Taughannock Falls is conveniently located next to all of the activities that Taughannock Falls State Park and Cayuga Lake have to offer. It also has some of the best views of the lake from up on the hillside.
Rooms in the inn are large and uniquely decorated. The views from the hillside are what we’ll always go back to, though.
La Tourelle Hotel Bistro and Spa in Ithaca
While La Tourelle is more of a budget-friendly option, especially in the “offseason”, than the others, quality is not significantly sacrificed when it comes to the experience.
The property is located just south of Ithaca, right next door to Buttermilk Falls State Park.
The rooms are large, and the staff has been extremely welcoming and attentive. La Tourelle is definitely a property to check out when you’re exploring Ithaca.
The Finger Lakes region is one of New York’s most popular destinations, even during the winter months. The area is home to some of the state’s most stunning scenery, including 11+ lakes and rolling hillsides. There are numerous places to stay, eat, and shop. Whether you’re planning a romantic weekend away or you want to enjoy some outdoor fun with the kids, this region has something for everyone.