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A Weekend Family Getaway in the Finger Lakes

A Weekend Family Getaway in the Finger Lakes

If you’re looking for a kid-friendly weekend getaway, the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York is a great option. Besides scenic bodies of water across 80 miles of stunning countryside, there are so many things to do in the Finger Lakes with kids. There are interesting cities to explore along the way as well.  Syracuse, a lovely locale along the Erie Canal is lovely! Seneca Falls, a town with a connection to women’s rights is a great place for a history lesson.

The area has a lot to offer families. If your family loves the outdoors and is adventurous, you can do some serious hiking . If your family  loves history, you can walk in the footsteps of many incredible suffragettes. There are also museums, quaint villages with specialty shops, gorges for a swim, and boat rides.

In addition, you will find apple orchards, great restaurants for families, as well as a plethora of vineyards. The Finger Lakes has over 100 wineries and vineyards throughout the region, so if your children are patient, definitely plan to visit a few.

Here is a family-friendly itinerary for a weekend in the Finger Lakes with kids focusing on the areas of Watkins Glen and 1000 Islands.

Start Your Weekend in Watkins Glen


Photo by Holley Rosen Fink

In Watkins Glen, a great first stop for your family-friendly weekend adventure, stay at the family-friendly Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel, part of the Hart Hotels chain. The rooms are comfortable and spacious; there is onsite dining at Blue Pointe Grille; there’s an indoor pool for a family swim, or two; the staff is helpful; and it has good proximity to the town’s offerings.

As for things to do with kids in Watkins Glen, plan to take a long stroll through the town, which has a uniquely historic feel about it. Just minutes away from the hotel you will find Watkins Glen State Park, a beautiful park with dramatic cliffs and waterfalls with a gorge path and Olympic-sized pool.

Locally, Reisinger’s Apple Country is a family-run orchard that offers acres and acres of apples, fresh cider, and delicious cider donuts and is worth a visit. Kids will love picking apples, if it’s the right time of year. Be sure to have them also get a photo in their huge Adirondack chair. Adults who can must stop at Lakewood Vineyards, also family-run. Lakewood uses locally grown grapes and a tasting is just $8 a person. 

Stop in Syracuse and Seneca Falls on Your Way to 1000 Islands


Photo by Holly Rosen Fink

Syracuse has a lot to offer traveling families. Kids will love exploring the Erie Canal Museum, the only remaining canal boat station in America. Take a boat ride with Camillus Erie Canal Park Cruise through the scenic Erie Canal if time allows. Parents should definitely take time to do a tasting at Anyela’s Vineyards and Beak & Skiff Farm Winery.

A short ride away sits a lovely town called Seneca Falls where 300 women and 42 men including Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist and big supporter of women’s rights, signaled to the world the real beginning of the movement, holding the first Convention for Women’s Rights there in 1848. The town has museums, cafes, and a river walk worth visiting with kids in tow.

Then Head to 1000 Islands


Photo by Holly Rosen Fink

1000 Islands is just minutes from the Canadian border. The region’s name is quite literal: 1000 Islands are a group of more than 1,800 islands and it’s a very family-friendly place to visit. Stay at 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel, another Hart Hotel, in Clayton during your stay.  Much like its sister hotel, it has onsite dining, an indoor heated pool, and amenities to simplify a visit with kids. Don’t forget to inquire about their traditional 1000 Islands Shore Dinner, cooked by a third generation fishing guide or roasting marshmallows in the evening.

As for things to do with kids in this part of the Finger Lakes, first head to the Antique Boat Museum, the premier freshwater nautical museum in North America where you can tour a 30-foot triple cockpit Hacker Craftor. It is George Boldt’s former houseboat, La Duchesse, built in 1903. If you and the kids are up to it, you can also experience a 45-minute speed boat ride around the islands. Families will also enjoy a self-guided tour of Boldt Castle on Hearst Island, a turn-of-the-century castle built on the St. Lawrence River with 120 rooms.


Lead image by Bigstock.

Disclosure: Hart Hotels was responsible for most of the cost of this writer’s trip, but all opinions are her own.

Holly Fink