Your Seneca Lake Family Vacation Travel Guide

We love to travel. We love all forms of travel: flying to some exotic destination, exploring a new city, trying new foods, hearing different languages, seeing mountains and lakes and all kinds of landforms.
  Our Lake House in the Finger Lake Wine Country week was different from any type of travel we’ve done in the past. Prior to going, we referred to our Finger Lake trip as the “All American Family Vacation”. SPOILER ALERT: we can see why America loves these trips so much. Spending the week at a Lake House on Seneca Lake, was exactly what our family needed.

*This post is sponsored by Finger Lake Wine Country, all opinions are my own. 

If you follow us on Instagram, you know we are in the middle of a massive kitchen renovation.  We’ve been walking around on unfinished splintered floorboards the past month and our contractor was removing our kitchen sink this week, so it really was the perfect time to get away.
Finger Lakes Wine Country graciously booked our family a gorgeous Lake House on the west side of Seneca Lake using the home rental company: Finger Lakes Premier Properties. It was SUCH a treat to be out of the construction zone and back in a full functioning kitchen.  In fact, we loved it so much, we used that same home rental company to book a second lake house on the East of Seneca Lake to extend our trip!  I can’t wait to share more about both houses later in this post. 

Seneca Lake Overview 

Seneca Lake is the deepest and second longest of the five New York State Finger Lakes. It’s the geographical center of the Finger Lake region, which makes it the perfect centralized location for exploring the whole area.  It is known as the “lake trout capital of the world” and even hosts the National Lake Trout Derby.  It’s so deep that it never freezes and the US Navy can use it for deep sea sonar testing.  The rolling hills and open land around the lake create the most picturesque views for wine tasting and scenic drives. 

I am so excited to share our Seneca Lake itinerary during our week in the Finger Lakes. This blog post is organized geographically around Seneca Lake: North of Seneca Lake, East of Seneca Lake, South of Seneca Lake, and West of Seneca Lake.  Also, I’ve included a map, below, that I simply screenshot off google maps and labeled each section for your (and my) reference, if you are a visual learner like me. 😉

North of Seneca Lake

Geneva is an adorable little city and fun to visit for a day trip.  Home of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, you can find a lot of cute shops, restaurants and cafes!

Seneca Lake State Park
It costs $8 per car to enter and you can enjoy the beach, boat launch, multiple playgrounds, splash pad, public restrooms, and shelters for parties! 

Seneca Falls
Home of the Women’s Movement in the mid 19th century, this town is rich in history.  It is also the inspiration for the classic Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  Take a drive over the famous bridge where Clarence stopped George Bailey from jumping! 

East of Seneca Lake

The Willow’s Lake House
This Finger Lakes Premier Property was a family favorite!  Directly on the east side of the lake, you can walk right out of the house and enjoy swimming, fishing, and kayaking all directly on the property. Having a house on the east side of Seneca Lake means that you will get to experience the most breathtaking sunsets. 
The house has three bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a large eating area and kitchen (no dishwasher) walkout deck with outdoor tables and chairs, hammock, fire pit, kayak and life vests. Because the house uses lake water, you are required to purchase your own drinking water beforehand. 
The Willow’s Lake House was PERFECT for our family of five and we especially recommend booking with Finger Lakes Premier Properties. 

Wagner’s Vineyard Estate Winery
This was our second time visiting Wagner’s Vineyard Estate Winery!  Our favorite added touch about this winery is the new kid “flights” they offer!  Our kids enjoyed tasting 4 different sodas and juices while munching on a bag of popcorn; listening AND dancing to the live music in Wagner’s Sunset Music Series!

Johnny’s Kitchen
This adorable breakfast/lunch/ice cream cafe is worth the visit; everything tastes amazing and is very reasonably priced! Food offered include: fish tacos, grilled shrimp peach salad, hot dogs and hamburgers… but the family favorite was cotton candy for only $2.50! 

South of Seneca Lake

Watkins Glen
This lively village is known for its Watkins Glen International Race Track which annually hosts NASCAR Cup Series and WeatherTech Sports Car Championship races.  It sits at the bottom tip of Seneca Lake and you can visit a bunch of cute shops in town with a great lakefront view as well at Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel. We stayed at the Harbor Hotel a few winters ago and you can read more about our stay in Watkins Glen here

Watkins Glen State Park
This popular hiking trail takes you through a gorge with endless waterfalls.  It is possibly one of the best hikes in all of the region.  The path leads you along a stream with parts of the path weaving hikers behind waterfalls and through caves.  This hike is family friendly but impossible with a stroller as there are way too many stairs. 

Nickel’s Pit Watkins Glen
After your Watkins Glen hike, we highly recommend stopping at Nickel’s Pit for barbecue and a great atmosphere. Our whole family enjoyed this meal and the entire experience! 

Town of Elmira 
Mark Twain used to summer in Elmira and wrote his most famous works while in town including Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and A Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.  Today you can visit his small study on the grounds of Elmira College. His gravestone is also nearby also at Woodlong Cemetery. 

Rye Bar and Restaurant 
We were pleased to learn Rye Bar and Restaurant serves brunch on Sundays and we were very impressed by their nutella french toast, blueberry pancakes, shakshouka, and salmon scramble. 

Eldrige Park
This is a perfect place for young kids on a nice day when visiting the finger lakes! Entrance into the park is free and you can purchase tickets for $1.50 each for mini golf, paddle boats, a carousel, train, and more cute little old fashioned rides.  Rides cost between $1.50 - $3.  There’s also a free playground and splash pad!

West of Seneca Lake

Rapalee Retreat
We  had the privilege of staying at the Rapalee Retreat, another Finger Lakes Premier Properties, booked for us by the Finger Lakes Wine Country, who hosted our family for this trip.  It’s no wonder they picked this Lake House for our family. The outdoor grounds and inside of the Lake House were immaculate, the Seneca Lake view was so breathtaking, and we had lots of space to run and play!  Our family had so much fun at this house.  Although the Rapalee Retreat is not directly on the water, they have a dock that we were able to walk down to from our lake house and use it to swim and kayak.  
Booking through Finger Lakes Premier Properties made our stay so easy. They provide your towels and soap and make sure everything is spotless when you arrive! If you book through Finger Lakes Premier Properties, be sure to bring your own shampoo, blow dryer, and any cooking supplies you may need, such as olive oil. 

Penn Yan
This cute town is fun to walk around, and you should definitely visit Amity Coffee Co. (more below) when you go! 

Amity Coffee Co.
This adorable coffee shop in Penn Yan is a MUST visit in our opinion.  The vibe and food were right up our alley and everything was so well done.  Best part is they served full out breakfast meals like waffles for the kids, quiche, chipotle breakfast bowl etc. so we could enjoy our coffee with a delicious breakfast! 

Oakhill Bulk Foods 
We used Oakhill Bulk Foods for all our grocery needs.. and more!  We love EVERYTHING about this store. The nicest workers, Bible verses & Christian messaging, all the retired folk eating brunch together, & amazing farm fresh food.

Prejean winery
We had to come back a couple of times to this adorable winery to purchase more house wine because it was just so good! 

Seneca Mills Falls 
This 8 mile hike can be shortened if you want to park at the .25 mark to the waterfall. It was perfect for our kids to take a short walk and see the old mills’ waterfall!

Showboat Motel Restaurant and Bar  
This waterfront gem is the perfect spot for a low key lunch or dinner with your family and it is walking distance from the Rapalee Retreat. The kids enjoyed running up and down the dock and the atmosphere was chill with a bunch of other families around so that we didn’t feel bad that our kids were wiggly.  The kids LOVED Showboat’s kid menu pizzas and they had great grown-up options too, like salads and handhelds. We definitely recommend sitting outside for the view, especially at sunset! 

Mac's Dairy Bar Mini Golf
This old-school mini golf in the middle of a farm field is just the most adorable ever!  The entire family had a “ball”. 😅 We loved all the farm references at each hole.  The cost is $5 per person (cash only); kids under 5 are free!  When you finish playing, you can enjoy an ice cream cone at Mac’s Dairy Bar!

Seneca Farms
Seneca Farms is a popular spot known for its ice cream! Don’t be surprised if there’s a line out the door!  We loved the 50’s style vibe inside; everything was clean and the service was fast!  The custard was so creamy and they had a bunch of flavor options for both hard and soft serve!

Main Deck
Not far from Seneca Lake, this newly remodeled waterfront restaurant is the perfect spot to enjoy a meal while watching the sun set over Keuka Lake.  Highly recommend ordering fish, but truly everything we saw come out of the kitchen was so well presented and looked amazing! 

We had an amazing time exploring the Seneca Lake area; breathtaking views and a laid back atmosphere, the Finger Lakes Wine Country is the perfect summer family vacation spot in upstate New York!


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