36 Hours in the Finger Lakes, NY

The Finger Lakes are a group of 11 finger-shaped lakes in Upstate New York. There are more than 400 registered historic sites and landmarks in the Finger Lakes region that help bring guests closer to the storied past. While visiting the Finger Lakes, there are plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in culture through visual, performing, literary and culinary arts. We recommend staying for more than just a weekend, but if you only have 36 hours, here are our favorite Finger Lakes activities.


1 pm – Afternoon at Sonnenberg Gardens 

Arrange for an early check-in with your innkeeper at your bed & breakfast near Canandaigua Lake. If there is a fee, it’s worth it for the extra time in the area! Drop off your bags and chat with your innkeeper to get their recommendations for their favorite spots in the area. Head to Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park for a tour of the historic mansion and the 50-acre estate. Skip the weekend crowds by heading there on Friday afternoon!

After the garden tour, refuel for the rest of the day with a quick bite and maybe a coffee at The Dalai Java, a local coffeehouse with an attached art gallery. To continue the wine tasting adventure, head to Heron Hill Tasting Room on Canandaigua Lake. Or, if you prefer a guided tour, book one with Crush Beer & Wine Tours to experience some of the best Canandaigua wineries with safe transportation. They also offer combination beer, wine, spirits and food tours that let you sample great options in the area. These tours also give you the opportunity to learn more about the Finger Lakes and get acclimated to the land.

If you love elegance and Victorian charm, 1840 Inn on the Main B&B is a perfect place for you in Canandaigua. This charming B&B is located within walking distance of Sonnenberg Gardens and downtown. Check out their wine tour package!

6 pm – Devour a Meal on the Lake 

Dive into a delicious meal at Nolan’s on Canandaigua Lake, a steak and seafood restaurant with gorgeous lake views. Locals rave about their scallops, steak, and lobster rolls, but you can’t go wrong with anything on their menu.

For a totally different dinner experience, head to Rheinblick German Restaurant. You’ll love eating tasty authentic German food in this lively, charming setting. Their spaetzle is a non-negotiable menu item to order. Immerse yourself in the German experience by ordering potato pancakes and jagerschnitzel too!

8 pm – Sunset on the Skydeck

End your evening by watching a colorful sunset from a picturesque rooftop. The Skydeck at Nick’s offers panoramic views of Downtown Canandaigua. Reservations aren’t accepted on the Skydeck, so be prepared to wait for a seat. The atmosphere is definitely worth the wait! Whether you indulge in a mojito or a margarita, you’ll love sipping on a tropical cocktail while you soak in the sunset.


9:30 am – Explore Watkins Glen State Park

After you enjoy a delicious gourmet breakfast at your B&B, it’s time to hit the road. Watkins Glen State Park features Rainbow Falls, one of the most iconic waterfalls in the Finger Lakes. Head to the South Rim Trail as early as you can to get a less crowded view of the stunning cascades. The 2.6-mile, out-and-back trek can be a little muddy, especially after a good rain when the waterfall is at its best.

Wrap up the hike by 12 pm to be back in Geneva for lunch. You can also ask your innkeeper before leaving if they can pack you a picnic lunch to eat on the trails. On the way to Geneva, stop by the award-winning Scale House Brewery for a refreshing beer at the halfway point.

Conveniently located close to Watkins Glen State Park, The Cupola above Seneca provides an charming, old-fashioned retreat at the end of the day. Their expansive 2.25-acre property offers stunning views and easy access to natural wonders.

1 pm – Midday Grub in Geneva

Delight in the best chicken sandwich in the Finger Lakes at F.L.X. Fry Bird. This modern restaurant, known as a “chicken emporium,” serves incredibly tasty comfort food and fun boozy slushies. Another great lunch option is Opus, a quaint espresso and food bar that serves soups, salads, and sandwiches. Locals say this is one of the best places for lunch in town. The wood-fired pizzas at Opus are universally loved in Geneva as well.

3 pm – Splash Around Seneca Lake 

Cool off in the crisp blue water in the afternoon at Seneca Lake State Park. The park features scenic walking trails along the water. They also have a water-centric playground with fun water jets for children, called the Sprayground. Wade through the shallow water of the lake at the beach for a refreshing break from land.

Chapman House Bed & Breakfast in Geneva, NY was built in 1802 for the area’s first clergyman. This kid-friendly property offers a full breakfast each morning in the formal dining room or on the porch when the weather is nice.

6 pm – Sail Off into the Sunset

Take a private sailing tour on Seneca Lake with Sail Seneca to experience a sunset like no other. Step aboard Frank and Barb’s sailboat “Crazy Love” for a magical evening on the water. Call ahead to ask if you can bring dinner onboard or if they’re willing to set up a romantic dinner for you.

9 pm – Ice Cream Nightcap

End your exciting evening with an incredible treat. Stop by Mr. Twistee’s ice cream shop for the best ice cream in the area. Some even say it’s the best ice cream anywhere. You tell us! They serve a variety of soft and hard ice creams, and even make their own version of Disney’s famous Dole Whip.


8:30 am – One Last Waterfall Hike

Since you aren’t in town for long, make these last few hours in the Finger Lakes count. The night before, arrange with your innkeepers for an early sit-down breakfast or to eat yours on the go this morning. Wake up early, grab your fuel and head to Taughannock Falls State Park! Traverse the easy, heavily trafficked 1.9-mile Gorge Trail to the gorgeous waterfall. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for fossils layered within the rocks. Arrive around 8:30 am to beat the crowds!

Juniper Hill B&B in Trumansburg is located just 2 miles from Taughannock Falls State Park. Enjoy staying in this historic white house with beautifully decorated rooms and luxurious bedding. Check out their art gallery filled with over 100 works of art.

FLBBA ithaca farmers market

11 am – Farmer’s Market

After working up your appetite on the trails, head over to the Ithaca Farmers Market, about 15 minutes away near Cayuga Lake. Fill up on local favorites, such as Littletree Orchards’ apple cider donuts, Forty Weight Coffee, and On the Street Pitas. Make sure to buy some fresh fruit to keep you and the rest of your group satisfied when the hunger inevitably strikes during your travels home.

Tag us at @flbba on Instagram if you visit any of our favorite Finger Lakes spots! Let the Finger Lakes Bed & Breakfast Association guide you to the perfect retreat for all your brewery adventures. While we have highlighted a few charming inns above, FLBBA boasts a comprehensive list of independent inns across the Finger Lakes. The members of FLBBA abide by a list of high standards set by the organization, so you can confidently plan the perfect getaway today.