The Finger Lakes region has long been known for its natural beauty. But the upstate New York locale, a five-hour drive from New York City, is also steeped in civil rights history and has vineyards and cheese farms to tour.
In July 1848, women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton and a group of fellow trailblazers gathered in Seneca Falls for two days to air grievances and seek equality for women. Places related to that historic gathering have been preserved, including Stanton’s Washington Street home and the site of the Wesleyan Chapel, where the official demand for suffrage—the Declaration of Sentiments—was signed.
Representing 12 dairy farms and creameries, this cheese consortium spotlights the crème de la crème of the area’s artisanal fromage. Seven of the alliance’s producers are open year-round for tours, including Engelbert Farms (a certified organic dairy farm) and goat cheese specialist Side Hill Acres. The annual Finger Lakes Cheese Festival (July 28) features many styles of cow and goat cheese, local cuisine and live music.
Located near the Canadian border, the Finger Lakes served as a critical stop for slaves escaping north between the late 1700s to mid 1800s on the Underground Railroad—a secret network of antislavery opponents and safe houses. At her former Auburn residence, learn more about Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery in 1849 only to return south to liberate 300 others as a Railroad “conductor.”
The Finger Lakes’ rise to winemaking powerhouse began five decades ago when Dr. Konstantin Frank discovered that the area’s cool climate was ripe for vinifera grapes, a European species that is widely considered the best type of grape for both white and red winemaking. Frank’s eponymous vineyard is still a top producer of the terrain’s signature Rieslings and boasts Instagram-worthy views of Keuka Lake.
Home to about five kilometres of the Finger Lakes Trail (an impressive 1,541-km footpath network), Watkins Glen State Park has 19 waterfalls, one winding gorge path and 832 stone steps, making this 778-acre park a must-visit spot. Water flow is at its peak in the spring—when rainbow trout also pass through nearby Catharine Creek—but fall is the season to visit if you’re the leaf-peeping type.
[This story appears in the January 2018 issue of WestJet Magazine]
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