Aerial view of Skaneateles, New York. Editorial credit: PQK /

8 Coziest Towns To Visit In The Finger Lakes

It is not just the magical sunsets or the excellent wines; the Finger Lakes region features awe-inspiring landscapes of a scale that often leaves first-time visitors completely blown away. Then again, the lakes are quite an interesting geological formation. Having so many lakes with almost the same shape — all close to each other — is an incredible spectacle. It is a crime that this region is underappreciated, even unknown. A trip to this spellbinding expanse should be every vacationer’s rite of passage, and the following are the eight cozy towns to visit in the region.


Vineyard view near Hammondsport New York
Vineyard near Hammondsport, New York.

Hammondsport — or Hammond’s Port — is a cozy Finger Lakes town famous for being New York’s Wine Capital. The town reclines on the southern tip of Keuka Lake and moves at a slow, unhurried pace. Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery — founded by a WWII refugee born in Ukraine — was the first to successfully plant vinifera vines in the Eastern United States. Sit down with a Pinot Noir while inhaling gorgeous views in every direction. But before this, learn about wine production at the Greyton H. Taylor Wine Museum, which also houses a collection of Presidential wine glasses dating back to Abraham Lincoln. The Glenn H Curtiss Museum, now housed in a former winery building, celebrates the work and life of arguably the most influential man in the evolution of aviation in the United States.

Watkins Glen

Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen, New York.
Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen, New York.

Though it hosts a broad range of attractions, the Glen is known for what many regard as the definitive road course for NASCAR. The other town that comes close is Sonoma. Whether it is because of the high speeds, camera angles, or the passing opportunities that the track presents, this town — and its tracks — is in a class of its own. Then there is the Watkins Glen State Park, with its waterfalls and gorges; Glen Theatre, a cozy space known to play mainstream movies, and Nickel's Pit BBQ, where one can sit on a patio, order pig wings, and wash it down with craft beer. If you have a thing for sunsets, hop on the 1926 Schooner "True Love,” a world-famous ship that has been featured in a Hollywood movie and associated with celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong.


The State Theater in downtown Ithaca, New York.
The State Theater in downtown Ithaca, New York. Editorial credit: Steve Cukrov /

You know a town is cozy if it leans on a glittering lake, hosts one of the most beautiful campuses in the world, and boasts a vibrant, bohemian spirit. Cornell University Campus alone can steal a whole weekend — even more. There is the Cornell Botanic Gardens, ranked among the top five gardens in North America by size, the 100-acre F. R. Newman Arboretum, where maples, oaks, and dogwoods curate an atmosphere of nobility and grandeur, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the largest natural sound archive on the planet. Other outdoor venues one can access without breaking a sweat include Buttermilk Falls State Park, which is named for its foaming cascade, Sapsucker Woods, a birdwatcher’s paradise, and Taughannock Falls State Park. To feel the pulse of this enticing college town, work your way to Ithaca Commons, an eye-catching stretch lined with some of Ithaca's most interesting and historic architectural facades.


Lynnie Lou’s Ice Cream and Custard store in Naples, New York.
Lynnie Lou’s Ice Cream and Custard store in Naples, New York. Image credit: RedBridge -

Discover Naples, a small, cozy town of about 2,500 residents tucked away on the southwest of Canandaigua Lake that is preoccupied with grapes. This town hosts The Naples Grape Festival, a fun, two-day event filled with live music, art, and mouth-watering grape pies. Before enjoying a mood-lifting show at the Bristol Valley Theater, dash to The Sawmill and enjoy a tasty sandwich while seated outside on a large patio overlooking Lake Canandaigua. If you do not want to step out of town, Bob & Ruth's Vineyard Restaurant is a Main Street jaunt known for homemade grape pies, yummy and hearty breakfasts, and old-style diners. Still, Naples is all about grapes, and the architectural design of the St Januarius church, with an out-floor plan resembling the outline of a grape leaf — bears this out. Finally, the Naples Hotel, built in 1895, is believed to be haunted by a female ghost named Alice and her two children.


Skaneateles Lake in Skaneateles, New York.
Skaneateles Lake in Skaneateles, New York.

Skaneateles sits on the clear-as-glass Skaneateles Lake, fondly called “the Jewel of the Finger Lakes.” The lake adds a layer of rustic charm to the town’s beauty, making it more cozy and homey. Check in and drop your luggage at the Packwood House, where well-appointed rooms provide picturesque views of the lake and the quaint downtown area. The hotel is conveniently close to nearly everything. Sherwood Inn — which dates back to 1807 — is steps away. A table by the window here opens out to the scenic Skaneateles Lake. Enjoy the melody of free live music every Friday in July at Cliff Park or explore outdoor venues such as the Charlie Major Nature Trail, a sweet and short trail that hugs a whispering stream. Do not miss Anyela's Vineyards, especially if you have a romantic relationship with peonies.


Main Street in downtown Canandaigua, New York
Main Street in downtown Canandaigua, New York.

The fact Canandaigua is called “the Chosen Spot” conjures images of a cozy town, probably next to a shimmering lake. Fortunately, the imagination, in this case, does not depart much from reality, especially since this Finger Lakes charmer sits on the beautiful Canandaigua Lake, a blue-space gem filled with heart-melting 360-degree views. Enjoy an early morning stroll along Canandaigua’s pedestrian-friendly streets and follow this up with the 22-mile Canandaigua Lake Wine Trail, where delicious wines and tasty views will make your heart purr with ecstasy. Then again, Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park, one of the few remaining estates with a Queen Anne Victorian-style mansion — is known to delight the senses and should not be missed. Susan B. Anthony had to face a jury for voting in the 1872 presidential elections and the site of her trial — the Ontario County Courthouse — is a sacred spot for everyone who loves liberty, gender equality, or both.


The Town Hall in Ellicottville, New York.
The Town Hall in Ellicottville, New York. Image credit: Pubdog via Wikimedia Commons.

Sometimes, what is cozy depends on an individual’s interests. Avid skiers, for example, will swear that Ellicottville is among the best cozy towns to visit in the Finger Lakes region of New York. It plays host to HoliMont Ski Resort, the largest private ski resort in North America. It also provides access to Holiday Valley, known for excellent cross-country trails and a lovely summer adventure park. Ellicottville is framed by the Allegheny Mountains, whose austere grandeur is known to enamor first-time visitors. The Griffis Sculpture Park, located a short drive away, spans more than 400 acres of natural beauty. It is one of the largest sculpture parks on the continent. Grab a delicious meal at Dina's — or just sip an hour away and enjoy its awesome atmosphere. There is the Gin Mill as well, if scoping for an alternative. As the day turns to night, slide inside some clean bedsheets at the Wingate by Wyndham, conveniently located in the heart of town.


Downtown Geneva, New York
Downtown Geneva, New York. Editorial credit: PQK /

Geneva is named after one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and like its European namesake, it sits on a gorgeous lake. Seneca Lake is not just beautiful, with crystal-clear waters typically of emerald green or deep blue, but it is also the largest of the glacial Finger Lakes. No words can describe the feeling of lounging around the lake and inhaling heart-melting views all around. Seneca Lake State Park, with its paved pathways, is the perfect venue for walking or biking. Geneva Row Houses, which mostly dot Pulteney Park and Main Street, look like those found in Boston or Georgetown. Enjoy light moments at Smith Opera House, whose history goes back more than 120 years. Rose Hill Mansion, a well-maintained representation of the area’s past — is known to put a sparkle on nearly every visiting face.

The Takeaway

Because of work pressures, getting time to travel can be difficult. But when a weekend presents itself, as it often does, the Finger Lakes region should be on everyone’s radar. This part of New York is lovely and can make for pleasant and happy memories. That said, a first-time visitor will need a cozy spot, a charming town, and a homey ambiance. For this kind of experience, one will want to explore some of the region’s most cozy towns, including flawless spots such as Watkins Glen, Ithaca, and Skaneateles.

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. 8 Coziest Towns To Visit In The Finger Lakes

More in Places