Charming Destinations - Watkins Glen/Seneca Lake, New York

Watkins Glen State Park

Last month Dave and I spent a few days on charming Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes of upstate New York.  The Finger Lakes are known for their beautiful country setting and vineyards aplenty.  As a lover of nature and a country girl at heart, I felt right at home here in the beauty and the glorious peace and quiet.  Seneca Lake is the biggest of the Finger Lakes with many towns and cozy hamlets along it's borders.

While visiting we stayed at a delightful bed and breakfast called Lake Valley Legends.  The inn keepers Vicky and Lou are just amazing.  In addition to being welcoming, warm and friendly, Vicky and Lou know how to focus on the details, making sure your stay with them is super comfortable.  They think of everything!  Your room is stocked with bottled water, snacks, bubble bath, multiple choices of shower gels and shampoos, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shower poufs, loofahs, and robes just to name a few.  My favorite detail by far though, was the slippers which Vicky and Lou give to you as a gift to take home.  I have serious slipper attachment issues and wear my warm woolly slippers year round, so this slipper parting gift was a big deal for me!  In addition to all the amenities, a stay at Lake Valley Legends means enjoying breakfast on the two tiered deck with views of Seneca Lake.  The kitchen is always stocked with fresh fruit and pastries and the living room is large cozy and comfortably curated.  I truly enjoyed looking at Vicky's collection of teacups located throughout the room, as they were all so lovely.

The Village of Watkins Glen is home of the Watkins Glen International Speedway, where Formula 1 races were held from 1961 to 1980.  Various other races are still held there so The Glen is sure to please racing enthusiasts of all kinds.  After touring The Glen you can head to The Seneca Lodge for a drink at the bar.  This was the bar of choice for all the Formula 1 drivers back in the day.

No trip to Watkins Glen is complete without a visit to Watkins Glen State Park.  There are plenty of hiking trails in the park and The Gorge Trail will take you past a total of 19 waterfalls, all stunningly beautiful.  I felt such a sense of calm walking through the park, sure there were plenty of other visitors there chatting and mulling about but it was just so lovely that they all kind of melted away and I felt like it was just me at one with Mother Earth. 

Another stunning waterfall view at Watkins Glen State Park.  Please, oh please can I go back tomorrow?

Speaking of Mother Earth, another fun thing we did in the Finger Lakes is tour a mushroom farm.  Hawk Meadow Farm is run by the delightful husband and wife team Steve and Anne.  Steve takes you on a tour through his gardens and into the woods where he grows shiitake mushrooms on logs.  Steve is a wealth of knowledge and really goes into the science of growing mushrooms.  During our tour we also had a great discussion about eating clean and the immune boosting power of mushrooms.  Hawk Meadow Farm was a truly unique place that left Dave inspired to grow shiitakes all our own.  Too bad it takes two years of effort before you get a mushroom...but good things come to those who wait as they say.

Shiitakes in their log growing glory.

By now you are probably wondering why I haven't mentioned the vineyards yet, so let's get into it.  Seneca Lake has a circumference of 71 miles and 64 vineyards are located within those 71 miles so you are certainly not short on choices.  Ravines Wine Cellars was my favorite of the vineyards we visited.  The gentleman doing our tasting was so friendly and really took his time pouring our wines and chatting with us about the vineyard.  He really made our tasting at Ravines a great experience...although it also didn't hurt that their wines are amazing.  Dave and I like dry wines so if you do too then I highly recommend Ravines.  We also had a bite to eat there at their farm to table eatery, Ravinous Kitchen.  They had some really great options to compliment their delicious wines.  Other vineyards of note that we visited and enjoyed were Fox Run Vineyards, Atwater Vineyards, and Silver Springs Winery.  Silver Springs had a great mix of fruity and dry wines, sure to please any palate.

Ravines Vineyard.

As far where to dine I HIGHLY recommend Hazelnut Kitchen in Trumansburg, NY.  Before I talk about the food, first look at how cute this place is.   

Dave and I both opted for the four course chef's choice option with the beverage pairing.  Kristi our server was awesome, her enthusiasm and passion for her work were inspiring.  Plus she was so friendly and awesome and that just added to the great experience we had there.  Our meal was excellent, it was as though the chef had some Jedi mind reading powers because each course brought to us fit us both perfectly.  The chef comes to your table with each course to tell you about the dish you are about to enjoy.  This made us feel very VIP.  My first course was a strawberry soup with a sparkling rose and it was so smooth and creamy.  My second course was house made pasta with snap peas, grated parmesan and a poached egg on top.  Let me tell you, putting a poached egg on top of pasta is genius...the yoke breaks and blends into the pasta and it is just so SO good!  This was paired with a delicious Sauvignon Blanc. My third course was a truffle risotto with sausage and pea flowers paired with a delicious Cabernet.  My final course was a chocolate olive oil cake with a sour cherry sauce.  Really everything here was just delicious.  The passion and attention to detail that Hazelnut Kitchen puts into your dining experience makes this place well worth a visit.  This meal was one of the highlights of our trip.

The pasta at Hazelnut Kitchen

Dave and I both found Seneca Lake to be peaceful, relaxing and just the break we needed from the everyday.  I loved the beauty of the country setting and look forward to heading back up the Finger Lakes area at some point...hopefully sooner rather than later.

We ended our week off by heading to Saratoga, NY for a few days.  I will be posting about that part of our trip soon.  Take care till next time, Dear Readers!

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