When visiting an area with such natural beauty like the Finger Lakes, you might not think about spending time indoor at museums- especially with the area's reputation as a grape-growing region with tons of wineries.
But as we found out during our recent visit, you can only drink so much wine, and sometimes the weather just doesn't cooperate.
We ended up spending a good amount of time in several of the region's museums, and what we found was that these museums are much more than just places to fill the time: they are attractions in their own right.
These four museums run the gamut from quirky to unique to world-class, and we highly recommend setting aside time to check them out when you visit the Finger Lakes.
Glen H. Curtiss Aviation Museum
Located on the southern tip of Keuka Lake just outside the quaint town of Hammondsport, the primary focus of this museum is on the contributions of Glen H. Curtiss (native of Hammondsport) to the field of aviation.
Curtiss got his start building bicycles and then motorcycles, and excellent examples of his work in these areas are found in the museum in addition to many of the fascinating planes that he designed.
As you might expect for a museum that houses planes, this place is huge. There is also literally something for everyone here with antique cars, a miniature collection, antique boats, and even a discovery section for kids complete with a computerized flight simulator.
Perhaps one of the most amazing aspects of this museum is the adjacent workshop. Here intense restoration work is done on the planes, cars, and other museum pieces – all by highly skilled volunteers.
For more information on the Curtiss Museum, click here!
Corning Museum of Glass
Is the Corning Museum of Glass a modern art museum, a science museum, a history museum, an art studio, or a classroom? All of the above!
This phenomenal museum has many different wings where you can experience all of these different aspects of glass.
The newest addition to the museum has curved white walls and modern glass art that looks like a museum straight out of New York City. Another spot not to miss is the theater where you can watch glass artists work.
During our visit we even had the chance to participate in a glass making session where we sculpted glass flowers.
It was challenging but fun and definitely gave us a new perspective on how talented glass blowers and artists are.
If it sounds like this museum is too much to absorb in one day, it is. Thankfully, your museum tickets are good for two consecutive days so you can come back!
For more information on the Corning Museum of Glass, click here!
The Rockwell Museum
This American art museum is a Smithsonian affiliate that focuses on all things in the American west. The museum itself is housed in a beautiful historic building in downtown Corning that used to be City Hall, adding to the ambiance.
When we visited there was a special temporary exhibit called The Colorado River: Flowing Through Conflict with photographs by Pete McBride. Simultaneously stunning and terrifying aerial photos called attention to the impact that man has had on the Colorado River in recent years.
Other floors of the museum are dedicated to works by famous American artists like Andy Warhol, Alfred Jacob Miller, and Thomas Moran as well as Native American artists.
We also learned about some of the great community contributions the museum is making including a youth project to enable at-risk kids to express themselves through art by helping paint beautiful murals on the sides of buildings all over town.
For more information on the Rockwell Museum, click here!
Pleasant Valley Wine Company
This company near the town of Hammondsport was the first bonded winery in the US and consequently has quite a bit of history. You can learn all about it on a great tour of the facility which includes tours of the company's historic buildings from the late 1800s.
Not only does this place have a ton of history, it has a massive scale- the production area houses the largest tanks for storing wine that we've ever seen anywhere.
With rumors of resident ghosts, a focus on champagne production, and a dramatic underground space including an impressive space that used to be the tasting room back in the day, Pleasant Valley was one of the most unique and interesting wineries that we visited.
For more information about Pleasant Valley Wine Company, click here!
We'd like to thank the Corning / Finger Lakes tourist office for hosting us during our visit. As always, all opinions are our own!
Looking for a place to stay in the Finger Lakes? Check out Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel– a comfortable hotel with a great location on Seneca Lake!
Looking to book your next trip? Check out the following services we use and love or click the previous link to read more!
- AirfareWatchdog to find a cheap plane ticket.
- AirTreks to find more obscure routes / RTW flight deals.
- Booking.com to find a hotel deal.
- Hostelworld to find a budget hostel.
- World Nomads to insure your trip.
- Viator for a stellar day tour.
- G Adventures for a multi-day guided tour.
- Or our gear list to update your equipment!