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Exploring New York State by Road Trip

By Holly Rosen Fink, GoGirlfriend Contributor

An Intergenerational Trip Through the Finger Lakes and Beyond

My mom recently moved to New York, but she hasn’t had a chance to explore much of her new state. So when I started planning an adventure upstate, she was really excited not only to travel but to travel with me, her youngest daughter. Mom has not had the opportunity to explore New York State much so I found her excitement about the trip quite rewarding and I hoped that the experience would not let her down.

Where We Went: Road Trip!

beautiful Finger Lakes NYI highly recommend road trips as a form of travel with your aging parent. It’s a great way to bond - the travel time is great for story-telling, singing and making memories. I also recommend a road trip through Upstate New York for a dose of the outdoors and relaxation, stopping in the towns of Watkins Glen and 1000 Islands. Each destination is an easy road trip from NYC and both are not terribly far apart from each other, making it easy to do hit both in one weekend. For us, beginning in New York’s famous Finger Lakes area, made for a great stomping ground for people of all ages, with a diverse palette of food, activities, and most importantly, a sense of tranquility. Plus, there’s a beautiful scenic drive between them along part of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, one of the first roads in America to be designated as a National Scenic Byway. You’re very likely to return home refreshed and with new memories to share with your loved one.

If there is time for an extra excursion, Chautauqua is a wonderful choice for a final stop on this trip. It’s located near Jamestown, which is past Buffalo, and has a number of special attractions you can’t see anywhere else including the National Comedy Center and the Lucy-Desi Museum. You won’t laugh nearly as hard anywhere else on this trip, or for days after you arrive back home - totally worth the additional driving.

Where We Rested Our Heads: Hart Hotels

Hart Hotels has a location in each of these destinations. It’s a privately-owned company in upstate New York that currently operates Harbor Hotels, all lakeside. On this trip, Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel (Hart Hotels)we stayed at Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel, in Watkins Glen, 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel in Clayton, and Chautauqua Harbor Hotel in Celoron, each ranked Four Diamond Level. We were very happy to have a full-service restaurant in each hotel, which makes traveling with a senior citizen easier. The food is upscale, there are a lot of options, and some are truly delicious. The hotels also have an indoor pool with a jacuzzi (which we used at each stop), and really helpful concierge services to help guide us through our travels. The staff at reception is also very kind, and the hotels offer lovely touches such as an outside fire pit, chocolate on your pillow, lush bedding, and balconies facing the water. If you go off-season, there are excellent low rates available - always a bonus. All three hotels are very similar in look and feel but Chautauqua was my favorite – it’s the newest so all the amenities are fresh, modern, and the staff was most keenly attentive to our needs.

First Stop: Watkins Glen

Watkins Glen State ParkOur trip coincided with the start of the turn of the fall foliage, which made it extra special. We started our trip in the town of Watkins Glen, located on the southern shore of Seneca Lake of the Finger Lakes region. Unfortunately, a rainy day cast a shadow on our morning hike in Watkins Glen State Park, a beautiful park with a dramatic waterfall that just recently underwent $6.5 million in renovations, so we spent time in nearby Corning, home to the famous Corning Museum of Glass.  It’s a quaint town to walk around, with glass and other specialty shops and restaurants to explore. Other stops during our stay in Watkins Glen included Reisinger’s Apple Country, a popular, family-run orchard that offers acres and acres of apples, fresh cider, and delicious cider donuts, as well as Lakewood Vineyards, likely to be one of my favorite vineyards ever.  Also family-run, Lakewood uses locally grown grapes. At the farm, we bought bags of apples, donuts, and chatted with the owners. At the vineyard, we had a tasting, toured the facility to learn about the wine production process, and bought several bottles to bring home with us.

Second Stop: 1000 Islands

To get to 1000 Islands, we took the 14 to Sodus Bay and Lake Ontario and followed the Seaway Trail to Clayton, where the foliage got slightly more colorful and we spotted roadside farm stands, pumpkins, and more vineyards along the way. Antique Boat Museum tourClayton is just minutes from the Canadian border and has a lovely village atmosphere. The region’s name is quite literal: The Thousand Islands are a group of more than 1,800 islands and we were delighted to find a lot to do in the town, as well. First we went on a guided tour of the Antique Boat Museum, the premier freshwater nautical museum in North America where I was lucky to go on a speed boat ride out some of the islands on a 30-foot triple cockpit Hacker Craft. We also toured George Boldt’s former houseboat, La Duchesse, built in 1903.

visiting Boldt Castle, 1000 IslandsLater in the day, after a lovely lunch in town at Bella’s, we drove over the 1000 Islands Bridge and took a self-guided tour of Boldt Castle, a turn-of-the-century castle built on the St. Lawrence River with 120 rooms. That experience turned out to be a highlight of our visit, as did the traditional 1000 Islands Shore Dinner we experienced that evening at the hotel, cooked by a third-generation fishing guide.

Final Stop: Chautauqua

Chautauqua Lake Hotel (Hart Hotel)Chautauqua is approximately five hours from Clayton, further than Buffalo, but without doubt, worth the trip. Chautauqua Harbor Hotel, which opened a few short months ago, is an exquisite place to stay and offers close proximity to a number of landmarks and eateries worth visiting. We spent the morning at the National Comedy Center, an incredible museum that celebrates American comedy’s most brilliant minds and voices, from Charlie Chaplin to Tina Fey to Lucille Ball, who was born in a neighboring town. The museum uses groundbreaking technology and the 50 exhibits engaged us for hours on end. After a delicious vegetarian lunch at Labyrinth Press Company, we visited the Lucy-Desi Museum, which honors her career and legacy. National Comedy Center, NYWe are both big fans, having grown up watching “I Love Lucy,” so we both found the museum quite compelling. We also spent time at the Robert J. Jackson Center, dedicated to peace and human rights, and the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History.  Our day was full and our hearts were heavy, and we were both really happy we took the trip to Chautauqua. It’s definitely a place we’d both like to return to, perhaps in warmer weather to experience more outdoor activities, local wineries and breweries such as Mazza Vineyards and Southern Tier Brewing Company.

The Result: Making Memories

Holly and her mom road tripAs much as we had to do on this trip, I knew that I needed to ensure that we would take breaks and move more slowly than I’m used to. We had a lot to see and do, but I didn’t have to do everything. We would be making memories, and there is nothing more important than that. And that is exactly what we did. We spent five days exploring our state, telling each other stories, singing songs, and experiencing new places, sounds, tastes, and smells. We took it all in, and we will never forget this unique time we shared together.

If you’re considering vacationing in these areas, tap into the following resources to help you get better acquainted with these destinations.

Disclosure: Holly and her mother were hosted by Hart Hotels on this trip, but all opinions are her own.

About Holly Rosen Fink

@hollyrosenfinkHolly Rosen Fink is a Marketing, Communications, Public Relations, Branding and Social Media expert and writer based in Larchmont, New York. She is a current contributor to Trekaroo, OffMetro, Family Vacation Critic, and Women and Hollywood.

 

Had a great time traveling with your parents on a road trip? Tell us about your travel adventures, we'd love to hear! Drop a comment below and connect with GoGirlfriend on Facebook and Twitter.

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