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250 miles NW of New York City; 150 miles E of Niagara Falls; 90 miles SE of Rochester.

Two towns just south of the Finger Lakes proper give travelers a taste of something different in this region known for its unique bodies of water and pastoral charms. Corning is a small town of just 12,000 people, but as the headquarters of the Fortune 500 Company Corning Inc., it's a very big deal in the Finger Lakes region. Quite literally, it's the town that Corning built; the company, the original makers of CorningWare, Pyrex, and now high-tech materials like fiber optics, has employed as much as half the town's population. Corning was once known as "crystal city" for its concentration of glassworks, and today glass remains the town's calling card. One of the Finger Lakes' biggest attractions is the world-renowned Corning Museum of Glass.

Elmira, just to the east, is a largely blue-collar town, and though it serves as a southern gateway to the Finger Lakes, it doesn't figure as a stop on many itineraries. However, it offers a handful of nice surprises. Home to Elmira College, the town is known in select circles as the "soaring capital of the United States," a reference to its important place in aviation history. It also makes much of its association with the legendary writer and humorist Mark Twain, who wrote many of his most famous works while summering in Elmira. Fans of late-19th-century architecture will also delight in the surprising concentration of Victorian homes; Elmira is said to have more per capita than any other area in North America.

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