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The Fairest Of The Finger Lakes?

Uniquely shaped Keuka Lake may be the prettiest and most pristine of all the Finger Lakes -- though you'll undoubtedly get arguments from natives with preferences for Skaneateles, Seneca, or Cayuga. The name "keuka" in the original Native American language is thought to have meant "crooked" -- a quality reflected in the lake's Y shape. Keuka Lake State Park has a nice public beach for swimming, a boat launch, fishing, picnic facilities, and a children's playground. The park is located along the north shore of the West Branch of Keuka Lake, 6 miles south of Penn Yan on Route 54A.

For further exploration of the lake, North Country Kayak & Canoe, 16878 W. Lake Rd., Hammondsport (tel. 607/868-7456), offers kayak and canoe rentals from June to September. If fishing is your thing, serene Keuka Lake has rainbow trout, lake trout, largemouth bass, and more. Check www.fishsteubencounty.com for details on fishing and lodging packages and equipment and tackle shops.

Another way to enjoy the water is to take a cruise on the lake. Esperanza Mansion operates The Esperanza Rose, a 65-foot vintage wooden sailing vessel (tel. 315/595-6618; www.esperanzaboat.com). It offers lunch, sightseeing, and dinner cruises Tuesday through Sunday, Memorial Day to October ($19-$43.95 per person).

Another spectacular way to see Keuka Lake is to drive (or cycle) around its 20-mile perimeter. Route 54A, which travels south of Penn Yan between the two upper prongs of the lake and then traverses its western length, is a mesmerizing scenic drive, hands-down one of the prettiest in the entire state. If you're planning to visit some wineries, you can take Route 54A to High Road.

Exploring Hammondsport

Tiny Hammondsport, at the southern end of Keuka Lake, is a postcard-perfect small town built around an attractive village square. Though tiny, it bustles with a disproportionate number of antiques and gifts shops, an ice-cream parlor, and a couple of restaurants and inns. If you'd like a bit of small-town life to complement your Finger Lakes experience, it makes a good base.

Besides the lake and wineries, the biggest attraction in the immediate area is the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, 8419 Rte. 54, Hammondsport (tel. 607/569-2160; www.glennhcurtissmuseum.org; May-Oct Mon-Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 11am-5pm; Nov-Dec Mon-Sat 10am-4pm, Sun noon-5pm; Jan-Apr Thurs-Sat 10am-4pm, Sun noon-5pm; $7.50 adults, $6 seniors, $4.50 students 7-18, $20 families, and free for children under 7), devoted to one of the true pioneers of American aviation, who was also a Hammondsport native. In the early 20th century, Curtiss began designing motorcycles and moved on to dirigibles, airplanes, and hydroaeroplanes ("flying boats"). His first flight, in 1908, was the first advertised public flight of aircraft (the Wright Brothers had already been aloft, but in total secrecy). The museum displays a fine collection of historical aircraft and antique Curtiss motorcycles (including a reproduction of the one he used to achieve the world speed record of 136 mph). The museum also presents dioramas on turn-of-the-20th-century life and winemaking, as well as an interactive children's gallery.

Shoppers in Hammondsport should check out Opera House Antiques, 61-63 Shethar St. (tel. 607/569-3525), a multidealer shop featuring silver, linens, and period furniture. Across the street is Scandia House, 64 Shethar St. (tel. 607/569-2667), a shop specializing in women's clothing, Scandinavian sweaters, and housewares. Mud Lust Pottery, 59 Shethar St. (tel. 607/569-3068), features locally crafted fine pottery. Chocoholics should check out The Chocolatier of Hammondsport, 69 Shethar St. (tel. 607-569-2157), a new shop that deals in high-end chocolates and confections.

If you're sore from driving around the lakes or boating or cycling, pay a visit to the family-run Finger Lakes Wellness Center & Health Spa, 7531 County Rte. 13, Bath (tel. 607/776-3737; www.fingerlakeswellness.com), just south of Hammondsport, for a massage.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.