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Skaneateles's charming and historic downtown, which lovingly cradles the northern shore of Skaneateles Lake, is the prettiest in the Finger Lakes region. A graceful collection of 19th-century Greek Revival and Victorian homes and charming independent shops, it looks and feels more like a classic New England village than one in upstate New York. But Skaneateles is endowed with incredible natural gifts as well: Transparent Skaneateles Lake -- one of the cleanest lakes in North America -- cuts a gorgeous, 16-mile-long, gently curved swath through low hills and dense green forest. Former New York State governor and Secretary of State William Seward called it "the most beautiful body of water in the world." On the lakefront are a picturesque gazebo and a long pier that juts out over the water. Elegant homes line the east and west banks of the lake leading south from Skaneateles. The best way to enjoy the lake is to do as locals do: Plunge into it. Lake activities abound, from swimming and boating to fishing.

East Genesee Street, which in any other town would be called Main Street, is lined with quaint boutiques and antiques shops, as well as restaurants and inns. Inside the impressive gray-stone town library, at 49 E. Genesee St., is the John D. Barrow Art Gallery (tel. 315/685-5135; www.johndbarrowgallery.com; Memorial Day to Labor Day, Mon-Sat 1-4pm; May and Labor Day-Dec Sat 1-4pm; free admission), where you'll find a nice collection of paintings by the library's namesake, a Skaneateles-born artist and painter of Hudson Valley landscapes. The Creamery, 28 Hannum St., off West Genesee Street (tel. 315/685-1360; May-Sept Thurs-Sat 1-4pm, Oct-May Fri 10am-4pm; free admission), is a restored creamery dating from 1899 and home to the Skaneateles Historical Society and Museum and its small collection of town historical artifacts. Walking tours of Skaneateles are conducted by Historical Society members during summer months; call tel. 315/685-1360 or 315/485-6841 for information.

Skaneateles's emphasis on culture and the arts is disproportionate to its small size. The town hosts festivals throughout the summer, including free band concerts at the gazebo in Clift Park on Skaneateles Lake during Friday and Saturday evenings in summer; the Finger Lakes Antique and Classic Boat Show the last week of July; and the widely attended Skaneateles Festival, 97 Genesee St. (tel. 315/685-7418; www.skanfest.org), which features chamber music as many as 5 nights a week at several venues throughout August and early September. However, the biggest event in Skaneateles doesn't take place in summer. The Dickens Christmas celebration revels in old-world Victoriana, with costumed Dickens characters parading about the streets, interacting with visitors and singing Christmas carols. There are free carriage rides around Skaneateles and free roasted chestnuts and hot chocolate. The celebration, a great family event, begins the day after Thanksgiving and is held every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4pm through December 22.

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.