If you can look past the off-putting old salt factory, cluster of low-end retail shops, and trailer campground that mar the southern end of the lake, otherwise lovely Seneca Harbor is a perfect picture. It consists of a marina full of bobbing sailboats and fishing boats, a New England-style red schoolhouse at the end of the public fishing pier, and vineyard-laced hillsides rising from the lake. The boardwalk provides some of the most beautiful views of any vantage point in the Finger Lakes. This part of Seneca Lake is the perfect place to get out on the water on a yacht or sailboat. Most chartered boats set sail from May to the end of October. Check out Seneca Sailing Adventures, which sails the 38-ft Lea Sea Anne I for private and non-private cruises on the lake (ranging from $50 per person to $600 for a full day private cruise). Call tel. 607/742-5100 or visit www.senecasailingadventures.com for more information. The larger Seneca Legacy, at Captain Bill's, offers one-hour sightseeing as well as dinner, lunch, and moonlight cocktail cruises -- even a teen cruise with "loud music" ($12.50-$43 adults, $6-$14 children). A smaller vintage motor vessel, the Stroller IV, is also available. Call tel. 607/535-4541 or visit www.senecaharborstation.com for reservations and information.
Watkins Glen State Park, off Route 14 at the south end of the village, is one of the certain highlights of the Finger Lakes. Opened in 1863, the 776-acre park contains a spectacular gorge sculpted in slate, formed more than 12,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age and carved by the flow of Glen Creek ever since, and 19 separate waterfalls. The walking trails in and around the gorge are splendid and accessible to almost all walkers; you can walk right in behind the 60-foot drop of Central Cascade. It takes about an hour to walk the gorge trail, with a steep climb at the end. Shuttle buses ($3) return walkers to the entrance, or you can walk back along the Indian trail, which is parallel to the gorge but flatter. Hikers should wear appropriate hiking shoes, since the trails can be wet and slick. Park entrance is $6 per vehicle. Call tel. 607/535-4511 or visit www.nysparks.state.ny.us for more information.
The Watkins Glen International Race Track, 2790 County Rte. 16 (tel. 866/461-RACE or 607/535-2481; www.theglen.com), opens up with car-club events and races in June and July, including the SCCA Glen Nationals, but it really heats up at the end of the first week of August with the NASCAR Nextel Cup series, a race that draws many thousands and fills every hotel and inn and campsite for hundreds of miles in New York State's largest sporting weekend. Other racing events are held in summer, including the Vintage Grand Prix in September, but none comes close to NASCAR. The new IRL IndyCar Series is held at the end of September. The other huge event in town, also held at the WGI, is the annual Finger Lakes Wine Festival (tel. 866/461-7223 or 607/535-2481; www.flwinefest.com), held in mid-July. Most of the local 80-plus wineries are on hand, along with musicians, craft vendors, exhibits from the Corning Museum of Glass, food and wine seminars, and even a toga party. As you can imagine, plenty of wine is consumed and people get pretty festive. Advance tickets (and accommodations) are a must for most of the events at WGI, so plan ahead (way in advance for NASCAR, as much as a year or more). Tickets ($30; $40 for 2 days) for the wine festival are available at many of the local wineries. The largest concentration of wineries in the region is clustered about Seneca Lake, and many of the wineries on the Seneca Lake Wine Trail are just a cork's throw from Watkins Glen.
On the east side of Seneca Lake is Skyland Gallery & Café, Route 414, Lodi; tel. 607/546-5050; www.skylandfarm.net), which owner Barbara Hummel describes as a "fantasy land of high art, exquisite craft, joy, and dessert." The large gallery space shows off the unique works, including pottery, jewelry, and wood toys, of 300 local and regional artisans, all part of a compound that consists of a renovated barn (with a two-story tree soaring through the cafe), gardens, and animal pens. It's the kind of place that will entertain both kids and parents for at least a couple of hours, and the cafe makes an excellent lunch pit stop, with nice sandwiches, salads, and incredible gelato and other desserts.
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.