Fun Drives: CNY Daytrips in Every Direction
A scenic drive is the ultimate summertime activity for many in Central New York. Hit the road for a new adventure or a favorite family destination – and make a day of it. There are so many cool restaurants, shops, tourist attractions and local landmarks to check out in Upstate NY. Here are just a few CNY daytrips to get your itinerary started.
CNY daytrips to the north
RUDY’S LAKESIDE DRIVE-IN
The 75-year-old Oswego restaurant has added online ordering and a takeout menu to allow longtime customers to safely enjoy the panoramic views of Lake Ontario. Enjoy your fish and chips, Texas hots and other favorites from your tailgate, find a spot on the rocky shore or stake out a picnic table. Stone skipping, kayak launching and sunset watching are encouraged. After dinner, drive the back roads to the Midway Drive-In Theatre in Minetto, which started its 73rd consecutive season in June.
History buffs will enjoy the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site, where two crucial battles of the War of 1812 took place overlooking Lake Ontario in Jefferson County.
Families can reserve tickets for Old McDonald’s Farm, where visitors can feed the cows, goats and pigs. You can also play mini golf, head down the new Super-Mega Ride ‘n Slide or try some homemade ice cream at the cafe.
This summer retreat in the Thousand Islands region strikes a balance between quaint and chic. While some restaurants and shops have been local favorites for decades, recent development in Clayton has brought new life to the St. Lawrence Seaway community. The Antique Boat Museum welcomes visitors to its campus, home to 300 well-preserved boats and thousands of recreational boating artifacts. Wine cruises take off weekend evenings from Coyote Moon on the River; 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel offers outside dining on its patio overlooking the water. Before you leave, pick up some 1000 Islands River Rat Cheese to bring home; the brand’s James Street shop also offers sweets and other souvenirs.
CNY daytrips to the south
The Labrador Hollow Unique Area, located on the border of Onondaga and Cortland counties, covers 1,474 acres and offers hiking, fishing and boating opportunities. A raised wooden boardwalk crosses the wetlands area to a fishing pier and non-motorized boat launch on Labrador Pond.
A beginner’s gravel trail will take you to Tinker Falls, a 50-foot waterfall surrounded by a natural rock amphitheater.
A steeper, more advanced trail will take hikers up to the North County Trail overlook for panoramic views.
BEAK AND SKIFF APPLE ORCHARDS
The agritourism destination in LaFayette has kicked off summer concerts on its Apple Hill Campus (with pod protocols in place for now). Stop by for Friday night porch parties with live music at the tasting room & tavern, which is serving a summer menu. This spring, they introduced a new line of non-alcoholic sparkling waters and sister brand Beak & Skiff Research launched CBD Sparkling Water.
With more than 150 waterfalls within 10 miles of Ithaca, you don’t have to go far for a spectacular view. Check out Taughannock Falls State Park, home to a 215-foot waterfall (three stories higher than Niagara Falls) and walk the gorge and rim trails. Robert H. Treman State Park offers public swimming at the stream-fed pool beneath Enfield Falls; nine miles of trails follow the gorge past 12 waterfalls, including the 115-foot Lucifer Falls. After a day of hiking, enjoy the atmosphere at Ithaca Commons, a four-block pedestrian area with more than 100 shops, restaurants, street vendors and street entertainers.
CNY daytrips to the west
MONTEZUMA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
The 9,800-acre national park outside of Seneca Falls is home to six active bald eagles’ nests, with observations of nearly 60 eagles in recent years. Hiking trails are open from dawn to dusk or stay in your car for the 3.5-mile Wildlife Drive through the preserve. Keep an eye out for waterfowl, herons, Canada geese, bald eagles, osprey, harriers and other birds of prey and shorebirds. Other wildlife sightings include muskrat, white-tailed deer, mink, fox and coyote. Cap your visit with a trip to Montezuma Winery in Seneca Falls, which specializes in fruit wines. Try their range of dry to sweet wines including Riesling, apple blueberry, rhubarb and the most popular, Cranberry Bog. The winery is also home to Hidden Marsh Distillery, which produces brandy, whiskey and liqueurs from locally sourced ingredients.
The Finger Lakes community draws visitors each year for the crystal-clear waters of Skaneateles Lake and the charming, picturesque downtown. Sightseeing cruises of the 16-mile-long lake can be booked through Mid-Lakes Navigation for the Judge Ben Wiles, a replica steamship.
Enjoy the historic downtown district, where retail stores and restaurants are open for business, and be sure to walk out on the pier for a beautiful view of the water and the surrounding landscape. The annual Curbstone Festival takes place July 15-17 in the village; the Antique and Classic Boat Show opens July 23.
The state park in northern Wayne County is known for its unique towering bluffs along Lake Ontario’s shore. From the park’s 1.25-mile Bluff Trail, visitors can view large clay formations at the water’s edge, which stand as high as 150 feet. The cliffs were formed by glacial deposits thousands of years ago; wind, rain and snow constantly reshape the bluffs. Stop through nearby Sodus Bay on your way home, where you can walk out on the pier at Sodus Point Beach Park and check out the historic lighthouse.
Step back in time with a walking tour through Seneca Falls, which was the center of the efforts of women’s rights leaders and other reformers in the 19th century. Some sites remain temporarily closed, but pedestrians can plan a route to include Wesleyan Chapel (location of the first Women’s Right’s Convention in 1848), the Waterwall at Declaration Park (a 100-foot bluestone water feature inscribed with the words of the Declaration of Sentiments), the Elizabeth Cady Stanton House and the M’Clintock House. Take a stroll past the picturesque downtown Seneca Falls facades that served as an inspiration for “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Look for the bells attached to George Bailey Bridge, inspired by the iconic line, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.”
CNY daytrips to the east
HERITAGE HILL BREWHOUSE, POMPEY
The Sweet Road farm-based brewery is welcoming visitors Monday and Tuesday nights to enjoy brews and the Sumthin’ Good food truck. Wednesday through Sunday, take in the panoramic view overlooking eight counties and three lakes — Onondaga, Oneida and Ontario. Order beverages and bites (try their meatball burgers) to be eaten outside or on the dog-friendly patio via a self-service app.
The lakeside village in Madison County is the perfect destination for a scenic drive. Park in the lot near the intersection of Routes 92 and 20 for beautiful vistas from the lake’s southern tip. Or head to the village’s Lakeside Park on East Lake Road. Eat on the newly expanded 8,000-square-foot patio at the Brewster Inn or take a stroll through the historic downtown business district. Take a drive to Stone Quarry Art Park, a 104-acre property filled with outdoor sculptures nestled along four miles of trails.
Dozens of wind turbines dot the landscape in northern Madison County. Visit the Fenner Renewable Energy Education Center (FREE Center) to get an up-close look at a turbine blade and take a selfie with a towering turbine, which stands 328 feet tall. The public access location (5520 Bellinger Road) is surrounded by 20 turbines churning out enough electricity to power 7,800 houses. Families and small groups are allowed on the grounds, but there are no formal tours at this time.
Take Route 12B into the village of Hamilton, home of Colgate University. A farmers market takes over the Village Green each Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Continue on to the Chenango Canal Towpath for a historic hike. Nearby, Good Nature Farm Brewery launched its summer concert series in the beer garden and is serving up brunch on Sundays.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of Central New York Magazine; updated June 2021.