Finger Lakes New York has 11 natural lakes that look like fingers. The region is filled with historical landmarks, vast farmlands, quaint villages, small towns, hundreds of wineries and exceptional landscapes. Homes are scattered throughout the edge of the lakes.
It was below freezing point as we set out to explore Cayuga Lake with the help of the Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway brochure. 40 miles (about 64 km) long, Cayuga Lake is the longest of the Finger Lakes. The widest part of the lake is only 3.5 miles (5.6 km) wide.
During our visit, most of the farm stands and antique shops were closed. We planned to visit a few all-season shops and the waterfall.
This scenic route took us through Route NY90S from Syracuse New York, which is about 246 miles (396 km) from New York City.
Our first stop was MacKenzie-Childs, a world-renowned ceramics shop. It is set up for tourists and has production studios, a retail shop, and a restaurant.
MacKenzie-Childs is located on a 65-acre farm overlooking Cayuga Lake. It offers visitors handmade souvenirs, Christmas decorations and ornaments, hand-painted furniture, ceramics and artwork. The pieces are unique and not mass-produced. The price tags reflect the quality of the products. One teakettle was $98 and a small six-inch wooden toy soldier was $48.
About a five-minute drive from MacKenzie-Childs is the village of Aurora. Aurora has many historical houses, churches, stores and a charming old inn called the Aurora Inn. The village of Aurora is listed on the American National Register of Historic Places.
Going southward, we traveled on Route 34B towards Ithaca. Ithaca is located at the south end of Cayuga Lake. It is an important city in the Finger Lakes region because of two higher education institutions: Cornell University and Ithaca College. Almost 30,000 students make up the population of Ithaca. Both higher institutions provide over 10,000 jobs in the city. They are also the source of brainpower and manpower for the Finger Lakes. In fact, I’ve met a few winemakers in Finger Lake wineries who graduated from Cornell University.
From Ithaca we headed north towards the opposite side of Cayuga Lake on Route 89 North. The main attraction on the southern part of this route is Taughannock Falls State Park, about 17 minute from Ithaca by car.
We walked the ¾ mile trail from the entrance of the park to the waterfall, passing by smaller waterfalls, rock formations, gorges, creeks, fallen rocks, icicles hanging from rocks and trees.
The best part of this trail was the waterfall. Since the temperature was below freezing, water that splashed to the platform and grass around the waterfall area froze. Mist landed on my husband’s DSLR camera lens froze instantly.
About a five-minute drive from the base of the fall is the Taughannock Falls lookout point. The shape of the canyon from the top showed us how water sculptured the canyon.
Cayuga Lake and the other 10 lakes of the Finger Lakes were in the deep glacial troughs millions of years ago. Taughannock Falls and the gorges are some of the most outstanding natural formations of the region.
Along Route 89 lies the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail and farming areas. Wineries like Knapp, Swedish Hill, Goose Watch and Lucas are located on the hills facing Cayuga Lake.
Many of the homes along the lake have boat docks and piles of cut wood for fireplaces. Cayuga Lake will never escape the bitter cold during the winter season. Winter temperatures (mid-December to mid-February) usually hover around 20 °F (−6 °C).
For a quick shopping trip, we left the scenic route at a small town called Seneca Falls and headed towards Waterloo Outlet Mall. The outlet mall is about a 15-minute drive from Seneca Falls.
You will not have to pay retail for designer clothes, shoes and chocolates. You can save from 25 to 65 percent every day on famous branded merchandise. My daughter's pair of Clark boots was US$159 at the Outlet Mall and retail at $239 in retail stores.
Variety awaits you if you are considering a road trip on the Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway. You will see small historical villages, farms on gentle slopes at the north side of Cayuga Lake, gorges and parks at the south end. In almost every corner surrounding the lake, you will find vineyards, marshes, parks, shops, charming homes with the never-ending views of the Cayuga Lake.
The whole journey on this scenic byway is 87 miles.