New York

Best of the Finger Lakes: Art, Wine, History & Waterfalls

Explore New York State’s Finger Lakes region as you hike a deep gorge, sample wine overlooking Seneca Lake, “meet” Mark Twain and visit the world-famous Corning Museum of Glass.
Rating (4.9)
Program No. 1757RJ
6 days
Starts at

At a Glance

Wineries, hiking, quaint towns and aviation history — even a visit from Mark Twain — await in New York State’s spectacular Finger Lakes. Sample the best of this delightful corner of America as you descend past Watkins Glen’s 19 waterfalls, sail Seneca Lake in a vintage wooden vessel and taste wines from the area’s most celebrated wineries. Local experts reveal the glacial origins of these deep blue lakes, illuminate the role of FDR’s 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps and recount the life of aviation pioneer and local hero Glenn Curtiss. Explorations include New York’s oldest winery, the Finger Lakes Boating Museum and the study where Mark Twain wrote “Tom Sawyer.”
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Walking up to two miles. Standing up to three hours on field trips, museum visits. Choose your way to experience the waterfalls and the hike down Watkins Glen Gorge, from the 1.5 mile walk down 836 stone steps created by the CCC, or just going in from the bottom to view the most dynamic waterfalls.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Descend past 19 waterfalls in Watkins Glen, sail Seneca Lake in a vintage wooden vessel and savor wine from the oldest winery in New York.
  • Absorb the history of the Fingers Lakes region, from the glaciers that carved these magnificent lakes to Mark Twain’s long association with the area, as well as the story of aviation pioneer and local hero Glenn Curtiss.
  • Explore the history and art of glass and learn about the history of glass from 4,000 years ago to the present day and beyond at the Corning Museum of Glass, including innovations that are shaping the future.

General Notes

The Retreat Difference: This unique, often basic and no-frills experience at a Road Scholar Retreat includes opportunities for early morning exercise, interaction with the local community for insight into local life, an authentic farm-to-table or locally sourced meal, a live performance or event, and a value-priced single room.
Featured Expert
All Experts
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Kirk House
Kirk House is a leading writer and researcher on the history of the Southern Finger Lakes and aviation innovator Glenn H. Curtiss. He served as the director of the Glenn Curtiss Museum for six years and lectured internationally about Curtiss, the Father of Naval Aviation. Kirk is also an adjunct professor of history at Genesee Community College, and he’s written and published 12 books. For over 15 years, House has been putting his expertise to good use as a Road Scholar instructor at Watson Homestead.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

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Kirk House
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Neil Yoder
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Josh Teeter
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Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Mark Twain: A Life
by Ron Powers
A recent biography of this most biographied American writer, includes detailed life story and information about his family, publishers, books, successes and failures.
The Maverick and His Machine
by Kevin Maney
The latest biography of Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM, and founder of Watson Homestead Conference & Retreat Center, on farm of his birth in 1879. Includes information about Watson and the Making of IBM. Author Kevin Maney of USA Today was the first biographer of Watson given access to the original boxes of personal and corporate ephemera that were sealed at his death in 1956.
Corning and the Craft of Innovation
by Margaret B.W. Graham and Alec T. Shuldiner
For those interested in the history of research and development at Corning Incorporated, this large volume combines both history of the company renamed after moving to its new location in the city of Corning in 1868, through the end of the 20th century. The processes, scientists, engineers, patents, and corporate expansion are covered with some photos, many notes and a detailed index.
Frederick Carder and Steuben Glass: American Classics
by Thomas Dimitroff
This essential reference work provides a detailed study of Frederick Carder, his contributions to the Steuben Glass Works, and the captivating works of art he produced in glass. To dazzle and delight the reader, there are over 760 photographs and 450 line drawings, the vast majority of which provide illustration for 800 pieces of Steuben glass from the famous Rockwell collections. Reference material and photographs never before in print are provided. The text evaluates Carder and the Steuben Glass Works that he co-founded in 1903 in a critical light. It reviews Carder's lengthy and productive career, analyzes his changing role within the company, and places Carder's artistic contributions within the matrix of the international decorative arts industries of his time. A section valuable to all collectors is one in which many aspects of identification and evaluation are covered--signatures, relative rarity, and dating.
The Corning Museum of Glass; A Guide to the Collections
by Richard W. Price, editor
Full color guidebook of the 3500-year history of glassmaking using color plates of significant objects with full descriptions, plus chapter overviews of the various technological advancements through the ages. An exceptional pre-visit view of the museum and its collections or souvenir memory collection. Much of the book's information and its images can also be found on the Museum's website at www.cmog.org.
The American West: People, Places, and Ideas
by Suzan Campbell
Permanent collection catalog for the Rockwell Museum of Western Art in Corning, NY. This collection of American paintings, bronzes, firearms and Native American artifacts was assembled by the late Robert F. Rockwell, local businessman, and established as a museum in 1976. It is an unusually fine collection of mid-to-late 19th and 20th century art works documenting the westward expansion movement, the popular illustrations created about it, and includes contemporary artists, many who are Native American.
Corning Museum of Glass website
by www.cmog.org
This museum website is amazing - a good preview will allow you to make the most on your visit to this huge cultural and educational asset.
The Finger Lakes Book
by Katharine Delavan Dyson
Travel guide to the top sites in the 14-county western New York State region, the Finger Lakes. Good for adding pre- and/or post-program activities. Good photos and maps included.
Glenn H. Curtiss
by Kirk W. House & Charles R. Mitchell
Glenn Curtiss beat even the Wright brothers (who sued him bitterly) to get pilot's license No. 1 in America. He teamed with Alexander Graham Bell, helped develop the moving wing part known as the aileron, introduced tricycle landing gear, made the first airplane sales, and turned aeronautics into a multimillion dollar business. His innovations ranged from the Curtiss Pusher to the hydroaeroplane, the flying boat, and the Curtiss Jenny. Curtiss, his engines, and his airplanes dominated the world of early aviation on this side of the Atlantic. Glenn H. Curtiss: Aviation Pioneer charts Curtiss's breakneck course across two continents, North America and Europe, setting speed and distance records, experimenting with military applications, always striving for a safer, faster airplane. Fostering both water flyers and shipboard landing, he became the Father of Naval Aviation. But even the skies were not wide enough for the busy brain of Curtiss. Glenn H. Curtiss: Aviation Pioneer also tracks his dizzying ride from a village bicycle shop to record-smashing motorcycle races, futuristic travel trailers, and city building in the Florida land boom.

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