Discover wonderful places to stay and play at Seneca Lake, my family’s pick of the best Finger Lakes resorts and rentals in upstate New York.
Seneca Lake, the biggest of the five major “Finger Lakes” in upstate New York, is the perfect setting for a peaceful and pleasant family vacation in summer or fall. Whether you prefer to drive up for the weekend or to rent a cottage for the week, there are plenty of land and water activities to choose from.
And if you’re interested in adding learning to the fun, drive over to Auburn, New York, home to the famed suffragist and Underground Railroad “conductor” Harriet Tubman. It’s a fascinating place on little Finger lake, Lake Owasco.
Finger Lakes Resorts for Families on Seneca Lake
Geneva on the Lake
1001 Lochland Rd., Rte 14
Geneva, NY 14456
800/3-GENEVA or 315/789-7190
This AAA four-diamond, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has an elegant lakeview terrace, classical sculptures in its formal gardens, and a 70-foot pool on its perfectly groomed property. The mansion’s 29 unique studios and suites all feature plush furniture and have living rooms and ready kitchens with dining areas. While expensive, regulars think it well worth the price, and many locals stay overnight at the villa when they want a personal vacation. There’s a dock for fishing — or if you prefer, the concierge will arrange a charter. Try your hands at sailing, canoeing, kayaking, paddle-boating, croquet, biking, tennis and golf. When there’s a good summer breeze, walk the miles of beautiful hiking trails. In the winter, you can ski or snowshoe. In the late afternoon, take advantage of Geneva’s complimentary pontoon boat cruise, where you can view the shore and get a feeling for the vastness of the lake.
41 Lakefront Hotel, Trademark Collection by Wyndham
41 Lakefront Drive
Geneva, NY 14456
This is one of the few chain hotel properties on the lake, and probably the only one even near it. The former Geneva Lake Hotel is on the shores of Seneca Lake and has been redone by Wyndham. Choose this if you’re looking for pet-friendly and kid-friendly, since there’s an indoor pool (small), dining, a gym and free parking. For short day trips, drive the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail and Keuka Lake Wine Trail. Shop for back-to-school wear at Waterloo Premium Outlets. Look for the walkway all along the north of Seneca Lake, perfect for sunset strolls.
Belhurst Castle & Winery
4069 Rte 14 South
Geneva, NY 14456
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and honored by awards from Wine Enthusiast and USA TODAY, Belhurst is a mix of Old World elegance and modern comforts. The 1880s stone castle features 14 guest rooms with beautiful woodwork, antique furniture, and oriental rugs. Each room is unique: some have fireplaces, living rooms, and/or Jacuzzis. There are two other buildings on the property: White Springs Manor, a Georgian mansion and the luxorious Vinifera Inn, that are similar in size but more expensive in price. Even if you don’t stay overnight at Belhurst, you should still stop by for a visit because the Bellhurst Castle Winery, with its Estate Wines, craft beer and hard ciders, is very family-friendly. The restaurant in the castle has cathedral ceilings, mosaic-tiled fireplaces, and cushion-y chairs—making it feel like a living room—plus fabulous food and a great kids’ menu. Outside, stroll (while the kids run) through the quiet gardens and interact with the peacocks that roam the grounds. While the atmosphere is elegant, the dress code is casual, and my family has always felt welcome here.
Family-Welcoming Rentals and Condos
Besides these hotels, accommodation options are fairly limited. Families are usually better off renting a lakefront house. Not only will you have more space, you’ll have private access to the lake — and you may even have the option to use the owner’s boat and/or other water equipment. Furthermore, the price is fairly similar to staying in a hotel.
In addition to Airbnb and the major online booking sites, here are some local agencies that can help you find your ideal house.
Finger Lakes Premier Properties: Private vacation homes managed and rented by an agency.
Vacation Rentals by Owner (Finger Lakes): Directory of privately-owned vacation homes for rent.
Rustic Log Cabins: Four cute split-log cabins dating to the 1920s.
Travel Tip: Most of the fun in the Finger Lakes region happens between May and November, so plan to take your trip in the summer or fall season.
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