One family's ideas of the wonderful places to stay and play 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.
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 Stickley 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 — and the hotel also offers sailing, canoeing, kayaking, paddle-boating, croquet, biking, tennis, golf, a fitness room, and 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.
Ramada Geneva Lakefront
41 Lakefront Drive
Geneva, NY 14456
This is the only chain hotel property on the lake, and probably the only one even near it. While the hotel isn’t particularly memorable, it does have nice views of the lake and is easy on the wallet. It has a restaurant and all of the typical amenities you’d expect from a three star hotel, plus it is pet-friendly. The indoor pool is disappointing, but if the weather’s nice, there’s always the lake for swimming. There is a walkway all along the north of Seneca Lake where the Whale Watch festival takes place every August.
4069 Rte 14 South
Geneva, NY 14456
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this castle 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. The lakeside rooms have spectacular views of Seneca Lake. There are two other buildings on the property in which to sleep, 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. 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 Rental Homes and Condos
Besides these hotels, accommodation options are fairly limited, so 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. Here are some agencies that can help you find your ideal house:
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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