With Covid unfortunately being the new normal, a lot of people are flocking to parks and resorting to checking out their own state to safely discover new ways to travel and find adventure. One thing we’re certainly lucky to say, is that we have no shortage of beautiful parks in New York State. We get the chance to explore giant waterfalls, gorges, and trails while safely staying within our state and following the Covid guidelines we’re used to. Watkins Glen should be at the top of your list as far as parks go. Along the path, you’ll see 19 different waterfalls, not to mention stunning landscapes, and the surrounding town is full of wineries and restaurants!
Checking into the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel
16 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891 / Website
I highly recommend staying at the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel. They have all the amenities that you’d be searching for, comfortable modern rooms, the hotel is right on the water, and it’s also walking distance from a variety of shops and restaurants, and even the park. Although, no one will shame you if you want to park closer to the park because it’s quite a work out as it is. You can’t really go wrong with a hotel that was actually voted best waterfront hotel in the nation by USA today!
Enjoy Nature at the Watkins Glen State Park
1009 N Franklin Street, Watkins Glen, NY 14891 / Website
The park is the anchor of this trip, 100%. The views look like something straight out of a postcard and it’s just spectacular in person! At some points during the hike, we could actually reach out and touch a waterfall and there are some amazing photo opportunities along the way too. The hike is mostly uphill and with the current situation, you pretty much have to finish it because they are enforcing that you wear masks if you can’t properly socially distance. As long as you stay going in one direction, the path loops around bringing you back to the parking lot. I noticed some people in jeans and flip-flops that looked super uncomfortable, and that’s also quite dangerous because the path is full of stone stairs that can get a little slippery if you’re not wearing the proper footwear. So pro tip: dress appropriately for a work out because it is an uphill intense hike, but trust me when I say it’s worth it!
I mean, after that hike you freaking earned this. There are a lot of wineries to choose from in this area, but Lakewood Vineyards (4024 NY-14, Watkins Glen, NY 14891) is easily one of my favorites. They had some delicious bubbly and whether you like very sweet or very dry, they can accommodate to your taste. While you are sipping on your wine, take in the surrounding view of the vineyards. It is absolutely spectacular, to say the least. J.R. Dill Winery (4922 NY-414, Burdett, NY 14818) is another winery that is well worth a visit. Like Lakewood Vineyards, they also offer an amazing bubbly; sorry to keep putting it out there, but it’s no secret what my favorite is!
Shop & Eat
I hate to say it because the area is so cute, but I don’t want to get your hopes up for nothing. The boutique shop area is not anything to really write home about. It’s just ok, there are a select few antique shops like Country Haven Treasure (208 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891) and some clothing and gift shops, but for the most part it was just so so. They *do* have an amazing cheese shop called the Seneca Cheese Company an Artisanal Cheese Tavern (29 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891) that has one of the best goat blue cheeses I’ve ever tasted; it’s really worth it to go grab a wedge.
That being said, the restaurants are all spot on! There’s some great little small places to grab a late lunch, but one of my favorite places is this wood fire pizza shop outside of Colonial Pottery & Creamery (701 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891). It’s quick and easy. The pizzas are modest and thin, a good size for one or two people and absolutely delicious. I got a margarita pizza and they also sell honey, so I had them add a drizzle of spicy honey to it. So yummy!
If you’re looking for a spot to relax and have a diner-style breakfast with lots of coffee, Tobey’s Donut Shop (137 E 4th St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891) is your spot. If you’re searching for a nice dinner spot, I’d suggest the Seneca Harbor Station (3 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891), an 1876 train station turned delicious restaurant. For some good Italian eats, check out Jerlando’s Ristorante & Pizza Co. (400 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891).
Interested in more trips close to home? Check out our article on why Jamestown makes a great staycation for nature seekers and comedy lovers here!