Gateway to the Finger Lakes – Syracuse, NY
Destiny USA Shopping & Entertainment
You won’t want to miss stopping at this shopping and entertainment complex if you’re in the Syracuse area. In addition to more than 150 retail stores, there are 40 dining options to choose from, including Mexican-inspired Cantina Laredo, P.F. Chang’s, and a cross of good eats and play at Dave & Busters – not to be missed if your children enjoy redemption games or if you like casinos.
Entertainment ranges from exhilarating indoor electric go karts at Pole Position Raceway, where cars reach up to 70 km/h, to Wonderworks and Canyon Climb, some of the best “edutainment” around. www.destinyusa.com
Herkimer Diamond Mines
If your children are into rocks and minerals, or if they simply like to smash things, Herkimer Diamond Mines is a 45-minute drive from Syracuse. When you arrive, you can rent pails and hammers or bring your own gear. Closed-toe shoes and safety goggles are essential.
You can sift through debris from previously crushed rock or you can tackle larger rocks with a hammer. My husband pounded rocks for a couple of hours and came up empty handed; whereas my son and I sifted through the rubble and found approximately 60 grams of treasure, with one diamond measuring 1.5 cm x 3 cm.
Admittedly, smashing rocks is fun, but you probably want to reserve some time for sifting to ensure you don’t walk away empty-handed. If you are camping, there’s a KOA campground directly across the street from the mines.
New York State Fair
The Great New York State Fair runs from Aug. 21-Sept. 1.
This is a very large fair, similar to the CNE in Toronto. The grandstand features big-name performers like Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler and Pitbull.
You will also enjoy hundreds of vendor booths, midway rides, large agricultural pavilions, and food, food and more food!
We particularly enjoyed the dairy pavilion, with its ice cream treats and chocolate milk samples. The fair is famous for deep-fried food, so we sampled a few items, including a deep-fried, batter-coated Oreo cookie – Yum!
Head a little further southwest and shop the Waterloo Premium Outlets, featuring 100 exceptional brand outlet stores. Sneak in some back-to-school shopping and take advantage of savings of 25-65 per cent on clothing, shoes, boots, and snow suits (yikes). Keep all your receipts to present to the Canada Customs agent on your way back into Canada. www.premiumoutlets.com
Cobtree Vacation Rental Homes Resort
If travelling with kids (or with other families), cottages can be a welcome change to cramped quarters. Cobtree offers several English-architectural style cottages, as well as traditionally built rustic log cabins. Very spacious multi-level units can accommodate from 6-12 people.
These self-serve cottages with full kitchens have achieved a 3 Diamond AAA rating.
Fully air-conditioned, each unit is suitable for families with young children, and are accessible and pet friendly (Two properties – Cayuga Cottage and Owasco Cottage – do not allow pets to best accommodate guests with allergies.) The deluxe log homes feature a finished walk-out basement with double French doors leading out to manicured gardens. Each cottage has a propane gas barbecue with free gas refills, high-speed wi-fi, cable TV, U.S. and Canada-wide calls, all included with your rental. There are four campfire areas for guest use, walking trails, a children’s play fort, and more.
There is lots of room to play, so be sure to bring your balls, Frisbees, Bocce, horse shoes, or badminton sets.
Cobtree is surrounded by 23 hectares (57 acres) of farmland and woodlands overlooking the Western Shores of Seneca Lake. There is a winery on the adjacent property.
Each cottage is named after one of the 11 Finger Lakes and all overlook the western shores of Seneca Lake. None of the cottages are located right on the lake; however, there are stunningly beautiful panoramic views of
the lake and breathtaking sunsets behind Cobtree to the west.
Located at the north end of Seneca Lake and just 10 kilometres south of the City of Geneva, access to all of the activities Seneca Lake has to offer is a short 5-10 minute drive away. There are parks and marinas nearby. Cobtree’s website is full of ideas of activities to enjoy while you are there; however, don’t forget to reserve some time to kick back, relax, and enjoy the Cobtree property.
On-site babysitting can be arranged in advance.
Head off the beaten path and take a drive around Seneca Lake. Pack a picnic or enjoy one of the many fine restaurants along the way.
Most everything is open in the summer months, but be sure to call ahead if you visit in the off-season.
Seneca Lake Wine Trail
Take a wine tour or simply pop into one or more wineries as you drive past. There are dozens to choose from, each with its own unique charm.
Most offer sampling for a minimal fee (and grape juice samples for the kiddos).
Remember that you are limited on the amount of alcohol you can bring back without paying duty tax.
Watkins Glen, NY
Waterfalls part 1: Watkins Glen State Park
Watkins Glen State Park is visually stunning. The glen’s stream descends 120 metres past 60-metre cliffs, with 19 waterfalls within 3.2 kilometres. You can walk a winding path over and under waterfalls, and through Cavern Cascade.
Visitors can also enjoy the Olympic-size pool and picnic area. Camping is available in season. www.nysparks.com
Waterfalls part 2: A little further off the beaten path
There is no waterfall swimming at the Watkins Glen State Park.
If your crew is a little more on the adventurous side, you may want to consider heading a little further down the road toward Montour to Havana Glen, a private campground that features a spectacular (but freezing cold) secluded swimming hole with gorgeous Eagle Cliff Falls. This is a great spot for pictures. www.townofmontour.com
If you like to try new things, consider walking on water in a Human Water Ball at Fuzzy Guppies. They also have camping and other watercraft for rent. www.fuzzyguppies.com
But sometimes having no plan is the best plan of all. Just head out and have a great time.
Photos: Leslie Foster