Waterfalls, wineries and the Finger Lakes in New York state

Waterfalls, wineries and the Finger Lakes in New York state

MARILYN JONES explores New York’s upstate town of Mt. Morri, complete with personalised recommendations from local experts

PERFECT LODGINGS Blue Rose Bed and Breakfast in Mt. Morris, NY (Photo by Marilyn Jones)

MICHELE and David Shaughnessy could easily be named ambassadors for the eastern edge of the Finger Lakes Region in Mt. Morris, New York.

The Blue Rose Bed and Breakfast is not just a place to stay but a living piece of history. This Queen Anne Victorian home, a masterpiece built by the renowned William C. Walker of Rochester, NY, in 1892, is a testament to the region’s rich architectural heritage.

What truly sets the Blue Rose B&B apart are its hosts. They’re not just keepers of this historic home but also passionate ambassadors for their community. Their personal touch and enthusiasm are infectious as they share local insights and recommend attractions within easy driving distance, making every guest feel like a part of their extended family.

Mt. Morris is a gem, too. This tiny town of just over 4,500 is like many other regional communities. Main streets are lined with locally owned shops brimming with souvenirs and gifts, and restaurants with creative chefs and award-winning meals.

The couple enthusiastically tells me about nearby Letchworth State Park, known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” one of the most magnificent areas in the eastern U.S.

The Genesee River roars through the gorge over three major waterfalls between cliffs — as high as 600 feet in some places — surrounded by lush forests.

The Finger Lakes Region is more than 3,642.1708 hectares and offers many scenic areas along the 11 famed lakes stretching north to south, award-winning vineyards and farmland hugging the roads, and the many picturesque villages.

A trip over the Falls (image by Keith Walters)


In addition to natural beauty, this area’s history is also fascinating.

My first day of touring in Corning included three museums, each different and each interesting in its own right.

The Rockwell Museum, upstate New York’s only Smithsonian Affiliate, houses a world-class collection of Western and contemporary Native American Art, including the Museum’s first Iroquois gallery and other exhibits focusing on “Art About America.”

Rockwell Museum in Corning features Americana artwork including this Frederic Remington bronze sculpture (Photo by Marilyn Jones)

It all started when Bob and Hertha Rockwell, local business owners, amassed a notable selection of fine American art and artistic objects of material culture.

The diverse collection of American paintings, drawings, sculptures, photography, and artistic objects of material culture offers an impressive view of the American experience.

My next stop was Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes, a collection of historic buildings – including a one-room schoolhouse, a working blacksmith shop, a one-room log cabin, and Corning’s oldest building – the Patterson Inn and Tavern.

This day, I am joined by fourth graders learning about the history of their community and school life, staying at an 18th-century inn, cooking, and what it’s like to be a blacksmith.

The last stop is the world-famous Corning Museum of Glass. After pursuing the impressive Contemporary Art + Design Wing, I settled in for the popular Hot Glass Show, where artisans use molten glass to make art glass creations. I watched as the glass masters took molten glass and transformed it with precision and artistry into works of art.

Cameras are situated throughout the demonstration area, even in the 1148.9°C furnace, allowing guests to get a close-up view of glass blowing and its complexities.

The 35 Centuries of Glass Galleries show the world’s most comprehensive and celebrated glass collection. The galleries explore Near Eastern, Asian, European, and American glass and glassmaking from antiquity through the present day.

This experience and the many galleries offered me an enjoyable, educational, and cultural afternoon.

I also visited a bee apiary at HoneyBeeMade. Here, Burt Beebe (yes, it’s his real name), and his wife Anne offer The Beekeeping Experience. I put on the hat with its protective screen (I opted not to suit up completely) and followed Burt to the apiary.

The retired culinary arts school teacher carefully disassembled a hive, showing me the stages the bees go through to create honey. He even located the queen bee for me to see. The final highlight was when I could hold a portion of the hive assembled on a wooden frame.

A historic inn at Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes once welcomed travellers heading West (photo by Marilyn Jones


The city of Elmira will always be associated with Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). The Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies is responsible for saving the Octagonal Study, where Twain wrote at Quarry Farm. It is now located on the Elmira College campus. Twain wrote many of his most beloved works, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and nine other best sellers while spending summers at Quarry Farm with his family.

Twain is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in his family’s plot. The plot also includes the graves of his wife, Olivia, all four of his children, and his only grandchild. Signs guide visitors to the graves.

Just across the street from the cemetery is the John W. Jones Museum, located in the original home of Jones, who escaped slavery and settled in Elmira.

The museum commemorates his life and work as an Underground Railroad Station Master who safely assisted approximately 800 fugitives on their flight to Canada. He is also remembered for being responsible for the dignified burial of Confederate soldiers.

Jones became the sexton for Woodlawn Cemetery in 1859. One of his primary roles was to bury each deceased Confederate soldier from the Elmira Civil War Prison Camp. Of the 2,973 prisoners who Jones buried, only seven are listed as unknown. Jones kept such precise records that on December 7, 1877, the federal government declared the burial site a national cemetery.

To this day, his record keeping is used by family members researching their genealogy.

Mark Twain’s study (photo by Marilyn Jones)


The Finger Lakes region is known for award-winning wines. The natural setting and the growing experience of winemakers make for extremely high-quality red and white wines.

The region embraces its wine culture, allowing everyone to experience and learn about wine. Guests learn how to pair their favorite wines with dinner and learn about the winemaking and the production process during winery tours.

Three Finger Lakes wine trails — Keuka Lake Wine Trail, the Seneca Wine Wine Trail, and the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail — provide an easily navigable way to travel through the area while letting you taste what each has to offer.

A great way to complete your visit is at Watkins Glen State Park in Watkins Glen. A two-mile path follows the Glen’s stream and descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs. The gorge path winds over and under waterfalls and through the spray of Cavern Cascade. Rim trails overlook the gorge.

Watkins Glen State Park Autumn (photo FLRTC)

The Finger Lakes Region has natural beauty, award-winning wineries, and historic attractions.

Go, have fun, and enjoy the serenity of this friendly area of New York.

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