Best Winter Weekend Getaway at Finger Lakes National Forest

By Kiera Hufford

Best Winter Weekend Getaway at Finger Lakes National Forest

Sometimes we just need to get away from it all—whether with friends, family, a significant other, or just by ourselves. Winter can be one of the best seasons for a weekend vacation. You get to explore the outdoors in all of its snow-covered glory, sit in front of fireplaces at a B&B, and ski down mountains with ease. In New York, one of the best regions for a time like this is around the Finger Lakes National Forest. Plan a trip and be sure to check out these destinations. 

Skiing at Greek Peak Mountain Resort

Greek Peak has plenty of different trails ranging from easy to medium to difficult. Easy slopes include West Brook, East Brook, Big Flat, and Hillcrest, which are perfect for beginners or someone who wants a relaxing ski trip! If you feel a bit more adventurous, try your hand at the Lost Trail, Treeline, and Lucky Beech slopes. Greek Peak even offers lessons and equipment rentals, if you don’t feel like travelling with your skis!

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The Polar Passport on the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, Watkins Glen, NY

The Seneca Lake Wine Trail’s Polar Passport is available (and valid) from the beginning of December through the end of March. At $30 a pop, you’ll be able to use it to visit 16 wineries. They can be purchased and mailed to you three weeks in advance; however, if you’re planning a last-minute trip, you can pick them up at any participating winery! The passports get you a complimentary flight of wine at each location, where they’ll stamp the appropriate spot and leave you free to move on to the next one!

Eat at Smok’n Bones BBQ & Brews

Smok’n Bones BBQ & Brews will perfectly round out your day with their selections of starters, entrees, desserts, and drinks. Their Frickles (hand-breaded fried pickle spears) are served with a ranch and petal sauce and make a fabulous starter to one of their special barbecue dishes like beef brisket, marinated half chicken, or a pulled pork grilled ultra-thin crust pizza. They’ve even got a kid’s menu (complete with an all-beef pretzel-wrapped hot dog with fries), making it the perfect spot no matter who you’re with.

Hunting at Sampson State Park

Sampson Park requires a special hunting permit for their park, and hunters must wear a blaze orange hat or vest while moving. They have a couple different seasons between November and December: The five-day shotgun season and the late bow and muzzleloader season. There are currently no antler restrictions at the park, and all harvested deer need to be recorded at the office.

Stay at the Burdett House Bed & Breakfast

The Burdett House is a quaint, quiet place that’s perfect for anyone planning a trip on their own! It’s a beautiful getaway location that allows you to gather your thoughts in one of their uniquely decorated rooms. Best of all, you’ll be going during the low season, meaning rates are cheaper than they would be in late spring to early fall. Burdett has a one-night minimum stay during the week and a two-night minimum on weekends.

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Go ice fishing on Seneca Lake

Seneca Lake spans across several townships near the Finger Lakes National Forest, so there’s fishing access no matter where you’re staying along the lake! Potential catches include the lake trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, pickerel, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, sunfish, and yellow perch. Be sure to have proper permits as well as be fully aware of fishing rules and regulations

Go sledding and skating on Rice Hill

Rice Hill is the favorite spot among locals to go sledding on their epic hill, as well at ice skating on one of its two ponds. There is so much to be done here, with multi-use trails that offer great snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, or hiking conditions. If you’re worried about braving the cold, fear not as there is a warming hut containing a wooden stove. Pack a thermos full of hot cocoa, grab your winter activity gear and head to the hill! Check the website for directions and a map.

Visit the Taproom at Ithaca Beer Co.

Ithaca Beer Co.’s taproom has a complete food menu in addition to their tap list! Their Brew York is pale ale made from 100 percent New York state hops and 66 percent New York state malts. Or, if you’re into IPAs, they have a New York Double IPA that celebrates the beer agriculture of the state with pine, resin, and citrus notes. Be sure to try their Cheddar Ale Soup (at $4 a cup!), made with their Brew York Pale Ale and New York cheddar cheese.

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Go camping at the Backbone Horse Campground

The Backbone Horse Campground has 11 sites available on a first-come, first-served basis—so make sure to get there bright and early! Each site is large enough to accommodate a trailer and has three vault toilets, picnic tables, trash cans, and fire rings. There are even grills at some of them if you’re up for a winter cookout!

Visit the SkyLand Art Barn

The SkyLand Art Barn in Burdett is the perfect place to pick up a local souvenir for your trip. Vote one of thirty-two must-see sites in the state by National Geographic Traveler, they reside on the southeast side of Seneca Lake in a refurbished 1790s barn. December 23 is the last day of their season, so stop in before they close! 

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