I came to Hammondsport, NY for a weekend but ended up staying a week. The charming town in the southern Finger Lakes of Upstate New York immediately carved a niche in my heart. I went on my first flight in a seaplane, devoured delicious food, sampled amazing craft spirits, and spent a couple of nights at a cozy bed and breakfast. Here’s why you need to spend a weekend in Hammondsport, New York yourself.
My introduction to Keuka Lake (pronounced cue-kah) began at a boat dock where a small Cessna 180 was bobbing in the water. Career pilot Bob Knill with Finger Lakes Seaplanes greets fellow travel blogger Heidi Seifkas and I at the boat dock and ushered us into the tiny cockpit.
Several minutes later we were skipping across the surface of the lake and suddenly we were airborne and my first flight in a seaplane began. The view of the lake from 2,000’ was pretty amazing. The rolling hills of the Finger Lakes slowly moved beneath us as Bob gave a 45-minute tour of the Y-shaped lake.
A few days later I was introduced to Keuka Lake from a completely different perspective: a pontoon boat. Captain Mary Jo with OnKeuka Tours moored her boat to a small dock in Depot Park and warmly greeted fellow travel blogger Toccara Best, a group of local ladies, and myself aboard. It was a warm September day, the sun was out and so was the bimini top, and moments later we were cutting across the surface of the lake.
Mary Jo effortlessly navigated the boat while also regaling us with local stories and history about the lake. Did you know Keuka Lake is the only Finger Lake whose water reverses direction in the middle? It was just one of the interesting stories I learned during the two hour tour.
We spent much of the time navigating across about half of the lake. But we were also given twenty minutes to take a swim beneath The Bluff and a short pit stop at a lakeside convenience store for snacks and drinks. As we headed back toward the dock with freshwater spray hitting my face and beautiful vistas in all directions I knew this was a tour I could enjoy more than once.
Restaurants in Hammondsport, NY
I ended up at the Village Tavern twice with different travel blogger friends during my time in Hammondsport. The first time I delved into two fish tacos loaded with toppings and served with house made coleslaw. The second time I tried their stuffed French toast brunch menu item. Each time I walked out completely satisfied for hours to come.
Burgers & Beer has a few locations in the Southern Finger Lakes around Corning and one of them is on the town square in Hammondsport. It was very much the definition of a hole in the wall: visitors order their meal from a giant menu hanging above a bar and a few minutes later pick up their meal served on aluminum trays. The burger I ordered, topped with onion rings and gooey cheese, was absolutely amazing.
My evening at the Park Inn turned out to be one of my favorites in Hammondsport. The locally owned restaurant spares no expense on portions or quality of food. I ordered an appetizer of chicken wings that were savory to the very last piece of meat I could pick off the bone. The fried chicken sandwich I ordered later was so tall I had to smush it down just to fit in my mouth (and y’all know how big my mouth is).
One of my last stops in Hammondsport was the Crooked Lake Ice Cream Company. Owned by the same local company as the Park Inn, the ice cream parlor had recently undergone a massive renovation. It’s popular with the locals who come for the fantastic menu and locally made ice cream. I ended up with yet another amazing burger (seriously this was a burger town) and a delicious milkshake.
Wineries, Breweries, and a Distillery in Hammondsport, NY
Did you know the oldest winery in the Finger Lakes was established in Hammondsport in 1860? That’s old. The Pleasant Valley Wine Company produced award-winning wines for over a hundred years before it began an interesting journey of being purchased by Coca-Cola, used as an aviation facility, and finally returning to its root as a winery.
Pleasant Valley may have the claim to oldest winery, but it was the Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery that innovated the grape growing process in the Finger Lakes. Founded in 1962 as Vinifera Wine Cellars it was grown in leaps and bounds under the guidance of Dr. Frank’s son and grandson, who still runs the day to day business. The 1886 Room offers wine sampling and cheese trays with a rooftop view of Keuka Lake.
Although the Finger Lakes are known for their wines it’s not the only place to get a craft drink in the area. The Brewery of Broken Dreams, located inside a beautiful old production facility, is a great place for craft beer on the weekends. The dark wood tasting room is the kind of places where you can hang with the locals and hear great stories about the town while enjoying good beer.
On a hill high above Keuka Lake is another locally owned brewery: Steuben Brewing. Owned by Chad Zimar the brewery is operated on a day to day basis by his retired parents. With 30 years of winery experience his father, Jim, could not be more proud of what his son has accomplished. The brewery has a commanding view of the lake and small flights of fantastic craft beer to enjoy.
Not to be left out is my experience at Krooked Tusker Distillery. Located inside a prefabricated airplane hangar owner Carlton Reeves loves to tell people his story and share with them his amazing whiskey and gin. The first day I visited (and I visited a few times) there was live music playing on the covered deck, people dancing the day away, and some pretty amazing snacks inside to go with the samples and cocktails.
The History of Glenn Curtiss in Hammondsport, NY
To understand the profound history of Hammondsport there is once place you need to visit: the Glenn Curtiss Aviation Museum. I had already heard some of the aviation history of the area but it didn’t really sink in until I toured the museum one day. Did you know the seaplane was invented in Hammondsport?
Glen Curtiss was a daredevil inventor with a need for speed. He began his career building bicycles before shifting to motorcycles. At the same time he began testing these devices to see just how fast he could go. In 1907 he set the land speed record of 136 miles per hour on the Curtiss V-8 motorcycle!
In 1911 he pioneered a method for taking off in an airplane sitting on the water, officially inventing the “seaplane” and becoming known as the “Father of Naval Aviation”. The tour through the museum took me step-by-step through his career while also showing off dozens of his inventions.
Bed & Breakfasts in Hammondsport, NY
When people spend some time in Hammondsport it’s usually at a cozy bed and breakfast. They are plentiful in the small town and fortunately I was able to spend a couple of nights at one of the best.
The Blushing Rose Bed and Breakfast is owned by Massachusetts transplants Tami and Scott Reinhart. After vacationing in Hammondsport in 1986 the couple knew they would one day buy a house here and run a B&B. Today the two-story, four bedroom house near the middle of town is the perfect place to call a home away from home in Hammondsport.
The common area includes a spacious living room, gorgeous dining room with ornate furniture, and a covered front porch with wicker furniture where I spent many hours watching the calm street out front. Upstairs three of the bedrooms have private bathrooms; I went with the Grapevine Room with a comfortable queen bed, two armchairs, and the bathroom across the hall. Those two nights in that room were some of the best sleep I’d had all year.
Each morning started with breakfast in the dining room promptly at 8am. I think in a previous life Tami was a world-renowned chef but fortunately in this life she’s the owner of this B&B so I could have her food all to myself. My favorite breakfast of hers was a French toast on the first morning and it’s a meal I haven’t stopped thinking about months later.
Returning to Hammondsport
When I first looked at Hammondsport on a map it looked like a speck of a town on the edge of a lake in the middle of nowhere. After spending a week there Hammondsport turned out to be a speck of a town on the edge of a lake in the middle of nowhere that was my favorite travel destination all year.
The charming town, friendly locals, lake life at its best, and delicious food have made this a town I will visit as frequently as possible. It’s become one of those “Return Destinations” that I will try to fit into my travel plans wherever they take me.
If you haven’t been, look it up. If you have been, tell me about it. If you want to go, ask me some questions. But one thing is certain: you need to spend a weekend in Hammondsport, NY.