Making glass at Corning Museum of Glass

Last year, I attended the NYSTIA Membership event, visiting the Finger Lakes region for the first time. I came away from the experience excited to have learned more about my state, yet saddened and a bit angered that more New Yorkers don’t take the time to do it. 

Part of the goal of both Travel Unity and the New York Travel Festival (both of which I help run) is to show people that there are wonderful things to do in the great wide world, but sometimes, you don’t need to stray too far from home to have a ‘real’ travel experience.

In the Finger Lakes, I was able to reconnect with the hostel vibe that I hadn’t plugged into for many years, visit a world-class museum, and wander a natural site that would be the centerpiece of other destinations.

The Local

It would be hard to use the hackneyed phrase “hidden gem” for The Local, a hostel in Watkins Glen, since it is openly in the heart of the Village of Watkins Glen. Yet, despite its central location, I would love if more folks knew about it. When I told people where I had stayed last year (and where I’m staying again this year, as I attend TBEX), the response was usually a quizzical, “there’s a hostel in the Finger Lakes?”

Run by locals Ian Montgomery and Emily Marcellus, I was immediately drawn to the hostel as their President of Communications (their dog, Beatrice) shares a name with my elder daughter. Once I arrived, I was reminded of the better hostels I had stayed at back in my constant travels.

As seasoned travelers themselves, Ian and Emily have created the hostel experience in the Finger Lakes, with a communal lobby, plentiful bathrooms, varied room arrangements for different needs, and other amenities that make beds starting at $25/night quite the steal.

Note: I was comped for the first time I stayed and am gladly paying this time around. An envelope with my key in it waiting for me at the front desk with the note “Roni, Welcome Back” still brings a smile to my face.

Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG)

Without an understanding of what you’re in for, it would be reasonable to yawn at the phrase “museum of glass”, picturing pointy shards, an array of vases, and other scrapped-together pieces of different colors. How wrong you would be (and how wrong I was). For one, I was floored by how glass is a by no means a limiting medium – many pieces, without being explicitly told (and told multiple times, when I was incredulous), I would have had no idea that they were made of glass.

CMOG also provides experiences in making your own glass art (at an additional cost). While you might worry about the safety of the burning hot temperatures that you will be next to, the CMOG staff are extremely professional and attentive – there are experiences that are appropriate to all ages. After you have finished your piece, which takes 20-40 minutes, you can pick it up the next day or arrange to have it shipped.

If you aren’t content with only making your own art, CMOG also has a wonderful gift shop that allows you the opportunity to purchase pieces from local artists as well as those from around the world which, quite frankly, is basically its own museum.

Note: Also comped for CMOG experiences.

Watkins Glen State Park

19 waterfalls. Gorge hikes. If it was anywhere else in the world, Watkins Glen State Park would have been packed with American tourists with their selfie sticks… Yet another reminder that you don’t always need to use a passport to find exquisite places.

Riding in a pace car at Watkins Glen International

Other Finger Lakes activities

Of course, plentiful wineries and breweries, Watkins Glen International, the lakes themselves, and myriad other experiences are in the area.

For more information on activities in the Finger Lakes, visit