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Finger Lakes Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How many Finger Lakes are there?
A: Eleven. From west to east, they are: Conesus, Hemlock, Canadice, Honeoye, Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco, Skaneateles, and Otisco.
Our corner of the Finger Lakes, Ontario County, has five of those lakes within its borders: Canandaigua, Seneca, Honeoye, Canadice, and Hemlock. That's more than any other county in the Finger Lakes region.
Q: How big is the Finger Lakes region?
A: The Finger Lakes region is about 9,000 square miles, spread out over 14 counties. Ontario County is in the north central part of the region.
Q: How many people live there?
A: As of the 2010 Census, Ontario County had nearly 110,000 residents. The three largest communities in the county are Canandaigua (the county seat with a combined town and city population of about 20,000), Geneva (combined town and city population of 16,000), and Victor (about 14,000).
Q: What is the weather like in the Finger Lakes?
A: We are definitely a four-season climate.
Winters can be cold (teens or single digits), snowy and long, but very beautiful, with cardinals sitting on snow-dusted branches, farm fields under a blanket of white, and our hills and mountains beckon. The ideal day reaches a high of about 30 degrees, with a solid blanket of snow and blue skies or mild overcast. While we sometimes get heavy snowstorms, our crews do a great job of clearing roads and streets to make your trip as safe as possible.
Spring kicks in full-force by late April or early May. Daytime temperatures can be anywhere from mid-40s to high 60s, but nights are still cool, dipping down to the 30s or 40s. Sometimes we have rain, sometimes sun. Trees green up by the first week of May.
We consider the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day to be our official summer season. Rare is the day when you will need more than shorts and T-shirt during the day, though it's a good idea to have a light jacket for nighttime wear at the end of the season. July and August can occasionally get hot (in the high 80s or low 90s) and humid, but more often you'll see daytime temperatures peak around 80 and nighttime lows in the 60s. Rain and thunderstorms can happen, so it's always a good idea to pack a light raincoat and umbrella.
Fall is all about the color change. Early and mid-September can still summer-like, though you will definitely see the days getting shorter.
Time for peak foliage is the second or third week of October, when the days are crisp yet enjoyable and nights are starting to get chilly.
Q: How long does it take to drive to the Finger Lakes?
A: It depends on where you are coming from and where in the Finger Lakes you want to go. (Remember, the region is about 9,000 square miles.) For our neck of the woods, Ontario County, here are some approximate drive times.
Boston, MA or Detroit, MI.: 7 hours
New York City, Philadelphia, PA or Washington, D.C.: 6 hours
Montreal, Hartford, CT or Newark, NJ.: 5 hours
Harrisburg, PA, or Cleveland, OH: 4 hours
Toronto, ON or Albany, NY: 3.5 hours
Hamilton, ON or Cooperstown, NY: 3 hours
Buffalo, NY or Niagara Falls, NY: 1.5 hours
Corning, NY or Syracuse, NY: 1.25 hours
Q: How many wineries are there in the Finger Lakes and what is the best way to visit them?
A: At our most recent count, there were about 130 wineries, and more coming on board all the time.
Canandaigua, Seneca, Keuka, and Cayuga all have wine trails, with maps that make it easy to loop around a particular Finger Lake, experience some great scenery and stop at some great small towns with delicious dining and sight-seeing options. You can certainly drive around each of the lakes in a day.
Having a designated driver is the safest way to be able to taste so many wonderful wines. If nobody in your party wants to make that sacrifice, consider making reservations with a wine tour or limo, which lets someone else do the driving.
Q: I prefer beer. Will I be bored in the Finger Lakes?
A: Absolutely not. Craft and farm breweries are exploding in our region, as are hard cideries and distilleries. Each has a different personality, flavor profile, ambiance, and history. In fact, the line is blurring, as some establishments make a combination of wines, beers, ciders and or spirits.
As you travel from brewery to brewery, you will find that hops growing has a long history here in upstate New York. As you seek out cideries, you will also find out how abundant our orchards are in New York (we are one of the top apple growers in the country.)
Restaurants are teaming up with these producers to host beer pairings, cocktail dinners, cider pairings, and other exciting ways to enjoy adult beverages.
For more help in planning your beer, cider or spirits tour, go to www.fingerlakesbeertrail.com,
Q: I don't drink alcohol at all. Will I go thirsty in the Finger Lakes?
A: Not at all. We have some great water here (Canandaigua's water supply always gets high marks for taste and purity). There are also some great coffee houses, tea shops, cafes, and other outlets with delicious and interesting beverages. Be sure to try cold-pressed juices at Red Jacket Orchards, for example, or fresh apple cider at The Apple Farm in Victor.