Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Winter in The Finger Lakes

There is no sight quite like a blanket of shimmering snow covering the hills that surround the Finger Lakes.  Our winter is arguably one of the most breathtaking seasons of the year. If you are looking for some of the many ways to have fun in the Finger Lakes this winter, we have a list of the top 10 best activities to make sure you enjoy the season – outside or in!

Looking for more? Download or request a print copy of our Winter 50 Must Do's. In this guide, you will find 40 more enjoyable ways to have fun this season as well as reading about annual events like the Finger Lakes Winter Carnival.

A group skiing at Bristol Mountain

The thrill of downhill awaits you at Bristol Mountain, the only ski and snowboarding resort in the Finger Lakes with a 1,200-foot vertical rise. Bristol welcomes all enthusiasts, from beginners to veteran rippers and shredders, with nearly three dozen trails (many of them illuminated at night) a zipline canopy tour, state-of-the-art snowmaking, and a mid-slope café for waffles.  

The audience watches a band perform at the Smith Opera House in Geneva, NY

It could be opera, but it sure does not have to be. At the end of a winter-wonderful day, catch an art house movie, a nationally renowned rock band, a dance performance, or a symphony orchestra at The Smith, as it is known by the locals.

#3. Take a leisurely approach to wine, beer, and cider

A beer and bratwurst from Brews & Brats in Naples, NY

Winter brings on a slower, more relaxed pace at area wineries, distilleries, cideries and craft breweries where you can get up close and personal with the makers of these fabulous brews.  

#4. Appreciate art and culture at the Seneca Art & Culture Center

Bark Longhouse at Seneca Art & Culture Center Model

We admit, there are days when even the heartiest of Finger Lakes winter lovers would prefer to be inside. Located on the land where a Seneca village once thrived, the Seneca Art & Culture Center at Ganondagan State Historic Site immerses you into the world of Native American art and culture, old and new. The story of the Seneca and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) people are shared through animated film, an exhibit gallery and special events, performances, and classes.  

#5. Warm up to the fire at Belhurst Castle, Geneva

Guests enjoy après ski around a fire pit at the Belhurst Castle in Geneva, NY

A chilly night plus warm fire could be the perfect Belhurst Castle pairing, made even more magical with a glass of Finger Lakes wine or beer. The outdoor fire pit at this historic castle overlooks sparkling Seneca Lake, and is a romantic spot to "chill" before dinner. When the outside air grows too nippy, you can warm up by the fireplace inside Stonecutter's Restaurant, Belhurst's casual, yet elegant lounge and restaurant, where the lake view is still stunning. 

#6. Crack an egg at New York Kitchen

Hands-on class at the New York Kitchen

Winter is just as fun inside the kitchen as it is outside in the snow. Take a hands-on cooking or baking class and learn how to create winter comfort foods at the New York Kitchen. Many classes include a full meal and wine to make the experience even more memorable. This is a fun group activity! 

#7. Ski Nordic at Cumming Nature Center

Traditional snowshoes stacked outside in the snow in the Finger Lakes

Nestled high up in the Bristol hills north of Naples where the snow is plentiful and civilization feels very remote, the Cumming Nature Center boasts 15 miles of gorgeous forested trails just for cross-country skiers and snow shoe. (Snowshoers have their own 3 miles of trails.) Pack a thermos of hot cocoa and a hearty lunch for a cozy picnic inside the Center's lodge. Equipment rentals are available. 

#8. Walk on snow at Ganondagan State Historic Site

A snowshoer smiles on a trail at Ganondagan State Historic Site

There are 500 acres of Seneca and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) reverence for nature at Ganondagan. Strap on the ga-weh-ga-a, or snowshoes, and hike its trails. Look for animal tracks that may tell if you fox, deer, or birds are nearby. If your timing is right, take part in the Native American Winter Games & Sports, an annual February event featuring dog sledding, storytelling, and winter craft demonstrations. 

#9. Ice skating

Skating at the Geneva Recreation Center ice rink

Indoor skating lets you get that winter feel without having to brave the elements and, the ice is always smooth! Ontario County boasts two fine rinks: the Geneva Recreation Complex (where you can also catch Hobart and William Smith Colleges' home hockey games) and the Greater Canandaigua Civic Center. Skate rentals are available at both places. 

#10. Drop a line and ice fish in the Finger Lakes

Ice Fishing on Canandaigua Lake

Ice fishing is big in the Finger Lakes, especially on CanandaiguaCanadice, and Honeoye lakes. Bring your shanty and your gear and try your luck at catching lake, brown or rainbow trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, and perch.