16 Best Things To Do In Watkins Glen, New York - Updated 2021

things to do in watkins glen new york

Situated in the brilliant Finger Lakes region, Watkins Glen is a quaint town in upstate New York. Nestled along the southern shores of lovely Seneca Lake, Watkins Glen is enveloped by generous amounts of natural beauty. This town is home to unbeatable tourist attractions like the famed Watkins Glen State Park. Aside from the destination’s natural attractions, visitors can also enjoy the only destination for NASCAR thrills in the state at Watkins Glen International. If your excitement for discovering this region is growing then you must scroll down to see a fantastic list of the best things to do in Watkins Glen, New York.

1. Check out lovable farm animals at Farm Sanctuary

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Established in 1986, Farm Sanctuary is the United States’ biggest farm-animal rescue and protection organization. Dedicated to fighting the mistreatment of animals, Farm Sanctuary encourages awareness and understanding about America’s farm animals and the role they play in our lives. Farm Sanctuary has rescued countless animals from abuse, such as sheep, turkeys, cows, and more. This wonderful place affords visitors the opportunity to get an intimate look at these creatures via a fun and informative tour.

Farm Sanctuary

Address: 3100 Aikens Rd, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Website: Farm Sanctuary

Opening hours: Wed - Sun: 10:30am - 5pm (closed on Mon & Tue)

Price: 5 - 10 USD

2. Admire the scenic Rainbow Falls

Located in the fabulous Watkins Glen State Park and along the cavernous Watkins Glen Gorge Trail, Rainbow Falls is a divine spot and, needless to say, affords the ideal postcard shot. This explains why Rainbow Falls is easy to find - simply look for the large group of shutterbugs gathered to snap Instagram-worthy photos of this enchanting waterfall that lives up to its pretty name. Walking beneath the waterfall is a truly exhilarating experience; like stepping into a dream world.

Rainbow Falls

Address: 1009 N Franklin St Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Website: Rainbow Falls

Opening hours: Sunrise - sunset

Price: 8 USD (per car)

3. Taste fabulous wine at Castel Grisch Winery

Drink in lovely pastoral views, not to mention gorgeous panoramic sights of Seneca Lake, while sipping some fine wine at the charming Castel Grisch Winery. Committed to producing the most consistent and top-quality wines, Castel Grisch Winery is the ultimate stop on any wine lover’s tasting list. Sample a wide variety of choices from dry Chardonnays and bubbly Rieslings to robust reds like Pinot Noir.

Castel Grisch Winery

Address: 3380 County Rd 28, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Website: Castel Grisch Winery

Opening hours: 10am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 4 USD

4. Camp at Watkins Glen State Park

You can’t go wrong pitching a tent and camping at beautiful Watkins Glen State Park. Boasting 305 campsites that provide nicely stocked restroom facilities and soothing hot showers, Watkins Glen State Park is without a doubt a popular site for campers. The scenery alone is enough to keep you returning again and again. You need to go no further than 2 miles (3.21 kilometers) past the entrance before you spy The park’s sparkling stream that descends 400 feet (121.9 meters) past dramatic 200-foot (60.9-meter) cliffs! 19 spellbinding waterfalls, including Rainbow Falls, can be found along the way.

Watkins Glen State Park

Address: 1009 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Website: Watkins Glen State Park

Opening hours: Sunrise - sunset

Price: 18 - 30 USD

5. Buy a snazzy souvenir at Franklin Street Art Gallery

A one-of-a-kind stop for memorable souvenirs is Franklin Street Art Gallery. Filled with beautiful works of art and expertly handcrafted gifts by local and regional artists, Franklin Street Art Gallery is the go-to place when you want to bring home a wonderful reminder of your Watkins Glen holiday. Franklin Street Art Gallery is also engaged with the community, offering fun art classes, interesting workshops, special exhibits, and so much more.

Franklin Street Art Gallery

Address: 209 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Opening hours: Tue - Sat: 11am - 5pm (closed on Sun & Mon)

6. Explore the sensational Seneca Lake Wine Trail

A picture-perfect and heavenly inspired setting for avid wine fans, Seneca Lake Wine Trail is surrounded by a lush green landscape, a tranquil body of water, and, of course, 34 splendid vineyards that produce world-renown wines. Wineries along this stretch of parcel participate in festive tasting events year-round along with tantalizing food and wine pairing activities that afford more than one million visitors yearly to sample the results of the impeccable grapes grown.

Seneca Lake Wine Trail

Address: 2 N Franklin St #320, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Website: Seneca Lake Wine Trail

Opening hours: 10am - 5pm (daily)

7. Watch a thrilling car race at Watkins Glen International

Source: Photo by Flickr user excellence III used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Watkins Glen International, or The Glen as it’s known to locals, is a stellar automobile race track offering lots of excitement for those who like their entertainment fast and furious. The setting, at the southern tip of beautiful Seneca Lake, could not be more inviting. Watkins Glen International features a 3.4-mile (5.47-kilometer) professional racecourse and it is the locale for many top-ranking NASCAR events. If you want an intimate experience, Watkins Glen International provides adrenaline-fueled 3-lap tours to racing fans.

Watkins Glen International

Address: 2790 County Route 16, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Website: Watkins Glen International

8. Try homemade ice cream at The Great Escape Ice Cream Parlor

Exuding a carefree atmosphere in a modest setting, The Great Escape Ice Cream Parlor is the destination to put a smile on your face. Boasting more than 28 flavors, The Great Escape Ice Cream Parlor has sweet treats to cater to anyone’s tastes. Relish traditional favorites like chocolate and vanilla or opt for specialty flavors such as Holy Cannoli or Turtle Sundae. An array of tasty vegan choices made with either soy, almond, or coconut milk are also available.

The Great Escape Ice Cream Parlor

Address: 221 S Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Website: The Great Escape Ice Cream Parlor

Opening hours: 11am - 10pm (daily)

9. Taste heavenly coffee at Glen Mountain Market Bakery & Deli

For those who must have a hot cup of java first thing in the morning, the only place to head is Glen Mountain Market Bakery & Deli. A sunny and casual cafe, Glen Mountain Market Bakery & Deli offers an ample selection of locally roasted, traditional and specialty coffees that are free of pesky pesticides. Hardcore caffeine fiends can get a morning jolt from robust hand-pulled espresso shots. If you desire more than coffee, check out the menu options from French-style pastries to deli sandwiches on freshly baked bread.

Glen Mountain Market Bakery & Deli

Address: 200 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Website: Glen Mountain Market Bakery & Deli

Opening hours: 7am - 2pm (daily)

Price: 10 USD

10. Go sightseeing aboard Captain Bill's Seneca Lake Cruises

Posted by Captain Bills / Seneca Harbor Station on Thursday, 26 January 2012

With such a picture-perfect setting as Watkins Glen, it’s shameful not to take an excursion aboard Captain Bill’s Seneca Lake Cruises. This marvelous 10-mile (16-kilometer) scenic cruise is the perfect option for exploring the area’s shimmering lake and lovely landscape. Captain Bill’s Seneca Lake Cruises sails hourly and reservations are recommended. Participants have a choice of a delightful lunch, a romantic evening dinner, or a fun combination cocktail/dinner cruise.

Captain Bill's Seneca Lake Cruises

Address: 1 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Website: Captain Bill’s Seneca Lake Cruises

Opening hours: 9:30am - 9pm (daily)

Price: 46 - 71 USD

11. Hike through glorious Watkins Glen Gorge Trail

things to do in watkins glen new york | hike through glorious watkins glen gorge trail

Watkins Glen Gorge Trail is a very popular 1.5-mile (2.41-kilometer) trail through a spectacular 400-foot (121.9-meter) deep gorge and it should not be missed. This trail begins at the entrance of Watkins Glen State Park. As you hike along the trail, you’ll witness amazing sights on this upward climb: sparkling waterfalls that cascade over dramatic cliffs and intriguing caves. The serenity of the amazing surroundings is palpable. Experience Mother Nature at her best when you explore the indescribable beauty that comprises Watkins Glen Gorge Trail.

Watkins Glen Gorge Trail

Address: 971 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Website: Watkins Glen Gorge Trail

Opening hours: Sunrise - sunset

Price: 8 USD (per car)

12. Gorge on comfort food at Seneca Lodge Restaurant

We are doing it again. Fish Fry this Friday, May 3rd!! $17.95 Price includes our salad bar, cole slaw and a side Dinner is served 5:00pm - 9:00pm. See you Friday!

Posted by Seneca Lodge on Thursday, 18 April 2019

Perched on a hilltop above Seneca Lake and only moments from Watkins Glen State Park, Seneca Lodge Restaurant provides a rustic dining ambiance with breathtaking views of the water. Seneca Lodge Restaurant offers a hearty breakfast and dinner selection and genuine comfort food is served from both menus. For those with a substantial appetite at breakfast go for the old-fashioned farmer’s breakfast with eggs, a choice of meat, and warm homemade griddle cakes. Dinnertime offers everything from tasty Southern fried chicken to juicy pork chops.

Seneca Lodge Restaurant

Address: 3600 Walnut Rd, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Website: Seneca Lodge Restaurant

Opening hours: 6am - 11am, 5pm - 9pm (daily)

Price: 11 - 30 USD

13. Sway to live music at Rooster Fish Brewing Pub

This wasn't here yesterday!!

Posted by Rooster Fish Pub on Friday, 11 September 2015

Rooster Fish Brewing Pub offers dynamic live music in an easygoing and welcoming environment. This pub’s live music is provided by local bands and individual artists as well as nationally known musicians. Rooster Fish Brewing Pub’s live music is a seasonal event occurring from January to September and offers spirited musical performances beginning at 8 pm and ending the evening around 11 pm.

Rooster Fish Brewing Pub

Address: 223 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Website: Rooster Fish Brewing Pub

Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 11:30am - 9pm; Fri - Sat: 11:30am - 10pm

14. Take your kids to the playground at Lakeside Park

Overlooking Seneca Lake, Lakeside Park, also known as Clute Memorial Park, is a 35-acre (14.1-hectare) grassy park filled with tall leafy trees and delightful breezes coming off the water. This space offers splendid lakeside picnic areas, expert tennis courts as well as an inviting sandy beach staffed by accomplished lifeguards during summertime. The playground is a prime spot for little ones to burn off any excess energy with standard playground equipment like slides, swings, and other fun diversions. It’s the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon.

Lakeside Park

Address: 517 E 4th St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Website: Lakeside Park

Opening hours: Sunrise - sunset

Price: Free

15. Try out some craft beer at Rooster Fish Brewing Tasting Room & Beer Garden

things to do in watkins glen new york | try out some craft beer at rooster fish brewing tasting room & beer garden
Source: debinithaca on Instagram

When you’re ready to unwind at the end of a hectic day, Rooster Fish Brewing Tasting Room & Beer Garden is a great choice. A local brewhouse serving homemade craft beer, Rooster Fish Brewing Tasting Room & Beer Garden is a cut above on the Watkins Glen beer landscape. Sample homebrew like The Black IPA for a nice balance of toasty and bitter or the Hop Warrior Imperial IPA boasting a full-bodied flavor with loads of maltiness. On the lighter side, there’s a refreshing Blonde Ale with hints of fruitiness.

Rooster Fish Brewing Tasting Room & Beer Garden

Address: 223 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Website: Rooster Fish Brewing Tasting Room & Beer Garden

Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 11:30am - 9pm; Fri - Sat: 11:30am - 10pm

Price: 11 - 30 USD

16. Enjoy kayaking with Summit to Stream Adventures

things to do in watkins glen new york | enjoy kayaking with summit to stream adventures
Source: amadisonmom on Instagram

Jump in a kayak and see Watkins Glen from a different perspective at Summit to Stream Adventures. Enjoy a superb kayaking experience that affords you the opportunity to get lost in the beauty of tranquil Seneca Lake. Whether you choose the go-it-alone solo route or opt for an informative and lively guided tour, Summit to Stream Adventures’ kayaking escapade is unforgettable. They also provide fun stand-up paddleboards.

Summit to Stream Adventures

Address: Seneca Harbor Park, corner of 1st Street and Decatur

Website: Summit to Stream Adventures

Opening hours: 10am - 4pm (daily)

Price: 20 - 35 USD

17. Enjoy Italian sweets at Scuteri's Cannoli Connection

A family-owned old-world bakery, Scuteri’s Cannoli Connection is a delightful spot to go when you’re craving a sweet treat. Indulge in the bakery’s authentic and legendary fresh-made cannolis comprised of flaky pastry dough and sinfully good sweet ricotta filling. For an extra-special delight, try the chocolate-dipped cannoli. If you’re not a fan of cannolis, there are other scrumptious Italian pastries, cakes, and cookies to easily satisfy your sweet tooth.

Scuteri's Cannoli Connection

Address: 409 E 4th St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Website: Scuteri’s Cannoli Connection

Opening hours: Tue - Sat: 10am - 8pm (closed on Sun & Mon)

Price: 10 USD

Discover wonderful Watkins Glen

Seneca Lake from Watkins Glen July 2017
Source: Photo by user Dough4872 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Don’t let the chance to discover Watkins Glen’s loveliness pass you by. Whether keen on exploring Seneca Lake aboard a guided-boat cruise or a single kayak or sampling the regional cuisine or being dazzled by Mother Nature’s beauty at Watkins Glen State Park, the town of Watkins Glen will not disappoint even the most jaded traveler.

Where to stay in Watkins Glen, New York

Whether you want to spend quality time with your family, go on a romantic date with your beloved, or simply have some relaxing me-time for yourself, Watkins Glen, New York is the place to be. Aside from auto racing, we’re sure you’ll also enjoy superb wines and beers and good local food. Because of the beauty of Watkins Glen’s streams, lakes, and waterfalls, you will find many accommodations that take advantage of these views and incorporate them into the units they rent out. There are waterfront hotels with matching theme rooms, furnished cottages near water attractions, and apartments that wakes you up to stunning views of the lake.

Here are our top recommendations on where to stay:

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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As a child, Catherine's family took a trip to the World's Fair New Orleans and her mom asked what she wanted to see. She exclaimed, "Everything!" She's been working on that endeavor ever since.

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