Watkins Glen Travel Guide

Watkins Glen, New York, is a small town of around 2,000 but a major tourist destination. It is located at the southern end of Seneca lake in Schuyler County and in the famous Finger Lakes Region. Watkins Glen is especially famous for being the home of the Watkins Glen International racetrack and the site of the annual Finger Lakes Wine Festival.


Until the end of the American Revolution, the Iroquois Confederacy held strong sway in the area of Watkins Glen and throughout the Finger Lakes. In the early 1800’s, however, settlers began pouring in. The Chemung Canal was built from the south end of Seneca Lake to the Chemung River in 1833, which helped the area grow. In 1842, “Salubria” was incorporated. The town later changed its name to “Jefferson,” to “Watkins,” and finally, to Watkins Glen. In the early 1900’s, the area was a popular spa resort due to the presence of Glen Springs Sanitarium. Today, it is a multi-faceted tourist town.

Things to see and do in Watkins Glen

Watkins Glen, New York

Beautiful waterfalls at Watkins Glen.

Visit Watkins Glen State Park, just south of Lake Seneca. The Gorge Trail will take you past 19 waterfalls in only two miles, and you can also climb the 800 stone steps. Camping and picnicking are also permitted, and the park offers guided tours of the natural scenery.

In July, attend the three-day Finger Lakes Wine Festival. Over 80 wineries participate to make this quite arguably the premier wine festival in the state of New York. And besides wine-tasting, there are cooking classes to attend and live music to enjoy.

Go on a boat tour of Seneca Lake. You will see the clear, blue waters and the vineyards
growing on cliffs overlooking the lake. You can also fish the lake for its trout, bass, perch, salmon, pike, and other species.

Take the kids for a day of fun at the Farm Sanctuary. There is an obstacle course for the goat herd, and you will see hundreds of animals, including sheep, pigs, cows, and turkeys.

Stop by the harbor to see where the True Love is docked. This is a more than 80-year-old schooner that has a history of stardom. It was filmed in such old movies as The Philadelphia Story and High Society.

Tour the famous Watkins Glen International Speedway, and when you are done, stop by the International Motor Racing Research Center to read up on your racing history.

Climate conditions

While summers and hot and winters very cold, as throughout most of New York State, the area right on Lake Seneca has somewhat warmer winters due to the slow release of heat absorbed during summer from the very deep Lake Seneca. This is one of the main factors that make the area perfect for growing vineyards.