Something Old, Something New: Recent Adventures in Watkins Glen, NY

Do you really want to look back on your life and see how wonderful it could have been had you not been afraid to live it?

Caroline Myss

This was our 5th trip to Watkins Glen and we are still in love with the area. Each time we go we always visit our favorite wineries, breweries, and lunch spots, but we always make a point to try something new. Whether that’s a new hiking trail, new winery/brewery, or a restaurant we haven’t tried, we love blending things we love with something new.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know I have quite a few posts you can see here and here. This post is more about reaffirming our favorites, a reevaluation of one place that used to be a favorite, and why we just can’t seem to stay away for too long! This trip also helped us pick the absolute best time of year to visit and I’ll share that too!

Our Tried and True Favorites: Revisited

Grist Iron Brewing

Let’s get the disappointing stuff out of the way. Grist Iron Brewery has been one of our favorite places to visit ever since our first trip to the Finger Lakes. It’s dog friendly, has great live music, and Will loves the beer. All of that is still 100% amazing. Plus the views are one of the best in the area. However, their food really disappointed me this time. It used to be one of my favorite dinner spots, especially since they are one of the few places open after 5pm.

Their menu changed and the sandwiches I always looked forward to were honestly sad and I was beyond disappointed. Their pizza was good and our friends were happy with what they got. Was it the amazing food experience of previous trips? No. Did we still have a good time? Oh yeah. I’d recommend going for the music, hang out spots, and music. Make other plans for dinner.

J.R Dill

Home of the Jabber Waulkie wine, aka one of the two wines on Earth that I like, J.R. Dill never disappoints. We have gone every single trip and will continue to do so. Our first and second trips there they didn’t serve much food if any, but that’s totally fine especially since I discovered a wine I loved.

The third time we visited was over the pandemic and they were required to serve food. We got a super delicious pretzel and were super happy with it. This most recent trip it was clear they had spent a lot of time leveling up their menu with foods that really worked well with wine tasting, specifically their wines. They now have a bunch of options that we can’t wait to go back and try. We got the pretzel with their new beer cheese and can’t recommend that enough.

Hazlitt Winery

Hazlitt is home to the only other wine I like (Brambleberry) and we enjoyed it while sitting outside in the sun, looking out over the massive property, and spending time with friends and our pups. They had the same food options as before and it still tasted great. It’s not a massive menu or even a fancy one, but they do everything really well.

This winery is usually PACKED, but for whatever reason it wasn’t the weekend we went. It was so great to enjoy it in a calmer and more relaxed atmosphere than we had ever done before. Waiting in long lines was something we’d come to expect, so we were pleasantly surprised we just got to order right away and sit wherever we wanted.

Leidenfrost Winery

My boyfriend loves the wine here and I am in love with the views. We walked in with our dogs and Connor (main awesome dude at the bar serving up tastings) said “first things first. We have to serve the most important customers first.” Then he pulled out a box of dog treats for us to give our boys. If we hadn’t already met him on every trip and loved him before, that would’ve been the moment we fell in love.

Our dogs love the big grassy property and there’s a deck overlooking Seneca Lake. You really can’t get better views than at Leidenfrost. One thing to be careful of is if you have dogs that are sensitive to loud noises. Their winery is right next to the tasting room and they let off loud charges to keep birds away. Our dogs have gotten used to it, but the staff warned us ahead of time which we really appreciated.

The Lucky Hare

Talk about a GLOW UP. We discovered The Lucky Hare over our post-pandemic trip and came across it late in the day. They had outdoor picnic tables and a few food trucks. We loved it, but we also visited in winter so we froze outside and only stayed for one round of drinks.

This trip we couldn’t stop talking about how much we loved this brewery and the improvements they made. They still had the outdoor tables which we loved and coming back during the day and before it was super cold drastically improved our experience…go figure. They added on to their building and served out of their own kitchen. Their fries are to die for. I’m so excited to visit again and see what they do next. Also, I know this doesn’t matter but they had really cool bathroom decorations that turned a regular bathroom into something I want to talk about on a travel blog.

The Elf in the Oak

I will always annoy every person I’m traveling with to Watkins Glen about how much I want to eat sandwiches at this place. I don’t know why their sandwiches taste like heaven, but they do. Their sweet potato fries are just as heavenly. Unless this place is closed or doesn’t exist anymore, I will ALWAYS stop here. It’s that good.

Wildwood Farm

Speaking of places I will always visit, Wildwood Farm is the b&b where we always stay. We lucked out staying here on our first visit and haven’t even looked for another place to stay ever since. The farm is always changing, adding new animals, and the house just keeps getting cozier and cozier. Breakfast is always a highlight as well! It’s just one of those places where we fell in love with the location, the host, and everything about it.

Exploring New Breweries and Experiences

We love our favorite places, but we’re the type of people who have to try somewhere new each time we visit. How else are we going to find new favorites!? We had one stand-out new adventure. Find out which one it was below!

The Red Rabbit

Okay, so this isn’t in Watkins Glen, but we pass it every time we drive there from Lancaster. We’ve always talked about stopping, but this time we actually did it. The restaurant is a drive-in but there’s seating if you wanted to stretch your legs and eat out of the car. It’s famous for its bunny burger which Will ordered and liked a lot! It’s a 1/4 lb beef patty with bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and their own bunny sauce.

Everyone was super nice and we really enjoyed our brief stop there. The location does sneak up on you, so be on the look out for it. The road is pretty busy, so getting out of the parking lot can be a test of patience, but the stop is worth it.

Solera Tap House

This tap house opened in 2021 and was a completely new place for us to visit. The outdoor covered seating was a great space for us to cool off. The whole place had a very rustic, hometown bar vibe which was nice. We were tired, so we didn’t stay for a long time, but their live music lineup is something we’d love to come back and see. They had a stage set up outside and it seemed like it would be a completely different place to visit at night!

Muranda Cheese Company

Holy cheese, Batman. A coworker of mine told me about this place and I thought I was hallucinating the best dream ever. A cheese tasting? Over 10 cheeses I can stuff in my face in one sitting? Hallelujah. Luckily, Muranda Cheese Co is not a figment of my imagination, but an incredible location dedicated to all things cheese.

It’s a quick 30 minute drive from Watkins Glen and I would’ve driven twice as far for this. Yes, it’s even dog friendly. Sadly, they didn’t get any cheese, but if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a post-cheese dog fart you’ll understand why we didn’t give them any. We sampled SO MANY CHEESES. I loved most of them. We brought home a spicy cheddar, provolone asiago hybrid, garlic dill, and garlic cheddar.

The venue itself was a massive barn with the tastings set up along almost every bar. They had a small but cozy deck where you could hang out and we enjoyed that with the pups. We didn’t stay long after the tasting and loading up on cheese purchases because we wanted to meet up with friends. We’ve already said we’re hitting this place up every time we go back. I’m sad I went to long without discovering it. Luckily, they ship, so if you wanted to try their cheese before you visit, you can!

Why Watkins Glen is the Perfect Long Weekend Destination

We visited Watkins Glen at the absolute perfect time this year. We’ve traveled here over Thanksgiving, in the middle of summer, and late fall, but Labor Day weekend was by far the less-crowded time. Since it was a holiday weekend, we thought everywhere would be packed, but it was actually almost deserted. We even had some places entirely to ourselves. It was incredible.

Regardless of the time of year you go, you can always find a place that doesn’t have a large crowd. There are so many different wines, beers, and liquors to try that it has something for everyone. Plus having a meal/snack or a tasting is made a million times better by not only the views of Seneca Lake but the fact that you can bring your dogs everywhere. It’s these reasons that keep us coming back almost every year. It’s the mini road trip of our dreams and we know exactly what to expect while also being able to infuse a new adventure into our travels each visit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s