Last weekend, we went camping in the Finger Lakes for the first time.
For many of my friends, this trip is a regular occurrence (see Kelly’s trips there), and I’ve long been saying it has the perfect ingredients for Andy and I both to enjoy a trip: wine and fishing.
Squad has a surprising interest in camping — our last trip we rolled in 15-deep to a private campground near the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon — and we’ve learned that due to our volume and penchant for beer, wine, and whiskey by a campfire that it’s sometimes best if we avoid more family friendly state parks.
Campground Owners of New York have sites all over upstate New York, and we were able to score a location at Cheerful Valley Campgrounds. Our agenda was taking us to Central New York on Day 2 (you’ll read more about that next week), so we stayed a bit further north in Phelps, NY.
Another couple joined us for this weekend excursion, and we planned two stops thanks to recommendations from my friend who runs the Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association.
Hand + Foot – Corning, NY
We left Harrisburg around 4 p.m., and landed in the cute town of Corning, NY around 7 p.m. We reported to the oddly named Hand + Foot restaurant, where we pretty quickly scored seats at the bar and began pouring over its expansive drink menu.
I was drawn to a page full of Boilermakers — yep, beer and a shot — but all purposefully matched. I opted for the boonville barbeque, which was Anderson Valley “Briney Melon Gose” (one of my summer favorites) paired with a blend of Del Maguey “Crema,” Mezcal, and agave syrup. The sweet smokey tequila/mezcal mixture was a complemented well by the refreshingly salty gose.
Meanwhile, my friends sampled from the sours, Belgians and local IPAs from the beer menu (and I, too, eventually had a delicious local DIPA).
We were hungry, and Hand + Foot had an interesting menu, a variety of items with unusual ingredients (cheeto powder on your BLT, anyone?), and we sampled their housemade pickle plate, Bahn Mi, Poke, Fried Buttermilk Chicken sandwich and Beer Brisket sandwich. The pickles were great, and favorite dishes included the Bahn Mi (done unconventionally) and Beer Brisket sandwich.
Our bartender (who initially told us Corning was boring, but we forgive him) hooked us up with some housemade Fireball shots after someone else purchased them and bailed!
Then, the check came with Smarties! Total wins.
We still had a good bit of travel yet, so we hopped back into the car and headed to our next stop in Watkins Glen.
Graft Wine + Cider Bar – Watkins Glen, NY
My friend highly recommended Graft Wine + Cider Bar, the perfect place for a cider lover (Lissa) and wine lover (me!). By this time it was near closing time, but we were able to have a couple glasses of wine and snacks.
I immediately ordered the rosé they were carrying — a local by Atwater Vineyards Rosé of Cabernet Franc. I loved it and took a bottle to go. Meanwhile, Lissa dove into their cider list and took home a few bottles herself.
Graft’s small food menu looked terrific, but since we’d just eaten in Corning, I ordered just a few snacks — warmed Marconi almonds and olives.
The bonus to this adorable little wine hideaway was that it also was a bottle shop — so we could grab things on the menu, plus additional treats — to go.
Had it been earlier, I’m confident we would’ve spent even more time here — we’ll definitely be back.
However, it was time for the 50-min trek to our final destination.
Cheerful Valley Campgrounds
It had occurred to us while at Hand + Foot that a) we’d probably arrive after the camp store closed, and b) we needed firewood. So I called Cheerful Valley Campgrounds in advance and let them know that we’d arrive late — and asked if we could pre-purchase some firewood.
The staff — even via phone — was so friendly and accommodating. They not only agreed to drop three bundles of firewood at our site in advance (and put the key in the door of our cabin!), but they offered to let us simply settle up the next morning.
So when we arrived at the campsite rather late — nearly 11:30 p.m. I believe — we were pretty well set.
I should mention that we all usually tent camp, but given our second-day itinerary, we wouldn’t be spending too much time on-site, and it seemed better to request the cabin. And boy, were we glad we did when it poured for hours on night two.
By morning, however, Steve cooked us breakfast on the grill (with wood, of course) — all Harrisburg local, mostly from Broad Street Market! North Mountain Pasture breakfast sausage, vegetables from Radish & Rye or their own garden, and grilled country bread. A great way to start the morning! (Next time we won’t forget coffee, though!)
Cheerful Valley Campground is largely equipped for RVs, but it does have tent sites and a handful of cabins. They’re basically just coverage and electricity. We slept on bunk beds in a one-room space but had the benefit of windows, a ceiling fan, a small fridge, a microwave and a porch.
The next morning when I went to settle up at the camp store, I encountered possibly one of the friendliest people ever, who helped us with acquiring more firewood and some details about the campground. Other great points of this privately owned campground include clean restrooms and daily trash pickup. Little perks that can make your experience all that more pleasant.
While we visited in the off-season, there would be plenty to do in the summer here from the swimming pool and jump pad to fishing in the stream. Bonus, however, to the off-season (and you can still squeeze in a trip to New York state before the season ends in mid-October) — it was peaceful and quiet. Had we been with a bigger group, Andy insisted we would have taken over some of the fields for flag football.
We’ll be returning to the Finger Lakes again soon, no doubt.
To learn more about Campgrounds of NY, including campground locations beyond the Finger Lakes, be sure to visit their website.