Penn Yan, at the northern tip of Keuka Lake, can be your gateway to explore New York’s Finger Lakes Region, an area rich in history, culture, and beauty. Keuka Lake is the center-most lake in this unique chain of 11 long, thin lakes formed as glaciers carved their way through the area over 100 million years ago. Nowadays, the lakes provide endless recreation for boaters and fishermen. The region is also known for its numerous vineyards and apple orchards, from which excellent wines and ciders are crafted. Enjoy a day on the golf links and visit the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, which honors one of aviation’s most important pioneers. Each September, the museum throws a big seaplane party on the lake to honor Curtiss, the inventor of the seaplane.
The Glenn H. Curtiss Museum is in Hammondsport, about 20 miles from Penn Yan, at the south end of Keuka Lake. If you have the short/soft-field skills and the right type of airplane, you don’t even have to drive: You can land at Ray Kolo’s private, 1,800-foot grass strip, just 1.5 miles west of the museum, at 42° 23.53’ N, 77° 15.07’ W. Ray mows it but reminds you that use is at your own risk; please call him prior to landing there (607/569-3587). Call the museum after landing for free pickup.
Each September, generally the third weekend of the month, the museum holds the Wings and Wheels in Hammondsport and Seaplane Homecoming events. No activities are planned Friday, but the town docks and amphibian ramp are available, as is a beach on the southeastern shore—and Kolo’s field. Those who arrive Friday enjoy the local bars and restaurants. In addition to the exotic cars, Saturday brings STOL and bomb-dropping contests, a “seaplane parade” (taxiing on Keuka Lake) to honor Curtiss, and a dinner banquet. Local flights off the lake and flybys take place both Saturday and Sunday. The unicom frequency is 123.45 MHz. The event is free to all; register online.
In Hammondsport, the Village Tavern offers a huge selection of beers and wines; the menu goes from seafood to steaks to their famous fish fry. They also have a four-room inn.
There’s plenty of fun to be had around Penn Yan, as well. The unusual name dates to 1807 and acknowledges the equal numbers of Pennsylvanians and New England “Yankees” who settled here. The most isolated of the Finger Lakes, Keuka Lake is very clean and excellent for swimming and fishing. Rent a powerboat or sailboat, canoe, kayak, SUP, or paddleboat. Hikers can take the Keuka Outlet Trail to see historic locks, tracks, and other landmarks, as well as two waterfalls and a wetland loaded with birds. You also can rent a bike and ride a 26-mile loop around part of the lake. If golf is more your style, Lakeside Country Club offers a challenging 18-hole golf course with great lake views.
Numerous wineries dot the area, which is known for its Cabernet Francs and Rieslings. Some wineries have restaurants and even art galleries in addition to wine tasting. A few standouts include Ravines Wine Cellars, Bully Hills Vineyards, and McGregor Vineyard and Winery. Stay at the historic Trimmer House in the village of Penn Yan, built in 1891 and beautifully restored, complete with furniture crafted by local Mennonites. Enjoy a breakfast of buckwheat pancakes or waffles made with locally milled buckwheat. Aviation, history, recreation, and good food and wine—it’s all here at Keuka Lake.