Love Winter, No Matter What The Weather

Winter. Last year, it seemed as if it would never end. 

This year, it seemed as if it would never come. 

Whether the season is unrelentingly cold and snowy, miserably gray and muddy or continuously flip-flopping between the two, upstate New Yorkers love to kvetch about winter. 

As a former Rochester resident who now calls Ontario County home, I love winter in my corner of the 

Finger Lakes. And I think people would be less weary if they adopted this Rumsfeldian philosophy: You have to love and embrace the winter you have, not the winter you might want or wish to have. 

Sometimes winter beckons me outside. Sometimes it gives me a great excuse to stay indoors. Either way, I’ve got plenty of places to go and lots of things to do.

My top 10 ways to fall in love with winter in the Finger Lakes 

No. 10: A walk in the woods—with snowshoes. The sun is out, the wind has subsided, the snow is knee-deep and fluffy, and the mercury is holding steady just below freezing. This is winter at its best. Step into those snowshoes and stomp your way through Harriet Hollister-Spencer State Recreation Area. It offers a sweeping view of Honeoye Lake and the Rochester skyline. 

No. 9: Try a nice cold one to warm you up. It’s always beer o’clock somewhere in the Finger Lakes. The county’s growing cadre of craft and farm breweries offers a beverage tour of a different flavor and vibe, from the laid-back vinyl background pub music at Lake Drum Brewing in Geneva and the secret brewery-within-a-bar experience at Three Huskies Brewing in Canandaigua to the hop yard view at Nedloh in Bloomfield. For itinerary ideas, go to 

No. 8: Take it to the ice. The Canandaigua Civic Center ice rink is a fun place to bring out your inner Scott Hamilton, Michelle Kwan. Inspired more by Wayne Gretsky? The rink has a late night shootout session on Saturdays. Rentals and snacks available. 

No. 7: Take time for art. Main Street Arts in Clifton Springs showcases the latest in the Finger Lakes fine arts. This small town art gallery invites the public to free monthly movies about art on Thursdays. Check the website for the schedule.

No. 6: Taste how smart locavores eat in winter. Ontario County restaurants don’t shy away from local foods, even when the season is tough. You can taste local in very comforting ways at Kindred Fare, a new Geneva restaurant that has even winterized its house cocktail menu with its cider-based boots with the fur. Cebo, on Geneva’s hipster Linden Street, is another sweet spot to delve into the local bounty. 

No. 5: Pick a pack of alpacas. Learn about the long-necked animals that are responsible for some of the loveliest and warmest winter clothing you can find. A tour of Lazy Acre Alpacas in Bloomfield starts on a hill, wends its way to a barn and ends in a boutique where you can shop for some great winter fashions.

No. 4: Shop for gently used. The antique shops along Route 5 and 20 in Bloomfield, otherwise known as the Bloomfield Antique County Mile, are full of surprises. Bear rugs, Edwardian corsets, back scratchers, Victorian teacups and tramp art. You won’t know how much you need this stuff until you see it. 

No. 3: Learn a new snowsport. L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery School in Victor offers workshops, classes and outings on all kinds of winter recreation, from animal tracking to starlight snowshoeing. Why brave the elements alone? Enlist the expertise of a pro and make some new friends. 

No. 2: It’s okay to want to escape to Miami. Just want to get away from it all? Pack your portable cocktail bar and book a Jacuzzi room at the Miami Motel. This cleverly accessorized 1950s-circa lodge, just east of Canandaigua, is decked out in bright, cheery retro colors, and the Jacuzzi is within view of the TV. A perfect place to watch Mad Men reruns. The Miami is also madly affordable (Jacuzzi room rates run $85-$125). 

No. 1: Fly like an eagle. If ziplining is for adrenaline junkies, then ziplining in winter is for adrenaline junkies on acid. Bad analogy, but you know what I mean. Bristol Mountain Aerial Adventures in South Bristol recently opened its Zipline Canopy Tour, which includes 5,000 feet of zipping and four swinging cable bridges. With the forest dusted in white and a light fog slowly lifting from the trees, this three-hour tour is both peaceful and exhilarating. 

Karen Miltner is the public relations manager for the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection, the official tourism promotion agency for Ontario County. To find out more great things to do in the Finger Lakes, go to