As mentioned in an earlier blog, my visit to Watkins Glen in upstate New York was planned solely to see the Gorge. I knew nothing else about the town so imagine my delight to discover that there was a lot more to it than also just being a reasonably convenient place to stay for two nights en route to and from Niagara.
The town is located on the southern tip of Seneca Lake and has a small, picturesque harbor. In season you can take a cruise on the lake, enjoy a sailing trip aboard the ‘True Love’ schooner or rent a kayak.
Route 14 runs through town and north alongside the lake offering charming scenery for a pleasant drive. This is wine country, there’s even a Seneca Lake Wine trail, so there are plenty of options to tour wineries or do a little sampling along the way.
Picking accommodation in a new place is always a risk, but we chose to stay at the Tudor Rose Bed and Breakfast and it exceeded all our expectations.
The town offers a wide range of restaurants. On our first night we tried Jerlando’s Ristorante & Pizzeria which offered a pleasant ambience, great food and service, and reasonable prices, so much so that we returned there on our second evening too.
Despite the tourist attraction of the Gorge, Watkins Glen is more widely known for car racing. In 1948 the first Watkins Glen Sports Car Grand Prix was held. The race started on the village’s main street—a checkered flag still marks the original start-finish line—and ran for 6.6 miles on nearby streets.
In 1956 the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Race Course was opened but every year since 1993 the village has hosted a Grand Prix Festival in early September when classic car enthusiasts converge to re-enact the original race. Some drivers return year after year. Nancy told us about one elderly man who drives his Bugatti down from Montreal just for the occasion—he has to avoid the Interstates as his car is not capable of reaching the minimum required speed limit!
The town is obviously proud of its connections to racing. Plaques set into the sidewalk on Main Street celebrate the famous names and achievements in the sport throughout the years—even I recognized some of the names. For a small town I’ve never seen so many fancy cars both on the street and in the car showrooms. Generally, I’m not particularly interested in cars and racing, and I can’t imagine paying what amounts to a small mortgage for one car, but I have to admit that the Festival, with all those classic cars, looks like a fun event.