Elmira is not the typical town that comes to mind when thinking of the Finger Lakes. It isn’t lakeside nor is it bursting with wineries. Yet Elmira has so much more: Adventures to experience, history to discover and views so beautiful they inspired Mark Twain.
Things To Do
Mark Twain’s Study
Before delving into the various activities in Elmira and taking in the views, take some time to learn about Mark Twain. Learning about Mark Twain’s history in Elmira will make you appreciate those beautiful views even more.
Head to Mark Twain’s Study located on the grounds of Elmira College. This study is where Mark Twain wrote some of his famous books such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. The study was originally located on Quarry Farm overlooking the Chemung Valley. Quarry Farm however is closed to the public, only Mark Twain Scholars are allowed on the grounds. Thus the study was moved to Elmira College for everyone to visit.
After visiting the Mark Twain Study, head into Elmira College to visit the museum showcasing furniture from Mark Twain’s home.
Arnot Art Museum
Tucked away in the heart of downtown Elmira is Arnot Art Museum. Arnot Art Museum was created to preserve the collections of Matthias H. Arnot.
The museum was created to promote an understanding and appreciation of the visual arts. While the museum boasts some pretty impressive pieces, I was most intrigued by the Founding Collection. The Founding Collection was the original collection of Matthias H. Arnot that he gave to the community. In a way, all the citizens of Elmira own these European paintings and sculptures. This collection is showcased in an atrium that is adorned with velvet chairs and warm hues. Quite possibly the coziest museum I have ever seen. The warm atmosphere allowed me to relax and enjoy the museum.
Soaring Harris Hill & The National Soaring Museum
Start off at the Harris Hill overlook where you will see beautiful views of the Chemung Valley. This overlook will offer a taste of the view you will see while soaring. Even if you have no desire to get into one of the glider planes, the Harris Hill overlook is a great spot to take in the scenic view or enjoy a picnic.Next, stop into The National Soaring Museum to get a better understanding of soaring. The National Soaring Museum has an expansive collection of motorless planes and offers historical insight on soaring in Elmira. Viewing the various planes helped open my eyes to the history of this type of flight in America. It was astonishing to see the winch truck, which was once used to tow the planes into the air.
Once you have a complete understanding of soaring, it’s time to experience it for yourself. I watched as the pilots pulled the glider planes from hanger with ease. While other people were going up, I took some time to examine the glider planes. They were sleek and small yet somehow not intimidating.
Finally, it was my turn. Climbing into the small plane, I got a quick debriefing of my flight. Yet, I was still not intimidated. The physical plane seemed to offer a false sense of security. I almost forgot that this glider plane was in fact motorless. Without further ado, the prop plane began to pull my glider down the runway. And suddenly we were air bound, being towed by the prop plane.
The moment the prop plane detached from the glider plane, everything changed. It was silent and I felt that we were…soaring. I have never felt so weightless and so serene in my entire life. There was nothing but me and the pilot, steering us through the air. The views were outstanding from above, especially with the foliage. Yet, it is the feeling of soaring which makes it such a unique experience. No words can adequately describe the feeling in its entirety. Soaring at Harris Hill Soaring is an experience you must have for yourself.
Kayaking the Chemung River
Now that you’ve seen countless views of the Chemung River, it’s time to experience the river up close. Paddle through the Palisades in a 6 mile guided tour through Southern Tier Kayak Tours.
The paddle began at a very relaxing pace as we all got our bearings in the kayaks. With each paddle, I slightly splashed myself with the cool water of the river. (Tip: Bring a zip lock bag to keep your electronics dry.)
Half way through the tour, you make a stop at a small island. This island is covered in rocks and is a great spot to learn more about the river. We walked around overturning rocks to find the small bugs that lived underneath. This stop served as a great spot to rest our arms and rehydrate before the rest of the paddle.
On the second half of the tour, the palisades came into view. Palisades are the high cliffs of a the river valley. The views along the Chemung River with its’ high cliffs were amazing. I couldn’t help to stop to take photos of the green and vibrant landscape. Of course, in doing so I managed to fall behind the group. For views like that, it is worth it.
Where To Eat
The Pepperpot Cafe
The Pepperpot Cafe is a convenient spot to grab a bite to eat in downtown Elmira. The cafe is located within walking distance of Elmira College and the Arnot Art Museum, making it a great spot to stop between sightseeing. The atmosphere was low-key, serving cafe favorite including various salads, sandwiches and soups.
Louies is located just outside of Elmira in Horseheads, NY. Horseheads is simply charming and a great spot to spend your evening. I felt that I was in an old movie walking through this town to get dinner.
Without a doubt,Louies is one of my favorite places we ate in the Finger Lakes. The food was amazing. If you enjoy Italian food,Louies is the place for you. Everything from our appetizers to our main dishes were delicious. From the garlic knots to the caprese to the pasta, there were so many rich flavors.
Not only was the food amazing but the atmosphere and the service were at par. Great food, great atmosphere and great service. Prepare yourself for a food coma after eating at Louise.
Stop for a flight of beer at Horseheads Brewing. This brewery has a simple yet sufficient tasting room. We settled in with our flights of beer at one of the barrel tables to begin our tasting. I was surprised by the unique varieties at this small micro brewery. One of my favorites was the Hot-Jala- Heim, a pepper beer made with jalapeño.
While Horseheads Brewing has amazing beers to try all year round, the best time to go is in the Fall to try the Pumpkin Ale. This Pumpkin Ale has one various awards, including winning 1st place in Travel & Leisure’s Magazine “The Very Best Pumpkin Beers for Fall”.
Hill Top Inn
The best restaurant in Elmira has to be Hill Top Inn. The view from Hill Top Inn is arguably the best view you can find in Elmira. It is said that the view from Hill Top Inn are the same views= that inspired Mark Twain. Mark Twain’s study faced the same view that Hill Top Inn faces. As we waited for our food, the sun began to set and it was clear why this view was so inspiring.
Aside from the impeccable views, the Hill Top Inn has amazing food. I opted for the salmon which had a simple yet delicious flavor. Hill Top Inn isn’t fussy with their dishes, serving good food in a classic cooking style. This is a place for everyone: A place where everyone can enjoy the food and the views. Be sure to request a table outside when the weather is permitting or cozy up by the outdoor fireplace on a cooler night.
Where To Stay
Holiday Inn Riverview
The Holiday Inn Riverview is a comfy and convenient place to stay in Elmira. It is located in close proximity to downtown Elmira where you will find Elmira College and Arnot Art Museum. The hotel also has easy access to the highway, making it a good starting point to explore more of the Finger Lakes.
Come Join My Journey was hosted by Mark Twain Country, however, my opinions are as always my own.