Happy Trails

Exploring New York’s food and beverage trails

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

What pairs well with crisp fall air and beautiful foliage?

A tasty meal and delicious beverage.

The craft food and craft beverage industries are strong in Upstate New York, fostering the many food and beverage trails available to tourists both from home and far away.

“Going tasting on the wine trails and beer trails is popular because there’s a lot of different wines and beers that are unique,” said Jim Havalack, owner of Quality Transportation Services in Victor and Geneva. “We see a lot of different sights along the way. Our driver guides are knowledgeable of the best wineries.”

The tours aren’t standard routes, but based upon what the customer wants, such as the type of wine or beer preferred.

Havalack has also offered food trails in the past, such as visiting cheeseries, but so many people request beverage-based trips that he has plenty of business doing those.

The beverage trail tours usually include visiting about five establishments with a 45-minute stay at each. Havalack likes to work in Finger Lakes history and pretty scenery along the way to make the travel aspects enjoyable, too.

Each Finger Lake location — plus locations in lakes Ontario and Erie — boasts a wine trail.

As more recent editions, there’s also the Finger Lakes Beer Trail, Rochester/Finger Lakes Craft Beverage Trail, Cazenovia Beverage Trail, Central New York Food and Beverage Trail, Heart of New York Craft Beverage Trail (Utica), 1000 Islands Craft Beverage Trail, Cooperstown Beverage Trail, Adirondack Craft Beverage Trail, and more.

Owing to the nature of the trails, many tour companies provide transportation for these trails so patrons can imbibe safely.

But New York is also home to numerous specialty foods on their own food trails, including the Finger Lakes Sweet Treat Trail (Cayuga County), Finger Lakes Cheese Trail (Interlaken) and Finger Lakes Ice Cream Trail (Ithaca), among others.

If you’re on a weekend trip elsewhere in the state, follow the local food or beverage trail to see what’s available. You may find a new favorite you never expected. Or, you could plan your weekend trip around a trail so that you will have time to explore each stop.

All self-guided tours — unless you’re a part of a transportation-provided tour where it’s a premade route — the various trails help visitors connect venues of similar interest and maybe discover a place they haven’t tried before. But if driving an entire tour in one day isn’t your style, it’s OK to do half a trail one day and do more another. Or skip a few places that don’t appeal to you.

But if you’re ready for a day-long outing, following a guide can also help you get out and enjoy the good weather while we still have it. Most of the stops offer more than a unique shop, but also tastings, samples, scenic vistas and more reasons to linger a little longer. It’s about more than just shopping, so slow down and savor the journey.

For a complete map of New York’s food and beverage trails, visit https://taste.ny.gov. Check each site’s COVID-19 guidelines before making plans.