Skaneateles is a wonderful little lakefront town in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, and is a perfect destination for a weekend getaway. While it’s a small town, it perfectly balances offering a low-key vacation, while packing in so many options for things to do, including boat tours, great shopping, amazing restaurants and even lots of awesome day trip options. If you’ve been wondering if Skaneateles is worth visiting, this post will share with you all the incredible things to do.
I actually have family that lives right in downtown Skaneateles, so I’m up here quite a bit, and have visited in every season. It’s like a second home to me, and I’ve fallen in love with it, and I’m hoping with this post, you will, too!
Is Skaneateles Worth Visiting?
Most definitely. The best thing about Skaneateles is that there’s such a variety of things to do, but it’s also very low-key, which is perfect for a variety of different people. The town also feels like a movie set, with a beautiful lakefront along the main street downtown, and gorgeous homes at every turn.
To make Skaneateles worth visiting for you, you’ll be able to go wine tasting, hit up some amazing bakeries, spend a day at one of my all-time favorite spas, relax at the lakefront parks, and even have trouble deciding where to eat because there are so many amazing options.
Best Things To Do In Skaneateles
To make Skaneateles worth visiting, here’s a list of all my favorite things to do when visiting.
1. Get Pampered At Mirbeau Inn & Spa
My absolute favorite thing to do to make Skaneateles worth visiting is spending a day, or night (or two!), at Mirbeau Inn & Spa. Mirbeau now has a few locations in New York State, as well as one in Massachusetts, but the Skaneateles location is their original.
Mirbeau is both a gorgeous inn with really great restaurants, as well as a day spa. You don’t have to be a guest at the inn to book services at the spa, so this is a really wonderful experience to add to your itinerary if you’re in need of some restoration and pampering. It’s a bit of an upscale experience, but if you’re looking for a way to treat yourself to a special weekend, this is a great place to do that.
The entire inn is inspired by Monet’s paintings, and the grounds feel like you’ve been transported to the French countryside. Surrounded by their own vineyards, lily ponds and bridge (a replica from the famous Monet painting), you’ll be instantly relaxed. Guests of the inn (and spa) are welcome to walk around the grounds and have lunch in their robes, and the whole experience is honestly really magical. My mom and I love coming up here for joint birthday celebrations with massages, lunch in our robes and the occasional overnight stay.
I’ve been to the spa several times, and each service I’ve gotten has always been amazing. I’ve had everything from deep tissue and Swedish massages, to facials, body exfoliations and manicures. I usually save up gift cards I receive at Christmas and for my birthday, and opt for the Monet’s Palette day spa experience, which includes two 50-minute spa services or one 100-minute service, as well as lunch, and use of all the spa amenities. I’m usually so relaxed here, I always end up taking a nap in the relaxation room!
Be sure to bring your swimsuit if you plan to visit the spa. They have a beautiful aqua terrace where you can order drinks and snacks, and also relax in the jetted pool. This area is small, but really lovely. They also have really nice herbal-infused steam rooms and dry saunas.
Mirbeau is also great year-round. I’ve been in the winter, and with the fireplace going in the relaxation room, and swimming in the aqua terrace with a light snow fall is a great way to unwind in the winter season.
If you decide to stay at Mirbeau during your trip to Skaneateles, you’ll only be a short 2-3 minute drive from downtown, making the location ideal. Hotel guests are also given spa appointment preference on weekends, which is something to consider.
2. Go Wine Tasting At Anyela’s Vineyards
The Finger Lakes region is known for wine-making, and right in Skaneateles, you’ll be able to visit a gorgeous vineyard: Anyela’s. A short 5-minute or so drive from downtown, and you’ll be greeted with rows of grape vines as you drive up the road to the tasting room.
Outside, Anyela’s has beautiful covered seating areas, a deck with multiple tables for guests to use, as well as seating all over their gardens and property. They invite you to go anywhere on their grounds to enjoy your wine, as long as you’re respectful and don’t touch the vines.
You can do a wine tasting, or purchase wine by the glass or bottle while here. They also host music performances, so check out their website to see if are of interest to you during your visit (hint: if Donna Colton is performing when you visit, be sure to check her out – she’s simply amazing!).
In the summer, they have a Liqueur Ice Cream Bar, where you can top off ice cream with your choice of house-made liqueurs.
All of Anyela’s is a really great experience that makes Skaneateles worth visiting. Just keep in mind it’s very popular on weekends in the summer, so plan accordingly!
3. Take A Boat Tour Of The Lake
I’ve done a few of the boat tours along Skaneateles Lake, and I’ve loved them all. With Mid-Lakes Navigation, you’ll be able to select options from traditional informational tours, lunch and dinner cruises and even a Mailboat tour aboard The Barbara.
My personal favorite is the Mailboat tour, which is actually one of the last remaining tours of its kind in the U.S., making Skaneateles worth visiting just for this fun experience. In the summer season, hop aboard The Barbara and watch as mail gets delivered to the camps around the lake. It’s a really cool thing to see – mail is placed in a long-handled net, and a person on the boat extends it out to someone at the camp to grab.
The Mailboat tour also takes you out further on the lake than the other cruises to really see it all. The lunch and dinner cruises are also lots of fun! They even have a cocktail cruise option, which might be my second favorite.
4. Dine At The Famed Sherwood Inn
The Sherwood Inn is a staple in Skaneateles having been around since 1807. Sitting directly across the street from the lake, and located right in downtown, the location is awesome, and they have a really nice bar and restaurant in addition to the inn.
There are a few different seating option for dining, including inside the bar (which has an old school tavern feel), a screened in veranda and a traditional dining room. Serving up lots of fresh seafood options, my personal favorite in their Scrod Christopher, but you’ll find things like pot roast and steaks as well.
At minimum, I suggest a drink at the bar just to say you’ve been.
5. Visit The Shops Downtown
Resort towns can often become overrun with souvenir shops, but Skaneateles is an exception. While you’ll still find some places to buy a cozy Skaneateles-branded sweatshirt, most of the shops along the main street are one of the things that make Skaneateles worth visiting. All of them are independently owned and sell an array of fun and unique finds.
Best Shopping In Skaneateles
I have so many favorite shops in Skaneateles that I love to visit every time I’m in town, and even though you’ll easily find all of these after an hour or two of strolling down the main street, here are a few of my favorites that I think are a must-visit.
- Skaneateles 300 – A gorgeous little women’s clothing, accessory and homegoods boutique. My favorite part of the store is the homegoods area, which is always beautifully merchandised and inspiring to visit. They also sometimes carry the “Upstate New York” branded sweatshirts by local designer Sugarfoot.
- Drooz – Marketed as a modern-day general store, which is pretty accurate. You’ll find an array of stuff here from lovely paper goods to awesome gifts.
- The Local Branch – A really unique store with their own branded apparel, leather goods, books, gifts and more. Really cool little boutique.
- Fleur de Lis Floral Designs – Okay, so this is a flower shop, but I always love to breeze through because it’s simply gorgeous inside.
- The Savage Homestead – A body care and gift shop that sells their own soaps, lotions, balms and candles in a variety of different scents. You’ll find this one around the corner from the bakery on Fennel Street.
- Roland’s – This is the place to get your Skaneateles-branded sweatshirt for chilly nights.
6. Enjoy The Views From Thayer Park
Thayer Park is small, but it’s a really lovely place to bring a picnic blanket or lawn chairs, and enjoy the lakefront views. In fact, in the warmer months, you’ll almost always see people doing just that here. And since it’s located right on Route 20, the location is great, and it’s one of the reasons Skaneateles is worth visiting.
7. Get Some Delicious Fish Fry From Doug’s
Another Skaneateles staple is Doug’s Fish Fry, where you can get giant pieces of fish fry for less than $8 (as of 2022). They also serve up all kinds of traditional seafood dishes here, and even though the fish fry is my favorite, I enjoy getting the scallops and lobster roll as well. You should definitely add their french fries and coleslaw to your order, too!
Not only does Doug’s have great seafood, they also offer really awesome seasonal desserts. In the summer, keep an eye out for their fresh strawberry ice cream sundae.
Expert Tip: Definitely take your food outside to eat. Exit out their back door, and cross the parking lot. You’ll see a little grassy courtyard area with picnic tables that’s designated for Doug’s customers.
8. Tour The Finger Lakes Wineries
Skaneateles is worth visiting just to use as a home base for exploring the Finger Lake’s wineries. If you’re looking to taste some of the local New York wines, this is definitely something to consider. Within an hour, you can be touring some of the best wineries along Cayuga and Seneca Lake.
9. Grab Lunch & Treats From Skaneateles Bakery
I come to the Skaneateles Bakery every time I stay here, and it never disappoints, and always puts a smile on my face. While they have incredible baked goods here, they also have a killer food menu for breakfast and lunch. I especially love their grilled cheese and tomato soup, as well as their chickpea sandwich.
Their black & white cookies alone make Skaneateles worth visiting! Be sure to grab one of those. Also try their homemade doughnuts.
Expert Tip: In the summer season and at Christmas, this place can get very busy, and it’s rather small on the inside. I suggest placing your order online to skip the lines. If it’s a nice day, take it to one of the lakefront parks as a picnic (I do this a lot).
10. Get A Mimosa Flight At Crazy Daisies
Okay, so this isn’t technically in Skaneateles, but it’s only a 15-minute drive. And you guys, this is one of my all-time favorite things to do in the area. A combined restaurant and garden shop, they also serve up these amazing mimosa flights that are equally delicious as they are beautiful. You can also get single mimosas and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, but the flights are definitely worth it!
Everything here from their desserts and baked goods, to their cheese plates and sandwiches are all wonderful. And they have an amazing wrap-around porch with tables to enjoy your drinks and food, as well as a large lawn with additional seating.
After enjoying your food and drinks, be sure to head to their greenhouses to shop for some plants. They have a great selection, and they organize them all by color.
11. Go Beer Tasting At Skaneateles Brewing
Skaneateles Brewery makes their own beers right in Skaneateles, and they have a wonderful tasting room to sample their varieties, as well as an outdoor patio and indoor Biergarden. They have a nice variety of IPA’s, and also serve wine and cider for those who don’t like, or can’t drink, beer.
12. Admire The Town’s Beautiful Houses
Skaneateles is worth visiting just to walk around and look at the gorgeous homes in the area. Along the main streets and roads, you’ll see some beautiful lakefront houses, and even the side streets are often worth checking out. With Skaneateles having been founded in 1830, many of the houses are reminiscent of that time (with some updates, of course), and it never gets old just walking around to appreciate all the architecture.
13. Have A Farm-To-Table Lunch Or Dinner At Elderberry Pond
One of the best restaurants in Skaneateles is Elderberry Pond, a farm-to-table restaurant that serves both lunch and dinner. The restaurant sits along a picturesque pond, and serves everything they can from their own certified organic farm. This is a bit more of an upscale experience, so plan to spend more than average here, but all the food is absolutely incredible, and worth every penny.
They also have a little country store on the grounds that’s open June through November, and they sell some of their own side dishes, meats and other prepared foods that you can being back with you.
14. Walk Down The Lake’s Pier At Clift Park
In the heart of downtown along the waterfront at Clift Park, you’ll see a long pier over the lake that provides really nice views of the water. This won’t take up too much of your time, but it’s definitely worth visiting Skaneateles to take a stroll down the pier and back. This is also a great place to take some photos to remember your trip by.
Clift Park is the other waterfront park in downtown Skaneateles, and here you’ll find a gazebo, benches and lots of space to bring your own blankets and chairs to relax and enjoy the views.
15. Get A Pie At Heart ‘N Hand
There’s no shortage of great food in Skaneateles, and grabbing some pie or baked goods at Heart ‘N Hand on your way out of town is a great idea. This is a small little shop that sits outside of downtown and takes only 5 minutes to drive to, but is absolutely worth it. They bake up both sweet and savory pies, as well as amazing cookies (I really love their s’mores cookie!), cupcakes, brownies and quick breads.
In the summer, I’m in here a lot buying up some freshly baked fruit pies filled with whatever is in season at the moment, and always love to bring some home with me.
16. Visit Beak & Skiff Distillery & Cidery
One of the best things to do that makes Skaneateles is worth visiting is Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards. While technically located in the nearby town of LaFayette, it’s only a short 15-minute drive from downtown Skaneateles. While it’s mostly known for apple picking in the fall season, they’ve since branched out to creating their own hard ciders and spirits. And guys, they’re good.
There are two separate buildings on the grounds for both the cidery and distillery, so you can choose to only visit one, or both. Depending on the season, they also have a general store, cafe & bakery, and kid’s treehouse to explore. Be sure to check their website for hours for each place you want to visit before making a special trip out.
I’m especially fond of their cidery because they come out with so many different varieties. Each season, I get really excited to visit and pick up whatever they’re brewing up. They have strawberry cider for early summer, and a really nice cranberry one for winter. They also have a cider donut cider for fall, which sounds like it’s really gross (and might not be everyone’s cup of tea), but I love it as a fun, seasonal stand-alone drink. They also have CBD-infused canned beverages.
17. Grab Freshly Made Bread At The Patisserie
Another bakery! You’ll definitely be leaving Skaneateles with a belly and car full of treats (which is a good thing, of course). Be sure to pop into the Patisserie, another great reason why Skaneateles is worth visiting. The Patisserie is tucked behind the Sherwood Inn, and you’d probably never know it was there unless you were looking for it.
While their baked goods are really incredible here as well (I especially love their cupcakes), they’re most known for their stretch bread, a kind of bread that originated in Central New York (it’s delicious). You’ll also find it served in some of the restaurants around town if you’re not up for buying a whole loaf during your vacation.
If you wanted to do a picnic at one of the lakefront parks, this is a great addition. It’s also fun to buy a loaf on your way out of town, and freeze it to enjoy later.
18. Spend Some Time In Aurora
Speaking of stretch bread, it was actually invented right here in Aurora! Aurora is a very small little town on Cayuga Lake that’s about a 30-minute drive from downtown Skaneateles. Now, there’s not a ton to do here, and their Main Street is only about two blocks long, but it’s still a really lovely place to spend a few hours.
If you’re at all interested in Mackenzie Childs pottery, Skaneateles is worth visiting just to drive to their outlet store in Aurora. The grounds of the store are really beautiful, and you can also tour their 1800’s farmhouse, which is now decked out in the whimsical designs of Mackenzie Childs.
After touring the Mackenzie Childs grounds and store, you can head to downtown and have a scenic lunch along the lake at the Aurora Inn. There’s also a small marketplace on Main Street that’s worth popping into. Beyond that, there aren’t really any other stores to explore, so just keep that in mind. I still love coming here for an afternoon, though!
19. Take A Day Trip To Ithaca
If you’re spending a lot of time in Skaneateles, consider taking a day trip to Ithaca, which is about a 1-hour drive away. Ithaca is a really cool college town with great restaurants and shops, and lots of outdoors activities.
Nearby, you can visit Taughannock Falls State Park, which is a gorgeous nature trail with a beautiful waterfall at the end. There’s also Buttermilk Falls nearby, which is another awesome waterfall nature area.
20. Go For A Swim
While the water here is known as being pretty cold, on hot summer days, Skaneateles is worth visiting to cool off with a quick swim. There is a small, designated swimming area along Clift Park in downtown, and you’ll find lifeguards in-season, as well as a floating dock. This area is protected for swimmers, so kids can enjoy the water without being able to stray very far.
You’re also able to swim anywhere in the lake outside of the designated swimming area. Just practice normal caution, know how far you’re able to go out, and avoid boats.
21. Experience Dickens Christmas In December
Christmas might actually be my favorite time of year here, and Skaneateles is worth visiting to experience the town’s version of a Dickens Christmas celebration. Beginning the day after Thanksgiving each year, and running on weekends through Christmas Eve, visitors can expect an old-fashioned celebration with costumed characters roaming the street wishing you a “Happy Christmas,” decorations all over town and Santa making appearances to hear children’s Christmas wishes.
Every year when I come up to visit my family at Christmas, I have to run downtown to experience Dicken’s Christmas. It’s really so much fun, and puts you in a cheerful mood. It feels like I’m on the set of a Hallmark movie.
Dicken’s Christmas in Skaneateles concludes each season on Christmas Eve with a performance at the town’s gazebo in Clift Park. Each September, the current season’s events are released online to help you plan your Christmas trip to Skaneateles. Click here to access the Dicken’s Christmas calendar.
Can You Walk Around Skaneateles Lake?
There isn’t a pedestrian path that runs around the whole lake, but there are some great areas downtown to walk along part of Skaneateles Lake, both offering amazing views. Thayer Park and Clift Park in Skaneateles allow visitors to walk along the lakefront, and most of Route 20 in downtown runs along the lake.
Can You Drive Around Skaneateles Lake?
Yes, there are several options that will take you around Skaneateles Lake. Start by taking Route 41A, and then veer off to Route 66A, which will turn into 66B as you get closer to the lake. This will take you toward Fuller Park, at the very end of the lake (opposite downtown Skaneateles, which sits at the other end of the lake).
Once you reach Fuller Park, you’ll want to take Vincent Hill Road back to Route 41, and then you’ll eventually run into Route 20 in downtown.
Is Skaneateles Lake Clean?
Skaneateles Lake is very clean! In fact, it’s been named one of the cleanest lakes in the U.S., and when you look at the water, you’ll see why. You can clearly see the bottom of the lake from the shoreline.
Is Skaneateles Walkable?
Downtown Skaneateles is very walkable, and once you park your car, you won’t need it until you want to leave downtown. But I still recommend that you have a car to make Skaneateles worth visiting since there are some really fun things to do that are outside of downtown. The best way to get to Skaneateles is to drive, so you’ll likely have your car with you, anyway.
How Do You Pronounce Skaneateles?
Technically, it’s pronounced SKAN-ee-AT-luhs, but you won’t hear anyone say it that way. Over time, pronunciation evolved to SKIN-ee-AT-luhs, and that’s how you’ll hear everyone say it.
What Is Skaneateles, NY Known For?
Skaneateles is known as having one of the cleanest lakes in the U.S., and also for being a resort town destination in the summer for sailing, vacationing and relaxing. It was also put on the map by the Clinton family, who vacationed here quite a bit during President Clinton’s terms.
The Best Time To Visit Skaneateles
The great thing about Skaneateles is that it makes for a wonderful getaway year-round. Summer is the most popular time of year to visit since the weather is at its best, and also makes swimming in the cold water refreshing.
Christmas is a great time to visit to experience Dicken’s Christmas, and do a little Christmas shopping. And if you’re looking for a festive December weekend getaway to kick off the holiday season, I highly recommend staying at Mirbeau Inn & Spa for one of their seasonal treatments, and an overnight stay in one of their rooms with a cozy fireplace. Then head into town to experience Dicken’s Christmas, do a little shopping, see the tree at the end of the pier, and enjoy a nice dinner before heading back to your room at Mirbeau to relax.
Best Restaurants In Skaneateles
One of the best things that makes Skaneateles worth visiting is all the amazing restaurants. Seriously. There are so many here, and even though I visit often, I always still feel overwhelmed deciding where to eat, and want to visit them all each time I’m here. I don’t think I’ve experienced a bad restaurant in Skaneateles, but here are a few of my favorites (excluding ones previously mentioned in the post):
- Joelle’s – One of the best dining experiences you can have in Upstate New York, let alone in Skaneateles! They only advertise via word-of-mouth, and don’t even have a website – it’s that good. They focus on French-inspired cuisine, but even though I’m a pescatarian and my husband is vegetarian, the chef is always delighted to make us something on-the-fly to suit my dietary needs. And the food is outstanding.
- Rosalie’s – Easily one of the best Italian restaurants in the region. Traditional Tuscan-Italian cuisine, and everything I’ve ever had has been amazing. They also have a bakery out back for more treats (and I know I’ve recommended a lot of treats here, but their cookies are out of this world).
- Elephant And The Dove – Really delicious and fun Mexican-inspired restaurant. The interior is super stylish, and designed by Thom Felicia, and the food is really, really good. I’m obsessed with their nachos, so you’ll definitely need to order those if you come here.
- Gilda’s – The best place for pizza in town! Come here for amazing wood-fired pizzas, appetizers and drinks.
- The Krebs – Great for an upscale meal in a cozy setting with an incredible bar. I especially love it here in the winter, and book a table in their library by the fireplace.
Where To Stay
Skaneateles has quite a few options when it comes on where to stay, and depending on what you’re looking for, you’re sure to find something that suits your needs.
Mirbeau Inn & Spa
I know, I probably sound like a broken record, but I really do love it here. And since this is a great place to stay year-round, and even makes for a wonderful Christmas or winter getaway, I have to mention it again. If you’re looking for the most relaxing getaway with an amazing on-site spa, and the option to pop into town for a great lunch or dinner and a little shopping, this is the place for you.
The Bond 1835
This is a really cool place to stay to live out your modern farmhouse dreams. The Bond 1835 is a renovated 1830s farmhouse that’s now a gorgeous bed & breakfast with modern amenities and impeccable designs (fans of Joanna Gaines and Fixer Upper will love it here). This is also a great option if you want to travel with your dog because they’re pet-friendly.
Serving a really great hot breakfast each morning, and with luxury sheets on every bed, this B&B is less than 10 minutes from downtown, and also close to the lake.
Finger Lakes Lodging
For a more budget-friendly option, Finger Lakes Lodging is awesome. It’s owned by the same company as Mirbeau, and done in a really cool, woodsy Adirondack style. Rooms are basic, but really clean and comfortable, and still feel appropriately stylish per the theme.
It’s also right across the street from Mirbeau Inn & Spa, so if that’s out of your price range for an overnight stay, but you’d like to book a massage, you can still easily pop over for a spa treatment. This hotel is a short 2-3 minute drive to downtown, so the location is very convenient.
Skaneateles Lakefront Vacation Rental For Families & Groups
If you’re looking to do a vacation rental in Skaneateles, there are some really nice lakefront options for the perfect summer (or fall!) getaway. This lakefront cottage is a great option for a family or larger group because it sleeps up to 9 people, and has a gorgeous upper and lower deck, a screened in porch and private dock.
That’s A Wrap On The Best Things To Do That Make Skaneateles Worth Visiting
And there you have it! All the very best things to do that make Skaneateles worth visiting. This is one of my favorite Upstate New York destinations because there’s such a variety of things to do, and with the picturesque lakeside scenery at every turn downtown, it’s also very relaxing and absolutely beautiful.