At museums in the Finger Lakes region of New York, you can soar, literally and figuratively. From masterpieces in glass to the mastery of flight, museums run the gamut, each providing exhibits and activities for the entire family.
All of the following museums are worth a side trip from wine tasting.
Corning Museum of Glass
The Corning Museum of Glass is a magnificent tribute to the technology and art of glassmaking. The collection spans from 1400 B.C. and highlights man's continued expansion of the uses and designs of glass.
The Glass Collection Gallery boasts the most comprehensive collection anywhere, and the many pieces, presented in a time line with excellent signage, are riveting. The Glass Innovation Center's many hands-on exhibits show how glass has changed the way we live. Other galleries house sculpture and special exhibits.
A hot glass show allows visitors to see the entire glass-blowing process. Our favorite was the Studio, where we made our own glass pieces, working with a tutor through the process. There are several options available, some suitable for "attentive 3-year-olds."
The hands-on demonstrations, videos, magic shows and family-oriented programs make the Corning Museum ideal for kids, and adults will find plenty to enjoy, too.
Corning Museum of Glass, One Museum Way, Corning, N.Y.; toll-free 1-800-732-6845; www.cmog.org. Cost: $12.50, children under 17 free. ($16.50 for a combo ticket with the Rockwell Museum of Western Art.)
Rockwell Museum of Western Art
The Rockwell Museum of Western Art (no relation to Norman) is down the street from the Corning Museum of Glass, in the building with the buffalo torso hanging out the second floor.
The collection of Robert and Hertha Rockwell anchors the museum's galleries, which are devoted to American Indian art from the 18th century to today. This former city hall has been lovingly restored to show these unusual works in simple, yet dramatic, fashion.
The individual galleries are thematic — Wilderness features art that helped create the myth of the early West; the Buffalo, Cowboys and Indians sections gather pieces that reflect these specific influences on the artists of the times.
Special exhibits run the gamut from contemporary prints from Indian artists to the work of photographer Ansel Adams. Everything Western is game, and the museum does an arresting job of integrating temporary pieces with the growing permanent collection to maintain visitors' curiosity.
Children enjoy a scavenger hunt to introduce them to the various collections.
Rockwell Museum of Western Art, 111 Cedar St., Corning, N.Y.; (607) 937-5386; www.rockwellmuseum.org. Cost: $6.50, children under 17 free.
The National Soaring Museum
The National Soaring Museum will reignite your childhood wonder at flight.
Soaring, or gliding, is the art of piloting a motorless sailplane through the air, using only the natural energy of the sun and wind to remain aloft. The museum holds about 130 craft, displayed from ceilings, off walls, on platforms, and in cases, providing an in-depth look at soaring from the earliest adventures in the mid 19th century.
The museum, on top of Harris Hill, is a National Landmark of Soaring, and a popular and busy site for practitioners of the art form.
Inside is a flight simulator that lets guests "fly and land" a glider. More confident visitors can take glider rides from the runway outside. The hilltop is the perfect place to watch gliders and sailplanes take off, soar and land.
The National Soaring Museum, 51 Soaring Hill Drive, Elmira, N.Y.; (607) 734-3128; www.soaringmuseum.org. Cost: $6.50, children under 4 free.
The Arnot Art Museum
The Arnot Art Museum is a special gem in downtown Elmira. Located in the beautifully preserved Arnot mansion and featuring the Arnot art collection, the museum has been operating since 1913.
The collection features European art from the 17th to the 19th centuries, and American art from the 19th and 20th centuries. Our favorites were of more recent vintage. The curators have done an excellent job of identifying emerging artists, or less-known works from some famous artists, to provide offbeat and intriguing glimpses of art from younger artists.
The Arnot Art Museum, 235 Lake St., Elmira, N.Y.; (607) 734-3697; www.arnotartmuseum.org. Free.