7 Fun Festivals in Watkins Glen, NY

7 Fun Festivals in Watkins Glen, NY

Looking for something fun to do? Whether your a local or visiting as a tourist, check these out.

Planning a visit to Seneca Lake in upstate New York? Perhaps you’ll be visiting Watkins Glen on the southern tip of Seneca.
This awesome little village has so much to offer local residents and visiting guests year-round.
Here are 7 annual festivals held in or near Watkins Glen.

Corvette Festival -Mid May
If you love Corvettes, you’ll want to attend the free annual Corvette Festival, where the village of Watkins Glen will showcase 70 years of these snazzy and sexy beauties driven in from all over the country. The Corvette was originally designed and engineered by Harley J. Earl, who was inspired 70 years ago after attending races in 1951 at the Glen, so Watkins Glen lays claim to be where the story all began. There will be a weekend of events for proud owners and admirers to attend a car show, competitions, street food, shopping and fun, plus a 7-mile Corvette parade from the historic downtown Franklin Street start and finish line. It’s family- and dog-friendly fun for everyone, and the Village will be crowded. For more information go to senecalakeevents.org.

Waterfront Festival Second Sunday in June

This extremely popular annual event always takes place on Father’s Day in June, and is held on the southern tip of Seneca Lake at Seneca Harbor Waterfront Park in Watkins Glen. The Waterfront Festival — more commonly known as the Cardboard Boat Regatta — is about a race of misfits, where Captain and Crew from various wineries and local businesses take to the waters of Seneca Lake in boats made entire of cardboard held together with duct tape and glue. The laughter never stops as most boats flop and sink, but some competitors actually paddle to victory. It’s a lot of fun for the whole family, and it’s free. There’s a midway with food, drink and vendors. For more information, there’s a Facebook page for it or visit the website watkinsglen.com

Finger Lakes Wine Fest – Early July
Did you know that New York is the nation’s third-most wine producing state? And most of the wineries are right here in the Finger Lakes, with Seneca being central to it all. The Finger Lakes Wine Fest is a hugely popular weekend festival takes place in early July, and it draws thousands of wine lovers to the Watkins Glen Grand Prix International racetrack. Although Covid shut it down for a couple of years, it’s back bigger and better than ever. There will be more than 50 wineries and breweries represented, pouring samples and selling wine to attendees, who buy a glass and get endless tastings. There’s also food, arts, crafts, music, camping, glamping, and so much more. This is a really big event for adults 21 and up. Taster tickets start around $50 per person. For more information, go to theglen.com/schedule/

Italian-American Festival – Mid August

Historically Watkins Glen had a large number of Italian immigrants, and this mid August event is probably one of the oldest village festivals. The Italian American Festival takes place at Clute Park. It’s usually on a Friday night and all day Saturday, the second weekend in August. It’s primarily a food festival featuring items such as sausage with peppers and onions, pirogies and Italian Ice, plus so much more. Local crafts are sold and non-profit vendors promote their community services. This is a free, family- and dog-friendly event with live music and amusements for kids on a lakefront beach. There’s a corn hole competition and if you look out on the lake, dozens of boats anchor a few hundred feet off shore blasting their music too. That area will be clogged with traffic, so plan accordingly to find a parking spot. For more information there’s a Facebook page, and look online at watkinsglenitalianfest.com.

Grand Prix Festival – Mid September

The Grand Prix Festival is always held downtown on the first Friday after Labor Day in September. Watkins Glen is famous for its NASCAR racetrack and love of racing, and whether you’re a fan or not, there’s something for everyone at this free street festival! Parked along the main streets you’ll find over 600 classic sports cars of all ages and marques for your enjoyment. There’s live music, wine tasting, food courts, family activities, and a variety of vendors of racing items and related merchandise for sale. It’s free fun for the entire family. People come from all over with their fancy cars, and there are classes and driver events for every type of car, antique and new, even motorcycles. The big event is a tribute to the original Grand Prix races that used to take place on the streets. Once again, plan accordingly for large crowds and clogged streets. Details can be found at watkinsglen.com.

Harvest Fest – Early October

This is one of my personal favorites, the Harvest Fest is held in nearby Montour Falls on the first Saturday in October. This family friendly event shuts down Main Street for the day, and it features an Octoberfest feel of straw bales, beer, pumpkins and cider, with harvest vendors, local craft and food vendors, live entertainment including local dancers, musicians and other performers, and displays. It’s free and fun. People stand in line at food trucks, antiques are for sale, and people can pop in and out of the shops on the street. If you go, be sure to walk up to the Glorious T to see the famous 156-foot She-qua-Ga waterfall. The event usually includes a community bonfire and fireworks. For details, check out watkinsglen.com.

Village Christmas – December

This event has been going on in downtown Watkins Glen for 30+ years. It’s a push for shopping locally that weekend. The Village Christmas is a nighttime street festival on a Friday night in early December that features food, craft vendors, indoor pop-ups, balloon creations, coloring contests, ornament decorating, a chili cook-off, a petting zoo with reindeer and more. It’s free and geared for family. There’s a parade of lights that starts about 6:30 followed by firework over the waterfront. Mr & Mrs Claus always show up, and the Grinch also makes an appearance. The entire event is geared towards children having good, safe fun, and for families to shop locally. See watkinsglen.com or find it on Facebook.

These are just a few of the festivals that happen annually around Seneca Lake! Believe me, there’s so much more around the wineries. For more information, visit the Watkins Glen Chamber of Commerce or the Seneca Lake Wine Trail online.

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