I’ve been going to TBEX (Travel Bloggers’ Exchange) conferences for a few years now, but I’ve never yet made it to one in North America. But that is about to change: I’ve got my ticket for TBEX Finger Lakes in September. For the simple reason that the Finger Lakes region, in upstate New York, looks like a fabulous area, with loads to see and do.

I recently spoke to Laury Poland, of Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism, and Kim Thompson, of the Corning Museum of Glass (where the conference is to be held) and asked them what makes Finger Lakes so special. What can bloggers expect at TBEX North America 2018, and why should tourists visit this lesser known part of the US?

Corning Museum of Glass

The TBEX Conference will be in the Corning Musuem of Glass (Photo Credit: The Corning Museum of Glass)

What is Special About the Finger Lakes Area?

Laury said that even a lot of Americans haven’t heard of the Finger Lakes. The number one comment from first time visitors is “I had no idea about this area”. Or “I’ll have to come back”: 48% of visitors come here five or more times. A major attraction is the spectacular scenery. The area is studded with lakes and glacial features. It is a wonderful place for photography and it is particularly spectacular during the fall.

Heron Hill Winery Harvest

We’ll be there during harvest time! This is the Heron Hill Winery Harvest (Photo Credit: Finger Lakes Wine Country)

This is a wine-producing area with world-class wines. And not just wine: there are craft beers and ciders too. Agritourism in the Finger Lakes is huge. Visitors can pick their own grapes and other fruit, visit farmer’s markets and – of course – eat fresh local food.

What Can Visitors Do in the Finger Lakes Region?

This is a great place for anyone who enjoys the outdoors. Close by is the Watkins Glen State Park, with its 19 waterfalls. This is one of the top parks in North America, and is great for hiking and road racing. Finger Lakes is also the soaring (gliding) capital of the world.

Watkins Glen State Park

The spectacular Watkins Glen State Park (Photo Credit: Finger Lakes Wine Country)

But there’s also plenty for culture lovers. Corning is the hub of the Finger Lakes, with its historic Gaffer District, aritsan studios and restaurants. The novelist Mark Twain wrote much of his work in nearby Elmira. Then there is the glass…

Tell Me More About the Corning Museum of Glass

The two main industries of the Finger Lakes region are agriculture and glass. Glass production has taken place here for more than 150 years, and Corning is an internationally known brand. Kim explained that the Corning Museum of Glass explores 35 centuries of glass making around the world. A Contemporary Glass area was opened in 2015.

Contemporary Glass Gallery, Corning Museum of Glass

The Contemporary Glass Gallery (Photo Credit: The Corning Museum of Glass)

With so much history and design to explore the museum is massive, and visitors spend an average of five hours here. Many of them arrive on bus trips while travelling between New York City and Niagara Falls. But both Kim and Laury said that their aim was to encourage people to stay a little longer and discover what else the region has to offer.

What Can Bloggers Expect When They Come to TBEX Finger Lakes

Kim said that the TBEX conference is going to be a great experience for bloggers. It will be in the museum itself, and participants will have free rein of the building. This means that you can wander around the galleries, watch glass being made, or even blow a bit of glass yourself.

Outside of the conference, the hope is that bloggers will experience as much of the region as possible. Pre-conference trips will explore the Finger Lakes area, and FAM trips will be in the wider New York State, perhaps to Niagara, Rochester or Syracuse.

Hammondsport

A little way from Corning is the historic town of Hammondsport (Photo Credit: SCCVB)

Laury told me that the area is now concentrating more on bloggers and influencers to spread the word about the area. They want people to come and experience something they’ve never experienced before, and then to tell their stories. There are all kinds of stories to tell, and they will all be different.

How Would You Sum Up the Attraction of the Finger Lakes Region?

Laury: Everything is right there, within half an hour of Corning. Agriculture is key to the Finger Lakes. This is the world’s most beautiful wine region, known for its hospitality and warmth.

Finger Lakes Wine Country

Cyclists enjoying the Finger Lakes Wine Country (Photo Credit: Bonnie Gustin Photography)

Kim: At the heart of the region is glass and the history of glass. Corning itself is a historic town and easily walkable. We want people to visit and to discover the region for themselves.

For myself, having seen little of the US outside of its major cities, Finger Lakes is a treat in store…

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