Under, around and in between: Hidden gems in tourism

The idea of overtourism has been discussed in the United Kingdom and Europe for more than twenty years but only in the past 5 years did it receive a name to define the concept. What was once only felt in destinations like Amsterdam, Barcelona, Venice, Bali and Machu Picchu is now part of a larger conversation around the impact of tourists in any destination. It’s part of the conversation around sustainability for environmental impacts, and community and resident sentiment. While some destinations are strategizing ways to curb interest, other vacation destinations are dreaming up ways to attract visitors. Many destinations are looking to strike a balance between tourism and sustainability. Promoting hidden gems is one way to do just that.

Promoting Hidden Gems

Seek out those places within a destination that fly below the radar. Those hidden gems that are slightly off the path, tucked under the radar, right around the corner if you weren’t so focused on the straight line to the next popular attraction. After all, the authentic local experience is what many visitors are looking for. In the case of the 11 Finger Lakes of New York State, there are many surprising little gems between those bodies of water. When it comes to any type of attraction, there are the most popular spots and then there are … well, the hidden gems. The ones that locals may love or only the avid enthusiasts of a particular hobby know about. Here are three types of attractions and examples of “hidden gems” within them.

Nature Spots

In order to preserve nature, it may be necessary to spread out. Find a new spot and stop overcrowding the popular ones. Spreading out seasonally can help as well.

Stony Brook State Park – Dansville, NY (Steuben County)

Tucked in between Letchworth State Park – voted #1 State Park in 2015 in a USA Today Readers Poll and Watkins Glen State Park – one of the most visited state parks in the state, Stony Brook is a mini version of both parks with its own individual charm. Varying levels of waterfalls, hiking trails along both sides of its gorge and a swimming hole that nature carved out of the gorge.

Roy H. Park Preserve – Dryden, NY ( Tompkins County)

Scenic and definitely under the radar in a region blessed with many and varying parks, the preserve is easy to hike, particularly along Six Mile Creek where you’ll find a hemlock gorge with cliffs, small waterfalls and little pools for dipping your toes. The preserve is part of the Finger Lakes Land Trust in its 30th year of stewardship for the lakes and lands of this region.

Unique Finds

Whether it’s a spectacle or simply a local hotspot that you know visitors will love, unique finds cover a gamut of great attractions that may or may not fit into another category.

The Bay Street Restaurant – Sodus Point, NY (Wayne County)

Up along the shore of Lake Ontario in a casual little community there’s a Key West inspired watering hole with summertime food and drink flare. A crazy-good Martini bar features over 180 varieties to choose from including their ‘Apple Pie Martini,’ notable because this lakeshore area is the 2nd largest apple producing region in New York State.

Tree Creations – Geneseo, NY (Livingston County)

There’s a car in a tree. Look closer, there’s a plane in another tree. What, there’s a house and rope walkways and then more things and soon you know it’s a village – in the trees. Fun is the very best word to describe this kids wonderland. Joe the owner, along with his family invite drop in visits and are half the fun of the experience.

Historical Hidden Gems

Second and third-tier destinations may not be well-known for their history, but they are teeming with it! From museums and gravesites to pioneers and more, the unique history of your area likely has great hidden gems for visitors to discover.

Two-Story Outhouse – Phelps, NY (Ontario County)

I’m going there. Telling you about a two-story outhouse and seriously suggesting you make the pilgrimage to see this 6 seat, made of solid brick, “lofty” roadside oddity built in 1869.

Belva Lockwood Inn – Owego, NY (Tioga County)

Belva Lockwood was a pioneer and visionary in women’s advocacy and the Inn, a lovingly restored historic home on the property where Belva lead a women’s seminary is the icing on the cake of being educated on the life of Belva. The first woman to run for president, in 1884! Not only that, she graduated from law school and was the first woman to argue before the US Supreme Court. The village of Owego is about to run, full steam ahead with a celebration of all things Belva. Beginning this month and going straight through 2020, the year that commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving woman the right to vote. #BeLikeBelva

Ready to get off the beaten path? What hidden gems are under and around in your destination?