Cayuga County Towns Offer Unusual Attractions

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Reed Travel Features

AUBURN, N.Y. -- Overshadowed by Buffalo and Albany to the West and East, the charming towns and villages of Cayuga County make for diverting weekend destinations. From Locke in the south to Fair Haven in the north, the region's 760 square miles offer visitors a surprising variety of attractions. A rundown follows:

Locke

* Earle Estate Meadery. This enterprise produces the honey wine of Norse legend, a fermented beverage that is smooth and satisfying but still packs a wallop. How sweet it is! The meadery is run by the affable Earles, John and Esther, who seem to enjoy explaining the wine-making process. For more information, call (607) 898-5940 or (607) 898-3012; the Web address is http://www.meadery. com; e-mail [email protected] .com.

Aurora

* Wells College. Located across Rt. 348 from picturesque Cayuga Lake, the college was founded in 1868 by Henry Wells, of Wells Fargo fame, and is one of the oldest liberal arts institutions for women in the U.S. Its 360-acre wooded campus as well as the town it calls home are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Group planners can take advantage of the Conference Services office, which accommodates groups of up to 500.

Net rates are available. Call (315) 364-3399; fax (315) 364-3423; e-mail [email protected]

* MacKenzie-Childs Ltd. Whimsical pottery, picture frames incorporating shards of earthenware, one-of-a-kind glassware and uniquely designed furniture are just some of the housewares-cum-artworks created by the more than 300 craftspersons who, if they don't actually whistle while they work, do seem to enjoy what they are doing. A factory, gallery and showroom wrapped into one, the complex is the brainchild of artists-entrepreneurs Victoria and Richard Mackenzie, who have turned a derelict 19th century farm into a showplace.

First-run products and seconds are on sale here, with prices ranging from $1 or so for mementos to big bucks for furniture. As one salesperson put it, "You should see the women who fly in here from Dallas on the weekends. They don't leave 'til they've spent thousands." Free studio tours are conducted Mondays through Fridays at 10 a.m. The showrooms and shop are open Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (315) 364-7123.

King Ferry

* The King Ferry Winery. This boutique vintner, which bottles its product under the name Treleaven Wines, is owned and operated by Peter and Tacie Saltonstall, who pride themselves on selling small quantities of premium wines that are the product of their vineyard on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake. The winery is open Mondays through Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. May to December and on weekends February through April. Call (315) 364-5100; in New York, (800) 439-5271.

Auburn

* Case Research Lab. The sound, if not the fury, of modern films was born here in the process invented by Theodore Case and E.I. Sponable in the 1920s, and it was not long before "Sunrise," the first feature released with a sound track, and "The Jazz Singer," featuring the voice of Al Jolson, caught the public's eye -- and ear, as well. The restored historic site displays the first sound camera and projector, a 1928 Movietone newsreel and photographs. Admission is $2.50 per person; groups are welcome. It is open Tuesdays through Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. Call (315) 253-8051.

* The Seward House. William Henry Seward -- secretary of state under Lincoln and Johnson and a prime mover in the purchase of Alaska -- lived here for nearly 50 years. During that time, he acquired a lot of stuff, and most of it, I'll bet, is still here somewhere. Sixteen rooms, from polished wooden floor to ornate ceiling, are crammed with the likes of a Russian samovar, china from Emperor Maximilian of Mexico and Civil War memorabilia. Free tours are lovingly conducted by docents who really care; admission is nominal. The Seward House is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 1 to 4 p.m. April through December. It is closed the rest of the year and on major holidays. Call (315) 252-1283.

* Auburn Prison. Built in 1816, the fortresslike facility was the birthplace of the Auburn System of discipline, which insisted on enforced silence, lockstep formations and striped uniforms. Site of the state's first electrocution, Auburn Prison is a bed-and-breakfast (lunch and dinner, too) for 1,700 long-term guests. The rack rate is 10 years to life; it is not commissionable.

Fair Haven

* Marinas, campgrounds, boat charters, traditional bed-and-breakfasts and cottages as well as antique outlets attract visitors to this beautiful maritime community that deserves to be more popular than it is. For more Cayuga County information, call the tourism office at (315) 255-1658 or (800) 499-9615; fax (315) 255-3742.

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