New York : Safety by City
- Fair Haven
- Greenport Village
- Lake George
- Lake Placid
- Long Island
- Mt Vernon
- New Paltz
- New Rochelle
- New York City
- Niagara Falls
- Saranac Lake
- Saratoga Springs
- Seneca Falls
- Shelter Island
- Sleepy Hollow
- Watkins Glen
- White Plains
Watkins Glen is “gorgeous” in more ways than one, as it sits next to an impressive gorge with waterfalls believed by some to have spiritual powers.
This is in addition to Watkins Glen’s pole position in the Finger Lakes region, right on the south shore of Seneca Lake.
The outdoor activities promote relaxation, while the racing history was the site of early automobile racing starting in 1948, with famous racers competing on the winding course through the village streets.
It’s now one of the premiere racing destinations in the nation.
Stairs and bridges wind through the somber gorge caverns, with 19 waterfalls falling from cliffs up to 200 feet tall.
Wineries have been a tradition here since 1866, with no other Finger Lakes region city having quite as many as Watkins Glen.
Take a sip of wine or the fresh air with lake and trail activities throughout the year.
All this is nestled in Schuyler County, one of the safest in the state.
What are you waiting for?
Warnings & Dangers in Watkins Glen
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low risk in this town, with fewer than 2,000 people when it comes to crime. While only county data is available, it's still impressively low for the 18,000 people who live here, much less the thousands who come to visit.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Even more impressive in Watkins Glen and Schuyler County is the public transportation system that goes around the village and other Finger Lake cities. Taxis and rideshares are available, but long distances will become pricey enough that it's worth getting your own rental car. All options come with a low risk.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
Exact pickpocket data isn't available, but the theft rate is almost five times lower than the national average. There's a low risk, but with enough big events and crowded spaces during racing season, use standard precautions, and you'll keep the risk low.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW
Watkins Glen faces the main concerns being severe thunderstorms that can bring destructive winds or isolated tornadoes during the summer. Winters can bring heavy snowstorms with blizzard conditions with the potential to knock out power and isolate the area for days. Occasional flooding can occur along Glen Creek after unusually heavy rains.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
Looking all the way back to 2000, Schuyler County hasn't had more than 10 robberies that entire time. The risk is low.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
This is another low risk, with NASCAR events being the biggest potential target. However, those events have strict security. You can always report suspicious activity to the local police.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
My research didn't turn up any tourist-related scams over the past few years. You can always check the county sheriff's website or Facebook page for new scams. However, the risk is low.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
This is one of the safer villages to visit in the Finger Lakes while still having plenty of things to do. Even solo travelers will feel comfortable in the village. Of course, always try to hike or go into the gorge with a group.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report shows full compliance. Water issues can happen after flooding, during deep freezes, or when a water main breaks. Just stay in touch with the village social media sites for more urgent information.
Safest Places to Visit in Watkins Glen
“Explore Watkins Glen” is the name of the tourism website for the village and county.
You can download a free tourist guide without giving personal information, which is always a bonus to avoid getting spam mail.
To get information about the entire Finger Lakes region, there’s a “Visit Finger Lakes” website available.
Take a stroll through Watkins Glen State Park, following the trail alongside 19 waterfalls as you wind through the gorge, crossing over stone bridges and feeling the mist on your face.
Stop by the Seneca Legacy Trail and learn about the Iroquois’ history in the Finger Lakes region at over 20 interpretive panels located along the route.
Watkins Glen State Park is truly a remarkable landscape, with trails that run alongside and deep in caverns along the watery gorge.
You will likely get sprayed by the waterfalls.
Parking is $10, but there’s no fee for the park entrance.
A shuttle is available to take you around the different waterfall trail sections.
Most people opt to hike the trail in one direction and then take the shuttle back.
Seneca Lake from atop the roof deck of the Harbor Hotel before heading down to the lakefront tiki bar.
Embark on a kayaking adventure along the shoreline of Seneca Lake, taking in the beautiful scenery and keeping an eye out for Bald Eagles along the way.
Seneca Lake has traditional hiking trails, paddle rentals, fishing opportunities, and restaurants alongside the shoreline.
Take a lake cruise on the Stroller IV and relax on deck as you pass by historic lighthouses, mansions, and wineries along the shore.
Summer visitors can take a scenic ride on the lake through Captain Bill’s & Seneca Lake Cruises.
Dinner cruises are also available with wonderful sunset views.
Learn about the origins of NASCAR at the International Motor Racing Research Center’s exhibits chronicling motorsports history.
Fans can also take the Walk of Fame for racing legends.
Watkins Glen International Raceway’s website has all the FAQs for visiting the track, but I can tell you that public tours are not available.
During racing season, you can pay extra to “Drive the Glen” and take your personal car on three laps around the famed racecourse.
Seneca Lake, as should be expected as a Finger Lake, is long like a finger.
You can drive the circle around the lake, which spans about 80 miles and goes past half a dozen wineries.
Finger Lakes National Forest sits on the east side of the lake.
Sugar Hill State Forest on the southwest side of Watkins Glen is one of the best places to get elevated views of the region.
Places to Avoid in Watkins Glen
You won’t have to worry about booking a hotel or campsite in a bad part of town.
Crime rates are low enough that you should feel safe staying anywhere in Schuyler County.
The biggest attraction here is also the biggest risk.
Waterfalls are simply stunning but also can get you wet from the mist or overzealous sprays coming off the rock.
Be prepared to get at least a little bit of water on you, which means protecting your mobile devices with waterproof protection.
As you head into the gorge, not all steps have guardrails.
That means you might not have anything to hold onto, but also that you might not have anything between you and the sheer drop into the gorge.
Add to that the slippery rocks from the waterfall mist, and it could be quite dangerous, especially if you are carrying young children or bringing excited kids.
No matter where you find a waterfall in Schuyler County, don’t climb it unless signs allow it.
I’ve seen too many waterfall accidents in my career to ever risk a step, especially for people wearing sandals or sneakers instead of hiking boots with good grip.
Parts of the trails and waterfalls will be closed down when snow or ice is present.
Don’t even go past a barrier.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Watkins Glen
- Watkins Glen gets its law enforcement from the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office. You can reach them by phone at (607)535-8222 and follow them on Facebook under the name “Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office, NY.”
- Another safety resource on Facebook is @schuyleremo. That’s the county emergency management office. They post regular weather warnings. You can get alerts right to your mobile device as they happen by signing up for NY Alerts.
- All fishing in the Finger Lakes region can only be done with a license from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Pay special attention to the website when purchasing, as you’ll use a website called DECALS to buy a license. Other sites have been popping up as scams, so follow the actual link from the DEC website.
- Purchase your tickets for Schuyler County Transit online. Not only can you get a multi-ride discount, but it keeps you from having to open your wallet at the bus station.
- Use 511 NY to track road conditions around the Finger Lakes Region. Scenic drives here are popular, but you want to avoid road construction, traffic jams, and weather delays as much as possible.
- Parking in Watkins Glen is free if you park on the street. There’s also a free parking garage up to two hours behind the visitor’s center.
- If you plan to rent a car, you won’t find an option in Watkins Glen or Schuyler County. Horseheads and Ithaca are the two closest towns with rental agencies, so it’s smart to get your rental car at the airport if you want to have your own.
- Swim only at designated beaches along the shoreline. Clute Park is the only one in Watkins Glen. You can also drive to Hector to swim at Smith Memorial Park. If you have concerns about water quality in the lake, the state park has a free public pool with the cost of parking.
- The village does have its own website, with several local resources. This is the best place to find local events in the community, like live bands for the upcoming weekend, but there’s also a list of things to do in a much more compact form than the tourism website.
- Even if you aren’t a racing fan, check the Watkins Glen International website for race weekends in the summer and fall. These events bring huge crowds that will drive up hotel prices and cause a lot of traffic and road closures.
So... How Safe Is Watkins Glen Really?
There isn’t much to say about crime risks in Watkins Glen other than using the standard safety steps you would in any tourism town.
- Lock your car every time you park
- Leave valuables out of plain sight
- Be aware of your surroundings, especially at night
- Watch out for scams or pressured sales tactics. If something seems too good to be true, it is. 100% of the time.
Even the violent crime rate in the county is 85% lower than the national average.
Since 2013, no more than 11 violent crimes have been reported in a year.
Theft rates are 78% lower than the national average.
Considering the thousands of people who come visit each year, that’s an incredibly low number.
Provided you stay updated on weather risks, know the basics of water and boating safety, and review the Sheriff’s social media sites for any new trending crimes, you really will enjoy so much of what Watkins Glen offers.
How Does Watkins Glen Compare?
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International visitors must have a valid passport to get through Customs and Border Patrol. A visa or visa waiver must be presented as well. You'll want to start the visa process early since it could require an interview or extended wait times. You can check the timetable of each process plus find the right visa for you on the U.S. State Department website.
You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. If you're going to exchange currency, do it before you get to Watkins Glen. Most international airports offer the service, but your home bank offers the lowest rates.
Four robust seasons are enjoyed in the Finger Lakes but always err on the side of packing more sweatshirts or jackets since even summer nights can get cold. You'll want comfortable, casual outdoor gear with comfortable walking shoes and hiking boots for the trails.
Elmira-Corning Regional Airport is just 30 minutes away. Taxi service is available from that airport to Watkins Glen. Rochester has an international airport about 90 minutes northeast of the village.
Anytime you take a trip where the weather could potentially interfere with flights or driving, we highly recommend getting travel insurance. Don't forget to look into health insurance too if you won't already be covered at your destination. Also double check the insurance on your rental car so you're prepared in the event of a crash.
Watkins Glen Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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