'Regularity, neatness and order everywhere' is how the Inns of Aurora was reviewed upon opening in 1833 – though we’re sure you’ll find opportunities for mischief today. This upscale stay in the Finger Lakes, the former home of the co-founder of the New York Times, presents the option of five storied turn-of-the-century lake houses with almost as many restaurants and a headline-stealing spa. Some come with private swimming areas on the lake; others picturesque porches and fire pits – all come with a hearty upstate welcome.
Double rooms from £191.40 ($243), including tax at 13 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional resort fee of $37.00 per room per night on check-out.
Rates exclude breakfast, but coffee, tea and granola bars are complimentary. An à la carte breakfast is available at 1833 Kitchen & Bar (or in-room) for between $12 to $30 a person.
In each inn there’s a wheelchair-accessible room and ensuite and all but EB Morgan House are fitted with an elevator.
At the hotel
Activities center with bikes, kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards to borrow during the summer; nature trail, gym, demo kitchen, casual pub, general store, cocktail hour tent, private dining (with private rental). In rooms: free WiFi, flatscreen TV, mini fridge, free bottled water.
Our favourite rooms
Rowland House wins our heart with sophisticated old-meets-new interiors, a Grecian temple and two-storey boathouse: opt for a top-floor Whimsy Deluxe room for a wild ride of pattern-rich MacKenzie-Childs décor. Aurora Inn rooms have the biggest footprints and shared balconies: the two top-floor suites are wallpapered winners, each with a generous lounge and ensuite with an egg-shaped tub. Many of the rooms at EB Morgan House come with working fireplaces. All rooms at Zabriskie House are an oasis of calm blue hues.
You’re on the shores of Cayuga Lake here with private swimming areas and lakeside docks for guests at EB Morgan House and Rowland House. At the spa there are hydrotherapy circuits featuring indoor and outdoor pools. A lakefront swimming area by Aurora Inn is open to all guests.
In a peaceful pastoral spot, the hotel spa is a campus of four buildings set around a pond on a hill overlooking Aurora. Check in for hydrotherapy circuits using sauna, steam room, warm pools and cold plunge baths. Treatments by Rasa Spa range from massage and body therapies, via energy work, to facials, skincare rituals and salon extras such as manicures and pedicures, professional blow-drys and make-up. You could even opt for a retreat package, bundling a handful of soothing and restorative rituals into a full day of pampering. As a spa guest, you’re free to snack on the cold selection (salad, cheese and charcuterie, wraps, hummus and crudités, plus yogurts parfaits, fresh fruit and granola) on offer at the café’s grazing table. Coffees, wine, beer and kombucha are available to order, too. Take a plate to the courtyard, heated porch or bench-flanked fire pit, or grab a table indoors by the fire.
Casual clobber for messing about on the lake – shawls or wraps to provide staying power for evenings on the porch or beside the fire pit.
Morning coffee, cheese and wine hour and s’mores kits for by the fire are (free) daily rituals.
On the terrace at 1833 Kitchen & Bar or fireside at Fargo. Just being at Aurora Cooks for dinner qualifies you as having secured top table.
Finery and jewellery for 1833 Kitchen & Bar; country casual for Fargo Bar & Grill and a dinner party dress code for kitchen dinners at Aurora Cooks.
1833 Kitchen & Bar, a dining room and lakeside terrace housed in historic hotel Aurora Inn. Polished wooden floors, working fireplaces and rustic candelabra bring yesteryear charm to this farm-to-table restaurant, where executive chef Eric Lamphere shines an international light on seasonal ingredients with dishes such as Iberico pork with chorizo and white beans and Atlantic cod and bok choy in a miso shiitake broth alongside closer-to-home shrimp and grits and grilled New York strip. Brunch here is a speciality, served 9am until 2pm, and features steak and eggs and crab cake benedict, as well as sweet options including apple and cranberry galette. Down Main Street, Fargo Bar & Grill has casual pub vibes with plaid wallpaper and wooden floors indoors – parasol-shaded tables on the terrace out back: beers on tap, stacked burgers, turkey melts and firecracker mac ’n’ cheese are the main draws here – plus we love the sound of a black bean naanwich. There’s a culinary calendar of events at demonstration kitchen Aurora Cooks: book in for skills workshops, signature demonstrations, Sunday brunch or one of the restaurant’s exclusive kitchen dinners. Privy to just six (lucky) diners, this intimate affair involves a weekly changing prix-fixe menu of three courses, featuring dishes such as chicken roulade with sautéed summer veg and pot de crème with local chocolate.
1833’s bar is a pre-dinner affair for wines by the glass or bottle: as you’d expect there’s many a tipple from the local terroir, complemented by Cali bottles, French, Spanish and Italian vintages. Fargo is an all-day all-rounder with local wines, beer on tap and a cocktail list to enjoy either in the low-lit bar or at parasol-shaded tables on the deck.
Breakfast is served from 7.30am to 11am. Brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday, 11am–2pm; dinner, 5pm–9pm. Fargo is open 11am–9pm (until 11pm at weekends).
The Inns of Aurora is on the eastern shores of Lake Cayuga in the Finger Lakes of upstate New York.
Ithaca Tompkins (35 minutes by road), Syracuse (an hour’s drive) and Rochester (75 minutes away by road) are the nearest regional airports with good connections between them to international hubs including NYC’s JFK, Newark and LaGuardia airports, as well as Chicago, Orlando, Denver and more.
Syracuse Regional Transportation Center is a little over an hour by road from the hotel and travels south via Utica and Schenectady to Penn Station, NYC.
At each residence there’s a dedicated free parking area.
The hotel runs free shuttles for trips to local wineries.
Worth getting out of bed for
A spa with its own campus and café, a lakefront address and activities center that puts equipment and instruction at your disposal, bikes to borrow, lawn games and art materials to enjoy, bird guides and binoculars – even a telescope for stargazing – there’s not much impetus to venture beyond the Inns of Aurora. In Aurora itself, the Morgan Opera House is a Tudor Revival building that houses Aurora’s free library too: check the opera house calendar to catch one of its occasional concerts. Go fishing or hiking in Long Point State Park, just south of Aurora. Finger Lakes wineries on your doorstep include Long Point, Heart and Hands Estate and Bright Leaf vineyards. Or perhaps the Finger Lakes Beer Trail collating local craft breweries can quench your thirst for adventure.
A 30-minute drive from the hotel takes you to Skaneateles Lake and historic fine dining restaurant, the Krebs: its seasonal, locally sourced plates feature starters such as crispy duck wings in chili honey sauce and spring onion tartine, as well as your choice of lamb or beef cuts, blackened salmon or half a chicken for mains – all generously portioned and elegantly presented. Also at Skaneateles, on the lakefront, Blue Water Grill is a lively, more casual affair of fish and chips, standout burgers and sandwiches. Refined Italian cuisine paired with local wines is on the menu at Gola Osteria – a restaurant inside the historic Quarry Arms at Ithaca: authentic antipasti (braised artichokes, tripe alla Romana, grilled octopus), handmade pasta and mains such as veal saltimbocca and eggplant parmigiana will leave you happily sated.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this genteel country hotel in the Finger Lakes and unpacked their bottles of riesling and Ralph Lauren shades, a full account of their lakeside break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Inns of Aurora in Upstate New York…
For bons vivants who revel in the freedom to choose, the Inns of Aurora makes tailoring a trip effortless. Take its set-up – essentially five hotels rolled into one: 1833 mansion Aurora Inn is the hotel’s heart and yet every bit as finessed are Italianate-stone stunner EB Morgan House, den of refined whimsy Rowland House and blue-hued Zabriskie House; overhauled girls’ school Wallcourt Hall is Aurora’s most modern-in-style stay. The abundance of culinary options feels just as opulent: take breakfast at your inn or head to 1833 Kitchen & Bar for brunch (its lakeside terrace and polished dining room are open for dinner, too). For a casual meal, plump for burgers and beer at Fargo Bar & Grill; for dinner-party vibes, secure limited spots at an Aurora Cooks kitchen dinner. A choice of tempos is on offer, too: slow down with wanders in nature, downtime on the porch and a massage at the spa, or get the party started, messing around in canoes, freewheeling around Aurora, exploring local wineries and revelling in all the fine food and drink on your doorstep. With this much choice, no two stays at the Inns of Aurora are the same.