Named for its early Pennsylvanian and Yankee settlers, Penn Yan is an attractive small town (pop. 5,500), the seat of Yates County. Its downtown centers on historic Main Street, where you’ll find Belknap Hill Books (106 Main St., 315/536-1186), packed with more than 20,000 out-of-print, used, and rare books.
On a windowless wall of Birkett Mills (1 Main St.) are mounted half of an enormous griddle and the words: “The annual Buckwheat Harvest Festival. Size of big griddle used to make world record pancake, Sept. 27, 1987. 28 feet, 1 inch.” Birkett is the world’s largest producer of buckwheat products and maintains a small retail shop in its offices (163 Main St., 315/536-3311).
This local history museum (200 Main St., 315/536-7318, 9:30 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Fri., summer Sat. 10 a.m.–2 p.m., free admission), housed in a handsome brick building, is run by the Yates County Genealogical and Historical Society. One especially interesting exhibit pertains to Jemima Wilkinson, the 18th-century religious leader from Rhode Island who called herself the “Publick Universal Friend.”
The Yates County Fair takes over the Penn Yan fairgrounds in mid-July. On the Fourth of July and the Saturday before Labor Day, the shores of Keuka Lake  glow with magical Rings of Fire, as in the days of the Seneca. The Seneca lit bonfires to celebrate the harvest; today highway flares celebrate the holidays. For information about any of these events, call the Yates County Chamber of Commerce (315/536-3111).
Midway between Penn Yan and Dundee sprawls the Windmill Farm and Market (Rte. 14A, 315/536-3032, www.thewindmill.com ), the oldest and biggest of several indoor/outdoor farm-and-crafts markets operating in the Finger Lakes . Every Saturday, May–December, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m., about 250 local vendors set up shop in a large fairgrounds area off Route 14A. For sale are produce, flowers, furniture, crafts, wine, antiques, and homemade food. Many Mennonite families operate booths here.
In Dundee, you’ll find Martin’s Kitchen (4898 John Green Rd., 607/243-8197) selling homemade pickles, pickled watermelon rinds, jams, apple butter, and other Mennonite specialties.
Auctions take place Saturday at 7 p.m. at Hayes Auction Barn (1644 Rte. 14A, 315/536-8818).
The Viking Spirit Cruise Ship (680 East Lake Rd., 315/536-7061, www.vikingresort.com ) offers daily cruises May–October.
Near the downtown is the cozy Fox Inn (158 Main St., 315/536-3101 or 800/901-7997, www.foxinnbandb.com , $155–180), a 1820s Greek Revival home with five guest rooms and formal gardens out back.
Situated on an 18-acre estate with great views of both Keuka and Seneca Lakes presides Merritt Hill Manor (2756 Coates Rd., 315/536-7682, www.merritthillmanor.com , $169–189). The 1822 country manor offers five guest rooms, a breezy porch, and a fireplace-equipped living room.
Diner aficionados will want to stop into the squat, classic Penn Yan Diner (131 E. Elm St., off Main St., 315/536-6004), which dates back to 1925. Millers’ Essenhaus (1300 Rte. 14A, Benton Center, 315/531-8260) is a Mennonite restaurant serving such homemade specialties as barbecue sandwiches, split pea soup, and whoopie and shoofly pies.