Before the racetrack was built, races were held on a 6.6 mile (10.6 km) route through public streets, including an at-grade railroad crossing. The Grand Prix held on 2 October 1948 was the first post-WWII road race held in the United States. This course was used through 1952, when safety concerns prompted the construction of a closed course with safer spectator areas. The streets are unchanged today and a checkered flag marks the original start-finish on the town's main street.
Watkins Glen is also the home of the International Motor Racing Research Center.
Watkins Glen is located at 42°22'52" North, 76°52'16" West (42.380984, -76.871079)1.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 5.8 km² (2.2 mi²). 4.8 km² (1.9 mi²) of it is land and 1.0 km² (0.4 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 17.41% water.
As of the census of 2000, there are 2,149 people, 941 households, and 545 families residing in the village. The population density is 446.1/km² (1,157.4/mi²). There are 1,035 housing units at an average density of 214.8/km² (557.4/mi²). The racial makeup of the village is 97.91% White, 0.28% African American, 0.42% Native American, 0.60% Asian, 0.00% Pacific Islander, 0.14% from other races, and 0.65% from two or more races. 1.30% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 941 households out of which 29.1% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.2% are married couples living together, 13.5% have a female householder with no husband present, and 42.0% are non-families. 37.1% of all households are made up of individuals and 17.0% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.23 and the average family size is 2.90.
In the village the population is spread out with 23.7% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 26.2% from 25 to 44, 23.5% from 45 to 64, and 18.0% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 40 years. For every 100 females there are 86.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 82.1 males.
The median income for a household in the village is $30,094, and the median income for a family is $41,172. Males have a median income of $31,993 versus $22,647 for females. The per capita income for the village is $17,096. 14.3% of the population and 9.5% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 21.5% are under the age of 18 and 10.1% are 65 or older.