Life in Ithaca
There are so many things to do in Ithaca! We are truly spoiled with the abundance and high quality of our local attractions. No need to drive long distances when you live here.
There are many great websites devoted to detailing what to see and do in Ithaca. Just Google "Things to do in Ithaca, NY" and you will be inundated with information. "An Insiders Guide to Ithaca Attractions" (on the web) has a great "short list" of some of the very best Ithaca has to offer. As information for most of these are easily accessed via the web (again, Google to the rescue!) I have not included much more info other than the name and personal prejudices concerning each
I've broken down my favorites by categories shown below.
The Great Outdoors
The gorges around Ithaca are a must do, but please, only go to these during good weather, avoid the icy season, and obey all trail closure signs and off limit area signs. These are for your protection. There are a few every year who feel the rules didn't apply to them, and every year there are several deaths as well as more than a few close calls requiring rescue crews. These are a serious waste of human resources and totally unwarranted as they are 99% avoidable; don't you be the next front page news!
All the following are don't miss to serious outdoorsy people
Taughannock State Park
Be sure to check out their summer concert series, free and fun. Right on Cayuga Lake as well.
Treman State Park
Hikes, waterfalls, great gorge, and an old mill to tour.
Buttermilk Falls State Park (above)
Both the upper and lower parks are hard to beat for hikes and picnics and swimming.
Fillmore Glen State Park
Well worth the car trip to Moravia, it has swimming and a lovely gorge hike.
Hike the gorge bottom to top, it is fantastic! but I wouldn't waste money on the laser light show
The following are not state parks, but have at least one of the following: great water falls, gorges, hikes or lakes.
Right on Cayuga Lake, and right in Ithaca. Has a beautiful Carousel for the kids.
Wild and beautiful, but be very careful.
A very pretty place to visit, even if you are strapped for time.
Easy hike goes all around it. Be sure to check out the stone arch bridge. NO diving!
Hammond Hill State Forest
My all time favorite, as I live smack in the middle of it. 19 miles of marked trails suitable for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing. The skiing here is the best in the area, as we have snow when no one else does. We have a municipal parking lot (1/2 mile up Hammond Hill Road) and a sign in kiosk with maps. Cornell Lab of Ornithology likes this area for birding, as we have one of the most diverse bird habitats in the county. Also can't beat it for star gazing as there is little light pollution. We have an active trail support group that cares for the trails here, certified through the Department of Environmental Conservation's Adopt a Natural Resource Program. Come join us! Email me if you are interested. Also, now that I have more flexibility with adding and deleting content I will be putting info on a NEWS! page.
A favorite view in the Hammond Hill State Forest, looking across our property toward Slaterville Springs.
Yellow Barn State Forest
Trails here are not actively maintained, but is nearby, a change from Hammond Hill, and also very pretty.
Made Biking Magazine's top ten places to mountain bike and has an avid following. Some purists think that the publicity has led to overuse of the trails. You decide for yourself.
Nature Centers, Botanical Gardens/Plantations and Birder's Paradises.
Cayuga Nature Center
This nature center does it all, from special events to summer camps to school field trips. These folks are one of the very few who get my hard earned dollars to support their programming. Well worth repeat trips.
A smaller nature center but has a lovely network of trails winding through very intricate, detail rich terrain. Also open to cross country skiing in winter. A new main building has recently been constructed. They have a top notch Orienteering map of their place as well, thanks to CNYO Orienteering club
Plant people rejoice! The Plantations range from rock gardens to shrubs and trees and nature hikes. The Plantations has a written guide so you don't miss out on anything, and a gift shop. Also offers art and photography classes, as well as many others.
Sapsucker Woods and Cornell Lab of Ornithology
The place for birders, bar none. There is a new building given over to everything bird and a diverse habitat to observe birds. Also an easy hike through woods and by ponds. Who could ask for anything more? The August 2009 issue of Backpacker named Ithaca, New York as the top city in the USA to raise a birder. High praise, indeed!
Six Mile Creek Mulholland Wildflower Preserve and Ithaca's water reservoir This area has a really nice hike through it. Don't be dumb and swim in the reservoir though, please! It's not allowed and people have gotten hurt (and died) doing so.
This VW ROCKS!!! This was built by a Cornell art class whose professor felt that it was important that art could be found anywhere. Certainly this sculpture has my vote for wonderful art. I'm told there is another one in Hammond Hill State Forest. If there is, I can't find it, and I've searched high and low. If anyone knows where it may be, please email me.
Multiday event in July in Trumansburg, just up the lake. A music fanatic's place to be. Huge crowds, though, so be prepared. Not too bad, cost wise.
Multiday event in June, and really brings out what is truly unique and special about Ithaca. Also huge crowds. Inexpensive, really.
Ok, so this one is in Sterling NY, a two hour trip, but hey it's great fun. Even I go despite the crowds, which believe you me, that's saying a lot! Costly by my pocketbook, but worth it.
Music, Science and the Arts
Nothing I could assemble could do proper justice to what is available in Ithaca, so I encourage you to start at the following and enquire of the people you meet what is their favorite music/art/theater venues:
Herbert F Johnson Museum of Art
Always something new to see here, even if the architecture leaves something to be desired. The building is known locally as "the chemical toilet".
Great fun, especially with kids, and they continue to get bigger and better all the time.
Paleontological Research Institute
"Wow" about says it all. Don't miss.
Dewitt Historical Society
All things historical about Tompkins County and Ithaca.
State of the Art Gallery
Hard to beat!
Cornell University Center for Theater Arts
Ithaca College and Cornell University
Both have active, vibrant music departments with many concerts and recitals, many free.
Cayuga Chamber Orchestra
"Don't Miss" Places
Ithaca Farmer's Market
On Third Street, weekends April through December, (hours vary by season) Fine (much organic) food, high quality crafts. A truly lovely place.
Terrific one-of-a-kind shops, and an unmatched atmosphere. Great place to people watch, too! Be sure to stop in at Handworks, just off the Commons. 40 local craftspeople own this cooperative and sell their crafts here. Very fine quality. Ann's personal favorite.
The MV Manhattan
A dinner cruise on Cayuga Lake. Save this one for when Mom comes to visit. Good food and fun! Expensive.
Finger Lakes Wine Tours
Pity your designated driver on this one. He or she is really missing out.
We have many, I know nothing about golf. For starters there are Hillendale Golf Course, Newman Golf Course, Hickory Hollow, Dryden Lake. Many more in the area. Sorry I am so unhelpful here.
Places to Eat
Too many to choose from but don't miss the following:
Taughannock Farms Inn: This is a special event place for us. Soup to nuts in a fine dining atmosphere (come in clean, decent clothes in other words. Suit and tie not necessary, though) Not that outrageous pricewise, considering what you get, and the food is terrific. Must have: the strawberry soup. Ann's favorite!
Moosewood: Ithaca's iconic restaurant for vegetarians, and even those who aren't, but who enjoy really really good food.
Simeons: Especially nice for a special outing.
Ithaca Bakery and Collegetown Bagels: Absolutely the finest sandwiches, bread, desserts, you name it. Not over the top fancy, but not a budgeters every day hangout either. Uniquely Ithaca.
Wegmans: Here you eat well, and it won't kill the bank account either. My husband and I buy a full sized serving from the pasta bar and split it, with drinks and a cookie, you will spend 5 to 6 dollars each, max. Plus, Wegmans you just have to go see. It's a whole different way to grocery shop.