Ithaca is a small town with big things to offer. With so much history and culture, it’s hard not to want to visit! One of the things that makes Ithaca special is its proximity to many other great towns and cities. This blog post will guide you through 13 things to do in Ithaca NY, as well as why they’re worth your time.
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Why visit Ithaca?
There are plenty of reasons to visit Ithaca, NY. It has a rich history and culture that you won’t find in many places. It’s also home to the scenic Taughannock Falls State Park, which is one of the most popular destinations in the area.
If you enjoy outdoor activities, from hiking to kayaking, this is a great place for them! The outskirts of Ithaca has many things to offer the adventurous soul. With Taughannock Falls State Park about an hour away, you’ll have plenty of things to do just outside of town! If you enjoy water sports, then head over to Cayuga Lake or Skaneateles for swimming and boating on one side and fishing and kayaking on the other. For a day spent by a more serene body of water, take a scenic drive through Buttermilk Falls – always spectacular in fall with brilliant leaves reflecting off the calm waters below. If you’re looking to get away from things a little more, head on over to the Finger Lakes National Forest and enjoy some hiking!
In Ithaca, it’s hard not to find something you’ll love. Whether your idea of fun is active or laid back there will be plenty for everyone here.
13 Fun things to do in Ithaca NY
Ithaca, NY is an upstate New York town with a population of less than 30,000. It’s also home to two state universities and Cornell University. Despite its small size, Ithaca is packed with things to do. The following list contains 13 things that will keep you busy for at least a few days!
1. Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Cornell Lab of Ornithology is known for its research on birds the world over. It’s also a popular tourist destination, drawing more than 100,000 visitors each year to Ithaca (in central New York), where it has been located since 1894.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a great location to visit for those who enjoy the outdoors and want to learn about nature. The lab itself has been around since 1894 and has been responsible for some great things in the name of ornithology. It’s also a popular tourist destination, for anyone visiting the area!
2. Taughannock Falls State Park
The Taughannock Falls State Park is the most popular destination in Ithaca NY. With a waterfall that spans nearly 200 feet, it’s easy to see why this park attracts so many visitors every year. The waterfalls are created by Taughannock Creek as it tumbles over the edge of the New York Plateau, some 680 ft above Cayuga Lake. Visitors can enjoy hiking on miles of trails or take in views from an observation deck near the top of the falls for an unforgettable experience.
There are also picnic tables and pavilions available for those looking to spend more time at this beautiful destination. Those who love nature will love visiting Taughannock Glen Sanctuary where they’ll find walking trails winding around the gorge. The park is open all year round and offers many things for visitors of any age to enjoy, making it an ideal thing to do on your visit!
3. Cascadilla Gorge Trail
Cascadilla Gorge Trail is a beautiful trail that winds through the Ithaca area. The trailhead starts at the intersection of Route 13 and Park Street, just south of downtown Ithaca. From there, it’s about a mile to the gorge itself.
Along the way, you’ll pass by an old quarry on your left as well as some interpretive signs explaining things like how Cascadilla Creek has shaped this region for centuries or how two glaciers contributed to shaping this gorge more than 10,000 years ago. If you keep going, then after another quarter-mile or so you will come to a bridge that crosses over Cascadilla Creek and leads into the park. There are numerous things to explore in this park including the Gorge Trail which is a fairly easy, mostly flat hike that takes you along the creek and past some of Ithaca’s oldest buildings.
After crossing over the bridge at mile marker 0.25 (which lies about halfway through), there are several things worth checking out on the other side. One of these things is a beautiful waterfall called Cascadilla Falls which at 20 feet high is one of the tallest waterfalls in New York State. Another thing you’ll find here are some amazing views looking back towards downtown Ithaca along with great photo opportunities for both nature and architecture lovers alike, plus informative panels explaining things like how this gorge was created by glaciers thousands of years ago or why they chose to name it after an old Native American word meaning “where two rivers come together”. This is a must visit trail when you are visiting the area.
4. Ithaca Farmers Market
Ithaca Farmers Market is a must-do for all visitors to Ithaca NY. The Farmers Market is a local favorite that takes place every Saturday from May until November. The atmosphere of the Ithaca Farmers Market makes it a perfect spot to stop for breakfast, brunch, or an afternoon snack while enjoying some live music and entertainment on Saturdays from April through October.
It’s open daily and features fresh produce, baked goods, organic meats and eggs, jams & jellies, honey products, artisanal cheeses, and wines.
The Ithaca Farmers Market also has an on-site chef who offers free recipes and cooking demonstrations.
Additionally, the market hosts live music every Saturday morning during its operating season.
5. Ithaca Falls
The Ithaca Falls is a beautiful cascade waterfall in the town of Ithaca, New York. It’s part of Taughannock State Park and is easily accessible from the adjacent parking lot. The falls are best seen during late spring, when their flow rate can reach as much as 600 cubic feet per second (cfs). This makes it one of the most voluminous waterfalls east of the Rocky Mountains.
Ithaca Falls is located on Fall Creek, which starts at Buttermilk Falls and flows south for about 12 miles before emptying into Cayuga Lake near Ithaca’s southern boundary with Lansing. The creek then continues another 4 miles to join Cascadilla Creek at Cascadilla Gorge where both creeks form the upper portion of Cayuga Inlet.
The waterfall was formed by glacial erosion during the last ice age some 20,000 years ago when a glacier moved across Taughannock Creek Valley coming from what now are known as “Taughannock Point” beyond Geitawi Bay in Seneca Lake, pushing rocks embedded in the ice which created a deep gouge that would be filled with water to create one of New York’s highest and most spectacular falls.
6. Johnson Museum of Art
Johnson Museum of Art is a must-see for any Ithaca traveler looking to explore the culture and history of this beautiful city. The museum was opened in 1973 by Cornell University, which still owns it today. It houses over 40,000 pieces of art, including paintings, sculptures, textiles, and photographs.
The museum has three floors with interesting things on each one: exhibits on the first floor; an auditorium (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) on the second floor; and galleries where you can see works from various cultures throughout time on the third floor.
There are things to do on every level; first-floor exhibits consist mainly of Asian culture objects, while sculptural objects are on the second floor. The top floors feature things from various cultures throughout history!
Visiting Johnson Museum will not only give you exposure to some amazing artwork but also provide insight into what makes Ithaca so unique!
7. Museum of the Earth
The Museum of the Earth is a must visit destination. This museum features millions of years worth of fossils, rocks, and minerals. The museum has a wide range of interactive exhibits that give visitors an introduction to how geology works while also educating them about things like volcanoes and earthquakes.
The children’s section has lots for kids to explore, including a fossil dig with real bones found in New York State, live slugs, turtles and fish, touchable specimens from around the world, dinosaur eggs that can hatch into baby dinos on their own time frame, hands-on mineral identification tables where kids can find out what they are holding without breaking it open or using any chemicals. Visitors have plenty to learn and do at the Museum of the Earth.
8. Downtown Ithaca
Downtown Ithaca is the city center of the small town of Ithaca, New York. It’s home to Cornell University and Tompkins County Regional Airport. The downtown area has an eclectic vibe with things to do year-round from festivals to art galleries all year long!
The heart of it offers bustling city life with an eclectic vibe that attracts visitors during any season for things like festivals or events at museums or other attractions nearby. It’s home to more than 100 restaurants and bars. Visitors will find things to do year-round in downtown Ithaca from festivals to art galleries.
9. Cornell Botanic Gardens
Cornell Botanic Gardens is a garden of plants located at the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, NY. The gardens are open to the public and offer things like tours, classes, workshops, events, and more!
Cornell Botanic Gardens offers things like tours for people who would like to learn about plants up close and personal. For those who want to take things at their own pace, there are self-guided tour options that allow you – not only look but also touch the plants! These gardens are great for kids since they’ll be able to plant seeds with their parents or grandparents.
There’s also an event called “Gardens Around the World” where participants can explore different cultures through food, art, and music. It is hosted in June and is a great way to get into the summer spirit!
The gardens open from April until October, Tuesday through Sunday. They’re closed on Mondays and major holidays like Thanksgiving Day and Christmas day.
You can check out what events they have coming up or even sign yourself (or your kids) up for one of their classes which range in topics such as flower arranging, native plants garden design, bonsai culture, and much more! Their staff also offer things like lectures, tours, and more.
10. Six Mile Creek Vineyard
Six Mile Creek Vineyard is a small vineyard and tasting room located in the town of Ithaca, New York. Six Mile Creek Vineyard was started by two friends with a shared love of wine, who saw the opportunity to create a winery that would contribute to their community through sustainable practices and partnerships. The name comes from the creek that runs along the property, which they planted grapes on after acquiring it.
Six Mile Creek Vineyard offers both reds and whites. They are proud to be one of only three wineries in Tompkins County (the others being Seneca Spirits Company and Cornell’s Goldwin Farms). Their wines can also be found at local retailers like Capers Natural Marketplace, The Northside Wine & Cheese Shop, and Forage.
Their tasting room opens every day from 11:00 AM- 530 PM, with new hours on Sunday starting at noon. Saturdays offer live music from 12 pm – 250 pm !! Six Mile Creek Vineyard hosts a variety of events that may interest you all year round.
11. Cayuga Nature Center
Ithaca is the home to many things, including Cayuga Nature Center. This center has a lot of things for people to enjoy while they are visiting Ithaca. It’s easy to find, and it’s free! The Cayuga Nature Center is located at 1411 Rte 96A in Ithaca, NY 14850-4231. This place doesn’t have hours because it is a nature center with trails and habitats open all day long.
There are things like bird watching tours, guided hikes, educational programs for kids and adults that you can take part in here, as well as picnic areas where people can bring their own food or purchase from the concession stand on site if they would like something more substantial than just snacks. These things make this place a great day trip for nature lovers of all ages.
People can also do things like working on their fitness by taking part in the many trails that are here or biking if they would like to see other things around town while getting some exercise at the same time. There is no fee to use these things, but there might be parking fees depending upon where you go and what season it is. This center has everything from habitats with native plants and animals which people learn about as well as take photos of, so this makes this place more than just something fun to check out when traveling through Ithaca NY!
The things that are available include self-guided trails, guided tours and hikes, educational programs for kids & adults, a concession stand, picnic areas, a playground, and things like bird watching tours.
12. Cayuga Lake Wine Trail
The Cayuga Lake Wine Trail is a series of 16 wineries and vineyards that are open year-round for tastings. The wines available range from white to red, sparkling to still, with something for everyone in between. There’s also mead and iced tea on offer! A map is available at all locations or online at ithacawinetrail.com/map/.
The Cayuga Lake Wine Trail was established by the Tompkins County Legislature in 2003 as an effort to promote tourism throughout the region.
There are currently over 16 participating wineries, including: Black Cat Vineyards, Canandaigua Cellars, Chateau LaFayette – Ithaca Winery, Hitching Post Wines & Spirits LLC, Latour-Marliac Winery, and Tuthilltown Spirits.
13. Ithaca Children’s Garden
Ithaca Children’s Garden is a 3-acre site nestled in the heart of Ithaca, New York. The garden features gardens such as the Butterfly Garden and Herb Garden and offers educational programming for children and adults alike. It has been open since 1969 when it was founded by local Cornell University students to provide an outdoor space for recreation and education for small children in their service area.
Today it continues to serve that purpose while also providing opportunities for research in horticulture, watershed management, natural resources conservation, urban ecology, landscape design, and more.
The garden includes many things to do including tours of various areas of the property with knowledgeable guides who are happy to share information about what they’re seeing along the way; school field trips that focus on things like butterflies, marine life, and forest ecology; garden-themed birthday parties where kids can learn about things like composting or how to grow vegetables. Ithaca Children’s Garden is even available for private rentals if you want your own space for things such as family reunions or weddings!
Ithaca NY is a great place to visit all year round, and there are things for everyone! In the wintertime, you can enjoy an ice hockey game or take in some of Ithaca’s famous snowfall. In the spring there are several festivals, including Festival Latino and Spring Fling as well as outdoor concerts at Stewart Park. During summer months, you’ll find Cayuga Lake Wine Trail open from early May through Thanksgiving weekend, offering tastings along with wine dinners on Fridays during June-August.
The things that we’ve covered here should provide enough ideas for things to do when visiting this fun destination full of natural beauty and culture. If you’re looking for something more relaxing than skiing but still want to get out into nature, you can enjoy a hike in the arboretum or go for a bike ride on one of Ithaca’s many trails.
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