Top 15 awesome things to do in Ithaca

Top 20 Awesome Things to do in Ithaca NY

Located on Cayuga Lake, in New York State, the city of Ithaca is known for its gorges, waterfalls, college students and the surrounding beauty of the gorgeous Finger Lakes region, the watery outdoor lover’s paradise is the largest town in this eternally popular vacation area. It’s a cool and interesting place to visit in its own right though with some arty spots, good eats, and of course some great hiking. Here are the best things to do in Ithaca, New York State…

1. Go boating on Cayuga Lake – easily one of the best things to do in Ithaca

Ithaca Falls - things to do in Ithaca

Cayuga Lake tops the list when one talks about places in Ithaca. One of the most admired and visited places in New York. You can enjoy the picturesque surroundings while riding a boat! It is one of the Finger Lakes but attracts the most tourists round the year. The Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway is an 87-mile route around Cayuga Lake that boasts some of the best views in the region.

The long course gives you space and time to explore the area patiently. Besides, there are several great parks and places to launch your boat around Cayuga Lake. To mention a few here, Lake State Park, on the west side of Cayuga Lake, offers many fun activities, including a boat launch, campsites, and playgrounds. On the south end of the lake, Allen H. Treman State Marine Park is another famous attraction where you can launch your boat, enjoy the view, and explore as much as you like throughout the day!

2. Head to Ports of New York Winery – an awesome place to visit in Ithaca

Ports of New York Winery Ithaca

Visiting a historical place has its charm that gives excitement and pleasure to one and all. New York Winery has its roots in the twentieth century and is famous for its variety and finesse in wine production. The main attraction is their motto that emphasizes quality over quantity. The best thing about this winery is that it gives hands-on education in the vinification process of fortified wines to interested visitors.

The winery starts with a museum which also works as a tasting room. Besides, the lab of the owner is on full display for the visitors to explore. Then, you can grab a chance to enter the wine cellar and enjoy the taste of wine from the barrels or stir grape skins and juice. Later, you can also see the pyramids of barrels that store wine from ages, yes, an awe-inspiring moment!

3. Take your camera to Ithaca Falls – a local beauty spot

Ithaca Falls NY State

Cascading at a drop of 150ft, Ithaca Falls is the region’s most powerful and most impressive waterfall. Therefore, visiting Ithaca and not experiencing the monumental Ithaca fall means missing out on the natural beauty of all. Instead, experience the joy of sitting close by the charming fall.

It is an excellent spot for a picnic or a day to relax near the glimmering water from the fall. However, Fall Creek can get nasty during spring, so be cautious during this season. On top of all, there is no entry fee, and you can enjoy the day without any severe restrictions. Besides, the trails are pretty easy here and offer the best view of the falls from the bridge over Lake Street or the footpath adjacent to the creek. Additionally, the trail is open year-round!

4. Sample local food at the Farmer’s Market – one of Ithaca’s must-see highlights

Ithaca Farmers Market

Farmer’s Market is one of the most looked-for markets in Ithaca that provides farm-fresh fruits, veggies, and local products. The market attracts people who love to buy regionally produced items and delights. The best part of this market is that it is well sorted and open at multiple locations and dates to benefit the locals and visitors. 

Besides, on weekends the market is set up at the beautiful Cayuga Lake Waterfront. However, you can enjoy a quiet day shopping for local products at other markets in the more rural communities of Trumansburg and Caroline/Brooktondale. Apart from that, many markets offer regional prepared foods and food to take home and cook, so plan a lunch date and enjoy the delicacies from Ithaca at your ease! 

5. Make the most of Buttermilk Falls State Park – a popular tourist attraction

Buttermilk Falls State Park

As the name suggests, the falls look milky yet beautiful. Besides, it takes its name from the brothy cascade formed by Buttermilk Creek as it winds its way down the steep valley towards Cayuga Lake. The upper park has a small lake and offers hiking trails through woodlands along the gorge and rim. Moreover, it is pleasant for family outings as it gives a perfect view and space for picnic areas and playing fields.

On the other hand, the lower park has a campground, natural pool, and playing fields for more fun and adventures. Beyond the playing fields is Larch Meadows that is a wetland area through which a nature trail winds. The park attracts the most visitors during the height of summer. People love to swim and play around the pool and the trails. One can also enjoy camping here, and hikers love to enjoy the spacious areas to enjoy their bit! 

6. Dine at the Mix restaurant or Ithaca Beer Co. – sample the food and drink the city has to offer

Ithaca Beer Co.

The Mix calls itself a Chef-driven restaurant that aims to connect the neighborhood to a dining experience in the same way ingredients connect to food- Every element has a purpose that creates layers of flavor in each dish. Therefore, you will get everything exquisite you wish for in one place, in no time here! Besides, after the dinner party, Ithaca Beer Company specializes in brewing world-class craft beer.

The ambiance and the aura of this place are phenomenal and attract tourists from around the globe throughout the year. In addition to year-round favorites like their popular Flower Power IPA, you can also choose from new five-barrel beers, a special Thursday night cask, and seasonal selections on rotation in their Taproom. Besides, it also has beautiful indoor and outdoor dining areas to suit your mood and occasion.

7. Take a trip to nearby Taughannock Falls – one of the most beautiful places to visit in the area 

Taughannock Falls - things to do Ithaca

Pronounced Tuh-GA-nick, a tricky name we know! Besides the other natural attractions of Ithaca, Taughannock Falls State Park’s namesake waterfall tops the list of natural attractions of the Northeast. Certainly the biggest gorge in nearby Trumansburg, the 400ft deep gorge through layers of sandstone, shale, and limestone that were once the bed of an ancient sea.

The vertical drop of this waterfall is 215 feet, which is three levels higher than Niagara Falls. It forms a scenic view and allows the tourist to swim, camp, and hike around the fall. Moreover, visitors can get a spectacular view of the western shore of Cayuga Lake and enjoy a camp overlooking the stunning vistas.

8. Go on a food tour – a fun way to explore what the city has to offer

Food Tour Ithaca, New York

Ithaca is a culinary hotspot with an ever-evolving food scene. A food tour is the best way to indulge in the city’s local cuisine and food varieties from all over the world. There are so many food tours to choose from including Ithaca Boat Tours, Ithaca is Foodies Culinary Tours, and Discover Cayuga Lake Boat Tours among others. 

These tours take you to Ithaca’s most iconic sites while giving you the inside scoop on the city’s food scene. Whether you want to enjoy tastings from upscale restaurants or treat your palate to street grub, a food tour is a great way to explore Ithaca’s food culture while socializing.

9. Check out the suspension bridge – a cool photo opportunity Ithaca suspension bridge

If you’re up for some fun and have a strong heart, then this is a place you cannot dare to miss. The suspension bridge puts you 140-feet above the ground and offers exhilarating views of several major waterfalls. Fall Creek Suspension Bridge is located on the Cornell University campus and is a popular hiking trail for students and locals. Plus, the bridge journey is 270-foot long and gives you goosebumps as you are more than 100 feet above ground level.

The bride moves and makes it an adventurous journey, yet this experience would make you feel stronger and fill you with pride! Moreover, there are other adventures that you can take part in here that will challenge your bravery and strength. It is a must-go place in Ithaca, for it is a crazy and out-of-the-box venture for all the daring folks out there!

10. Explore Robert Treman State Park – this is a popular area of wild beauty

Robert Treman State Park

Ithaca is full of beautiful parks and falls. Robert Treman State Park is one of those charming places where you can relax or roam around amidst the greenery and rustic beauty. Besides, Enfield Glen is the scenic highlight of this park. It is, of course, decorated with rugged canyons and winding paths, and its names include the 115-foot-high Lucifer Falls and Devil’s Kitchen.

Moreover, the park features six trails with spectacular rocky gorges and wooded sections. The three-mile section of the Finger Lakes Trail passes through the state park. Those who dare and like to explore the area fully can hike along any trail in Enfield Creek, which is 3.5 miles from Anfield Glen and has a steep slope of nearly 150 meters. Almost five trails follow the gorge past 12 waterfalls, and all are equally strenuous and long yet would give you a beautiful view of the surroundings.

11. Go Glamping – a quirky and fun way to stay in the area Glamping New York State

Firelight camps and other places in Ithaca that allow camping bring the heart of this place alive. Firelight camps are beautiful and offer various sites for camping with loved ones. The spacious, as well as calm environment, fits for camping activities. What is attractive about this place is its minimal infrastructure to maintain the rustic and natural way of life. Besides, the place promotes local crafts and business that gives it an earthy and authentic touch.

Moreover, you can enjoy a bonfire at the center of the camps and celebrate precious moments with friends and family. The organization supports and believes in providing the guests with the best experiences they wish for and keep them attached to the roots of nature and the culture of Ithaca. 

12. Hike on the Cascadilla Gorge Trail – for plenty of scenic and amazing waterscapesCascadilla Gorge Trail

Voted as Ithaca’s famous gorge, the Cascadilla Gorge Trail connects downtown Ithaca with the Cornell Campus in the Finger Lakes Region. The trail connects several places and allows you to explore the regions on your own- either on a bicycle or on foot. You can experience beautiful views and waterfalls on your way through these trails.

The three-quarter mile-long path is full of unique waterscapes with eight lovely waterfalls ranging from eight to 80 feet in height along the stretch of Cascadilla Creek. Ascending nearly 400 feet from the College Avenue Stone Arch Bridge on the Cornell campus to the Treman Triangle Park in Ithaca, the historic set of stone trails leads you through the gorge formed from ancient bedrock. Away from the noisy city sounds, the trails offer a calm and peaceful place to roam in the alleys of nature. 

13. Explore Downtown Ithaca – this urban area is eclectic, vibrant, and constantly changing.

Downtown Ithaca

Downtown Ithaca is a place where there are no restrictions on time, day, and season. It is exuberating and exciting all through the day, night, year-long! The four-block, pedestrian-only section of Downtown is home to many unique stores and Ithaca restaurants.

Located closely to Cornell University and Ithaca College, it is the perfect place for Ithaca commons to gather around for a cup of coffee and chat with friends and family. With festivals lined up throughout the year, the area is never out of spark. The people you find there are fun, but the building walls also speak art and music to you as they are full of graffiti. You can never go empty-handed from this place as the place is full of cultural information that would leave you spellbound and full!

14. Pay a visit to Cornell University and its Botanic Gardens – a lush haven with lovely nature preserves, an arboretum and mature botanical garden

Cornell University Ithaca

A trip to Ithaca is incomplete without taking a tour of the iconic Cornell University and its beautiful surrounding gardens. The award-winning botanical gardens spread over 500 acres with a nature preserve, arboretum, and mature botanical gardens. You can explore the region on foot or drive to various locations. You can even pick up a bike and take a quick ride amid the greenery and beauty.

There are 22 nature preserves off the Cornell campus, and you can get the directions on their official site. Hike the 22 acres of lush wooded trails and learn about the endangered bird species at the Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary. The university also provides various garden tours in growing seasons. Go sunset watching and stargazing from Libe Slope or Fuertes Observatory; there’s never a dull moment in this lively campus.

15. Discover the Johnson Museum of Art – one of the best attractions in Ithaca 

Johnson Museum of Art

Like all the places, Ithaca too has a place for art enthusiasts. This museum welcomes one and throughout the year without charge. The awe-inspiring exhibitions and displays of the museum attracts more than 80,000 visitors each year. The museum is a home for around 40,000 art pieces spanning six millennia and encompassing most world cultures.

From paintings, photographs, sculptures to textiles, all kinds of art are on display. You can click pictures in the alleys and front of monumental pieces of the permanent collection galleries on Floors 1, 2, and 5. If you are an art fanatic, it is a must-go place; remember that the museum remains closed on Monday to the public.

16. Relax in Stewart Park – a pretty lakefront park with facilities and activities on offer

Stewart Park IthacaStewart Park is one of the oldest parks in Ithaca. These days it is a regular park and is quite active. It offers a place for young and old folks alike to enjoy a tennis court, a playground with several play structures, athletic fields, a duck pond, a municipal golf course, and a bird sanctuary.

Besides, it is home to various trees that make it a pleasant place to take a quiet stroll. Moreover, you can sit and fish in the spots allotted. It makes a perfect place for a day out for locals and foreigners alike! History enthusiasts can explore the past of the park and read more about it in the park.

17. Explore Six Mile Creek Vineyard – an award-winning family owned winery

Explore Six Mile Creek Vineyard

A vineyard that combines Ithaca’s winemaking tradition with the city’s history. Located in a beautiful 19th-century barn, Six Mile Creek Vineyard is the oldest winery and distillery in Ithaca. 

Make the most of your visit by sauntering through the vineyard, touring the winery, and trying the full line of Italian-inspired delights produced there. The vineyard is open to the public every day between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. They open an hour early on Saturdays. 

Address: 1551 Slaterville Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850, United States

18. Visit Sciencenter – a hands-on science museum and great family attraction to explore in the area

Sciencenter Itaca

Whether you are a first-timer or have visited Ithaca multiple times, the Sciencenter is not a place that can be avoided. As the city’s one of the most famous museums, the Sciencenter features more than 250 hands-on exhibits. The museum also boasts two seasonal outdoor science parks, a seasonal mini-gold, and a gift shop. 

Head to the Sciencenter to explore an eclectic selection of educational and fun exhibits of different categories including weather, animals, space, and engineering. Don’t skip out on the lovely murals showcased outside the museum. You can visit the Sciencenter Tuesdays through Saturdays between 10 a.m, and 4 p.m. The museum opens at 12 a.m. on Sundays. 

Address: 601 1st St, Ithaca, NY 14850, United States

19. Catch a show at Hangar Theater – a popular a non-profit, regional theatre

Hangar Theater Ithaca

Hightail it over to Hangar Theater if the indigenous art of Ithaca interests you. It’s a non-profit, regional theater that hosts concerts, plays, and stage performances of children’s books. 

From 20-minute performances of classic fairy tales to concerts of local and regional artists, the theater welcomes all types of performing arts. The performance schedule keeps changing and kids’ plays normally happen during summer. 

Address: 801 Taughannock Blvd, Ithaca, NY 14850, United States

20. Discover Corners Gallery – the premier Finger Lakes source for contemporary art

Corners Gallery Ithaca

An art gallery featuring a never-ending array of contemporary art. Ariel Bullion Ecklund, the owner of Corners Gallery, is an art photographer who purchased the place from her former employers and renovated it in 2014. The present-day Corners Gallery has a large exhibition space and houses art and ceramic pieces fashioned by its owner.

Spend an entire afternoon here and immerse yourself in local artwork hanging on the gallery’s walls. There’s so much to captivate art lovers from geometrical designs to thread art to polaroid paintings. Corners Gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Saturdays, it stays open between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. 

Address: 903 Hanshaw Rd # 3, Ithaca, NY 14850, United States

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Born in England, with a few family roots from Bavaria, and a special fondness for Scandinavia I've always been a bit of a restless soul. My first true adventure began as a six month voyage around South East Asia as a fresh faced backpacker and ever since I've lived a semi nomadic existence, clocking up visits to over 40 countries. I'm a lover of US Road Trips, deserted beaches bathed in warm glow of a sunset, Cuban mojitos, travel destinations far away from the tourist crowds and all things Scandinavian - from cloudberry liquors to Nordic noirs. When not wandering the world, you'll find me walking my rescue dog in leafy South West London, strolling around the Brighton Laines on random day trips, hunting for photogenic landscapes or daydreaming about returning to my favourite places; Havana, Copenhagen, Italy, Thailand and the frozen landscapes of a wintry Iceland.

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