10 Things to do in Ithaca NY – 2024 Ultimate Guide

Table of Contents

Welcome

Welcome to Ithaca, NY, a charming destination nestled in the heart of the Finger Lakes region. Known for its stunning natural beauty, vibrant arts scene, and rich cultural heritage, Ithaca offers a plethora of things to do in Ithaca NY that cater to every traveler’s interests. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, foodie, history buff, or art lover, Ithaca has something special in store for you. From exploring the breathtaking gorges and waterfalls of the nearby state parks to indulging in farm-to-table dining experiences and discovering unique local shops and galleries, there’s no shortage of unforgettable experiences awaiting you in Ithaca. Join us on a journey to uncover the hidden gems and must-see attractions that make Ithaca a must-visit destination for travelers seeking adventure, relaxation, and inspiration.

Popular Experiences and Attractions

Cornell University:

Essential Information

– Address: Ithaca, NY
– Opening Hours: Varies by department and season
– Fee: Free for general campus visit, fees may apply for specific attractions
– Visit Duration: Half-day to full-day
– Ideal for: History buffs, architecture enthusiasts, prospective students

Overview

Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, stands as a prestigious institution renowned for its academic excellence and rich history. Founded in 1865, this Ivy League university offers visitors a glimpse into its storied past and cutting-edge research facilities. The campus boasts impressive architecture, including the iconic McGraw Tower, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding area. A visit to Cornell University provides a unique opportunity to explore its diverse range of museums, libraries, and botanical gardens. Whether you’re a prospective student seeking inspiration or a history buff intrigued by the university’s legacy, Cornell University is a must-see destination in the Finger Lakes region.

Ithaca Commons:

Essential Information

– Address: 171 E State St, Ithaca, NY 14850
– Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday 10am-8pm, Sunday 11am-6pm
– Fee: Free to enter
– Visit Duration: 1-2 hours
– Ideal for: Shopping, dining, people-watching

Overview

Ithaca Commons in upstate New York is a vibrant pedestrian mall that offers a unique blend of shopping, dining, and entertainment options. Visitors can stroll along the tree-lined streets and explore a variety of local boutiques, art galleries, and cafes. The bustling atmosphere is perfect for those looking to experience the local culture and support small businesses. Whether you’re in search of a one-of-a-kind souvenir or craving a delicious meal, Ithaca Commons has something for everyone. With its central location and diverse offerings, this bustling hub is a must-see destination for both tourists and locals alike.

Buttermilk Falls State Park:

Essential Information

– Address: 112 E Buttermilk Falls Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850
– Opening Hours: 8:00 AM – Sunset
– Fee: $8 per vehicle
– Visit Duration: 2-3 hours
– Ideal for: Nature lovers, hikers, families

Overview

Buttermilk Falls State Park in Ithaca, NY, is a natural oasis that offers a refreshing escape for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers alike. With its cascading waterfalls, lush greenery, and scenic hiking trails, this park is a must-see destination for those seeking a peaceful retreat in the heart of the Finger Lakes region. Whether you’re looking to unwind with a leisurely stroll along the gorge trail or challenge yourself with a more strenuous hike to the top of the falls, Buttermilk Falls State Park has something to offer for everyone. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the beauty of this hidden gem and immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature.

Robert H. Treman State Park:

Essential Information

– Address: 105 Enfield Falls Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850
– Opening Hours: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
– Fee: $8 per vehicle
– Visit Duration: Half-day
– Ideal for: Nature lovers, hikers, families

Overview

Robert H. Treman State Park in Ithaca, NY, is a must-see destination for nature enthusiasts seeking a serene escape. With its cascading waterfalls, lush greenery, and well-maintained trails, this park offers a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure. Visitors can explore the rugged gorges, swim in the natural pool at Lower Falls, or hike along the winding paths that lead to breathtaking viewpoints. The park’s unique geological formations and diverse flora and fauna provide a rich tapestry for outdoor enthusiasts to discover. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful retreat or an active day out in nature, Robert H. Treman State Park promises a memorable experience for all who visit.

Cayuga Lake:

Essential Information

– Address: Ithaca, NY
– Opening Hours: 24/7
– Fee: Free
– Visit Duration: Half-day
– Ideal for: Nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts

Overview

Cayuga Lake in Ithaca, NY is a must-see destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. With its serene waters and picturesque surroundings, the lake offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the shoreline, take a relaxing boat ride, or simply sit back and soak in the stunning views. Whether you’re looking to unwind in nature or explore the local wildlife, Cayuga Lake provides the perfect setting for a half-day escape. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the beauty of this natural gem during your visit to Ithaca.

Cornell Botanic Gardens:

Essential Information

– Address: 124 Comstock Knoll Dr, Ithaca, NY 14850
– Opening Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Daily)
– Fee: Free admission
– Visit Duration: 1-2 hours
– Ideal for: Nature lovers, families, and outdoor enthusiasts

Overview

Cornell Botanic Gardens in Ithaca, NY, is a must-see destination for those seeking a peaceful retreat in nature. With over 4,000 varieties of plants spread across 25 acres, this botanical garden offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Visitors can stroll through themed gardens, including the Herb Garden and Flower Garden, while learning about sustainable gardening practices and conservation efforts. The diverse plant collections, educational programs, and scenic trails make Cornell Botanic Gardens a perfect spot for nature lovers of all ages. Whether you’re looking to unwind in a tranquil setting or explore the beauty of the natural world, a visit to Cornell Botanic Gardens is sure to leave you feeling rejuvenated and inspired.

Taughannock Falls State Park:

Essential Information

– Address: 1740 Taughannock Blvd, Trumansburg, NY 14886
– Opening Hours: Daily from 8:00 am to sunset
– Fee: $8 per vehicle
– Visit Duration: 2-3 hours
– Ideal for: Nature lovers, hikers, families

Overview

Taughannock Falls State Park in Ithaca, NY, is a must-see destination for nature enthusiasts seeking a refreshing escape. The park’s main attraction, Taughannock Falls, stands at an impressive 215 feet, making it one of the highest waterfalls in the Northeast. Visitors can embark on scenic hikes along well-maintained trails that offer breathtaking views of the cascading waters and lush surroundings.

Aside from the majestic waterfall, Taughannock Falls State Park boasts a tranquil atmosphere perfect for picnics, birdwatching, and photography. The park’s diverse ecosystem provides a habitat for various wildlife, adding to the allure of this natural oasis. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or a more challenging hike, the park offers a range of trails suitable for all skill levels.

With its convenient location and affordable entrance fee, Taughannock Falls State Park is an ideal day trip destination for families, couples, and solo travelers alike. Experience the beauty of nature and unwind in the peaceful surroundings of this stunning state park.

Johnson Museum of Art:

Essential Information

– Address: 114 Central Ave, Ithaca, NY 14853
– Opening Hours: Monday-Sunday 10am-5pm
– Fee: Free admission
– Visit Duration: 1-2 hours
– Ideal for: Art enthusiasts, history buffs, families

Overview

The Johnson Museum of Art in Ithaca, NY, is a cultural gem that showcases a diverse collection of over 35,000 artworks spanning centuries. From ancient artifacts to contemporary pieces, this museum offers a comprehensive look at the evolution of art through time. Visitors can explore various mediums such as paintings, sculptures, prints, and decorative arts, providing a rich tapestry of artistic expression.

One of the main reasons why the Johnson Museum of Art is a must-see place is its stunning architecture. Designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei, the museum’s striking geometric structure offers panoramic views of Cornell University and the surrounding natural beauty of the Finger Lakes region. The building itself is a work of art, seamlessly blending modern design with the picturesque landscape.

Whether you’re a seasoned art enthusiast or simply looking to appreciate beauty in all its forms, a visit to the Johnson Museum of Art is a rewarding experience. With its impressive collection, educational programs, and breathtaking views, this museum is a cultural hub that captivates visitors of all ages.

Stewart Park:

Essential Information

– Address: 1 James L Gibbs Dr, Ithaca, NY 14850
– Opening Hours: 6:00 AM – 10:00 PM
– Fee: Free
– Visit Duration: 1-2 hours
– Ideal for: Families, nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts

Overview

Stewart Park in Ithaca, NY, is a must-see destination for those seeking a peaceful retreat in nature. With its picturesque setting along the shores of Cayuga Lake, this park offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Visitors can enjoy leisurely strolls along the waterfront, take in stunning views of the lake, and relax in the shade of towering trees. The park’s well-maintained trails are perfect for walking, jogging, or biking, providing ample opportunities to soak in the beauty of the surrounding landscape. Whether you’re looking for a quiet spot to unwind or a place to enjoy outdoor activities with family and friends, Stewart Park is a hidden gem waiting to be explored.

Cascadilla Gorge Trail:

Essential Information

– Address: Cascadilla Gorge Trail, Ithaca, NY
– Opening Hours: Daily from sunrise to sunset
– Fee: Free
– Visit Duration: 1-2 hours
– Ideal for: Nature lovers, hikers, families

Overview

Cascadilla Gorge Trail in Ithaca, NY, offers a refreshing escape into nature for visitors seeking a tranquil outdoor experience. The trail winds alongside a picturesque gorge, offering stunning views of cascading waterfalls and lush greenery. As you meander along the well-maintained path, you’ll be greeted by the soothing sounds of rushing water and the chirping of birds, creating a peaceful ambiance that is perfect for a leisurely stroll or a more invigorating hike.

One of the highlights of the Cascadilla Gorge Trail is the series of charming stone bridges that cross over the gorge, providing unique vantage points to admire the natural beauty below. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker looking for a challenging trek or a casual nature enthusiast seeking a serene setting for a leisurely walk, this trail caters to a wide range of outdoor enthusiasts. With its convenient location and free admission, Cascadilla Gorge Trail is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to reconnect with nature and unwind in a scenic setting.

Food and Cuisine

Buffalo Cauliflower Wings

Why is it so special:

Buffalo cauliflower wings are a vegetarian twist on the classic Buffalo wings, offering a healthier and equally delicious alternative. The dish consists of cauliflower florets coated in a crispy batter, baked or fried to perfection, and then tossed in spicy Buffalo sauce. The result is a flavorful and satisfying dish that appeals to both meat-eaters and vegetarians alike.

Where to Try It:

For a unique take on this dish, head to The Rook in downtown Ithaca. This cozy gastropub offers a mouthwatering version of buffalo cauliflower wings that will leave you craving for more. If you prefer a more upscale dining experience, try Coltivare, a farm-to-table restaurant known for its innovative and delicious vegetarian options.

Saganaki

Why is it so special:

Saganaki is a traditional Greek dish that consists of fried cheese, typically flamed tableside with brandy for a dramatic presentation. The cheese used is usually kefalotyri or graviera, which are firm and salty cheeses that hold their shape well when fried. The dish is served hot and gooey, with a crispy exterior and a rich, savory flavor that is sure to delight cheese lovers.

Where to Try It:

Experience authentic saganaki at The Mediterranean, a charming Greek restaurant in Ithaca that serves up this dish with flair. The saganaki here is prepared with expertise and served piping hot, creating a memorable dining experience. For a more casual setting, visit Souvlaki House, a local favorite known for its delicious Greek fare, including a delectable saganaki.

Events and Festivals

Ithaca Festival

The Ithaca Festival is a vibrant celebration of the local arts and culture scene in Ithaca, NY. This annual event features live music performances, art exhibitions, food vendors, and a parade that showcases the community’s creativity and diversity. Tourists can immerse themselves in the lively atmosphere, shop for unique handmade crafts, and sample delicious local cuisine during this festive weekend.

Cayuga Sound Festival

The Cayuga Sound Festival is a music festival founded by X Ambassadors, a popular band with roots in Ithaca. This event brings together a diverse lineup of musicians and bands for a weekend of live performances in a picturesque outdoor setting. Visitors can enjoy a mix of genres, from indie rock to hip-hop, while taking in the scenic beauty of the Finger Lakes region.

Apple Harvest Festival

The Apple Harvest Festival is a beloved fall tradition in Ithaca, NY, celebrating the region’s apple harvest season. This family-friendly event features apple-themed treats, artisanal crafts, live music, and activities for all ages. Visitors can indulge in freshly baked apple pies, sip on hot apple cider, and pick their own apples at nearby orchards while enjoying the festive autumn atmosphere.

Interesting Facts

– Ithaca, NY is home to the Ivy League university, Cornell University, which was founded in 1865 and is renowned for its beautiful campus overlooking Cayuga Lake.
– The town is famous for its stunning natural attractions, including the iconic Ithaca Falls, which stands at 150 feet tall and is a popular spot for visitors and locals alike.
– Ithaca is known for its vibrant local food scene, with numerous farm-to-table restaurants, wineries, and farmers’ markets offering fresh and delicious produce from the surrounding Finger Lakes region.

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