The Complete Guide to 48 Hours in Ithaca, NY

I spent four amazing years at Ithaca College, which means I also spent the majority of those four years (and a summer) in Ithaca, NY and haven’t stopped telling people about it since. It’s been a while since my last weekend in Ith and I’m seriously missing the small city at the foot of Cayuga Lake.

Every few months, someone asks me what there is to do in Ithaca because it’s close enough to Buffalo that a weekend trip is totally doable. There are plenty of Airbnbs and hotel rooms (as long as you’re not trying to go during graduation or family weekend – check the Cornell and Ithaca College calendars!), and the number of parks and public spaces make for an affordable getaway.

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Buttermilk Falls State Park

It’s to the point that I have a giant message that I copy and paste into conversations with friends. There’s a lot on that list, but it’s probably not the most organized way to share all of Ithaca’s must-dos. In its place, I created a 48-hour itinerary for my ideal weekend in Ithaca.

This is by no means a complete collection of everything Ithaca has to offer. It’s also best completed during the summer or fall when it’s not -5°, windy and sleeting. Hopefully, I’ll be following this exact schedule for my next trip to the Finger Lakes later this year!

Friday

Taking a half day on Friday means getting to Ithaca early enough on Friday to fit in a few fun things before calling it a night. Coming from Buffalo, I like taking the Thruway to Exit 41 for Waterloo/Clyde and heading down Route 89 along Cayuga Lake. This way, you have to pass Taughannock Falls State Park before getting to Ithaca.

Park in the lot on the right side of the road and head to the trail to stretch your legs. Take the Gorge Trail for a quick walk (less than a mile) to the base of the falls. You can also start the weekend off strong with the South Rim Trail to the North Rim Trail, which together are just over 3 miles. This route will take you up and around the falls. You’ll also pass the overlook (you can drive there using Taughannock Park Road instead) on this trail for that Instagram-famous view of the falls.

Hopefully, you’ve worked up an appetite by now and are ready for burritos and margaritas at Viva Taqueria. Order from the counter (walk in the front door and turn right) and take your haul (make sure you add chips and salsa) to one of the tables outside to watch as people enjoy dinner at the row of restaurants along Aurora Street. If the weather isn’t as nice, ask the hostess for a table on the full-service side of the restaurant.

After dinner, window shop your way through the Commons and make your way down either West State Street or West Green Street to end up at Liquid State Brewing Company. Liquid State is a newcomer and I haven’t tried it yet, which is why it’s a high priority on my weekend itinerary.

Saturday

I love starting the weekend at Carriage House Cafe in Collegetown. Carriage House was, in fact, once a carriage house; it’s been restored beautifully into a cute, cozy and delicious brunch spot. Like a lot of restaurants in Ithaca, the menu depends on what’s in season.

Since you’re already in Collegetown, head to Cornell University for some Ivy League vibes. Here, you can simply drive through campus and take in the beautiful architecture and views of Ithaca and the surrounding hills. Walk around McGraw Tower (the Cornell Chimes ring three times a day) and duck into Uris Library.

These beautiful structures will look familiar to Buffalonians because they were built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, whose namesake designed the buildings within the Richardson Olmstead Complex. Within Uris Library is the A. D. White Library, which gives off serious Harry Potter vibes.

If you’re into art museums, check out the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art next. There’s a little bit of everything here, from African artifacts to modern mixed-media. Even if art isn’t your thing, the view of Cayuga Lake from the top floor is gorgeous.

When the weather’s nice, skip the museum and head straight to the Cornell Botanic Gardens for a nice walk. Start in the gardens surrounding the Nevin Welcome Center before heading to either the Mundy Wildflower Garden or Beebe Lake Loop Trail.

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Cornell Botanic Gardens

By now, you’re probably ready for lunch (which, because it’s Saturday in Ithaca will technically be brunch at most restaurants), so drive to Avaga, a farm to table southwestern restaurant in an old train station near Cornell. Go for the frittata; the black bean burger is good too. If you’d rather, check out Agava for dinner. Start with guac and order a couple of wood-fired flatbreads before live music starts.

Get over your mimosa-induced slump with an afternoon pick me up at Gimme! Coffee. I personally think this is the best coffee in Ithaca and their Cayuga Street location is my favorite. Sit inside or out with your coffee, or take it to go and wander down quaint Cascadilla Street until you get to Cascadilla Gorge. This pretty trail is short, making it a nice post-lunch walk.

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Cascadilla Gorge Trail

Drive to the Upper Park Entrance of Robert H. Treman State Park and take the Rim Trail to Lucifer Falls. Cross the bridge and walk back up to the parking lot on the Gorge Trail. You could substitute this hike for Buttermilk Falls State Park just across Route 13. If you want to see falls without any walking (there’s a good reason the tour guides at Ithaca College tell you about “Itha-calves”), check out Ithaca Falls Natural Area at the end of Falls Street.

For dinner, head to Ithaca Beer Co. If you’re done with nature (or the weather isn’t great) come to the taproom early for a brewery tour before dinner. They’re fun, informational and indoors. There are lots of seasonal ingredients grown nearby on this menu too. Pizza’s a good bet, and so is the burger with fries (made better by the house-made ketchup). I’m partial to pairing them with a Flower Power and Apricot Wheat, but I’ve never had a bad brew here.

Another great dinner option is Coltivare, a farm to table restaurant that’s part of Tompkins Cortland Community College’s culinary program. It’s the priciest option in this itinerary, but I think it’s worth it.

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Ithaca Beer Co.

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Sunset at Stewart Park

After dinner, head to Stewart Park, right on the southern end of Cayuga Lake. It’s my favorite place to watch the sun set over the hills.

Sunday

Depending on whether or not you’re still full from all the food you ate on Saturday, eat breakfast on Sunday morning at either Waffle Frolic or Collegetown Bagels, both located in the Commons.

During the school year, the line for Waffle Frolic can reach out the door. It’s worth the wait. Your imagination is the limit here, where you can top four different kinds of waffles with everything from bacon and eggs to Nutella and locally-made ice cream.

Collegetown Bagels has, you guessed it, awesome bagels. My go-to CTB breakfast is the pizza bagel on a sesame seed bagel. There’s nothing better after a busy Saturday or late night. There’s also a Collegetown location. That one is open late, so if you want dessert Saturday night, it’s a good option!

For your morning caffeine, walk to Press Cafe in Press Bay Alley. This row of shops was once home to the Ithaca Journal’s offices and printers. The back side of this airy cafe’s building is where you’ll find the “Ithaca is Amusing” mural you may have seen on Instagram.

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Farmers' Market

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Farmers' Market

A weekend in Ithaca isn’t complete without a trip to the farmers’ market. Stock up on fresh fruits, veggies and flowers along with a good part of Ithaca’s population. Sunday hours start later in the spring and end earlier in the fall, so make sure you check the hours before driving down to Steamboat Landing.

Before you head home, make a quick stop at Purity Ice Cream. One of my favorite features here is the ability to split a single scoop between two flavors. The old-timey feel and homemade ice cream cannot be missed. Unless you plan to stop at Cayuga Lake Creamery, which is another delicious option.

A Rainy Day Trip to Ithaca

It’s hard to forget a place as beautiful, diverse and delicious as Ithaca.

I hadn’t made the drive down Cayuga Lake in a year and after spending four years making that drive after weekends in Rochester and school breaks at home, I really, truly missed it. There’s something special about winding through wine country, passing Taughannock Falls, being able to tune in to 103.7 and finally seeing the Towers through the trees.

Needless to say, I was looking for an excuse to make that drive. This past weekend, I spent six hours in the car for five hours in the 607 and it was completely worth it.

Rainy Day Trip to Ithaca, NY | Taughannock Falls

Rainy Day Trip to Ithaca, NY | Taughannock Falls

Rainy Day Trip to Ithaca, NY | Taughannock Falls

My first stop was Taughannock Falls. I only had time for the Gorge Trail, but the morning’s rain accentuated the green within the gorge and filled the falls. Dreary weather also meant I had the trail almost completely to myself.

Next up was the always delicious Gimme! Coffee, which was packed with people on laptops and chatting out front. I love coffee shops’ sense of community and I think Gimme! is one of the first places I really experienced it. Plus, the coffee is delicious.

Coffee in hand, I walked down Cascadilla Avenue, the cutest, greenest, friendliest path there ever was. How have I not wandered along the creek this way before? My end goal was Collegetown Bagels, of course.

Rainy Day Trip to Ithaca, NY | Gimme! Coffee

One pizza bagel later and I was ready to take on the real reason for spending six hours in the car. The smart, soil-savvy people of GreenTree had invited me back for an afternoon of local farmers and soil selling strategy. If that sounds bizarre to you, it’s okay. This small team of people completely welcomed me as a summer intern my senior year at Ithaca and I learned a ton because of it, about marketing, running a business and dirt.

Rainy Day Trip to Ithaca, NY | GreenTree Farm to Garden Days

My little taste of Ithaca only made me miss the things I didn’t have time for more, so I’m counting down the days until I’m there again. Hopefully, I’ll be joined by some of my favorite Itha-people next time.

The Cornell Plantations

Last weekend our family was in Ithaca for Paige’s graduation from Ithaca College. We had a delicious meal at Madeline’s on The Commons and needed to walk off our dessert. Ithaca has a plethora of hiking options, but we were staying near Cornell’s campus so we chose The Plantations.

Cornell Plantations | Ithaca, NY | Succulents and Sunnies

The Mundy Wildflower Garden and Herb Garden were beginning to bloom and looked downright magical in the golden hour light.

Cornell Plantations | Ithaca, NY | Succulents and Sunnies

Cornell Plantations | Ithaca, NY | Succulents and Sunnies

We spent a long time watching the dozens of turtles and goldfish in the Houston Pond from the bridge. There were some massive creatures living in there!

We were far from the only visitors, with students having picnics and local high schoolers taking prom pictures in various picturesque locations throughout the grounds. For anyone looking for an Ithaca hike that doesn’t involve hundreds of stairs or slippery slate, I highly recommend The Plantations!

It’s Called Commencement for a Reason

It's Called Commencement for a Reason  Taylor K Flynn

I know this is a little late, but I want to take a minute to reflect on how life has changed in the last few months. I knew that leaving Ithaca College, degree in hand, meant a lot of changes were coming. It’s beginning to sink in just what this really means.

Graduation, and the weeks leading up to it, were filled with friends, hikes and more food than anyone should ever eat. There are so many moments from these weeks I can picture; snapshots I will treasure forever.

We were singing Blink-182 at the top of our lungs, eating more Altoids than real food, spilling all of the popcorn and laughing for half the movie we were trying to watch. The night of graduation, popping champagne into the fountains, we tried to forget the fact that we were all leaving in the morning. To Texas, to Virginia, to all corners of New York.

As much as graduation is an ending, it is also a beginning. I’m so glad to be home. I love seeing old and new friends, exploring revived neighborhoods and having the time to horseback ride again. I am ready to have a normal schedule after a few absolutely crazy semesters.

I’m learning so much on the job – more than I ever absorbed in the classroom. It’s also becoming evident just how lucky I am to have the education I do, one grounded in real-world examples and experience.

But this week, despite a wonderful date night, bible study and catching up with an old friend, I have been homesick for Ithaca. The people I grew to love there, who are now strewn across the country, have been on my mind. It’s time for a reunion!

Quick Trip: The Finger Lakes

 

Watkins Glen State Park; The Finger Lakes

When I left Ithaca after graduation, I moved almost nothing home. I had until July to clear my apartment, and moving out was a great excuse to spend a weekend in Central New York. My roommate gave us tickets to see Kenny Chesney and Old Dominion at CMAC for Christmas, so we spent a beautiful Friday in June night singing along to their radio hits. I’ve been to a few Kenny Chesney concerts, and it’s like listening to a greatest hits album, but better, because there are new additions every summer.

Kenny Chesney/Old Dominion at CMAC; The Finger Lakes

On Saturday, we stopped at Watkins Glen State Park on our way to Ithaca for a nice hike. The gorge was busy, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the scenery.

Watkins Glen State Park; The Finger Lakes

We spent the afternoon packing and cleaning before heading to Ithaca Beer Co. for dinner. I love the breweries in Buffalo revitalizing downtown, but there is something special about waiting for your table in an Adirondack chair, surrounded by chickens, fields, gardens and a fire pit. Our drinks and wood fired pizzas were delicious, as always. I tried and loved Java Power, a variation on the brewery’s Flower Power, brewed with local roaster Gimme! Coffee‘s beans.

Ithaca Beer Co; The Finger Lakes

Sunday morning meant packing up the car and heading home, but we made sure to stop for ice cream on our way. I have been dying to try Cayuga Lake Creamery‘s ice cream for the last four years, but it’s pretty far from Ithaca just for ice cream. It is on the way back to Buffalo, but I’m not usually driving by at an ideal ice cream-eating time. Now that I’ve had the peanut butter ice cream, I believe the hype!

Cayuga Lake Creamery; The Finger Lakes

The trip may have been short, but we packed in tons of adventures. I’m already itching to go back to the Finger Lakes.

Summer 2015 Bucket List: Ithaca Edition

This summer I am staying in beautiful Ithaca for an internship with GreenTree Garden Supply. GreenTree is not only a hydroponic supplies retailer, but also manufactures specialized soil. I spend my days surrounded by brilliant soil scientists who are probably going to change our agricultural world sooner rather than later. My responsibilities include writing and scheduling social content, some market research, building the company’s stock of photography, and creating a few guides for branding and products. While in Ithaca, I plan to take full advantage of the city and all it has to offer in the summer. Just because a location is on the list, it doesn’t mean I’ve never been, I just want to go again in the next few months! Once I’ve gone to a location on my list, I plan updating this post with a picture from that place. Hopefully by the end of August, I’ll have a post full of Instagram-worthy photos!

*Edit: Classes start in 2 days and I have completed a little over half of my list… I still want to get to all the places I have here, so I’ll continue to update this post. Any post with an asterisk were completed during the school year.

This summer in Ithaca was lots of fun. I spent tons of time exploring new parts of the city, and meeting new and different people. Just because I didn’t complete this list doesn’t mean the summer wasn’t a success!!

 

New Delhi Diamonds Restaurant*
Corning Museum of Glass*
Sciencenter*
Cayuga Lake Creamery*
Lincoln Street Diner*
Cayuga Lake Wine Trail*
CFCU Summer Concert Series*