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.

No Bad Choice at Ellicottville’s Steelbound Brewing

After a weekend of camping at Allegany State Park with Cody’s family, we stopped at the new Steelbound Brewery on our way through Ellicottville. Camping with the Jones clan means almost constant eating, so we were not hungry for a meal, although everything coming from the kitchen looked great.

Steelbound Brewery, Ellicottville, NY

Taps at Steelbound Brewery, Ellicottville, NY

We ordered two flights, mixing and matching Steelbound’s huge draft list. Cody went with 8 IPAs (which wasn’t even all the IPAs on the list) and I went for a more eclectic combination. I enjoyed everything, from the Blueballs (their much, much juicier answer to ECB’s Blueberry Wheat with 600 pounds of blueberry in every batch) to the Fat Porter.

Flight at Steelbound Brewery, Ellicottville, NY

Flight at Steelbound Brewery, Ellicottville, NY

For a new brewery (they opened in May of 2018), these guys have very impressive beer and a huge distribution network. They’re really embracing their tagline (“Where Buffalo meets Ellicottville”) with lots of Bills references and a big presence at this year’s Buffalo Beer Week.

If you’re heading to Ellicottville for Fall Fest, doing some last minute camping or hitting the slopes this winter, it’s definitely worth stopping at Steelbound!

Allegany Photo Diary – Fall 2017

If you hadn’t already guessed from this post or this post, we spend a lot of time in Allegany State Park every year. It’s 65,000 acres of woods, lakes, camp grounds, history and bike paths. You could go every weekend and not come close to seeing everything.

This year, we visited a few sights that hadn’t been on our itinerary in past years: the Summit Hill Fire Tower, Old Quaker Store Museum and Quaker Lake. The Summit Hill Fire Tower is a short hike from the road, and if you go on a day that a volunteer is manning the tower, you can climb to the top, although the trees almost completely cover the view of the surrounding peaks. The Old Quaker Store Museum was a very interesting history of human influence on the park and I really enjoyed learning about how groups from Buffalo used it in the ’20s and ’30s.

Of course, old standbys were part of our trips too; we climbed Thunder Rocks and made our way to Stone Tower.

Check out some of my favorite shots from our two trips to Allegany this year:

Allegany State Park | New York State Parks | Photo Diary
No better way to start the day than a cup of coffee around the fire.
Allegany State Park | New York State Parks | Photo Diary
The Summit Hill Fire Tower in Red House is rickety but fun to climb if you don’t mind heights.
Allegany State Park | New York State Parks | Photo Diary
Beautiful fall views from the Stone Tower.
Allegany State Park | New York State Parks | Photo Diary
Checking out the site of a tornado that touched down in 1990; most vegetation has grown back by now.
Allegany State Park | New York State Parks | Photo Diary
Climbing Thunder Rocks never gets old.
Allegany State Park | New York State Parks | Photo Diary
The Ad Building decked out for fall.
Allegany State Park | New York State Parks | Photo Diary
Sitting around the campfire with sparklers is a great way to spend the night.
Allegany State Park | New York State Parks | Photo Diary
Cody’s cousins being very patient while I play with camera settings!

Allegany State Park | New York State Parks | Photo Diary
Cody’s grandparents driving through the park on Sunday morning.

 

Quick Trip: Ellicottville, NY

Cody and I took a quick trip to Ellicottville this weekend to visit Ellicottville Brewing Company and wander through a few of the small town’s shops. It was a perfect spring weekend – a little grey, but warm – perfect for a getaway to this cozy ski resort town.

Our first stop was the brewery tour at EBC. The old building is beautiful and the tour did a great job of not only explaining this history of beer and the Brewing Company, but also the building. The taproom’s bar is from the 1983 World Fair and is the second oldest bar in the area, which I found so interesting. Cody really enjoyed how knowledgeable our tour guide Kevin was on beer history and the making of beer.

Ellicottville, NY | Quick Trip | Succulents and Sunnies

Ellicottville, NY | Quick Trip | Succulents and Sunnies

The tastings at the end of the tour were delicious: Blueberry Wheat (already one of my favorites), Juicy Juice, Mosaic Sunrise and 1/2 Baked Porter. The tasting room is part of the brewery’s addition, framed by giant wooden beams and overlooking stainless steel beer tanks. We stayed for lunch and a flight, to try the beers on tap but not in the tasting room.

Ellicottville Brewing Company was the biggest reason we chose Ellicottville for our trip, and it turned out to be a good decision. We left educated and full, which was a nice combination.

We checked into our hotel and spent the next few hours watching HGTV (Fixer Upper marathon for the win!) and getting hungry enough to walk to our next meal, dinner at Villaggio. This is another place with a great atmosphere, full of rustic-eclectic decor, string lights and laughter. The Sabres game (which we actually won!) was on the big screen as we ate. There were definitely groups in Ellicottville for a Saturday night out, so I’m sure it would have been fun to stay out and visit a few of the town’s bars, but Cody and I headed back to our hotel to take advantage of the pool and hot tub.

Ellicottville, NY | Quick Trip | Succulents and Sunnies

Sunday morning we checked out of our hotel and walked back down Washington Street. We poked around in ski shops, home goods stores and Watson’s Chocolates before heading home. And how can you not stop and pet the dogs at Adventure Bound every time you walk by?

While our trip was short, Ellicottville was a perfect weekend escape. With the ski slopes still covered in snow but temperatures warming, wandering around the village was a great way to spend a day!

Bienvenue à Montréal

Paige spent last week home on spring break, so we planned a quick trip to Montreal. If you live in Buffalo (or anywhere else in Upstate New York), Montreal is perfect for a long weekend getaway. While the 6 hour drive is a bit long, it’s decidedly shorter (and cheaper!) than a flight to a European city, which is what Montreal feels like.

Buffalonians know that the US dollar has a good advantage over the Canadian one at the moment. That makes right now an especially great time to visit our northern neighbors! We spent about $250 USD each for gas, food, a hotel room and a museum visit, and you could definitely spend less (or more) with a little strategic planning.

We arrived Friday afternoon after a pleasant drive and very easy border crossing. The one hiccup on this trip was the terrible condition of our Airbnb. It was a beautiful apartment and a great location, but it was about as clean as a college frat house, so that was a no-go. Sometimes Airbnb is great (like that incredible view in Costa Rica), and sometimes not so much. We packed up our bags and drove down the street to a hotel, where we were greeted by clean towels and vacuumed rugs, thank goodness. I highly recommend staying near the UQAM campus, between The Gay Village and Quartier des Spectacle, which puts you within walking distance of both downtown and Old Montreal.

By this time Friday night, all we were able to do was find a restaurant downtown and turn in early to make the most of Saturday. We were impressed by Burger Bar‘s burgers and poutine, which we paired with Guinness, because it was Saint Patrick’s Day after all!

Saturday started bright and early with a walk to Old Port to see the Clock Tower and Molson factory. We wandered through Old Montreal along Rue Notre-Dame, stopping in galleries along the way. We had planned to stop at an art museum Friday afternoon, but with the Airbnb/hotel debacle, we didn’t have time. Checking out the galleries was definitely a good (and free) substitute.

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

We also explored the Bonsecours Market and really enjoyed the exhibit at The Fashion Museum, located inside the market. Right now the museum is featuring “Blue Spectrum,” an exploration of the color blue in fashion. It only took about 20 minutes to walk through, but it was interesting and out of the cold!

For lunch we headed up a block to Rue Saint-Jacques, which definitely helped bring down the cost of a sandwich. After lunch, we walked back to the hotel to change our cold, wet socks (there was a lot of snow and ice on the sidewalks, the result of Storm Stella) and admired the beautiful Notre-Dame Basilica on the way.

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

Our next stop was Le Cafe des Chats, where we drank coffee (complete with kitty latte art) surrounded by 9 adopted cats. This is the kind of place you can spend hours, and we did. We took the time to write in our travel journals about the trip thus far, pet cats and take pictures of cats. It was great and I highly recommend adding it (or another of Montreal’s cat cafes) to any Montreal itinerary!

Next, we found our way past McGill University and up the hill to Chalet du Mont-Royal, which provides an excellent view of the entire city and the St. Lawrence river beyond it. We made it just as the sun was setting, and were glad for the extra hour of light that daylight savings time the weekend prior gave us. The snow made hiking tough, but the view was worth it!

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

We walked downtown for dinner and drinks at Parma Cafe and Fiddler’s Green Pub, respectively. The Cafe was adorable, with a menu of pizza, pasta, soup and salads, along with coffee and wine. Fiddler’s Green was a relaxed Irish pub we felt right at home in, with both Guinness and local brews on tap and hockey on the flat screens. It was a welcome break from some of the more uppity restaurants we’d walked by and eaten in.

Sunday morning we had brunch at the most adorable bistro/home goods store I’ve ever laid eyes on. Le Magasin General du Viex is in Old Montreal, right across the street from the science museum. Both the atmosphere and the food were top-notch. If either Paige or I had a home to decorate, we would have bought out the store. I almost did anyway! *Stay tuned, because there’s a whole blog post coming on Le Magasin General du Viex.

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

Both Paige and I are so excited to go back to Montreal in warmer weather. There are a few things we didn’t get to do, but are definitely on the list for next time, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Centre d’Histoire de Montreal, Botanical Garden, Hotel de Ville (City Hall), Underground City and going into the Basilica.