The Top 23 Activities In Ithaca, New York, For 2023

The Top 23 Activities In Ithaca, New York, For 2023

In this comprehensive guide to the Finger Lakes, we’ll show you the 23 greatest things to do in Ithaca, NY, as well as the best sites to see, so you can start making travel arrangements for the ideal trip to upstate New York right now.

There is much more to the dynamic Finger Lakes region than first meets the eye. The city of Ithaca is noted for its numerous waterfalls and reputation as a popular college town.

In this Ithaca travel guide, we’ll demonstrate:

The top 23 activities in Ithaca
Links, lists, and advice that are helpful for each activity
Ithaca interactive map of attractions
Our individual images of Ithaca landmarks
Let’s now discover exciting local attractions with the help of a local!

Our Trip to Ithaca, New York

After Mark’s official immigration to the US in 2019 we also briefly resided in the lovely Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, where Kristen grew up.

We spent the majority of the week hiking in the breathtaking NY State Parks dispersed throughout the Finger Lakes and exploring the waterfalls in Ithaca.

Kristen’s family still resides in upstate New York, so even though we no longer reside there, we frequently visit them.

The majority of the images in this photo tour were captured during our most recent trip to Ithaca, New York, in April 2023. Even though it was fairly cloudy outside, the waterfalls were at their best.

Where in New York is Ithaca?
Tompkins County, hidden in upstate New York between Niagara Falls and New York City, is where the city of Ithaca is situated.

Ithaca is special because it is located in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York State and happens to be on the southern coast of Cayuga Lake.

You may find outdoor adventure, wineries, lakefront cuisine, and water sports in Ithaca, a thriving college town.

The Top 23 Activities In Ithaca, New York, For 2023

What Does Ithaca Best Represent?

Both Cornell University and Ithaca College are located in the city of Ithaca. These well-known schools are a major draw in the area, bringing in thousands of tourists each year.

Additionally, it’s hard to walk very far in the town without coming across the catchphrase “Ithaca is gorges.” Therefore, it comes as no surprise that a lot of tourists travel to Ithaca in order to climb one of the several gorge trails found inside the city.

What To Do In Ithaca For A Day
The ideal activity to do in Ithaca is:

a walk through the many gorges
Wine and craft beer drinking by Cayuga Lake
visiting Cornell University or Ithaca College’s campuses
Visiting the Sciencenter or the Museum of the Earth
Ithaca is bursting with enjoyable events and family-friendly activities, as we already said in this guide. This guide aims to cover every aspect of Ithaca.

Let’s now tour Ithaca!

the Cascade Gorge

Being a hidden paradise in the centre of the Cornell campus with more than 300 steps, the breathtaking Cascadilla Gorge is one of the greatest things to do in Ithaca.

Six substantial tumbling waterfalls can be seen in this canyon, which is framed by lovely man-made stone bridges and staircases and through which Cascadilla Creek flows.

Why Should You Visit Cascadilla Gorge?

The Cascadilla Gorge Trail is about 1.5 miles long in total, including the top loop.

The entire hike should take about one and a half hours, but allow more time if you want to stop for pictures along the way.

Normally open from the end of April to the end of November each year, the main Cascadilla Gorge Trail connects Cornell with Downtown Ithaca. But it always shuts down for the winter.

Top: The intersection of Oak Avenue and College Avenue
Bottom: The intersection of East Court Street, Linn Street, and Terrace Place

Take a trip to The Cornell Botanic Gardens.

When visiting Ithaca, make sure to visit the Cornell Botanical Gardens if you enjoy the outdoors. Throughout the entire year, from dawn until sunset, the gardens and natural areas are free to visit.

Everyone can enjoy a visit to the Cornell Botanic Gardens, which is why we adore them. To learn more about plants and the natural world, you can also register for tours, workshops, lectures, and webinars.

124 Comstock Knoll Drive, Ithaca, New York 14850

The Cornell Botanic Gardens: Why Go?
The Cornell Botanical Gardens offer a wide variety of plants, including conifers, herbs, vegetables, rhododendrons, perennials, and grasses, so you should go there, especially in the spring.

More than 3,400 acres of Tompkins County and the Cornell campus are made up of the gardens’ natural areas.

Here are some of the Cornell Botanical Gardens’ highlights:

Info, displays, restrooms, and classrooms can be found at the Brian C. Nevin Welcome Centre.
Beebe Lake: A mile-long trail that crosses the iconic Sackett Bridge
Native plants are protected in the Mundy Wildflower Garden along Fall Creek.
The 100-acre F. R. Newman Arboretum features concrete walks and a garden.
Woodland pathways providing a variety of treks in the Fall Creek Natural Area

Along the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, sip wine.

You will see stunning rolling hills and beautiful vineyards bursting with grapes as you enter Ithaca. The upstate New York region is the perfect environment for the cool-climate grapes that have moved there.

The Cayuga Lake Wine path, the earliest and oldest wine path in America, features 12 distinctive wineries dispersed around Cayuga Lake.

The Cayuga Lake Wine Trail’s wineries are located where?
We advise you to start in Ithaca and travel around the lake while tasting wines at various wineries.

Popular wineries on the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail include the following:

Winery Button Grove

Winery Hosmer

Weingut Long Point

Winery at Montezuma

Winery Six Mile Creek

Despite being referred to as a path, the Cayuga Lake Wine path is not accessible by foot; instead, you must use a vehicle. Some of the vineyards are close to one another, while others only take a short drive.

Trek in Sapsucker Woods

Hiking through Sapsucker Woods, a section of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is one of our favourite activities in Ithaca that few first-time visitors are aware of.

Featuring four miles of pathways through marshes, ancient fields, forest, and a pond edge, Sapsucker Woods is a 230-acre wildlife preserve. The majority of the trails follow boardwalks and mulched walkways.

159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Ithaca, New York 14850

Check recent bird sightings in Sapsucker forests with eBird.

Explore the Fuertes Observatory to find stars.

On the Cornell University’s North Campus, close to Helen Newman Hall, sits the Fuertes Observatory. The Irving Porter Church Telescope, which uses an original weight-driven clockdrive to track celestial objects, is housed there.

Every Friday from 8 p.m. until midnight, the Cornell Department of Astronomy’s observatory is open to the public for viewing.

To make sure the Fuertes Observatory will be accessible when you are there, we advise calling (607) 255-3557. It is best to double verify because the observatory does occasionally close.

209 Cradit Farm Drive, Ithaca, New York 14850

Learn at the Earth Museum.

One of the top family attractions in Ithaca, New York, is the Museum of the Earth since it has a tonne of interactive displays and a sizable fossil collection that includes the Hyde Park mastodon.

The Museum of the Earth’s admission fees are $12.50 for adults and $7.50 for children (4–17). The museum is free to enter for kids under the age of three.

1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, New York 14850

Location of the Museum of the Earth on Google maps.

Here are the main features of the Museum of the Earth, which has both an upper and lower floor:

North Atlantic right whale skeleton about 44 feet long, Cambrian to Silurian theatre
The Coral Reef Exhibits Preparation Laboratory of the Fossil Lab

Cornell University research

Because it has a lot of public attractions on campus, Cornell University is one of the greatest places to visit in Ithaca.

The majority of the campus attractions at Cornell are free and accessible every day. The following is a list of just a few of the Cornell University attractions:

Climb McGraw Tower – Don’t pass up the opportunity to ascend the 160 stairs of the McGraw Tower and listen to student chimemasters ring the tower’s 21 bells. Check out the Cornell Chimes

White Library, A. D. The A.D. White Library, which has been open since 1891 and is frequently referred to as one of the nation’s most beautiful libraries, with over 30,000 books and elaborate pathways. It is open from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm.

I. M. Pei designed the Johnson Museum of Art, which has approximately 40,000 pieces of art, including works by Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe, Francisco Goya, and Henri Matisse. The museum is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Thursday through Sunday.
Cornell Dairy Bar: Since 1880, Cornell’s very own dairy cows have been used to make milk and ice cream at the Cornell Dairy Bar. As a child, Kristen always made the trip here, so you shouldn’t skip it either.

In Ithaca Commons, you may eat and shop.

Visit the Ithaca Commons, which is in the centre of the city, which is another of the most well-liked things to do in Ithaca. More than a hundred independently owned businesses are located in this four-block pedestrian shopping area.

Location: 171 East MLK Jr. Street, Ithaca, New York 14850

A quick list of the top things to do at Ithaca Commons is provided below:

Visitors Centre: If you’re new to the region, you might want to think about stopping by the visitors centre for guides, maps, and local information (open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, Monday through Saturday).
The Tompkins Centre for History and Culture is a gathering place that promotes Ithaca’s history, tradition, and culture. It is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.
Planet Walk by Sagan – This planet walk, presented by the Ithaca Science Centre, includes a movable scale model of our solar system that shows the sizes and distances of the planets.
Moosewood Restaurant is a well-known spot for dinners made using local ingredients that are vegetarian and vegan.

Activities at Ithaca Commons

When you come to Ithaca during a particular season, keep an eye out for any noteworthy annual events that are conducted there:

Apple Harvest Festival: Apples, regional foods, freshly baked goods, entertainment, and games
Ice and Lights has a Glow Bar outside, an ice-crushing contest and a variety of gourmet chowders from nearby restaurants.
Every Thursday from June through September, the CFCU Summer Concert Series offers free outdoor performances.

Help the Ithaca Farmers Market out!

The Ithaca Farmers Market will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2023, making it one of the top things to do in Ithaca.

The Ithaca Farmers Market is open and features regional farmers, craftsmen, and chefs.

Sat. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (4/1/23 – 12/16/23)
Sundays (after 5/7/23) from 9:00am to 3:00pm
Fresh vegetables, farm-raised meat, eggs, dairy products, and locally produced staples like sauces, jam, apple cider, wine, mushroom spirits, and other baked goodies are all available for purchase at the market.

Address: 545 Third Street, Steamboat Landing, Ithaca, NY 14850

Locate Waterfalls

You can anticipate finding numerous cascading waterfalls throughout and close to the town of Ithaca because it is a gorge.

The ideal time of year to visit the Ithaca waterfalls is in April when the snowpack melts and the falls are at their highest flow.

However, despite being so accessible, these waterfalls are still worthwhile visiting at any time of the year.

Where In Ithaca Are The Waterfalls?

One of the best activities you can engage in in Ithaca is waterfall hunting because the region has gorgeous geography.

The top waterfalls in and around Ithaca are listed below:

Ithaca Falls is a magnificent waterfall in the town’s middle.
Our favourite waterfall in Ithaca is Wells Falls. Triphammer Falls is situated right on the Cornell campus. Ludlowville Falls is a sizable waterfall with a secret cave.

Play in the children’s garden in Ithaca.

To let your child play while experiencing nature, head to the Ithaca Children’s Garden (ICG). This garden, which receives over 70,000 people annually, is among the top family-friendly activities in Ithaca.

Children can explore the Bird Habitat Garden, Gaia the turtle, the kids’ kitchen, rice paddy pond, troll home, wildflower meadow, and much more at the garden.

121 Turtle Lane, Ithaca, New York 14850

If you’ve been to Ithaca before, you might enjoy going to one of the ICG’s trademark events:

Scarecrow Jubilee International Mud Day Festival of Fire & Ice

Sciencecenter

You are drawn in right away by the Sciencenter in Ithaca’s vibrantly coloured facade. You can’t help but wonder what’s on the other side of those colourful walls.

Because the Sciencenter is a fantastic location for kids to learn and play, we adore it. Astronomy, live animals, the ocean, sustainability, young scientists, and outdoor pursuits like mini golf are among the exhibits.

601 First Street, Ithaca, New York 14850

Children under the age of two are admitted free of charge, and general admission tickets to the Sciencenter start at $10. At 4:15 p.m., the last tickets for mini golf are sold.

Nature Centre at Cayuga

The Cayuga environmental Centre near Ithaca offers both indoor and outdoor environmental programmes in an effort to entice people to learn more about the Cayuga Lake Basin’s natural heritage.

This nature centre was established in 1981 and is situated on 100 acres of woodland. It has a six-story treehouse, live local animals, and Denison Gorge with the Denison waterfall.

1420 Taughannock Boulevard, Ithaca, New York 14850

The treehouse and the trails are accessible every day from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Although the main lodge is closed for the winter, the trails are still open. Please consider making a small donation if you are able to as admission is pay what you like.

State Park at Buttermilk Falls

Thanks to a beautiful scenic Gorge Trail with pothole pools and numerous little waterfalls, Buttermilk Falls State Park is one of the most visited parks in the area of Ithaca, New York.

The 165-foot-high, creamy, frothy waterfall that resembles buttermilk falls down an angled rock slab and into a swimming pool right at the park’s entrance.

106 E Buttermilk Falls Road, Ithaca, New York 14850

Hiking the gorge route at Buttermilk Falls is one of our favourite things to do in Ithaca, but you can also hike the rim trails or around Treman Lake.

Park Robert H. Treman State

Robert H. Treman State Park is another enjoyable family activity in Ithaca, similar to the previously mentioned Buttermilk Falls. Everybody can take in the wild gorges and breathtaking scenery that surrounds them.

At Robert H. Treman, there are two primary waterfalls: Lower Falls and Lucifer Falls. The natural fed swimming hole, however, which is normally available from the end of June to the start of September, is the most well-liked area of the park.
105 Enfield Falls Road, Ithaca, New York 14850

Park at Taughannock Falls

The Ithaca waterfall, located in Taughannock Falls State Park, is the most striking waterfall in all of New York since it is the tallest single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains.

The magnificent single drop waterfall plunges 215 feet into a large hole in the Earth that resembles a bowl. You may see Taughannock Falls from the drop zone or from a breathtaking vista hundreds of feet away.

Address: Trumansburg, NY 14886, 1740 Taughannock Boulevard

You can rent a kayak on Cayuga Lake, explore two minor waterfalls in the park in addition to Taughannock Falls, or go to the magnificent Inn at Taughannock.

At Gourdlandia, create a nightlight.

We had to stop by Gourdlandia on our final trip to Ithaca in April 2023 to see what all the hoopla was about. Following our visit, we are convinced that Gourdlandia is among the most distinctive activities available in Ithaca.

Graham Ottoson, a former midwife, now devotes her time to making gourd art. We could immediately tell she was passionate and skilled at creating lovely gourds by simply entering the shop at Gourdlandia.

77 Rachel Carson Way, Ithaca, New York 14850

view The covered bridge at Newfield

The Newfield Covered Bridge is now the oldest remaining covered bridge in New York State that is still available to daily automobile traffic. It is located about 8 miles from the centre of Ithaca.

Twenty Bridge Street, Newfield, New York 14867

We adore the Newfield Covered Bridge because it is the only one still standing in Tompkins County and it was constructed in 1853. So, history buffs, don’t miss this event.

pause to get a beer

Craft breweries are springing up all around the NY Finger Lakes region, not just in Ithaca. Because you can visit Ithaca all summer long and drink IPAs, porters, and stouts, it is no longer simply for wine aficionados.

We suggest the following for people who want to try the greatest breweries in Ithaca:

Liquid State Brewing Company, Ithaca Ale House
The Ithaca Beer Co.
Collegetown’s Ithaca Beer Taproom

Clean Ice Cream

A favourite in Ithaca, Purity Ice Cream is frequently referred to as the “Ice Cream of the Finger Lakes.” Without a visit to Purity, no trip to Ithaca is complete.

There are several ice cream flavours available, including both new and traditional alternatives as well as handcrafted vegan flavours, all of which are manufactured right here in central New York.

Additionally open from 7:30am to 10:00pm, the kitchen at purity serves everything from delectable breakfast sandwiches to hot off the grill hamburgers.

The following three things to do are not directly in Ithaca, but they are among the most well-liked activities in the Finger Lakes region.

Take a tour of the Corning Museum of Glass.

NYs-Corning-Museum-of-Glass-6

A interesting museum may be located in Corning, New York, which is 50 miles southwest of Ithaca. It is called the Corning Museum of Glass.

1 Museum Way, Corning, New York 14830

The Corning Museum of Glass was founded in 1951 by Corning Glass Works, which is today known as Corning Incorporated. This museum is a non-profit institution that only focuses on glass.

The Corning Museum of Glass houses more than 50,000 items spanning more than 3,500 years of history, ranging from contemporary work to an ancient Egyptian pharaoh.

Learn more about Letchworth State Park

Another stunning state park, Letchworth State Park, may be found in the western area of the Finger Lakes, between the counties of Wyoming and Livingston.

Our favourite suggestion for first-timers in the Finger Lakes is Letchworth State Park. Letchworth is frequently referred to as “the Grand Canyon of the East” and was named the most beautiful US State Park in 2015.

Letchworth has grown to be one of our favourite photographic settings to date because Kristen spent her childhood exploring these magnificent trails.

What Sports Are Available At Letchworth State Park?
Letchworth State Park offers a variety of enjoyable activities all year round. The top activities in Letchworth, which I’ve experienced in all four seasons, are as follows:

Take pictures of Letchworth’s Three Popular Waterfalls

300 cottages and campgrounds are available for camping.

Take a look at Mount Morris Dam

Try one of the 28 hiking routes.

Visit Humphrey Nature Centre.

Take A Dip In The Harvey Pool

Take a stroll along the ANT.

Travel to the nearby Watkins Glen

The largest Finger Lake in the region, Seneca Lake, is located at the southern end of the neighbourhood village of Watkins Glen.

Despite the fact that Watkins Glen is most known for the Watkins Glen International Speedway, there are so many more hidden jewels there that we are unable to mention them all here.

Which activities are the most enjoyable in Watkins Glen?

Watkins Glen really packs a punch for such a small town. The best activities are listed below:

Visit Watkins Glen State Park and hike the gorge trail.
Wine-tasting by Seneca Lake
Discover the stores on Franklin Street.
Discover more waterfalls at Finger Lake
Plan a dinner cruise with Captain Bill East in the evening and get some ice cream and cheese made nearby.

parking in the city and nearby
Ithaca may be highly busy and full of one-way streets, making parking there a little scary if you’re new to the area.

If you’re visiting the Ithaca Commons, you can park on the street along the majority of the roadways, but you’ll have to pay by the hour.

Accommodations in Ithaca

Although lodging in Ithaca can be pricey, there are a few excellent low-cost options as well.

Choose one of our top recommendations from the list below, or read our guide to the top 8 hotels in Ithaca, New York, on our sister site.

These are the top hotels in Ithaca:

Best value hotel: Rodeway Inn
Cornell University-themed dorm hotel
Elegant boutique hotel: Argos Inn
Unique spa hotel: La Tourelle Hotel
The Statler, a posh hotel on the Cornell University campus

We have also stayed at the Glass Magnolia and the Inn at Taughannock, all of which are excellent choices if you plan to visit Taughannock Falls State Park.

Restaurant Recommendations in Ithaca

Below, you’ll find a list of some of Ithaca’s most well-liked neighbourhood eateries. There are a lot of chain eateries in the city as well, however if at all feasible, support the local establishments:

American cuisine with beverages and patio seating is available at Simeon’s American Bistro.
Sundays at MIX, an eclectic restaurant with live jazz and blues,
Pho, vermicelli, and more Vietnamese favourites are available at Saigon Kitchen.
Live music and Southern cuisine are served at Maxie’s Supper Club.

Asian choices are available on the American menu at The Boatyard Grill.
Old Mexico is a relaxed Mexican restaurant serving fajitas and tequila.
The State cafe is a long-standing cafe that serves breakfast all day.
Beautiful wooden establishment providing sandwiches is called Yellow Deli.

Top 10 Ithaca Activities

Here is a list of the top ten things to do in Ithaca, New York, in case you are visiting upstate New York for the first time:

Cross the Cascadilla Gorge on foot.

Check out Cornell University

Visit Purity’s and get an ice cream cone.

Visit the Science Centre with the kids.

Check out Taughannock Falls

At Buttermilk Falls, do a gorge trail hike.

Swim in Robert H. Treman’s pool.

Wine-tasting by Cayuga Lake

Find Ithaca’s well-known waterfalls.

Drink a craft brew to cap off your day.

FAQs Regarding Things To Do In Ithaca, New York
Let’s quickly review some of the questions that people most typically have about Ithaca, New York.

Can you get around Ithaca on foot?
Ithaca’s downtown and Ithaca Commons are two examples of areas that are walkable. To travel to other well-known locations, such as the surrounding state parks, you might need a car.

How much does parking in Ithaca cost?
Ithaca’s hourly on-street parking rate is $1.50, and it’s strictly enforced from 9:00am to 6:00pm, Monday through Friday. However, during weekends you are free to park wherever on the street.

Is a trip to Ithaca worthwhile?
Yes, Ithaca is worthwhile travelling to in order to tour Cornell, take in the local wines, hike many gorge routes, and even bring the kids to the well-known Sciencenter.

We sincerely hope that this list of the top things to do in Ithaca will be useful to you as you plan your trip to Upstate New York!
If you have any inquiries regarding visiting Ithaca or upstate New York, do let us know in the comments section below.

Travel safely,

Chatbeet