I found myself in Ithaca, New York a few weekends ago on family holiday, wanting to see what all the fuss was about while simultaneously laying legitimacy to the infamous claim "it's Gorges". Located in the Central Finger Lakes Region of New York State, at the southern most tip of Cayuga Lake, Ithica is home to population 30,000. Nestled neatly between Ithaca College and Cornell University it has all the usual trappings of a laid back college town i.e. coffee shops, thrift stores and breweries, OH MY! All of which we were eager to savor and explore!
The drive took about five hours (give or take) and ended up being the perfect amount of time for an extended weekend trip! We rented a cozy AirBnB and within minutes of putting our bags on the floor, we were off gallivanting, eager to scout out the nearest craft brew spot and a decent margarita (spoiler alert, I'm a sucker for tacos and tequila anytime, anywhere so I generally try finding my favorite in each city I visit). Turns out that Viva Taqueria was within walking distance so we settled down for a quick bite and sip. With prime real estate right on the corner of N Aurora St & E State St, this little taqueria had a lot to offer. Color coded tables queued carry out or dine in service and allowed both parties the opportunity for indoor and outdoor seating. We opted for outdoor dine out service and ordered our drinks to go but enjoyed them seated right outside the carry out door, a perfect spot for people-watching (another favorite past-time) and a chance puppy/dog encounter. The sky became ominous with each passing sip and so before long, we packed up, said our goodbyes and vowed to be back before end of trip.
Heading back to the apartment under threat of rain we made it just in time to see the sky blacken and thick black drops begin to fall. Turns out a night of Netflix, adult coloring books and Capital Corner chinese was just what the doctor ordered. And in typical Rowe fashion we braved the torrential down pour to avoid delivery fees. With a getaway car and two accomplices to weather the storm, not a single rain drop found its way into our brown paper carry out bags, I think it may have even tasted a little better due to our efforts.
Monday morning weather was still uncooperative but we powered through. First stop, Robert E Treman State Park, where we hiked the Gorge trail through a veil of mist hitting the lower falls, cliff staircase and overlook, Lucifer Falls and the upper Gorge. Between the glossy stone staircase etched into the side of these incredible natural landmarks and the moss covered bridge traversing both sides of the path it was enough to conjure up visions of elves, fairies and trolls, think "Lord-of-the-Rings" -esque. All-in-all there and back didn't take us too long, and within two hours we were piled back into the car. A piece of advice, if you've ever been to a state park then you may or may not be familiar with the park office. I'll let you in on a secret, they have all the the knowledge. I'm talking maps, restaurant reviews, concert and event schedules, brew/wine tours, the whole nine. You won't be disappointed AND if you're the kind of person who often leaves trip planning to fate, it's an easy way to get a handle on your trip. IF you're super motivated you can even contact park offices in advance and request these be sent to you. I promise it will give you a local's leg up on everyone else.
Meanwhile, back to the car ride. I've always been a huge proponent of your common farm stand. Turns out Ithaca doesn't disappoint. We stopped by Early bird farms roadside stand on the way home to load up on local fruits and veggies, a few corn stalks, some blueberries and a half dozen peaches later, we were set. We headed home to cook up some grilled cheese and veggies, crack open a sour beer (I've been on a sour saga lately, try: Sour Monkey by Victory Brewing Company, SeaQuench by Dogfish Head or Old Pro Gose by Union Craft Brewing) and cook up our next dinner adventure.
We decided on Hammondsport for an evening jaunt. It's a little over an hour away from Ithaca and the perfect spot for some genuine Italian food, an outdoor grill, a cheap beer and burger or one of a kind trinket shopping. I'll warn you, the entire town is probably about the size of my pinky finger so if you're looking for more than a unique shop or two this probably isn't your cup of tea but very picturesque and right on a lake. We hit up the beer and burger spot for a whole lotta fried stuff and a local beverage, we found both with time to spare for exploring. A good way to spend the evening.
By Tuesday the sun still hadn't made an appearance so we decided to head back into town. Along the way we stopped to snap a few choice photos of a monarch butterfly that had landed nearby (good luck apparently), before wandering into Waffle Frolic for a potentially lethal dose of sugar-coated waffles in every shape, color, flavor and size imaginable, treat yo-self. My favorite part of the day happened to be completely unintentional when we stumbled upon Mockingbird Paperie. I literally wanted to get my hands on every single thing this little store had to offer from scented candles to die for, gorgeous hand crafted wrapping paper from Italy, calligraphy pens and just the most amazing cards, books, trinkets, etc imaginable. I could have spent hours there and nearly did. I barely made it out with my bank account, but tried hard to practice some self restraint, it's the kind of store where you find things you didn't know you needed and you really need them. Tuesday being the day before my very last in Ithaca I was dying to try out the new paddle boards my parents had toted all the way from home so rain or shine, we headed out to find a spot to put out the boards, and spent the remainder of the day racing each other around. We considered it a win when only one of us ended up in the water.
On the way back to our AirBnB we made a final pitstop at Taughannock State Falls enjoying the view and a Volkswagon Winnebago parked nearby (My Mom's dream travel van) before calling it a night.
Wednesday, my last day we decided to pop by The Corning Museum of Glass and boy am I glad we did. With only two hours to spare, we could have spent many more. With so much to do and see from the Tiffany Glass to the glass through the ages exhibits, room after room or amazing one of a kind creations and installations, each one more astounding than the last. There were demonstrations, mini movie series, tour guides and interactive exhibits. It's worth the stop. Not to mention the amazing gift shop, outdoor glass work shop and eatery. It's a mini campus in its own right and the absolute jewel of Corning.
All and all, I'd say Ithaca had exactly what we came for. The great outdoors, a small town feel and some good brews/eats. Whether you have a weekend free, you're just passing through or looking to check out the colleges nearby, I'd give it a 5/5.
Oh and thanks for checking us out too ;)
Another travel adventure brought to you by Elly Jane!