Ithaca is a charming, laid-back college town on the beautiful Cayuga Lake in New York’s Finger Lakes region that offers a wealth of activities and attractions throughout the year. Nestled between two magnificent gorges, the town is renowned for having spectacular natural beauty and offering an array of outdoor and recreational activities from hiking to climbing. The city is home to Cornell University, which also includes the sprawling Cornell Botanic Gardens, a beautiful arboretum, and the cascading multi-tiered Cascadilla Falls. Other exciting attractions in Ithaca include the I.M. Pei–designed Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, the Johnson Museum of Art, the Buttermilk Falls, and Robert H. Treman state parks, and the Six Mile Creek Vineyard.
1.Robert Treman State Park
© Kenneth Keifer/stock.adobe.com
Robert H. Treman State Park is a 1,110-acre state park in Tompkins County and an area of spectacular wild beauty. The park is home to the rugged Enfield Glen gorge, which features craggy gorges, 12 cascading waterfalls, and over nine miles of winding hiking trails. Attractions in the park include the 115-foot Lucifer Falls and Devil's Kitchen, the Historic Gristmill, a campground for RVs and tents, and a stream-fed pool beneath a waterfall that is ideal for swimming. Robert H. Treman State Park features six hiking trails with densely wooded sections and rocky gorges, including a three-mile section of the Finger Lakes Trail.
105 Enfield Falls Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-273-3440
2.Buttermilk Falls State Park
Buttermilk Falls State Park is an 811-acre park named after the foaming waterfall formed by Buttermilk Creek as it flows towards Cayuga Lake. Located southwest of Ithaca, Buttermilk Falls State Park features a small lake and several cascading waterfalls as Buttermilk Creek descends the steep valley side, as well as several hiking trails along the gorge and through the woodlands. The upper section of the park has playing fields and picnic areas, and the lower part of the part has a campground, playing fields, and a natural pool for swimming. Beyond the lower area of the park is the Larch Meadows wetland area and nature trail.
106 E Buttermilk Falls Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-273-5761
Cayuga Lake is the longest and second deepest of the Finger Lakes, spanning 40 miles in length and 3.5 miles in width. Carved by glaciers during the Ice Age, Cayuga Lake approximately 435 ft deep at its deepest point and reaches 53 feet below sea level, making it one of the deepest lakes in North America. Cayuga Lake can be explored via the Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway, which was established to protect and preserve the lake, its surrounding landscapes, and ecosystems. Cayuga Lake offers a wealth of outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, fishing, bird-watching, picnicking, wine-tasting, and more.
Cayuga / Seneca / Tompkins counties, New York
Cornell University is a handsome Ivy League school in Ithaca and one of the town’s top attractions. Sprawled over 300 acres on a hill above the city, the university was founded in 1865 by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White and is organized into seven undergraduate colleges and seven graduate divisions. The university is home to the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, which boasts an impressive collection of over 30,000 works of art, including prints, photographs, and Asian Art. Other attractions at the university include the McGraw Tower, which is known for its traditional Cornell Chimes; Cornell Plantations Museum of living plants; and the Newman Arboretum, which specializes in trees and shrubs endemic to New York State.
Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-254-4636
5.Cornell Botanic Gardens
Formerly known as the Cornell Plantations, the Cornell Botanic Gardens is a botanical garden next to the Cornell University campus that features 25 acres of cultivated botanical gardens, an arboretum, and pristine natural areas organized into 40 different nature areas around Cornell and Ithaca. The Botanic Gardens also maintains four gardens on Cornell's central campus and also feature to the F.R. Newman Arboretum, which spans 150 acres. The Cornell Botanic Gardens specializes in trees and shrubs that are endemic to New York State, and notable features of the garden include a themed herb garden, a decorative arts flower garden, and a heritage vegetable garden.
124 Comstock Knoll Dr, Ithaca, NY 14850
Ithaca is home to over 150 waterfalls that flow in and around the town, funneling water through spectacular gorges carved out by glaciers thousands of years ago. The waterfalls can be seen at various places around town, including the Ithaca Commons and Cornell University, as well as just outside the city in some of the surrounding towns of Tompkins County. One of the most famous cascades is the Ithaca Falls, which stands at 100 feet tall and can be seen from downstream along the bridge over Fall Creek on Lake Street. The falls can also be reached by hiking the Ithaca Falls hiking trail.
399 Lake St, 14850 Ithaca, NY, Phone: 607-272-1313
7.Ithaca Farmers Market
Ithaca Farmers Market is an open-air farmers market that is hosted on the weekends in a large, airy, waterfront pavilion on the shores of Cayuga Lake that sells a wide range of farm-fresh, organic produce, and fresh flowers. The market is a favorite with locals and visitors alike, who flock to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, pretty blooms, local wines, and arts and crafts, as well as enjoy a wealth of international cuisine from Mexican breakfast burritos to spicy Sri Lankan fare. The market is also held in several locations around town, but the weekend markets draw the biggest crowds and offer live entertainment and music.
Steamboat Landing 3rd St off Rte 13, 14850 Ithaca, NY, Phone: 607-273-7109
8.Cornell Lab of Ornithology
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a unit of Cornell University that studies birds and other wildlife. Based in the Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary, the center is devoted to interpreting and conserving biological diversity around the globe through bird-focused research. The lab publishes several books, the Living Bird magazine, and manages numerous citizen-science projects and websites, including the award-winning All About Birds. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is home to the Macaulay Sound Library, the world’s largest natural sound archive.
159 Sapsucker Woods Rd, 14850-1923 Ithaca, NY, Phone: 800-843-2473
9.Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
© Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art is based at Cornell University in an award-winning, architecturally significant I. M. Pei-designed building and houses nearly 40,000 works of art. Open year-round and boasting spectacular views of Cayuga Lake, the museum is famous for its distinctive concrete façade and two windows from Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin D. Martin House. The museum’s permanent collection features artworks by notable artists like Édouard Manet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Albrecht Dürer, Henri Matisse, as well as members of the Hudson River School, Andy Warhol, and Georgia O'Keeffe. The museum hosts course-related exhibitions, thematic tours for local school student field trips, and faculty-conducted gallery tours.
114 Central Ave, Ithaca, NY 14853, Phone: 607-255-6464
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The Sciencenter is a hands-on museum that encourages children of all ages to explore the realms of science and technology through interactive exhibits and educational programs. The two-story museum features over 250 exhibitions that include hands-on scientific stations about air, pressure, motion, and water, such as an air station, a water table, and an activity table for toddlers. Fun musical stairs connect the floors of the museum, and the institution also features a seasonal outdoor science playground, the free outdoor walking tour of the solar system called the Sagan Planet Walk, an 18-hole mini-golf course, and a gift shop.
601 1st St, 14850-3507 Ithaca, NY, Phone: 607-272-0600
11.Museum of the Earth
© Museum of the Earth
The Museum of the Earth is a natural history museum that explores the Earth in a fun and engaging way. Founded in 2003 as part of the Paleontological Research Institution, the museum aims to encourage an interest in the natural world and the importance of conserving the environment. The museum features an 8,000-square-foot permanent exhibition that documents 4.5 billion years of history, from the Earth’s origin to the present day. The museum also features several other permanent and temporary hands-on, visual exhibitions, interactive science features, art exhibitions, and a variety of rotating events every month.
1259 Trumansburg Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-273-6623
© Carlos Caetano/stock.adobe.com
Located on the southern end of Cayuga Lake, Stewart Park is a municipal park that offers a wide variety of communal and recreational facilities for the public to enjoy. Originally part of the James Renwick estate, the park has had a rich and varied history from containing a zoo and a bird sanctuary maintained by the Cayuga Bird Club to being used as a film studio in the early 1900s. Today, the park has several facilities, including a playground with play structures including a carousel, a municipal golf course, a duck pond, athletic fields, a spray pool, a bird sanctuary, and several pavilions that can be rented for special events.
1 James L Gibbs Dr, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-273-8364
13.Ithaca Children's Garden
Located in Cass Park, Ithaca Children's Garden (ICG) is a beautifully manicured three-acre public park that offers a magical place filled with trees, shrubs and blooming flowers for visitors of all ages to explore. Set on the beautiful Cayuga Waterfront Trail, the park has several fascinating features including a larger-than-life turtle sculpture known as Gaia, a blooming bulb labyrinth, a bird garden, a recycled bottle greenhouse, a straw-bale troll house, a fragrant kitchen garden with hens and honeybees, and a Hands-on-Nature Anarchy Zone. Ithaca Children's Garden is open daily from dawn to dusk, and admission is free.
121 Turtle Ln, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-319-4203
14.Six Mile Creek Vineyard
© Six Mile Creek Vineyard
Six Mile Creek Vineyards is the oldest winery and distillery in Ithaca. Surrounded by undulating vineyards on the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, Six Mile Creek Vineyard has been producing exceptional wines and copper-pot spirits for over 30 years. Initially producing only 250 gallons of wine per year which has grown to over 10,000 gallons along with grape-based spirits and Italian-inspired liqueurs, the estate has a stylish tasting room set in a beautifully preserved 19th century restored Dutch Colonial barn where visitors can sample some of the vineyard’s best wines and spirits. Open seven days a week, the tasting room has an expansive deck with spectacular views over the Six Mile Creek Valley and can be hired for special events such as weddings.
1551 Slaterville Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-272-9463
© Hangar Theatre
The Hangar Theatre is a regional theatre that presents an array of performances and shows that enrich, entertain, and enlighten audiences of all ages. Located on the shores of Cayuga Lake, the theater is home to the Hangar Theatre Company and serves as a venue for a variety of performing artists and community organizations. The theater also offers a variety of classes and workshops that aim to transform lives through the power of theatrical performance and hosts other non-theater special events throughout the year.
801 Taughannock Blvd, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-273-2787
16.State Theatre of Ithaca
The State Theatre of Ithaca is a historic, 1600-seat theater that produces and presents a range of quality performing arts events from comedy acts and live music to silent movies and more. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the theater is Ithaca’s last remaining historic theater and hosts over 75 events each year, including theatrical productions, dance performances, concerts, comedy shows, readings, classic movies, and community performances.
107 W State St, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-277-8283
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17.Sciencenter Sagan Planet Walk
Located at the Sciencenter, the Sciencenter's Sagan Planet Walk is a walkable scale model of the entire Solar System with both planet sizes and the distances between them scaled down to one five billionths of their actual size. The 1,200-meter, 1:5 billion, a scale model was built in 1997 as a memorial to Ithaca resident and astronomer Carl Sagan. Visitors begin an out-of-this-world journey starting at the downtown Ithaca Commons with the Sun station and ending at the station representing Pluto, the dwarf planet, which is located at the Sciencenter. Information plaques share interesting facts such as it rains strong sulfuric acid on Venus, the sunny side of Mercury is hotter than a pizza oven, and that 248 Earth years make one year on Pluto.
601 1st St, 14850-3507 Ithaca, NY, Phone: 607-272-0600
18.Cayuga Nature Center
© Cayuga Nature Center
Located on the west side of Cayuga Lake in Tompkins County, the Cayuga Nature Center is an educational institution dedicated to nature and environmental issues. Spread over 120 acres, the center features miles of nature and hiking trails along with gorges and streams and through woods and fields and a six-story tree house called TreeTops for bird’s-eye views of the forest canopy. Visitors can learn about the ecology of the fauna and flora of the Cayuga basin, meet the center’s live Animal Ambassadors who call the region home, discover the effects of climate change on the local environment, and see what lived in Finger Lakes over 300 years ago.
1420 Taughannock Blvd, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-273-6260
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19.The History Center in Tompkins County
© The History Center in Tompkins County
Based in the Tompkins Center for History & Culture on the Ithaca Commons, the History Center in Tompkins County documents the rich history and eclectic culture of the region. The center explores the county's many landmarks and natural wonders and highlights the inspiring past and bright future of the area. The History Center organizes educational programs, rotating exhibitions, and offers research-based educational services to the public. The History Center owns the beautifully restored 1827 Eight Square Schoolhouse on Upper Hanshaw Road in Dryden, New York, and operates seasonally.
110 N Tioga St, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-273-8284 ext. 228
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© Namgyal Monastery
The Namgyal Monastery is a fascinating cultural gem in upstate New York that is a branch of the 14th Dalai Lama’s monastery. Spread over 28 acres of tranquil woodlands in South Hill just outside Ithaca, the monastery is the only North American branch of the main Namgyal Monastery and is soon to become the 83-year-old monk’s official library and museum. The monastery is home to the Namgyal Monastery Institute of Buddhist Studies and offers daily meditations, classes, and retreats to visitors or students of any faith. The library will house an array of Buddhist writings, works from all the Dalai Lamas, and the entire volume of Sutras, translations of the Buddha’s teachings.
210 Tibet Dr, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-272-2785
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21.The Antlers Restaurant
© The Antlers Restaurant
Tucked away in the hills surrounding Ithaca, Antlers Restaurant is a down-to-earth homegrown eatery and one of the oldest restaurants in town that has been serving simple, well-cooked food since 1972. The quaint restaurant has comfortable décor; a fieldstone hearth reclaimed from an old farmhouse foundation, a bar that once graced an old hotel in town, and a warm and welcoming ambiance. The restaurant serves a menu of hearty, traditional fare such as house-made pasta, succulent steaks, fresh seafood and fish, fresh organic salads, and vegetarian options. The full-service bar offers a range of libations, including craft and draft beers, casual wines, signature cocktails, and premium spirits, and the restaurant is open for dinner only, nightly.
1159 Dryden Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-273-9725
22.Mia Tapas Bar and Restaurant
© Mia Tapas Bar and Restaurant
Located in Ithaca Commons, Mia Tapas Bar and Restaurant is a stylish restaurant and bar that serves Pan-Asian cuisine and local craft beers in an elegant and intimate ambiance. Mia serves an eclectic menu of Spanish-style tapas with a Pan-Asian twist featuring sustainably harvested seafood, prime grass-fed meats, and locally-sourced ingredients and produce. Infusing traditional cuisine with culinary innovation, dishes boast Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian flavors, dishes include fresh salads, handmade sushi, steaming bowls of noodles, sharing plates of tapas and grilled meats. The food is paired with a range of local and imported beers and ales, global wines, handcrafted cocktails, and premium spirits. Mia Tapas Bar and Restaurant is open for dinner only, nightly.
130 E State St, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-277-2000
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© Agava Restaurant
Situated in the beautifully restored 19th century East Ithaca Train Station, Agava Restaurant is a comfortable eatery with distressed wood accents and a rustic Southwestern vibe that serves inspired cuisine and fine wines. North meets South in this historical setting, which features a latilla ceiling, soft lighting, and a mural depicting the surrounding deserts painted by local artist Bill Benson. The restaurant offers a farm-to-table culinary concept with a menu of sharing plates of tapas-style appetizers, wood-fired flatbreads, hearty burgers and sides, and tacos, as well as a list of indulgent desserts, and a bar menu of cocktails such as signature margaritas and multiple agave-based spirits.
381 Pine Tree Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-319-4366
© Moosewood Restaurant
Located in a beautifully renovated historic brick school building at the corner of Seneca and Cayuga Streets in downtown Ithaca, Moosewood Restaurant has been serving healthy natural cuisine in a warm and welcoming setting for almost five decades years. The restaurant is run as a collectively owned business and serves a farm-to-table menu that focuses on using fresh, locally sourced ingredients and regional produce such as the freshest vegetables, fruit and handpicked herbs, whole grains, nuts, legumes, high-quality olive oils, and world-class imported and domestic cheeses. The restaurant publishes cookbooks showcasing all their top recipes and dishes.
215 N Cayuga St, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-273-9610
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25.Carriage House Cafe
© Carriage House Café
Nestled in a mid-19th century carriage house that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Carriage House Café offers a quaint and cozy dining experience. Extensively restored but retaining many of its original features to preserve the building’s antique character, the carriage house boasts elegant décor and period furnishings, stylish seating and soft lighting, and combines rustic charm with award-winning cuisine. The restaurant serves an acclaimed brunch menu six days a week, refined lunch dishes, and an array of freshly baked pastries, homemade cakes and desserts, and house-roasted espresso and coffee drinks.
305 Stewart Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-645-0152
25 Best Things to Do in Ithaca, NY
- Robert Treman State Park, Photo: Kenneth Keifer/stock.adobe.com
- Buttermilk Falls State Park, Photo: Richard/stock.adobe.com
- Cayuga Lake, Photo: haveseen/stock.adobe.com
- Cornell University, Photo: haveseen/stock.adobe.com
- Cornell Botanic Gardens, Photo: stock.adobe.com
- Ithaca Waterfalls, Photo: scriberight/stock.adobe.com
- Ithaca Farmers Market, Photo: EwaStudio/stock.adobe.com
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Photo: lucaar/stock.adobe.com
- Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Photo: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
- Sciencenter, Photo: Sciencenter
- Museum of the Earth, Photo: Museum of the Earth
- Stewart Park, Photo: Carlos Caetano/stock.adobe.com
- Ithaca Children's Garden, Photo: davit85/stock.adobe.com
- Six Mile Creek Vineyard, Photo: Six Mile Creek Vineyard
- Hangar Theatre, Photo: Hangar Theatre
- State Theatre of Ithaca, Photo: liuzishan/stock.adobe.com
- Sciencenter Sagan Planet Walk, Photo: Sciencenter
- Cayuga Nature Center, Photo: Cayuga Nature Center
- The History Center in Tompkins County, Photo: The History Center in Tompkins County
- Namgyal Monastery, Photo: Namgyal Monastery
- The Antlers Restaurant, Photo: The Antlers Restaurant
- Mia Tapas Bar and Restaurant, Photo: Mia Tapas Bar and Restaurant
- Agava Restaurant, Photo: Agava Restaurant
- Moosewood Restaurant, Photo: Moosewood Restaurant
- Carriage House Cafe, Photo: Carriage House Café
- Cover Photo: Rizwan/stock.adobe.com