The Best Attractions in Ithaca
Explore these top Ithaca attractions ranked by consumer preference, such as the local Universities or the many Gorges, Waterfalls and State Parks. Tompkins County features some of the most unique places to visit in New York State. Aside from discovering delicious places to eat, you can explore the natural beauty of the region, attend a concert or play, or experience some of Ithaca's unique history with tours and special events. Be sure to check out our Ithaca Events page as well. Have fun!
1. Cornell University & Ithaca College
Ithaca College and Cornell University are remarkable destinations on their own. Whether you plan to attend, have attended, or have no intention of attending college in Ithaca, these two academic campuses are worth exploring, both inside and out. Both offer a wealth of cultural treasures and opportunities (many free) - rich with performing arts, live theater, music recitals, art galleries, museums, and workshops. You don't have to pay a semester's tuition to visit and learn why these schools are so attractive.
2. Gorges, Waterfalls and State Parks
The visitors bureau estimates 150 waterfalls within 10 miles of downtown Ithaca, each with its own gorge. Hence the local slogan, "Ithaca is Gorges." For more information, visit Ithaca, NY's waterfalls page and check out/download our interactive online Waterfall Guide.
The most popular waterfalls are:
- Ithaca Falls / Fall Creek Gorge
Impressive gorge views from the Cornell campus leading to a 150-foot waterfall near downtown.
- Taughannock Falls State Park
Pronunciation: Tuh-GAN-ick. At 215 feet, this is the tallest waterfall in the northeast. The car-friendly overlook is convenient but the best views are seen along the Rim Trail and Gorge Trail, both easy hikes.
- Buttermilk Falls State Park
A lush, sinuous gorge trail leads from the upper park down to the swim area at the base of the 90-foot falls.
- Enfield Glen / Lucifer Falls / Robert Treman State Park
Perhaps the most beautiful of Ithaca's gorges. The hiking is somewhat strenuous but well worth the effort.
3. Downtown Ithaca Commons
The Ithaca Commons, an open-air, pedestrian mall opened in Downtown Ithaca in 1974, and retains its character as the center of the community's dining, shopping and entertainment scene. Unique boutiques, casual and fine dining, and outdoor public art exhibits help keep the Ithaca Commons from being anything but common.
4. Dining & Restaurants
College-town economics, educated palates, abundant local ingredients and creative chefs combine to make Ithaca a great eating town, with more restaurants in Ithaca per capita than New York City. We have casual dining, fine dining, Food Truck Round-Ups, farmers markets, Farm-to-Table events, a chocolate factory, Wegmans, and more! But you should come taste for yourself, as we don't like to talk with our mouths full.
5. Cayuga Lake
Carved by glaciers, Cayuga Lake is the longest and second deepest of the Finger Lakes, at 38.2 miles long and 435 feet deep at its deepest point. It reaches 53 feet below sea level, and along with Seneca Lake, it is among the deepest lakes in North America. Designated a New York State Scenic Byway, the views from Ithaca's Stewart Park and the Cayuga Waterfront Trail are spectacular. Schedule a boat tour with Ithaca Boat Tours and Cayuga Lake Cruises. Rent kayaks from Puddledockers, Paddle-N-More, and Eastern Mountain Sports. Sunbathe and swim at Taughannock Falls State Park on the west side of the lake or Myers Park in Lansing on the east side of the lake. There are also numerous B&Bs and inns in Ithaca and on Cayuga Lake that offer amazing views of the region, as well as secret tips on making the most of time on Cayuga Lake.
6. Music, Theater & Arts
Live music, engaging plays, and art gallery shows are nightly events in Ithaca. Both the variety and quality of the arts in Ithaca underscore the distinct pleasure of life in a major college town. In the summer, enjoy Ithaca's free concerts and acclaimed performing arts events at our numerous theaters, such as The Hangar Theatre, The Kitchen Theatre, The State Theatre, and college campus theatres. Additionally, you can find free live music on any given day of the week.
7. Finger Lakes Winery Tours
With a total of over 100 wineries, the Finger Lakes Region is receiving accolades as a booming wine producer in the United States, with Riesling being the area's signature variety. More than 15 of the best wineries are on Cayuga Lake, forming the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, America's first, and oldest, wine trail, and boasts over 5,500 national and international wine-related medals. The Cayuga Lake Wine Trail also features a cidery, a meadery, numerous distilleries and a few breweries, as well as festive, seasonal events and activities.
8. Discovery Trail
Great indoor and outdoor entertainment, the Discovery Trail is a collaboration of eight brainy family attractions in the Ithaca area.
The hands-on science museum for all ages with more than 250 touchable exhibits.
- Museum of the Earth
Explore 4 billion years of life on earth at Ithaca's Museum of the Earth, home to interactive exhibits and one of America's largest fossil collections.
- Cayuga Nature Center
An outdoor and indoor playground to discover the animals and plant life of the Finger Lakes region. Explore 120 acres of fields, ponds and gorges, meet 40 live animals, then climb high into the forest canopy in a six-story tree house.
- Cornell Johnson Museum of Art
A premier college art gallery holding more than 30,000 works in an iconic I.M. Pei-designed building. Free admission.
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology
If the natural world were a national park, the "Lab of O" would be its visitor center. Take an inside look at the global environment by following the life and travels of birds. Don't miss the Macaulay Sound Library, the world's largest natural sound archive. Free admission.
- The History Center in Tompkins County
A treasure trove of regional history with traveling exhibits, a research library and a vast photo collection with more than 100,000 images. Free admission.
- The Tompkins County Public Library
Weekly readings, lectures, arts presentations. Free admission.
- Cornell Plantations
More than 4,300 acres of landscaped gardens and natural beauty. Visit 14 specialty gardens, a 150-acre arboretum, and a vast collection of protected natural areas. Free admission.
9. Ithaca Farmers Market
Visiting the Ithaca Farmers Market at Steamboat Landing is an Ithaca tradition. The Ithaca Farmer's Market is the largest in the region, with over 150 vendors living within 30 miles of Ithaca. Agricultural vendors grow and offer high quality fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, poultry and dairy products. Food vendors bring a wide variety of freshly baked goods, jellies, honey, and sauces as well as delicious meals to eat at the market. As well, many talented artists and craftspeople sell exceptional, locally made items. Bring it on home.
10. Moosewood Restaurant
Famous for its bestselling vegetarian cookbooks and its delicious commitment to local organic foods, the Moosewood Restaurant has been an Ithaca dining icon since 1973.