Things to Do in Ithaca in the Winter
When the rolling hills are covered in snow, and the Finger Lakes have that sparkling icy surface. That can mean only one thing: it’s wintertime in Ithaca once again! Don’t let the cold temperatures keep you hibernating inside this year. Make a trip to Tompkins County and embrace the season. With so many things to do, from frozen waterfall hiking to strolling the downtown Commons, museum exploration, to creative food & drink experiences, Ithaca offers a winter vacation that you’ll always remember.
Check out our recommendations for a truly magical winter trip to the Ithaca area and start planning your visit today. Safety remains our community's top priority, please follow the latest NY State guidelines and travel advisories. There you will find guidance on responsible limits on travel behavior, food service offerings, and community activity.
Best Things to Do this Winter in Ithaca
1. Take a Hike to a Waterfall
Who says waterfalls are just for the warm weather? There is something incredibly impressive about waterfalls in the winter. Wear your winter boots and take a hike along the plowed Gorge Trail at Taughannock Falls State Park and gaze in awe at the Finger Lakes Region’s tallest waterfall, the landscape is more dramatic in winter. When we have a series of cold days and nights you may even see a waterfall that has frozen over. Ithaca Falls is one waterfall that has frozen over in recent years, located near the Stewart Park. For more suggestions, see our Top 5 Waterfalls to Visit in Winter
2. Go Ice Skating, Sledding, or Skiing
If outdoor recreation is your vacation go-to activity, then visiting Ithaca in the winter is a great choice. The Ithaca area offers a variety of ice skating spots for visitors of all ages. Indoor ice skating can be enjoyed at Cass Park Rink with skate rentals available. Outdoor pond skating can be experienced at Rice Hill near Taughannock Falls, and bring your sleds to Rice Hill as well and enjoy hours of sledding down the hill too. In response to COVID-19 and crowd control measures, pre-registration for skating a Cass Park is recommended.
When the snow falls, Ithaca and the surrounding area have numerous public trail options. For gear rentals or sales, check out Podunk Cross Country Ski Shop, Eastern Mountain Sports, Cayuga Ski & Cyclery, or Old Goat Gear Exchange.
Greek Peak Mountain Resort located 30 minutes from downtown Ithaca and is a full service resort with rentals and range of winter sport activities for the whole family.
3. Warm Up with Hot Beverages, Soups, & Appetizers
After exploring the outdoors, you’ll surely have worked up a good appetite, and started to feel the need to hold a warm drink in your hands. Ithaca restaurants and cafés offer diverse dining experiences, including seasonally inspired menus. Take the chill off with homemade soups and comfort foods and specialty coffees and hot cocoas. Ithaca's iconic Gimme! allows you to order online, then pick up at a window. Other easy grab 'n' go options are Ithaca Bakery and CTB (multiple locations), Ithaca Coffee Company, and Greenstar Food Co-op at a new location on Cascadilla Street.
4. Visit a Museum and Learn New Things
The Ithaca area has so many museums and learning experiences that we’ve made a trail for them! The Discovery Trail is a list of 8 fascinating sites, some of which are open throughout the winter, where the whole family can learn something new together through encaging exhibits. The Sciencenter is a year-round science museum for all ages, as is the Museum of the Earth. Most museums now require or recommend reserving a time-slot to visit in advance. Please note the Cornell Johnson Museum of Art, has not yet reopened to the public in response to COVID-19 Cornell University guidelines.
5. Taste Something New
Experience! The Finger Lakes now offers virtual wine tasting classes in addition to their small group tours. You can reserve a spot for a guided tasting experiencing including Finger Lakes wines and cheeses, from the comfort of your home or hotel room. You will find additional wine programs happening through the Cayuga Lakes Wine Trail. Ithaca also has a talented pool of mixologists offering creative cocktails made with spirits or as non-alcoholic versions, to enjoy on-site or to-go. Check out The Watershed or Monks on the Commons in downtown Ithaca. Ithaca also benefits from a diverse population inspiring restaurants with a range of ethnic-influenced menus. For authentic flavors try Hawi Ethiopian, Old Mexico, or one of the many Thai restaurants. Ask Red Feed Wine or another one of our local wine shops to make a pairing suggestion with with you food selection.
6. Watch a Live Performance virtually
Live performances have been one of the experiences people have most greatly missed during this time of social distancing in response to COVID. Whether you enjoy seeing holiday classics brought to life or prefer to see something truly one-of-a-kind by a local writer (or both!), the performing arts theaters in Ithaca have adapted with many high-quality performances available online. Visit The Hangar Theatre, The Kitchen Theatre, or the State Theatre of Ithaca continue to showcase both local and national talent -- your support also helps these cultural assets remain in operation.