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Things to Do in Ithaca in the Winter

view of cayuga lake winter

The rolling hills will soon be covered in snow, and the Finger Lakes are beginning to freeze over. 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 museum exploration, annual events to unique dining 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.

Best Things to Do this Winter in Ithaca

1. Take a Hike to a Frozen Waterfall

Who says waterfalls are just for the warm weather? There is something incredibly impressive about waterfalls in the winter when they freeze over, too. 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 in its frozen-in-time state. For another quick waterfalls base walk, check out Ithaca Falls, located near the Ithaca High School. See other frozen waterfalls at Buttermilk Falls State Park or along the Cascadilla Gorge Trail.

2. Go Ice Skating or Sledding

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 or The Rink, and outdoor pond skating can be experienced at Rice Hill. Bring your sleds to Rice Hill as well and enjoy hours of sledding down the hill too.

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, shareable appetizers, and artisan coffees and hot cocoas.

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 you can enjoy hands-on learning through unique activities and entertainment. The Sciencenter is a year-round science museum for all ages, as is the Museum of the Earth. Visit the Cornell Johnson Museum of Art, free of charge, and explore over 30,000 works of art.
view from HF Johnson museum

5. Learn to Bake Artisan Breads at Wide Awake Bakery

Located in Trumansburg, Wide Awake Bakery offers baking classes throughout the winter and early spring where they teach participants how to bake their own artisan bread at home. From rye bread, pizza doughs, pretzels, and more, you have the opportunity to take a class and bring what you learned back home with you. Check out their schedule of baking classes and sign up soon, they fill up quick!

Other places to learn something new or take class in Ithaca include The Danby Gathery, Foundry Ithaca, Gourdlandia, and The Metal Smithery.

6. See a Live Performance by Local Talent

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 what you’re looking for this winter. Visit The Hangar Theatre, The Kitchen Theatre, or the State Theatre of Ithaca and enjoy plays, musicals, intimate concerts, ballets, and more. Check their schedules for event details and to purchase tickets.

Hangar Theatre Schedule

Kitchen Theatre Schedule

State Theatre of Ithaca Schedule

7. Enjoy Ithaca's Annual Chili Cook-Off in Downtown Ithaca

Every year, over 35 local restaurants face off in the ultimate chili cook-off to find out who offers the best in a number of categories, including Best Meat Chili, Best Vegetarian/Vegan Chili, Best Overall Chili, and People's Choice Chili. In addition to some spicy, warm-you-up-just-right chili samplings, there is also a farmers market with vendors, local wineries and breweries, and farmers offering their goods. Come warm up on the Ithaca Commons in Downtown Ithaca this February!

Whether you're interested in getting outside and exploring the snowy world, taking a class, having some fun with your little ones while learning, attending a live performance, or enjoying a food competition unlike any other, Ithaca is the place to be this winter! Book your winter lodging today.

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Ithaca/Tompkins County Convention & Visitors Bureau
A division of the Tompkins Chamber
904 East Shore Drive, Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: (607) 272-1313 | Toll Free: (800)-28-ITHACA
The official web site of Ithaca, New York and Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau in the Finger Lakes. Complete guide to Ithaca, NY hotels, attractions, dining, shopping and recreation with maps and driving directions.
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