The Ithaca Experience
There is truth to our bumper stickers that state “Ithaca is Gorges,” but it’s more than that – it is where great minds meet the great outdoors. Explore what makes it different and start planning your own Ithaca Experience.
Ithaca Is Unique...
No matter what brings people to Ithaca, NY they are met by an energy that is unique to this place.
The churning of waterfalls tall and small, creeks winding through lush gorges carved by glaciers, dew drops on plants immersed in the woods or the gentle lapping of Cayuga Lake against its shores all bring a sense of freshness and renewal to Ithaca and Tompkins County felt few other places.
Beyond the outdoors, however, that energy is found in the people, where great minds come from all over. Whether they are studying at Cornell University or Ithaca College, creating beautiful murals across public spaces, debating issues on The Commons, crafting creative food and beverages in our restaurants, or making music on our streets or performance venues and theaters, brilliance is all around in Ithaca.
What to Do in Ithaca, NY
- Hiking and Waterfalls – Take a hike at Buttermilk Falls or Robert Treman state parks or find the Cascadilla Gorge trail nestled in downtown Ithaca. Take the Waterfalls Challenge to see some of our 100-plus waterfalls in Ithaca, and be sure to make time to see the 215-foot Taughannock Falls, three stories taller than Niagara Falls. In the summer, take a dip in Cayuga Lake or at the base of two of our waterfalls.
- Food – As a result of multi-cultural influence on our region, acclaimed hospitality school, and the high quality produce coming from local farms – Ithaca’s food and dining scene does not disappoint. You will find many restaurants worth slowing down for, such as the famous Moosewood Restaurant, which is vegetarian. Taste cuisine from around the world at the Ithaca Farmers' Market or find locally made cheese and seasonal ingredients featured at breweries and cideries.
- Drink – Enjoy a Finger Lakes wine tasting experience on the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, the nation’s first wine trail. Sample a beer flight at one of our many craft breweries, including the iconic Ithaca Beer Co. or try craft cider, often dry, from one of the nine cideries within a 30-minute drive. Ithaca is also a coffee-lover’s paradise with the award-winning Gimme! Coffee’s original location on West State/MLK Jr. Street, along with many other independent coffee purveyors and roasters.
- Farmers Markets – The Ithaca Farmers Market operates throughout the city nearly year round, with its lakefront location open every weekend from April to December. During the warmers months, take a tour of markets in neighboring towns, including Trumansburg, Brooktondale, Dryden and Freeville.
- Ice Cream – It’s no surprise that the place that invented the ice cream sundae has no fewer than eight places dedicated to scooping ice cream, including Purity Ice Cream, which has been operating since 1936.
- Boating – Go boating on Cayuga Lake. Rent a kayak or standup paddleboard from Paddle-N-More in Lansing or Paddledockers in Ithaca, or learn about the Finger Lakes’ history and ecology during a Discover Cayuga Lake cruise.
- Cornell University and Ithaca College – Start at Cornell's Welcome Center and take in the deck overlooking Beebe Lake as well as an exhibit highlighting famous alumni. Make time to visit the Cornell Botanic Gardens and Johnson Museum of Art, and simply strolling around the university’s gorgeous campus will offer stunning architectural views. Over on South Hill, Ithaca College provides lovely views of Cayuga Lake, and a visit wouldn’t be complete without seeing the fountains and sculptures.
- The Discovery Trail – The Discovery Trail is a partnership of top attractions: The kid-friendly Sciencenter, the world-famous Cornell Lab of Ornithology,, the trails (and treehouse) and rehabilitating animals of the Cayuga Nature Center, the Cornell Botanic Gardens and arboretum, the amazing fossil specimens at the Museum of the Earth, the art collections at Cornell's Johnson Museum, the local artifacts at the History Center and the timely cultural events at the Tompkins Public Library.
- Ithaca Commons – Stroll downtown Ithaca on The Commons, a pedestrian mall that's the heart of the city's vibrant social scene, filled with boutiques, funky shops and all the food options you can think of.
- Music – Talented musicians have studied and collaborated in the Ithaca and Trumansburg areas for decades. Enjoy concerts, often free concerts, with music ranging from classical to jazz, funk, and more! The historic State Theatre of Ithaca hosts nationally touring acts September through May.
"Ithaca is a Finger Lakes destination in and of itself, blending hippie grunge with the buttoned-up Ivy League atmosphere of Cornell University. As a growing number of spinoff slogans will tell you, Ithaca is art, Ithaca is food, and Ithaca is also festivals." -- Lonely Planet
"Perched on the south shores of New York's Lake Cayuga, Ithaca enjoys a youthful vibe and a restaurant and entertainment scene worthy of cities much larger." -- USA Today
"Glaciation blessed it with hundreds of gorges and waterfalls, while the microclimate of the lakes has created fecund wine country, not to mention a passion for watersports and a town-wide obsession with rowing." Among the best towns and small cities in the US. --The Guardian
Featured in Atlas Obscura: Guide to 9 Cool and Unusual Things to Do in Ithaca, NY
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Photo courtesy of Nico Johnson
With over 150 waterfalls within 10 miles, Ithaca, NY and the surrounding area were carved by glaciers that formed gorges millions of years ago. If you are looking for the best waterfalls in New York, Ithaca is the place to visit. Many great waterfalls are close to one another, so you can see many in one quick trip!
Visit Cornell University, explore the walkable Downtown Ithaca Commons, or one of the state parks, and you will see one of Ithaca's mighty waterfalls. Venture outside of Ithaca to the surrounding towns of Tompkins County and see some hidden gems for photo opportunities such as wine tasting, farms, and beautiful landscapes.
Traveling from NYC to Niagara Falls? Ithaca is the perfect place to stop half-way for exploration and a good night's rest at one of our many local lodging establishments.
DINING IN ITHACA
With more restaurants per capita than New York City, Ithaca's culinary delights are second to none. It's a delicious statistic that hints at the variety of local restaurants and tells us something fundamental in the Ithaca psyche - Ithacans know food.
STAYING IN ITHACA?
Fine hotels. Comfortable B&B's. We've even got glamping and a yurt, if you're so inclined. Whatever you're overnight style, Ithaca has a fun, friendly and memorable spot for you to rest your head.
ROBERT H. TREMAN STATE PARK
As the saying goes, "Ithaca is GORGES!" Over 150 waterfalls flow across the town, funneling water through gorges carved out thousands of years ago. Discover them for yourself.
EVENTS IN ITHACA
There's always something going on in Ithaca and Tompkins County. Browse events by dates and see what's trending.
FARM TO FORK
Explore local restaurants, farmers markets, unique accommodations and agritourism events in and around Ithaca.
DOWNTOWN ITHACA COMMONS
Visit the award-winning Downtown Ithaca Commons. A four-block pedestrian shopping area with over 100 unique shops, restaurants, street vendors & street entertainers; adjacent to Cornell University & Ithaca College with year round events and festivals.