You know what they say about Ithaca...
July 30, 2009 7:02 AM   Subscribe

In Ithaca, NY for a long weekend, what should I see and do?

I'll be in Ithaca this weekend and would love recommendations on what I can't miss. I'm detoxing from Brooklyn so I'm looking for peace and quiet, locally-grown foods to cook, and as much outdoorsy stuff as possible. I'd also like to see a waterfall, swim, do some light hiking, and drink tasty coffee. Though I prefer to cook myself, if you feel there's a restaurant beyond Moosewood that can't be missed, please let me know.

I have a car and will be taking care of a dachshund.

Bonus question: where can I ride horses? Trail rides are good, but a barn where I could take a hunter/jumper lesson is even better.

Previously asked here and answered here, but would like updates.
posted by anthropoid to Travel & Transportation around Ithaca, NY (24 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, and please be as specific as possible. I know I should see the gorges, but would like specific advice on where to find one. And I'm also looking for quiet, secluded places where one can just chill out in nature.

posted by anthropoid at 7:05 AM on July 30, 2009

Buttermilk Falls State Park is on the edge of town, right off of Rte 13 South, just past the horrendous strip. It has a big swimming hole and good trails. You can also get to the upper and quieter part of the park by going up either 96B or Stone Quarry Rd and turning right onto King Rd.

Gimme on lower State St. is the place to go for coffee! Coffee is great and it's a cool place to hang out, even has some outdoor seating.
posted by mareli at 7:12 AM on July 30, 2009

Gimme Coffee is at 506 West State St., check out other interesting stores on that block.
posted by mareli at 7:13 AM on July 30, 2009

Taughannock Falls is awesome. It's a big stone basin with a waterfall. Technically there's no swimming there, but people seem to ignore that.

One of my favorite restaurants in Ithaca is Maxie's Supper Club. I'm sure there are more authentic places of Louisiana-style cuisine, but its still really tasty.

The Cornell Dairy Bar has delicious ice cream made right on campus.

The Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary is a great ornithology lab/museum/preserve if you're interested in some light hiking and birdwatching.

If its too hot and you want to see a movie, I recommend the Fall Creek Theater, a tiny and very laid back movie theater nestled in a residential area. Very chill.
posted by Mercaptan at 7:19 AM on July 30, 2009

I really enjoyed hiking Treman Gorge. We had someone drop us off at the top and hiked down.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:20 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Get an el-cheapo massage from students at the Finger Lakes School of Massage, get Indian food at Diamonds, don't miss the farmer's market, and although you didn't mention shopping, the Salvos in Ithaca have lots & lots of great clothes. The shop is on 34 right near Buttermilk Falls, which is a nice hiking area. Also don't miss Taughannock Falls. Will you have someone to care for the dog when you ride? Horses don't always love unfamiliar dogs.

If you want real seclusion though, you might have to head out of Ithaca. A lot of people go to Ithaca to get away from a lot of people. To get away from it all, try Bear Swamp, not far from Ithaca and all to yourself outside of hunting season. I hiked there regularly for five years and although there were always a few trucks at the trailhead I never once saw another person. Lovely.
posted by headnsouth at 7:27 AM on July 30, 2009

Best answer: Definitely check out the farmer's market. While you're there, if you want lunch I recommend the Cambodian food stand. Awesome.

Tip: If by car, approach the farmer's market from 3rd street, not route 13

Ithaca Falls is right next to downtown, park here.

Cascadilla Gorge, the boundary between Cornell and Collegetown, is a pleasant little hike. Don't let the "closed" trail signs fool you; the trail is perfectly fine. Is between here and here.

IMHO Taughannock falls is more impressive than Buttermilk, but it's a longer drive to Taughannock state park.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:40 AM on July 30, 2009

Response by poster: Wow, thanks so much for all the great responses so far! I'm excited to hit the road.
posted by anthropoid at 7:46 AM on July 30, 2009

Definitely check out the farmer's market. While you're there, if you want lunch I recommend the Cambodian food stand. Awesome.

Oh yes, and if you're there for breakfast you have to have a breakfast burrito from solaz. Now I am hungry, and jealous of anthropoid.
posted by headnsouth at 7:50 AM on July 30, 2009

The Fall Creek movie theater (which was recommended above) isn't open any more. They merged with Cinemapolis and moved into a new facility which is just off the Commons.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:05 AM on July 30, 2009

Best answer: I agree with what everyone else is saying (particularly about the Farmer's Market and the Dairy Bar, which I believe has an adjacent store where you can buy Cornell Dairy cheese and milk). And I also wanted to address your horse question: Cornell has an Equestrian Center where they apparently give private lessons.

I haven't been to Buttermilk Falls, but I've been to Taughannock and it's really nice.
posted by pluckemin at 8:16 AM on July 30, 2009

Oh, and if you need to go to a supermarket, Wegmans is the best supermarket ever.
posted by pluckemin at 8:21 AM on July 30, 2009

Response by poster: Pluckemin: you have made my day as I'll be riding tomorrow at Cornell!!
posted by anthropoid at 8:58 AM on July 30, 2009

I was just in Ithaca a few months ago, and if you want to see waterfalls it's the place to be! You can see some of the photos I took while I was there here with more specifics, but the gist of it is that Buttermilk Falls state park was my favorite of the waterfall hikes in Ithaca. The namesake falls are so-so, but the Gorge Trail from Upper Entrance was a lovely hike. (Also loved Watkin's Glen, but that's a 45 minute drive away.) I was somewhat underwhelmed by Taughannock falls. Buttermilk Falls has 10 waterfalls all along the 3/4 mile hike. Taughannock falls has one rather boring straight plunge at the end of the hike.

And definitely seconding the Cornell Dairy and Sapsucker Woods Bird Sancutuary. For food/coffee, I loved the Ithaca Bakery!
posted by geeky at 9:44 AM on July 30, 2009

Best answer: Seconding Maxie's -- aside from the food & good mixed drinks, it's just got a great vibe, and is the one place in town I talk to strangers. Sit at the bar! Live music Sunday nights starting at 6; half-priced oysters everyday 4-6. And they serve their full menu until 11 PM, which has saved my bacon more than once.

Other restaurants -- unfortunately several have closed lately. But here goes:

Hazelnut is about 15 minutes away, in Trumansburg, but it's one of the best restaurants in the area. A lot of local food, including happily raised meat.

Just a Taste, whose web page seems to be down -- nom nom nom. Tapas on the Commons. The other best restaurant in town.

Fine Line has good food and an open kitchen.

Sticky Rice is a hole-in-the wall takeout joint with great Thai/Laotian food. It's at the back of the building and can't be seen from the road. (And don't let anyone tell you to go to Thai Cuisine. Bleeech.)

Other bars: Felicia's, Korova, the Chanti if you like a good dive bar. Good martinis at ZaZas, but the space is weird and horrible. I personally dislike Madeline's for various reasons, but other people like it.

Breakfast: Cafe Dewitt has creative brunch with local food -- very popular, though, so go early. I think the Sunset Grill, up on 96b by Ithaca College, is very good diner breakfast, with more homemade food than usual.

If you want to hit the road and check out wineries on Seneca Lake, stop at Dano's, which manages to be both gorgeous and hilarious (particularly if Dano comes out to talk to you, which he pretty much always does).

Other stuff:

The farmer's market is great, and open both Sat and Sun. But it's INSANELY crowded, so be prepared for that, and go early if possible.

Buttermilk Falls is indeed lovely. As is Treman (go to the upper entrance, I think).

Another good place to walk the dog is Six Mile Creek. The parking area marked on that map is signed "Mulholland Wildflower Preserve."

Go to Cornell's Art Museum (free), and go to the 5th floor for the panoramic view. (The top floor isn't open to the public; it's one down from the top.) Then cross University Ave to walk across the famous suspension bridge.
posted by kestrel251 at 10:30 AM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

P.S. I just reread your question. Skip Moosewood, unless it's a pilgrimage you just HAVE to make. It's really not all that great.

Swimming: kids swim under the suspension bridge, out in the reservoir deep in Six Mile Creek (illegal), at the base of the dam/waterfall across Giles from the parking lot to Six Mile Creek. Ooh, and a place called Flat Rock, which is near yet more trails. Roughly here. Go across that pedestrian bridge to hit the trails.
posted by kestrel251 at 10:40 AM on July 30, 2009

If you want good food out, then Pangea and Heights Cafe have the best food. Period. Full stop.

Maxies has a good feel, and Ithaca Bakery is definitely the place to go for coffee and/or pastries (plus they have a collegetown location if you wind up on Cornell's campus). I spent 5 years of my life there looking for the best food I could find. The farmer's market (and Wegman's if you have never been to one) are great places to get food if you want to cook or prepare it for yourself.

DO go to the dairy bar, and DO go to Sapsucker Woods and Taughannock falls.

I would say Willow, but apparently they have closed. That place was the tops.
posted by kenbennedy at 11:09 AM on July 30, 2009

Best answer: Here's a pretty good overview of area hiking possibilities. The suspension bridge linked above is amazing, and there is also a nice gorge bridge starting at the corner of Ferris Place and South Quarry St. Once across, you'll be close to both Six Mile Creek and the South Hill Recreation Way.

The state parks are the best options for swimming and gorge walks. My personal favorite is Treman for both, though none of the parks will be secluded. Swimming is the lake at Taughannock Falls, and in waterfall gorge bases at the other two. You'll have to buy a day pass for any of these, but it will get you into all three if you plan accordingly. To find local events, look for a copy of the free weekly Ithaca Times.

Other tips: You can bring the dog to the Farmers Market on Sunday. Also, a summer visit to Ithaca demands a visit to Purity, the Gimme Mocha Fudge is amazing! Oh, and parking in the garages downtown and at street meters is free on weekends.
posted by susanvance at 11:11 AM on July 30, 2009

Let me second the Cambodian food stand at the farmer's market. If they have the Taro Root + spicy sauce, mmm, DO WANT. That one comment has me missing Ithaca more than anything I've read since I've left. Seriously. It's good.

Everyone else is pretty much spot-on too, with their recommendations.
posted by Alterscape at 12:59 PM on July 30, 2009

Hang out with my friends Peter and Kendra... arguably the most wonderful people on the planet, and they LIVE in Ithaca!

(No, I won't hand out phone numbers!)
posted by FauxScot at 1:20 PM on July 30, 2009

Best answer: Okay, if you're going to be at Cornell already, pretty much the coolest thing there (a friend and I were just reminiscing about it as *the best thing* about our Cornell experience) is the musical paving stones on the terrace on top of Olin library. When I was there, many students didn't know about it -- but it's the most amazing thing I've ever heard. You go onto the terrace and throw a stone across the paving stones as though you're trying to skip it, and each one makes a different sound. Have I mentioned that this is amazing?
posted by obliquicity at 1:42 PM on July 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

Locally-grown foods: the co-op also downtown and the farmer's market on the weekends
neustile means GreenStar, which has two locations. I've only ever been to the Dewitt "Mall" location before.

Reading this thread makes ME want to spend a weekend in Ithaca!
posted by knile at 6:46 PM on July 30, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! Ithaca so far is awesome, despite the rain.
posted by anthropoid at 5:56 AM on July 31, 2009

Response by poster: And for anyone else looking at this thread in the future, I'm going to add the State Diner: decent diner food, open 24 hours, and they have a bouncer!
posted by anthropoid at 9:16 AM on August 1, 2009

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