What to do in Ithaca
October 12, 2009 6:19 PM   Subscribe

We're going camping in Ithaca, NY this weekend. What should we make sure to do while we're there?

My girlfriend and I are going car camping in Ithaca, NY this weekend. She's never been camping, so we're trying to balance the hiking/cooking on a fire aspects of it with an equal amount of hanging out in the city/winery tours. We're not too familiar with the area. I've e-mailed a bunch of wineries blindly to get details on touring them, am looking into local farms and found a few places that look like fun downtown, but we're open to suggestions. Any specific wineries that you would recommend? Hiking trails? Cool thrift stores? Other fun things to do?

We are both vegetarians in our early 20s. We like thrift stores, book stores, quirky sort-of tourist things, etc. I'm more outdoorsy than her, but we can both hold our own on a hike. We wouldn't mind driving a little while for something particularly awesome, but I'd prefer stay as close to Ithaca as I can.
posted by cheerwine to Travel & Transportation around Ithaca, NY (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Visit the Cornell campus if you're near it. I used to live out there and as a non-Cornell student (although living in College Town w/ Cornell students,) it was a blast to see. They have some beautiful libraries. And a mausoleum.
posted by griphus at 6:34 PM on October 12, 2009

Buttermilk Falls is great. Beautiful gorge with stairs built by the depression-era Civilian Conservation Corp
posted by bluesky43 at 6:52 PM on October 12, 2009

My Dad used to take us kids out on his little Aqua Cat catamaran on Cayuga Lake when I was a kid. I'd bet there are rentals of some sort available.
posted by phrits at 7:07 PM on October 12, 2009

The farmer's market is awesome. Moosewood restaurant is very famous vegetarian food. Check out the shops on the commons. Gimme coffee! is really good coffee.
posted by slateyness at 7:11 PM on October 12, 2009

Oh, and for the view, hoof it up the cornell clocktower.
posted by slateyness at 7:11 PM on October 12, 2009

You could do part of the Fingerlakes Trail, or some of the smaller ones - Buttermilk Falls is good, as is Taughannock.

Foodwise, you should hit the Cornell Dairy Bar and Just a Taste. Stop off at Gimme or The Shop for coffee on the way to Ithaca Farmer's Market, which is absolutely huge. A little out of town, you'll find Hazelnut Kitchen and Danos.

Bookstores - you're definitely in luck. You'll be here during the second week of the Friends of the Library Fall Booksale.

Sadly, you just missed the season finale for the SufferJets, Ithaca's local roller derby team.
posted by zamboni at 7:14 PM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Well, well, well, what a great question! I got a little overenthusiastic about this (I love Ithaca - grew up there), and ended up making a "Google map" for this.

My "Ithaca in a weekend map".

This is a very small sampling, mind you. Ithaca is awesome. And gorges.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:19 PM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you have more specific questions, feel free to ask here/memail me. I've gotta get back to work for now.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:20 PM on October 12, 2009

There used to be a couple of book stores on the Commons, downtown, but Autumn Leaves might be the only one left. There's also the Bookery in the Dewitt Mall, walking distance from the Commons. Downtown is quite walkable, so just plop your car in the Seneca Garage and wander!

With wineries, I'll play favorites of Bellwether Hard Cider and Sheldrake Point.
posted by knile at 7:21 PM on October 12, 2009

Wow, I missed the fact that y'all are vegetarians. Ithaca is like Mecca for vegetarians :) At least for upstate NY.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:21 PM on October 12, 2009

Vegetarian note: Purity Icecream uses gelatin in pretty much everything. If this is an issue for you guys, stick to The Dairy Bar and Cayuga Lake Creamery.
posted by zamboni at 7:24 PM on October 12, 2009

I forgot about Ithaca Beer Company: not a winery, but it does have tastings.
posted by zamboni at 7:26 PM on October 12, 2009

Collegetown Bagels is my favorite place to eat in Ithaca. There's a couple different locations, I think.

Also nthing Buttermilk and Taughannock.
posted by thewestinggame at 7:37 PM on October 12, 2009

Yes, Autumn Leaves is the only bookstore still in the Commons. If you don't mind doing some driving, there's also Phoenix Used & Rare Books in Freeville.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:20 PM on October 12, 2009

Nines pizza deep dish...yum. My mouth is watering from 3000 miles away
Moosewoods since you probably have the cookbook
Gorges gorges gorges
Watch the sun go down from Libe Slope on the cornell campus near the main bookstore / uris library.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 8:21 PM on October 12, 2009

Don't forget about The Bookery - a great bookstore a few blocks from the commons in the Dewitt Mall.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:34 PM on October 12, 2009

The Bookery II is now formally known as Buffalo St Books.
posted by zamboni at 9:26 PM on October 12, 2009

The Cornell Dairy Bar is worth a visit if you're into ice cream.

There are a lot of nice waterfalls around, a few of which (the ones in the Gorge in particular) are walking-distance, many more are accessible if you're willing to drive a few miles outside Ithaca proper.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:55 PM on October 12, 2009

I'm pretty busy this weekend, but perhaps this would be a good occasion for a short Ithaca meetup?
posted by zachlipton at 12:34 AM on October 13, 2009

Bring warm clothes and rain jackets - it's been below freezing at night this week and highs are in the 40s-50s, and rains most days (that is, it's fall in Ithaca).

As zamboni says, this weekend will be the second weekend (of three) of the giant "Friends of the Library" booksale, and you can probably still find cool bargains. Check out their website at booksale.org for directions and hours (it's on Esty St, in an out of the way small warehouse building). Very much recommended for book people - dozens of people camp out on the sidewalk overnight to be among the first admitted on the opening day of the sale (which was last Saturday).

Regular bookstores include all the aforementioned. In addition to those, I think Colophon Books (on Aurora St near the Collegetown Bagels branch) is still open -- it's smaller than the other bookstores but often has cool finds, and has a few shelves of used books along with new. Also, Phoenix Books was having a huge sale last month, not sure if it's still going on, but I got an armload of great books for cheap.

The farmers' market is a must - fresh produce, food vendors, art and craft vendors, usually some musicians playing, all under a big pavilion by the inlet to Cayuga Lake. I second Salvor Hardin's suggestion (in his Google map) of Littletree Orchards - it's a 15 minute drive from Ithaca in nearby Newfield but they have an amazing assortment of U-Pick apple varieties in a huge sprawling orchard.

In terms of other events to do, find a copy of the free Ithaca times weekly paper when you arrive. If you like wines, you might consider driving to a smattering of local wineries for tastings Sat or Sun afternoon.
posted by aught at 5:53 AM on October 13, 2009

I'm pretty busy this weekend, but perhaps this would be a good occasion for a short Ithaca meetup?

If we're having one this year, we should probably do it soon. The weather's starting to feel a tiny bit cool.
posted by zamboni at 7:06 AM on October 13, 2009

You mentioned e-mailing wineries about touring. Generally, they do tastings that don't require any sort of prior reservation for two people. Just walk into their tasting room. I've only gotten full on tours when I've been with a large group, and called ahead. That's not to say it's impossible for you & ms. cheerwine to get a personal tour, but on weekends, Finger Lakes wineries are pretty packed, so their staff is pretty busy with tastings & sales. I'm also going to backpedal on my original winery suggestions based on your desire to stay right around town. A wine blogger friend (shameless plug-link) notes that Six Mile Creek and Americana are two of the very closest to downtown. I've never been to Six Mile Creek, but Americana is fairly standard.
posted by knile at 7:32 AM on October 13, 2009

The weather's starting to feel a tiny bit cool.

Speaking of which, it snowed this morning. Pack accordingly.
posted by zamboni at 9:50 AM on October 16, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the responses. We didn't end up going this weekend on account of the snow- since it would have been Ms. Cheerwine's first camping trip, I didn't want to scare her away from camping all together. We're planning to go once the weather is nice again, so we'll check out all of your suggestions then.
posted by cheerwine at 9:29 AM on October 19, 2009

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