June and July in Ithaca-filter
April 9, 2013 7:34 PM   Subscribe

What can you tell me about Ithaca in the summer? I'll be staying there for a 6 week seminar (at Cornell) in June and July, and I'd love your advice about what to do/eat/see, where to stay, and anything else that might be useful to know.

(asking for my partner)
I'm a humanities grad student who loves food, and is pretty fond of the outdoors and nature. I'd love to hear about quirky cultural stuff, shops, etc.
I'd especially like any advice you have about subletting in the summer--I've looked on Craigslist, but it's a bit stressful not to be able to visit in advance (and, as a grad student, I have to mind my pennies!)
I know similar questions have been asked, but they're a bit out of date, I think.
posted by experiencing a significant gravitas shortfall to Travel & Transportation around Ithaca, NY (14 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh! And if you have suggestions about where I could rent a bike, that would be very much appreciated, too!
posted by experiencing a significant gravitas shortfall at 7:50 PM on April 9, 2013

It's really quiet around Cornell during the summer. Get a place with AC, as it'll be hot enough to be uncomfortable. Shouldn't be that hard to get a summer sublet. The place really clears out and there should be quite a few vacancies.

Do you have a car? There's a lot to see but lots of distances are far-ish. You may be able to pull it off by bike. Some of my picks:

Fall Creek Pictures: Little indie theater tucked into a residential block. It's like going to the movies in some one's living room. Great place to chill out on a balmy summer night.

Taughannock Falls: Gorgeous falls in a massive stone amphitheatre. Totally against the rules to swim in the chilly pool at the base of the falls. Surely nobody does that during the summer.

Maxie's Supper Club: A taste of New Orleans in Ithaca. This was fantastic back when I had it, but might not hold up so well now that I've been in the South for a while...

Moosewood Restaurant: The place that turned me onto vegetarian food. Amazing food and great cookbooks too. A must visit in a quirky mall converted from an old elementary school.

Sapsucker Woods: Great 230 acre bird sanctuary north of the Cornell campus. Really pretty with great trails and guided tours.
posted by Mercaptan at 8:01 PM on April 9, 2013

Taughannock Falls is awesome! There is also Buttermilk Falls, and probably lots of other great places to get outdoors. You can tour the wineries around the Finger Lakes region. If you're feeling adventurous/foolish there are some bridge jumping spots. (As the T-shirts say, Ithaca is Gorges!) Oh man, I miss upstate NY!
posted by domnit at 8:24 PM on April 9, 2013

For subletting, try cornell.uloop.com in addition to Craigslist. (click on "view map").

Waterfalls: Ithaca Falls is an easy walk from Cornell or downtown Ithaca. Buttermilk Falls is on the outskirts of Ithaca, reachable with a bike or car. Taughannock Falls is farther away, but much more impressive.

Corning Museum of Glass is remarkable, but you'd need a car to get there.

Ithaca Farmer's Market is lovely on a nice summer weekend. I recommend the Cambodian food stand.

You can also take the Shortline bus for a weekend trip to NYC. They stop near Cornell campus.

Cornell Cinema usually screens some outdoor movies in the summer; check their calendar. Fall Creek Pictures is closed, replaced by Cinemapolis in the commons, which has a nice new building.

I'm biased towards Asian food, so I'm going to recommend Sticky Rice, Asia Cuisine, and a new Sichuan place called Spicy Asian which is actually quite good.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:28 PM on April 9, 2013

If you can, get a tour of the salt mines under Lake Cayuga.
posted by carmicha at 9:46 PM on April 9, 2013

As qxntpqbbbqxl said, Fall Creek Pictures is no more, but Cinemapolis is nice in the Commons (downtown).

If you don't have a car and need convenience, you probably want to live in Collegetown or possibly downtown. If you have a car and want to live within walking distance of campus, you can look for North Campus. East Hill is ok too, depending on which building on campus you're going to. I lived downtown and loved the walk, but it is a steep 1.5 mile climb, although I'm guessing the Ithaca falls trail might be open by now and that's a very pleasant walk.

Stay away from anything even close to a basement. Ithaca is DAMP.

If you enjoy outdoor swimming, Buttermilk Falls, Robert Treman and Taughannock State Parks all have legal swimming areas, some colder than others.

The Finger Lakes Trail passes by Ithaca. Plenty of hiking, although not the most exciting in the vicinity (it's rolling and forested, few grand views). For more mountainous hiking, drive 5 hours to the Adirondacks or 3 to the Catskills.

The Cayuga Trail starts from campus. That's a really nice 8-12 mile loop, depending on how you do it.

If you run or bike, join the email list for the Finger Lakes Runners Club or the Finger Lakes Cycling Club for group stuff and fun races.

Food: Farmer's Market, North Star, Saigon Kitchen, Just a Taste, Sticky Rice, Maxie's, Ithaca Alehouse, Cafe Dewitt -- these are all good, but if you are coming from a big city, it's not like you'll be blown away. I don't that Moosewood lives up to the hype and I'm vegetarian.

Ithaca Beer is pretty decent. Tastings at nearby wineries are cheap and fun to do.

Bike rentals -- do you mean daily rental or for 6 weeks? The Outdoor Store in the Commons does rentals but you probably have to call to find details.

If you have specific cravings, interests or needs, I could try to provide more recs.
posted by bread-eater at 10:06 PM on April 9, 2013

Wow carmicha, I had no idea there was a large salt mine under Cayuga Lake! Nearby Syracuse is known as the Salt City, which probably has some relation to this. I had no idea, despite growing up there.

I spent 3 summers in Ithaca while I was going to school at Cornell. I worked full time in the library and then at startups, but the time outside of work was very memorable for one seemingly boring reason -- I got into a very simple routine and stuck to it 7 days a week. I went hiking or biking every day after work, made a simple dinner, and then went to bed at exactly the same time every night. I woke up at the same time every morning without an alarm and felt rested... for 2 months each of those three years I slept, worked, exercised, and then slept. I felt great. It's the only time I've had such a simple and consistent routine, and it was amazing.

May seem like strange advice, but when I think about spending a summer in Ithaca that's all I think about - getting into a simple routine for a while. Maybe you can find a way to explore campus - which is absolutely beautiful - and also have a meditative summer.

Man, I sound like a hippie.
posted by pkingdesign at 11:26 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Ithaca Shakespeare Company does great outdoor productions in July -- this year it's Othello and Much Ado About Nothing. The productions are held at Cornell Plantations, which are convenient to campus and well worth some exploration for their own sake.

There is lots of spectacular hiking (and sometimes swimming) along, around, and through the beautiful gorges all over the area.
- Six Mile Creek is a hiking area nestled right inside Ithaca, with a network of great trails with a few small waterfalls and some (illegal but very popular) swimming holes. It's very accessible from campus/Collegetown.
- Treman Park, Buttermilk Falls, and Taughannock Park are all within a bus ride of campus, and they have trails that wind along steep gorges with AMAZING views of some pretty dramatic waterfalls. All three also have legal swimming and camping areas.
- If you want to explore more of the trails in the area, the best thing to do is pick up a copy of Hiking Trails of the Finger Lakes Region (make sure you get the option with 11 maps). You can also find these locally -- at The Outdoor Store, for instance.

Grassroots Festival is a big ol' hippie music festival with some pretty big-name acts, held in July in Trumansburg (accessible by bus). One can often find free tickets by volunteering.

There's free contra dancing and square dancing a couple of times a week throughout the summer. It's fun and a great way to meet people. There are a couple of locations; in the past, they've had Monday contra dancing on The Commons, but since The Commons is under construction this summer, I imagine they'll find another spot.

There are some great bars and restaurants with outdoor patios. If you go to one fancy restaurant, I'd suggest Just-A-Taste, which has a patio in the back and is fun for a large group (it's tapas-style, so you can order a bunch of delicious little dishes). Felicia's is a bar with outdoor seating, free music, cupcakes, brunches, and fine cocktails. Da Westy (FB page) has a beer garden, cheap beer nights on Wednesdays, and is often home to The Good Truck, a tasty taco food truck. Speaking of food trucks, you should also check out The Circus Truck and Belly.

Roller Derby runs throughout the summer, and Ithaca's own SufferJets and BlueStockings have bouts down at Cass Park (accessible by bus)

Everybody telling you to go to the Farmer's Market is right -- it's great. Saturday and Sunday market are down by the lake, and that's the big event. However, it's also worth visiting Tuesday market (in Dewitt Park around lunchtime) and Thursday market (in Dewitt Park around dinner).

Cornell has a free Friday Concert Series outdoors on the Arts Quad. Taughannock Falls also generally has a free Friday Concert Series, though I can't find posted details for 2013 yet.

The Johnson Art Museum is definitely worth a visit -- though sometimes the most beautiful thing in there is the view from the sixth floor.
posted by ourobouros at 5:08 AM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

The Museum of the Earth is fun -- lots of fossils and related exhibits.

I live in Syracuse but regularly go to Ithaca for concerts at the State Theatre. There's not much listed for June and July yet but events get added regularly.
posted by maurice at 6:35 AM on April 10, 2013

Ithaca is all quirky cultural stuff and shops... Colour me jealous.

Awesome advice so far. Depending on your specific loves of food, also check out:
Taste of Thai on the Commons, Wegmans for groceries, Stella's or Pixel for cocktails, Chapter House for beer. The locals will generally not steer you wrong.

The Hangar Theatre has a summer season of plays.
posted by knile at 7:09 AM on April 10, 2013

Seconding Just A Taste and the Corning Museum of Glass. Also consider joining the Ithaca Carshare, which is fantastic and probably has short-term options.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:30 AM on April 10, 2013

I forgot to include in my earlier answer the GreenStar co-op grocery stores. And, yeah, my hometown pride says I also must urge you to visit the Corning Museum of Glass (previously on MetaFilter), where you can make your own glass!!
posted by knile at 8:38 AM on April 10, 2013

I've always *loved* summer in Ithaca. The campus is relaxed - just summer students, the weather is gorgeous, there are people out playing frisbee on the quads or sunning in the gorges or wading in the waterfalls...

You've got a ton of good advice above, including everything I'd have mentioned to start with - Farmer's market, concerts on the Arts quad, wading or swimming in the creeks, Cornell cinema, hiking trails - although I didn't notice any recommendations for the Cornell Chimes - climb the clock tower during the regular concerts, it is totally worth it! Also, no love for Autumn Leaves on the Commons? That's a fantastic used bookstore.

The Cornell Outing club used to count Summer as a semester, with a ton of hikes, backpacking trips, kayak trips and sessions on Beebe lake, and so on. I don't think it is very active these days, but it is worth poking at. Either way, if you love the outdoors, you'll love summer in Ithaca.

Happy to help with any specific questions, too.
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:41 PM on April 10, 2013

There's some excellent suggestions here. Sadly, Pixel is moving more into the undergrad bar scene these days, and may not measure up in the nice cocktail department.

Additional advice:
the food truck roundup is nearly ready to go.
The Piggery is a great little butcher/restaurant.
Between Gimme! and The Shop Cafe, you're set for coffee.
There's lots of places to go berry picking.
Check DSP and Ithaca Events for concerts and events.
posted by zamboni at 4:48 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

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