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A college town surrounded by wilderness, Ithaca combines a historic community and scholarly atmosphere with the most beautiful sights of Central New York. Home to both Ithaca College and Cornell University, the city is a haven of historic buildings, museums, science, and technology, all with a lush, leafy landscape that brings out the ivy in the Ivy League. You can explore the Finger Lakes wine country and visit cascading waterfalls, or relax in shady parks and explore active things to do in Ithaca while you enjoy the peaceful side of the Empire State.
Ithaca’s urban core is packed into a few blocks along the northern bank of Six Mile Creek, where historic masonry buildings stand along the pedestrian walkways of Ithaca Commons. A boardwalk runs by the edge of the water, and plenty of hotels stand around the perimeter of the boutique shops, cafés, and restaurants that make up the central business district.
About as on-the-nose as neighborhoods get, this neighborhood faces the Cornell University campus across Cascadilla Creek. Featuring the classic college campus combination of performing arts centers, coffeehouses, and eclectic eateries, the neighborhood fronts a tree-lined hiking trail that runs through the miniature wilderness of Cascadilla Gorge.
Bordered by Ithaca Municipal Golf Course on one side and Cornell’s College of Architecture on the other, this neighborhood features Queen Anne and Victorian homes scattered along the waterway that provided its name. Fall Creek also happens to hold one of Ithaca’s most spectacular natural sights in the Ithaca Falls Natural Area, and the smokestack from the old Ithaca Gun Company factory still towers over the building’s former site on Gun Hill.
Gorges, waterfalls, and glacier lakes give Ithaca some of the most picturesque scenery in New York. You can admire the view of the city from the McGraw Clock Tower or get a broader perspective with the Sagan Memorial Walk, a 1:5,000,000,000-scale model of the solar system. A half-dozen creeks run straight through the city, leaving waterfalls and plenty of grassy waterfront and rocky bluffs that converge at the edge of Cayuga Lake.
Cornell has an obvious place in Ithaca’s cultural scene, with some of the most scenic attractions in the city waiting in and around the university campus. Explore a carefully curated wilderness of New York flora in the Cornell Botanic Gardens or go birdwatching in the wetlands and woodlands of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. At the Museum of the Earth, get a look at prehistoric life and visit the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art to check out a vast collection of pieces, from Indonesian woodcarvings to American Impressionist paintings.
When you want to strike out into the wilderness, there’s plenty to find out in the country. Buttermilk Falls State Park follows a rushing creek through wetlands, campsites, and a spectacular walking trail, and the paths of Robert H. Treman State Park let you hike out to huge cliffs of layered gray shale. Go fishing on Cayuga Lake or explore the vineyards of the Finger Lakes wine country, and make the most of your time with some of the prettiest scenery in the Northeast.
Ithaca has plenty of close by fun activities for you and the kids. Our family friendly experiences will keep everyone entertained for days.
A vacation in Ithaca need not blow your budget. You won't even need your wallet if you check out:
Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary - Aspiring photographers, charge up your camera — you're bound to capture some terrific animal shots here.
Allan H. Treman State Marine Park - Wander the sidewalks and appreciate the atmosphere of this bustling area.
Dewitt Park - Grab your blanket, pack some food and find a shady spot to relish nature.
These popular activities are the perfect excuse to get outside and make the best of the glorious weather:
If it's raining cats and dogs, these terrific indoor activities will keep you entertained — and nice and dry!:
If you're vacationing on a smaller budget, you may like to add the following thrifty activities and tours to your itinerary:
You could put your wallet in the hotel safe for the day, because these terrific attractions won't cost you a cent: