15 Best Things to Do in Ithaca, NY

15 Best Things to Do in Ithaca, NY

Amidst the concrete jungle of New York resides the serene town called Ithaca. People from the neighbouring states usually frequent this place to attain few days of tranquility.

Ithaca is flooded with several museums and science centers that encourages and enlightens the mind of the young people by giving them a new perspective of the earth.

All the important places and scenic trails are located near the Cayuga Lake which makes maneuvering the paths quite easier. Numerous waterfalls surround the area which adds to the serene charm of the place.

Moreover, Ithaca has some unique attractions which are not available anywhere in the world such as the Whole Human Brain collection where they showcase preserved brains and Gourdlandia where gourd are used to make art. Ithaca is the perfect place for a small getaway.

Visit One Too Many Waterfalls

Taughannock Falls
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Ithaca is adorned with numerous waterfalls throughout the entire town. The continuous movement of water from the glacier led to the formation of gorges which can be spotted easily.

One such spectacular cascade is the Taughannock Falls which is the highest falls of the place and has a plunge of two hundred and fifteen foot.

The waterfall stands four hundred feet above the gorge and is considered to be three stories high than the Niagara Falls. Since it is part of the state park, hiking trips are arranged.

There are campsites and cabins overlooking the Cayuga Lake that promises a splendid evening and adds to the beauty of the place.

Have You Heard of This University?

Cornell University
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Cornell University is known for its Ivy League tag and its diverse nature of education, but it is also a popular tourist’s attraction. The University is located atop a hill and is surrounded by waterfalls and lush green trees that beautify the campus.

Established by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White in the year 1865, it has fourteen colleges and schools under its name which rightfully maintains the dignity of the university.

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art is a part of the campus and hosts more than thirty thousand works of paintings, photographs, art and prints.

McGraw Tower attracts a lot of visitors as it plays the famous Cornell chimes that are not heard anywhere else on the globe.

Fans of Ross Would Definitely Visit This Museum

Ithaca’s National history museum, also known as, The Museum of the Earth is part of Paleontological Research Institution which explores the condition of the natural world and vehemently encourages the people to learn about the ways to conserve the environment.

The museum was built in the year 2003 to explain concepts of earth in a more engaging manner to spike the interest of the mass. Artifacts that are billions years old are displayed in this eight thousand square foot museum.

Apart from the ordinary, the museum provides interactive sessions such as art exhibitions, virtual exhibitions and many such events every month of every year.

Grab a Glass of Wine

Ithaca is the hub where the best wine is produces, as a result, several vineyards are found in this small town.

The Six Mile Creek Vineyard is the oldest and the most renowned vineyard which is found while travelling through the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail. The winery has slowly spread its roots and now produces ten thousand gallon of wine every year without fail.

Other grape based spirits and copper- pot spirits are also available to cater to everyone’s needs. The tasting room of the winery is breathtaking as it is a 19th century Dutch colonial barn that has been restored.

An exterior space which is also a part of the tasting has been tastefully decorated. The place is open seven days a week and has the most picturesque backdrop.

Visit an Organic Market

Ithaca Farmer's Market
Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Farmer’s market of Ithaca brings in a healthy dose of entertainment in the life of the visitors and local alike. The market opens ever weekend diligently and sells a wide array of products from hoe gown vegetables, organic products and fresh flowers.

The area where the market is placed is quite picturesque due to the waterfront pavilion that is situated near Cayuga Lake. There are various restaurants that serve a fast range of cuisines which perks the interest of the people.

The market does not limit itself to flowers and vegetables, it engages in live music and entertainment.

A Bird’s Place

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
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An integral part of the Cornell University, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology studies wildlife and different species of birds.

The main aim of the center is to research on different species of birds across the globe and the biodiversity as it is part of the Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary.

Several famous books and magazines related to birds such as Living Bird Magazine are published in this lab.

The lab is also manages websites which attained critic’s acclamation like All About Birds which received several awards. Last but not the least; it has the largest archive of natural sounds of the world called the Macaulay Sound Library.

In the Name of Art

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
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An integral part of the esteemed Cornell University, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art has the record breaking art collection which exceeds the count of forty thousands.

Placed quite near to the Cayuga Lake, the building is also well- known for its pei- designed style and contains two distinct windows from the house of Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin D. Martin.

The museum contains the art works of famous painters such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri Matisse, Édouard Manet, Albrecht Dürer and some of the famous local artist. The museum diligently organizes exhibition and school tours to enlighten the minds of the young.

Dream of A Reader

The White Library of Cornell University
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The White Library of Cornell University is a sight to behold as it ticks all the qualities that are required to attain the title of a fantasy library.

The library was designed by William Henry Miller who being the first graduate designed several building of the campus. The library originally housed only the books of Cornell University’s first president, Andrew Dickson White.

He donated a notable number of books to the library which includes books on revolution, witchcraft and abolition. The library has the largest collection of books in architecture in the entire country.

The architecture of the library reminds people of the glory days of the past with its lofty bookcases, iron carved flourishes and arched enclaves.

A Bit of Science

Ithaca brings a twist of its own with its hands- on museum, also known as Sciencenter. The museum is meant to interest the old as well as the new.

The hands- on science experiments perk the interest of the visitors as they would be actively taking part in it, instead of passively watching from the corner. The interactive sessions helps the youngsters to gain interest in science and education as a whole.

The museum is two stories high and contains more than two hundred and fifty exhibitions which include interactive science stations about water, pressure, motion and air.

To make matter more engaging, the stair that connects two floors makes a sound when someone steps on it. At regular intervals the museum also arranges outdoor science activities such as the Sagan Planet Walk which is a walking tour of the solar system.


Situated quite near to the scenic Cayuga Lake, the Hanger Theatre is specifically run by the Hanger Company.

It is a regional theatre that aims to move the heart of the audience with their vast array of theatrical performance that enriches and enlightens the mind of the audience. It performs a plethora of genres, catering to everyone’s need.

Apart from this, the company organizes several events, workshops and classes that centers around theatrical performances and conducts non- theatrical through all the seasons.

The Brain Collection

Wilder Brain collection in cornell university
Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It is not everywhere there is a museum which showcases brain in the best preserved form. The Whole Human Brain Collection is part of the esteemed Cornell University and was started collecting brains at the end of 19th century.

Doctor Burt Green Wilder who started the collection was a civil war surgeon and the first animal biologist of the Cornell University. The main aim was to detect the difference between the brain structures of intellectual people, ordinary people, men, women and children.

The anatomy department possesses more than twelve thousand brains which include whole human brains, partial human brains and animal brains.

Due to the preservation policy, at the present moment seventy whole human brains are displayed to the visitors.

Eminent people like Helen Hamilton Gardener donated her brain in 1925 to prove that women brain are in no way inferior to man. Even the founder, Doctor Burt Green Wilder donated his brain upon his death.

An Attempt to Save the Environment

The Cayuga Nature Center is located at the east side of the Cayuga Lake. The main motif of this educational institution is to notify the mass about the environment and ways of conserving it.

The institution covers an area of 120 acres and is well- known for its humongous tree house known as Tree Tops which is six stories high and is known for giving the visitors the bird eye view.

The center also conducts lectures and events which give a detailed description of fauna and flora of the region, climate change of the region, ecosystem and the history of the region.

A Monastery to Visit

Located in upstate New York, the Namgyal Monastery is part of the 14th Dalai Lama branch. It sits on an area of twenty eight acres and is surrounded by woodlands that add to the tranquil nature of the monastery.

The Monastery perfectly embodies the cultural significance of Buddhism and is going to be a library and museum which has Buddhist scriptures, teachings, writings and all the volumes of sutras.

The monastery also promotes Buddhist studies and offers classes. Meditation sessions and other retreat plans to the visitors. The ambience and aura of the place calms the mind of the visitor and promotes personal growth.

Stop by A Heritage Site

The Carriage House of Ithaca has immense historical significance as the architectural style employed to the building dates back to the 19th century.

The building was restored and made into a restaurant come bar, where the ground floor is the restaurant and the upper floor is the bar area.

Even after the restoration, some 19th century quality was retained like the splendid décor of the place, some of the stylistic features, furniture and some soft lighting which brings the true charm of the place.

Along with the cozy ambience, the restaurant serves a plethora of cuisines six days per week, making it a perfect spot for family outings.

Walk Through the Solar System

The Sagan Planet Walk is located in upstate New York and is named after Cornell University professor, Carl Sagan. The solar system is a 1.5 billion scale model that stretches several miles.

The walk starts from Ithaca commons and ends at Sciencenter where Pluto is situated. Each planet station gives explicit details about the planet, NASA images and interesting facts.

At every station there is a model structure which compares the planet to the sun to make the walk more interesting. The Sagan Planet Walk was built in the year 1995 but since then, it went through certain changes.

At the moment, asteroid belt and the model of the nearest star have been included.

A Bit of Quirkiness

Gourdlandia is a must visit as in this place resides the “Gourd Lady” as known as Graham Ottoman. With the help of gourd, she executes her art by making gourd lamps, gourd masks, gourd bugles and gourd marionettes.

The visitors have the opportunity to visit the center and learn about the art and the cultivation process of the gourd.

Ottoman also provides lectures and conducts workshops for people who are interest to learn about the art, where she teaches everything from scratch, that is, from gourd washing to the finer art of gourd carving. She also provides the necessary tools for carving and gourd jigsaw.