Things to do in Ithaca NY: Waterfalls, Murals, and Cider

Ithaca is located among the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York. This amazing community is surrounded by gorgeous nature, unique culture, and amazing waterfalls. With plenty of things to do in Ithaca NY you’ll be coming back time and time again.

Things to do in Ithaca NY

Stroll Around Downtown Ithaca

Downtown Ithaca is absolutely lovely, and they always have plenty of fun events going on. Take a walk around Ithaca Commons and pop into all the unique, locally owned shops that are in some amazing historic buildings.

And when it comes to food take your pick, Ithaca has it all; Korean, Ethiopian, and Indian just to name a few. While I like all those options I love a place with a beer selection. If you’re like me head to the Ithaca Ale House, they have over 20 different kinds of beer on tap!

There are a bunch of murals scattered throughout the downtown area too. Make sure you take some time to seek them out or stumble upon them like I did.

Hike the Gorge Trail to Taughannock Falls

The hike to Taughannock Falls is perfect for people of all hiking abilities. The hiking trail I recommend is wide and flat and has a big pay off at the end with the falls.

Taughannock Falls State Park is located just outside of Ithaca in the town of Trumansburg, NY. Both the Gorge and Rim trails offer amazing views of the falls, but the Gorge trail is the one I’d choose if you’re short on time. The trail is .95 miles one way and it an out and back trail. Here is the park trail map so you can easily find the parking lot or look for other hikes you might enjoy.

Read More: Things to do in Buffalo NY

Visit the A.D. White Reading Room in the Uris Library

If you’re into amazing looking libraries or have a love for Harry Potter make sure you stop by the A.D. White Reading Room at Cornell University’s Uris Library. The library opened in 1891 and has since been called one of the most beautiful libraries in the country.

Photo Courtesy of Cornell University

This space is one of the most beautiful libraries I have ever seen. If you choose to visit please remember this is a working library and to not disturb students that are trying to study. Learn about the Uris Library on the Cornell website and take a virtual tour if you can’t get there in person.

Things to do in Ithaca NY: Stay at Firelight Camps

I don’t often recommend a place to stay as a thing to do in a destination, but Firelight Camps is a super special place! During my weekend in Ithaca, I spent both nights at Firelight Camps and can’t wait to go back again.

Our safari tent was so beautiful and the bed inside was one of the most comfortable I’ve ever slept in. Each night there was a campfire and we spent our evenings gathered around socializing with the other guests. Inside the common tent we ate a locally sourced breakfast each morning, had access to bunches of board games, and were able to purchase alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

One of the highlights of staying at Firelight Camps was being just a 4 minute hike away from Buttermilk Falls State Park! We spent one of our mornings hiking in and out of the park. More on that next!

Explore Buttermilk Falls State Park

I still can’t believe that this amazing state park was in my backyard for the weekend! We hiked down the Gorge Trail and up the Rim trail making a full loop back to Firelight Camps.

At the upper part of the Gorge trail, is a pond and as you descend there are figure 8 pools scattered throughout the area. Be warned, there are a LOT of stairs along the gorge trail that can become very slippery and may be closed depending on the time of year. The Rim trail winds through the woods and offers some views of the gorge trail.

Go to the Ithaca Farmers Market

Coming from Vermont, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about the Ithaca Farmer’s Market because we have some really good ones locally. I was in complete awe!

Local farmers, artists, and food vendors gather for this community endeavor each week. If you’re in town over the weekend I highly recommend going to the Pavilion for the farmer’s market as there will about over 80 vendors there!

The Ithaca Farmer’s Market doesn’t just take place once a week though. Depending on the time of year theer are up to 5 markets a week! Plus they have a Winter Market.

Read More: A Weekend in Lake Placid NY

Things to do in Ithaca NY: Drink Hard Cider at South Hill Cider

This awesome little Cidery (Is that a thing? It is now!) is a treasure! The cider at South Hill Cider is made from hand foraged wild apples, local abandoned orchards, and heirloom varieties.

We had a yummy pretzel with stone-ground mustard for a snack and did a tasting of a few different ciders. The staff was friendly and helpful when picking ciders to stay and take home. (I bought 2 bottles)

While we walked along the Finger Lakes Trail from Firelight Camps to get to South Hill Cider, we got a bit lost and don’t recommend it, take your car.

Take a Day Trip to Watkins Glen State Park

A short 40-minute drive from Ithaca is Watkins Glen State Park. This magical state park, named one of the best state parks in the country, was once an elegant Victorian inn called the Glen Mountain House.

Now this state park is one of the most popular places to visit in Upstate New York. The first time I visited I was completely speechless. Within 2 miles the streams drop over 400 feet and generate 19 gorgeous waterfalls. Make sure to walk the gorge trail that goes past all the waterfalls, and under some too!

The park also has campsites (tenting and trailer), picnic spots, and an Olympic-size swimming pool. During the summer there are ranger-led tours through the gorge. Please note that the gorge trail is closed in the winter due to icy conditions.

Things to do in Ithaca NY: Visit Namgyal Monastery

Namgyal Monastery was established in 1992 as the North American seat of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s monastery in Dharamsala, India. The monastery hosts, classes, events, daily meditations, and events that are open to the public.

things to do in ithaca ny
Photo Courtesy of Namgyal Monastery

Canoe or Kayak Lake Cayuga

No visit to Ithaca is complete without getting out on one of the Finger Lakes. Lake Cayuga is the perfect place to take a paddle in a canoe or kayak. Puddldockers is a great local shop that rents canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards. Their shop is located right in the Lake Cayuga inlet, so you can launch right from their shop.

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What are your favorite things to do in Ithaca NY? Let me know in the comments!

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Katherine

    So many awesome things to see and do! I think I’d definitely want to visit South Hill Cider (who can pass up cider?!) and Watkins Glen has been on my bucket list for a little while now.

    1. Retha the Roaming Nanny

      Watkins Glen was like a dream! I want to go back in the spring and see it with snow melt rushing through the gorge.

  2. Margie

    When we visited Ithaca on a road trip, it was pouring rain. All we did was check out the downtown a bit and Cornell. Thanks for these suggestions for next time.

    1. Retha the Roaming Nanny

      What a bummer! The next time you’re in the area I hope you’ll get better weahter.

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