Senior Health
June 19, 2024
14 minutes

Discover the Hidden Gems: Exciting Things to Do in Ithaca NY

Uncover hidden gems and exciting things to do in Ithaca NY! From festivals to farm-to-fork experiences, explore it all!

Exploring Ithaca's Festivals

Ithaca, New York, is a vibrant city known for its exciting festivals that cater to a wide range of interests. Whether you're a music lover, a foodie, or someone who appreciates art and culture, Ithaca has something for everyone. Let's explore some of the notable festivals that showcase the city's unique spirit.

Ithaca Festival

The Ithaca Festival is a highlight of the city's cultural calendar. It celebrates the local arts scene by featuring live music performances, art exhibitions, craft vendors, food stalls, and much more. This four-day event showcases the creativity and talent of the Ithaca community, making it a must-visit festival for both residents and visitors.

Apple Harvest Festival

As the name suggests, the Apple Harvest Festival is a celebration of the bountiful apple harvest in the Finger Lakes region. This festival features an array of apple-related activities, including apple picking, cider tastings, apple-themed food vendors, live music, and arts and crafts. It's a fun-filled event that captures the essence of autumn in Ithaca.

Ithaca Porchfest

Ithaca Porchfest is a unique festival that transforms the city into an outdoor music extravaganza. Local musicians and bands take to the porches of various homes throughout the community to perform for enthusiastic audiences. Attendees can stroll from one porch to another, discovering new sounds and enjoying the vibrant atmosphere. It's a fantastic way to experience the local music scene in an intimate and relaxed setting.

Winter Lights Festival

The Winter Lights Festival adds a touch of magic to the winter season in Ithaca. This festival illuminates the city with captivating light displays, creating a whimsical and enchanting ambiance. The event features interactive light installations, ice sculptures, live performances, and seasonal treats. It's a wonderful way to embrace the beauty of the winter season while enjoying the warmth of community spirit.

Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival

For music lovers, the Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival is a must-attend event. This multi-day festival celebrates a diverse range of music genres, including folk, bluegrass, reggae, and world music. Attendees can enjoy live performances from renowned artists, participate in workshops, and immerse themselves in the vibrant music scene. The GrassRoots Festival is an experience that showcases the rich musical heritage of the Finger Lakes region.

Owego Strawberry Festival

While not directly located in Ithaca, the Owego Strawberry Festival is a short drive away and worth the visit. This charming festival celebrates the arrival of summer with an abundance of fresh strawberries and delightful strawberry-themed treats. The festival features live music, arts and crafts vendors, a strawberry shortcake eating contest, and a carnival atmosphere that delights visitors of all ages.

By exploring Ithaca's festivals, you can immerse yourself in the city's vibrant culture, music, and community spirit. Whether you attend the Ithaca Festival, indulge in apple-themed delights at the Apple Harvest Festival, or enjoy the enchanting Winter Lights Festival, these events offer a glimpse into the unique charm and character of Ithaca.

Diverse Activities in Ithaca

When visiting Ithaca, NY, there is no shortage of diverse activities to explore. From enjoying the natural beauty of waterfalls and state parks to immersing yourself in live music and cultural events, Ithaca has something to offer for everyone. Let's take a closer look at the diverse activities available in this vibrant city.

Waterfalls and State Parks

Ithaca is renowned for its breathtaking waterfalls and picturesque state parks. Visitors can witness the captivating beauty of cascading water at locations such as Buttermilk Falls, Taughannock Falls, and Robert H. Treman State Park. These natural wonders provide an opportunity to connect with nature and capture stunning photographs of the scenic landscapes. Make sure to check out the highly rated Treman Park and Buttermilk Falls Park Trail, which offers a challenging yet rewarding hiking experience with an elevation gain of 3,464 feet and a length of 24.4 miles.

Live Music and Cultural Events

Immerse yourself in Ithaca's vibrant music and cultural scene by attending live performances and events. The city boasts a thriving arts community, with numerous art galleries, theaters, and music venues to explore. From local bands to renowned artists, you can enjoy a diverse range of musical genres and performances. Keep an eye out for festivals, concerts, and cultural markets that showcase the talents of local artists and provide opportunities to engage with the community.

Family-Friendly Attractions

Ithaca offers a plethora of family-friendly attractions that are sure to delight visitors of all ages. Whether you're exploring the interactive exhibits at the Sciencenter, learning about wildlife at the Cayuga Nature Center, or enjoying a fun-filled day at the Ithaca Children's Garden, there are plenty of engaging and educational experiences for families to enjoy. Many of these attractions are budget-friendly or even free, making them accessible for families looking to create lasting memories without breaking the bank.

Agritourism Experiences

Experience the agricultural richness of the region by exploring the agritourism opportunities in Ithaca. Visit local farms and orchards where you can pick your own fruits and vegetables, learn about sustainable farming practices, and even sample delicious farm-to-table culinary delights. Engage in hands-on experiences such as cheese-making workshops or wine tastings at the region's renowned wineries. These agritourism experiences provide a unique way to connect with the local community and appreciate the bounty of the Finger Lakes region.

Outdoor Recreation Options

For outdoor enthusiasts, Ithaca offers a wide array of recreational activities to enjoy. Discover the numerous hiking trails, walking trails, and running trails that wind through the scenic landscapes of the area. With options suitable for all fitness levels, you can choose trails that cater to your preferences, whether you're seeking a leisurely stroll or a more challenging hike. Biking enthusiasts can pedal along the Cayuga Waterfront Trail, which offers picturesque views and has received high ratings from the community.

By exploring the diverse activities in Ithaca, you can fully immerse yourself in the vibrant culture, natural beauty, and recreational opportunities that this captivating city has to offer. Whether you're a nature lover, music enthusiast, or a family seeking adventure, Ithaca is sure to provide a memorable experience for all.

Farm-to-Fork Experiences in Ithaca

Ithaca, New York is renowned for its farm-to-fork experiences, offering a culinary adventure that celebrates the region's local bounties and fosters a sustainable food network. From farm-to-table dining to connecting with farms and producers, Ithaca provides a wealth of opportunities for visitors to immerse themselves in the local food scene.

Farm-to-Table Dining

In Ithaca and Tompkins County, farm-to-table dining is a prominent culinary trend. Restaurants and eateries embrace the concept by sourcing ingredients straight from the backyard, including locally grown produce, wines, and cheeses made on the farm. These establishments provide a unique dining experience, allowing visitors to savor fresh and seasonal flavors while supporting local farmers and producers.

Local Culinary Bounties

The Ithaca area boasts numerous small-scale and family-owned farms that offer a diverse range of products. Visitors can explore local farmers' markets, farm stands, and specialty food shops to discover an array of offerings, including fresh produce, meats, dairy products, honey, soaps, textiles, and more. This abundance of local culinary bounties showcases the region's commitment to sustainable agriculture and provides an opportunity to taste the flavors of the area [2].

Farm-to-Fork Accommodations

For a truly immersive experience, Ithaca provides a range of farm-to-fork accommodations. From farm stays and bed and breakfasts that offer a firsthand glimpse into farm life to luxury bistros and hotels with on-site spas that grow their own herbs for medicinal rubs, there is an accommodation option to suit every taste. These unique establishments allow visitors to unwind in a serene environment while enjoying the freshest and most locally sourced cuisine.

Agritourism Opportunities

Visitors to Ithaca can partake in a variety of agritourism experiences throughout the year. From cider tasting and dining out to foraging along beautiful gorge trails, berry picking in spring, vineyard scenery in summer, apple picking in fall orchards, craft brewery tours, horse-led carriage rides, and cross-country skiing in winter waterfall wonderlands, there is an adventure for everyone. These agritourism experiences allow visitors to engage with the local landscape and experience the agricultural heritage of the region.

Ithaca's Food Network

Ithaca has developed a robust food network that connects farms, local producers, restaurants, and consumers. This network supports sustainable practices, strengthens the local economy, and promotes a sense of community. Visitors can explore this food network by attending farmers' markets, farm-to-table events, and culinary festivals, gaining insight into the region's rich food culture.

Connecting with Farms and Producers

Ithaca offers opportunities for visitors to connect directly with farms and producers. Whether it's through farm tours, workshops, or volunteering, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of the agricultural processes and the hard work that goes into producing quality food. Engaging with farms and producers provides a unique perspective and a chance to forge meaningful connections with the local community.

Embark on a farm-to-fork adventure in Ithaca, where you can indulge in delicious cuisine, support local farmers and producers, and immerse yourself in the region's vibrant food culture. Whether you're dining at farm-to-table restaurants, exploring local farmers' markets, or staying at farm-inspired accommodations, Ithaca offers a truly authentic and memorable experience for food enthusiasts and adventure-seekers alike.

Historical Dining in Ithaca

In addition to its natural beauty and cultural attractions, Ithaca is also known for its historical dining establishments that have become beloved landmarks in the area. These iconic restaurants not only offer delicious food but also provide a glimpse into the rich history of the city. Here are some historical dining options in Ithaca that are worth exploring:

Purity Ice Cream

Purity Ice Cream is a quintessential Ithacan landmark that has been delighting locals and visitors alike for over eight decades. This beloved ice cream parlor celebrated its 85th Anniversary in 2021 and continues to maintain its cultural hallmark in the area. Located in the same spot for over six decades, Purity Ice Cream is known for its distinctive white and red bowls and a decor reminiscent of a 1950s soda fountain. It offers a wide variety of flavors, including classics like chocolate and vanilla, as well as unique creations that cater to different tastes.

The State Diner

A downtown staple since 1936, The State Diner has been serving up classic diner meals and defining comfort food for generations of Ithacans. Initially built out of a railcar, this historic diner has become a go-to spot for locals and visitors seeking a taste of nostalgia. The menu at The State Diner features a range of options, from traditional diner fare like eggs, bacon, and burgers to Greek-inspired dishes like spanakopita and baklava. Whether you're in the mood for a hearty breakfast or a satisfying lunch, The State Diner offers a warm and inviting atmosphere to enjoy a delicious meal [3].

Simeon's American Bistro

Located in a century-old building, Simeon's American Bistro has a history that dates back over 40 years. This dining establishment transitioned from a tavern to a fine dining restaurant and has remained a reliable place for cocktails, raw oysters, and traditional American bistro fare. Simeon's American Bistro offers a menu that showcases locally sourced ingredients and seasonal flavors. With its charming ambiance and delicious cuisine, this historical bistro is a favorite among locals and visitors seeking a memorable dining experience.

The Antlers

Established in 1982 after a major renovation, The Antlers has become a prominent dining spot in northeast Ithaca. This restaurant has a unique history, transitioning from a tavern to a fine dining establishment while preserving many of its original architectural features. The Antlers offers a diverse menu that combines classic American dishes with global influences, creating a culinary experience that satisfies a range of palates. With its warm and inviting atmosphere, The Antlers continues to be a popular choice for both locals and visitors to indulge in a memorable dining experience.

The Ithaca Bakery

Since 1910, The Ithaca Bakery has been a cornerstone of the local community. Operating on the same spot for over a century, this bakery has witnessed the changing times in Ithaca and Tompkins County. The Ithaca Bakery has undergone numerous expansions and renovations to adapt to the evolving needs of its customers while preserving elements of its structure since at least the 1950s. This beloved bakery offers a wide range of freshly baked goods, including bread, pastries, sandwiches, and more. It has become a gathering place for locals to enjoy delicious treats and connect with the history of the city.

These historical dining establishments in Ithaca not only offer delectable cuisine but also provide a unique glimpse into the city's past. Whether you're craving ice cream, classic diner meals, bistro fare, or freshly baked goods, these iconic eateries are sure to satisfy both your taste buds and your curiosity about Ithaca's rich history.

Literary and Arts Scene in Ithaca

Ithaca, NY, is a vibrant city with a thriving literary and arts scene. Whether you're a book lover, art enthusiast, or music aficionado, Ithaca offers a range of cultural experiences to explore. Here are some highlights of the literary and arts scene in Ithaca.

Spring Writes Literary Festival

The Spring Writes Literary Festival is an annual event that immerses attendees in the vibrant arts and culture of Ithaca. This festival celebrates the written word through a variety of workshops, author readings, panel discussions, and open mic events. It offers a unique experience for literature enthusiasts, providing opportunities to connect with local and visiting writers, poets, and storytellers. The festival showcases the rich literary talent and creativity present in Ithaca.

Art Galleries and Theaters

Ithaca is home to numerous art galleries and theaters that showcase the work of local and regional artists. These galleries exhibit a diverse range of artistic styles, from contemporary to traditional, and present rotating exhibits that change throughout the year. Visitors can explore the vibrant art scene by visiting galleries such as the State of the Art Gallery, the CAP ArtSpace, and the Ink Shop Printmaking Center & Olive Branch Press. Additionally, Ithaca boasts several theaters, including the Hangar Theatre and the Kitchen Theatre Company, which showcase a variety of performances, from plays and musicals to experimental works.

Music Performances

For music lovers, Ithaca offers a dynamic live music scene with venues that cater to various genres and styles. The city is home to numerous talented musicians and bands, and you can often find live performances happening throughout the year. From jazz trios to house parties, ensemble presentations to music festivals, Ithaca has something for everyone. Check out local music listings to discover upcoming performances and immerse yourself in the city's diverse musical offerings.

Cultural Markets and Festivals

Ithaca hosts a range of cultural markets and festivals that celebrate the region's talent and multicultural influences. These events provide an opportunity to experience local arts, crafts, music, and food, all in one place. From the Ithaca Farmers Market, which showcases local produce, artisanal products, and live performances, to the annual Ithaca Festival, where the streets come alive with music, art, and food, these cultural gatherings offer a unique glimpse into the creative spirit of the community. Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere and connect with the diverse cultural heritage of Ithaca.

Live Entertainment Options

In addition to the specific events and festivals, Ithaca offers a variety of live entertainment options throughout the year. From comedy shows to theatrical performances, from dance recitals to poetry slams, there is always something happening in the city to engage and entertain. Check local event calendars and venue listings to stay updated on the latest live entertainment offerings in Ithaca.

Visitors Guide and Information Centers

To make the most of your literary and arts exploration in Ithaca, be sure to visit the Visitors Guide and Information Centers. These centers provide valuable resources, maps, and guides to help you navigate the city's cultural offerings. Friendly staff members can provide recommendations based on your interests and answer any questions you may have, ensuring that you have a memorable and enriching experience in Ithaca.

The literary and arts scene in Ithaca is a treasure trove of creativity, offering a range of experiences for visitors and locals alike. Whether you're attending the Spring Writes Literary Festival, exploring art galleries, enjoying live music performances, immersing yourself in cultural markets and festivals, or seeking out live entertainment options, Ithaca has something to captivate and inspire every art lover.

Recommended Activities in Ithaca

When exploring the vibrant city of Ithaca, NY, there are numerous activities to suit a variety of interests. Whether you're an outdoor enthusiast, history buff, or food lover, Ithaca offers something for everyone. Here are some recommended activities to ensure you make the most of your visit:

Blaze Orange for Outdoor Enthusiasts

For outdoor enthusiasts visiting Ithaca, particularly during the fall and winter seasons, it is advisable to wear blaze orange or bright colors for better visibility and safety on the trails [4]. With an abundance of natural beauty, Ithaca is renowned for its picturesque waterfalls, state parks, and outdoor recreational opportunities.

Must-Visit Attractions

Ithaca boasts a diverse range of attractions that are not to be missed. From the awe-inspiring waterfalls, such as Taughannock Falls and Buttermilk Falls, to the breathtaking views at Robert H. Treman State Park, there is no shortage of natural wonders to explore. Don't forget to visit The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, renowned for its bird conservation efforts and its Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary, which offers a unique birding experience.

Family-Friendly Activities

Families visiting Ithaca will find a plethora of activities that cater to all ages. Many of these activities are free or budget-friendly, ensuring a fun and engaging experience for the whole family. Enjoy a visit to the Sciencenter, an interactive science museum, or explore the Cayuga Nature Center, where kids can learn about local wildlife and enjoy the outdoor play area. Don't miss the opportunity to go on a family-friendly hike at places like Buttermilk Falls State Park or the Cayuga Waterfront Trail.

Farm-to-Fork Experiences

Ithaca is renowned for its farm-to-table dining options, offering a true taste of the local culinary bounties. Indulge in the flavors of the region with locally sourced menus featuring fresh produce, local wines, and cheeses made on the farm. Immerse yourself in the agritourism experiences available throughout the year, such as cider tasting, apple picking in fall orchards, or foraging along beautiful gorge trails. Discover the rich connection between the local farms and the vibrant food scene in Ithaca.

Outdoor Adventures

Outdoor adventurers will find plenty of opportunities to get their adrenaline pumping in Ithaca. With over 30 hiking trails, 21 walking trails, and 16 running trails to choose from, there is no shortage of options for exploring the great outdoors. Embark on a challenging hike along the Treman Park and Buttermilk Falls Park Trail, which offers stunning views and a rewarding experience. Biking enthusiasts can hit the Cayuga Waterfront Trail, which is highly rated and offers scenic views of the lake.

Local Landmarks and Historical Buildings

Immerse yourself in the rich history of Ithaca by visiting its landmarks and historical buildings. Stop by Purity Ice Cream, a local institution celebrating its 85th anniversary, and indulge in a scoop of their delicious homemade ice cream. Enjoy a meal at The State Diner, a classic 1950s-style diner, or savor the culinary delights at Simeon's American Bistro. Don't forget to visit The Antlers, a historic bar and restaurant with a charming rustic atmosphere. Complete your historical dining experience with a visit to The Ithaca Bakery, a local favorite known for its freshly baked goods.

By engaging in these recommended activities, you can fully immerse yourself in the vibrant culture, natural beauty, and culinary delights that Ithaca, NY has to offer. Create lasting memories as you explore the outdoors, visit iconic landmarks, and experience the unique charm of this captivating city.


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