In between spending your days by the lake or hiking nearby trails, take some time during your stay by Cayuga Lake to visit Ithaca, NY. This small lakeside town has the vibe of a quiet college town with some of the most gorgeous parks in the state. Check out some of the best things to do in Ithaca, NY. For even more great tips on vacation planning in the Finger Lakes, download our free Vacation Guide!
Our Favorite Things to do in Ithaca, NY
Explore the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail
The Cayuga Lake Wine Trail is the longest-running in the United States, and one of the wineries on the trail is in Ithaca. Six Mile Creek Vineyard was Ithaca’s first vineyard and tasting room. Imagine sipping wine in a stunning restored 19th-century Dutch Colonial Barn. Six Mile Creek offers wine tastings, spirit tastings, and glasses of wine and is open seven days a week. It’s a wonderful way to spend an afternoon in Ithaca.
Tour the Cornell University Campus
While touring a university’s campus might not typically be at the top of your to-do list, Cornell isn’t your typical college. Here, you’ll find three excellent stops that are considered some of the best attractions in town.
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
Since 1973, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art has amassed a permanent collection of over 35,000 works which originate from over six millennia. During your visit, you’ll be able to see pieces from all over the world. From more than 22,000 works from Asia to African sculpture and textiles, you’ll travel the globe without needing a passport! Best of all, admission to the museum is completely free.
Andrew Dickson White Library
Another great place to visit on campus that won’t cost you a dime is the Andrew Dickson White Library. This is a slice of heaven for any bibliophile. This library features the original collection of books of Cornell University’s first president, as well as art and furniture left to the institution after White’s death. The design of the library itself is something to gawk at, with ornate cast-iron railings on the walkways and bookcases and rich red carpeting. It’s both modern and antique and is definitely worth the visit.
Cornell Botanic Gardens
Enjoy the serenity and beauty of the Cornell Botanic Gardens. Whether you’re planning a picnic lunch or a quiet walk, there are so many wonderful things to do during your visit. The gardens are open year-round from sunrise to sunset, and the Nevin Welcome Center and Garden Gift Shop are open from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday. Guests are welcome to conduct their own self-guided tour, though there are scheduled educational walking tours available for groups who schedule in advance.
Visit a Family-Friendly Museum
Museum of the Earth
Discover the secrets of prehistoric Earth! The Museum of the Earth features one of the largest collections of specimens in the United States, with over three million items on display. The kids will love playing paleontologist at The Fossil Lab and watching the real-deal uncover actual fossils in the Prep Lab. You’ll marvel at the Hyde Park Mastodon, one of the most complete skeletons of its kind ever found. On top of that, the museum hosts lectures, special exhibitions, and family-friendly events.
Cayuga Nature Center
After you’ve seen the creatures of the past, spend some time with live animals of the present! The Cayuga Nature Center is just an eight-minute drive from the Museum of the Earth. Here, you’ll learn about how Cayuga Lake has changed over 300 years, as well as read exhibits on the current ecology of the Cayuga Basin. Best of all, you’ll get to see live animals in the indoor and outdoor exhibits.
Who says that learning can’t be fun? At the Sciencenter, your kids will love interacting with the many exhibits, each designed for little hands and minds of all ages! The displays here range from topics like sustainable practices to astronomy to aquatic life. In total, Sciencenter features over 250 exhibits, as well as educational programs, a gift shop, and outdoor science playground and mini-golf course.
Hike the Beautiful Outdoors
Visitors of Cornell University will want to make a side trip to Ithaca Falls. This iconic natural feature is just a two-minute drive from the campus. If you only have time to visit one of the city’s waterfalls, this is the one you should choose. The falls stretch up to 150 feet, and this natural area is considered one of the best places for fly fishing.
Robert H. Treman State Park
Robert H Treman State Park is home to one of the best gorge trails in the Finger Lakes region. Hikers who explore the almost nine miles of trail that follow Enfield Gorge can see 12 waterfalls during their visit. The Lucifer Trail is considered a highlight of the park, giving visitors a view that stretches over one mile. In the summer, you can swim in a stream-fed pool beneath one of the waterfalls.
Buttermilk Falls State Park
Considered to be one of the most beautiful parks in the state of New York, Buttermilk Falls features gentle streams, foaming cascades, and lush greenery. The area is split into an upper and lower park. The upper region has a small lake and hiking trails, as well as a picnic area and playing fields. The lower area has a campground, a natural pool, and more playing fields that are behind Larch Meadows, a preserved wetland.
Book a Home With Finger Lakes Premier Properties
Are you ready to enjoy the best things to do in Ithaca, NY? Before you start planning your getaway, book a home with Finger Lakes Premier Properties. We have the best selection of vacation rentals in the region. Plus, our customer service can’t be beat! Consider booking The Lily Pad, our beautiful four-bedroom, four-bathroom property on Cayuga Lake that’s just a short drive from Ithaca! From the outstanding view of Cayuga Lake out of the home’s large chalet windows to the Jacuzzi-style tub in the master bathroom, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into the house of your dreams.
Browse our full list of rentals and book today! We look forward to having you.