If your ideal getaway is equal parts food, the great outdoors & artisanal adult beverages, Ithaca, NY should be next on your list. Nestled south of Rochester and Syracuse, Ithaca is home to Cayuga Lake—one of the Finger Lakes—countless gorges, and a pretty extensive number of independent brewers & vineyards. But unless you grew up in upstate New York or went to school in the area, you probably wouldn’t think of making a pitstop. And that’s what makes it so magical. Although summer does draw large crowds to Ithaca, there are enough hikes & eateries to make sure your trip is a relaxing and restorative one.
DISTANCE FROM (by car):
BOSTON – 5.5 hours
NEW YORK CITY – 4 hours
PORTLAND, ME – 7 hours
HARTFORD – 5 hours
There are quite a few areas I’d recommend staying during your visit. If you’re after the true townie experience, find a spot in the Ithaca Commons. Any location along the Commons will get you close to cafes, shops & restaurants. Location. Location. Location.
If you’re looking for a larger space or something more modern, consider College Town. Located by the Cornell University campus, you’ll never be without a late-night snack or prime people-watching views.
But the best real estate in Ithaca is located along Cayuga Lake—the closer, the better. My Airbnb wasn’t directly on the water but I did have a pretty epic view from the second floor. Check out some scenes from the space in my latest Vlog. Keep in mind that lakeside properties are the most expensive in the area. Visit during the winter and you could save a bundle!
If you attended college in Ithaca, you know “Ithacalves” are a very real thing. Because of its proximity to the lake and the steep, steep hills on any side of town, Ithaca tends to be a very active place. Start the morning off with a trail run along the lake. Pick up a bike at the Ithaca Bike Rental and explore off the beaten path. Venture out to the beautiful Cornell Arboretum. Or, hike one of the many gorges Ithaca is best known for. Note—if you do head up to the larger gorges, like Taughannock or Buttermilk, go very early or late in the day to beat the crowds.
No shortage of retail therapy in this little city. Scratch your sustainable itch at The Bloomwell, where you can find brands like Golde and Brightland. Find a fun vintage look at Petrune or a card that captures your wicked sense of humor at Mockingbird Paperie. For the thrifters in the building, head over to the Salvos on Elmira Road. In the market for a trip keepsake? Explore curated contemporary and vintage houseware at Mimi’s Attic or hunt for buried treasure at the Ithaca ReUse Center.
Start every morning with coffee from Gimme or Press Cafe (check hours and Covid restrictions ahead of time!). Dig in to the best flapjacks on the East coast (only a mild exaggeration) at the State Street Diner followed by a very necessary trip to the Ithaca Farmers Market, located just a short drive away. At night, well, good luck deciding. There’s New Dehli Diamonds, Taste of Thai, Hawi Ethiopian Cuisine, and so many more. And for an inspired nightcap, make a reservation at Bar Argos, where the drinks look like something out of Alice in Wonderland.
Ithaca is a special little city. Regardless of whether it’s your first or 50th time visiting, I promise you’ll leave your vacation with a full stomach and strong urge to plan your next trip back.