The Cayuga Waterfront Trail, in Cass Park.

The Cayuga Waterfront Trail, in Cass Park. 

Best Jogging Trail | Waterfront Trail

The third, final, and middle portion of the Waterfront Trail opened in 2015, 12 years after the completion of the initial stretch in Cass Park. It depends how you measure it, said trail designer Rick Manning, but generally speaking it is about 5.5 miles long. He was thrilled to hear that the completed trail had been made certifiably popular by a Best of Ithaca vote.

“It’s maybe the most scenic trail in the county,” Manning said. “It feels safe. It’s well lighted, so you can jog alone at night. And it’s flat; that helps a lot of people.”

The thoroughfare was designed to accommodate a lot of people, said Manning, who has a landscape architecture practice in town, and to support a blend of walking, jogging, and biking. When it first opened temporary signs were posted to explain the rules of the road. “It operates like a road,” Manning said. “You pass on the left, and you tell people you’re passing.”

Manning is also active in the Friends of Stewart Park group. “The trail has made a difference to Stewart Park,” he said. “It connects it to other places and has transformed people’s perceptions. Now people run through there regularly instead of going there just for parties and picnics.” 

Best Place for Peace and Quiet | Cornell Botanic Gardens

Because the word “plantations” conjured up images of white columned mansions, Spanish moss-hung live oaks, and slaves, in 2016 Cornell changed the name of its green and pleasant place. According to the FAQ sheet from Cornell the old name provided “no indication as to what people can expect to find when the visit the grounds and thus requires constant explanation.”

Well, people get it now. Sure, it’s really a research facility, but it’s a peaceful and quiet research  facility. “Cornell Botanic Gardens offers beautiful gardens, stunning vistas, and serene natural areas, all free and open to the public,” wrote Christoper P. Dunn, the Elizabeth Newman Wilds Executive Director of the Gardens, when we asked for a reaction their recognition by the Times readers. “We invite you to come and experience the relaxing, restorative qualities of these areas, and also to deepen your understanding of the role of plants in sustaining humankind and its diverse cultures.”

Best People-Watching Spot | The Commons

Ithaca Commons

Let’s face it: this is pretty much what the Commons is for. When the old design was demolished in spring 2013 it had become overgrown. There were alcoves and cul-de-sacs where people could huddle out of sight in the middle of downtown. While there is something cozy and attractive about that, it certainly cut down on the people-watching possibilities. By August 2015 the new design was in place. 

This is the way Sasaki Associates, who created the new Commons, see the finished project: “The realized project improves the Commons both as a retail environment and community gathering space. The main retail corridor of [East] State Street has a wide central walkway that provides a clear pedestrian promenade, opens up sight lines between storefronts, provides clear occasional service access.”

Best Public Bathroom | Tompkins County Public Library

What do you want in a public restroom? Cleanliness, mostly. The Tompkins County Public Library was voted “best” and most readers will not be wondering why. The library is a place where you are likely to spend a relatively lengthy period of time. You are doing research. You are looking for a quiet place to relax and read (or take a nap). You are working on the public computers. You are attending a meeting or conference being held in the Borg Warner Room. All in all, you are more likely to eventually need a bathroom than you are on many other downtown forays. So, thank you Tompkins County Public Library. Not only are you a beacon of culture in the community, but you are also there when nature calls.

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