Best place to go on a rainy day: Cinemapolis

Cinemapolis specializes in showing independent, foreign, and locally-produced films. But more than that, Cinemapolis is a community cultural institution where the art of film is used to enrich people's lives, grapple with and illuminate contemporary issues, and, of course, to entertain. Throughout its moves from Fall Creek and Center Ithaca to its current Green Street location, and despite having had to endure COVID restrictions and construction obstacles, Ithaca’s only Downtown cinema has remained one of the City’s most beloved institutions. It’s a great place to go on almost any day, not just the rainy ones.

Best place for a party: Stewart Park

Even with so many party places in the area it’s not a surprise that Stewart Park won this award. There’s something undeniably magical about those lakeside weeping willows blowing in a soft breeze. Couple that with all sorts of recreational features and a convenient location, and you have a great place for a family reunion, a weekend cookout, or just an evening out with friends.

Best place for a bike ride: Black Diamond Trail

Let’s be honest, sometimes you don’t want to struggle with a bike ride on Ithaca’s hills. Sure, what goes up must eventually go down, but a more level trip can give you chance to actually speak with your riding partners and pedal a bit less furiously. That’s especially true if you’re commuting to or from work. We think the Black Diamond Trail deserves this award just for providing a less challenging trip.

Best place for stargazing: Mount Pleasant Observatory

How many small cities can you name that have two observatories that annually vie for best place for stargazing? The Mount Pleasant Observatory takes the honors this year, topping the Fuertes Observatory. Mount Pleasant may not have the patina of Fuertes, but we agree with readers: its more bucolic and isolated setting makes night skies seem more magical.

Best (legal) spot to swim: Treman State Park

We may not have glorious beaches but we do have Treman where you can swim (legally) in a gorge fed by multiple waterfalls, and then dry off by lounging around and taking in spectacular views that led to people saying Ithaca is Gorges.

Best running trail: South Hill Recreation Way

South Hill doesn’t always get it due, but this award is a well-deserved shout out. There are lots of running trails in the area, but the South Hill Recreation Way offers vistas that have a special upstate New York charm, coupled with some truly inspiring murals. It’s a great place to escape real world concerns by taking an enchanting jog.

Best dog-friendly venue: Ithaca Dog Park

How can you argue with naming the beloved Dog Park, best dog-friendly venue? If it didn’t win it would be a shock. Since it opened this has become the go-to place not just for doggie recreation, but for catching up with other dog owners, meeting new friends, or picking up puppy advice and guidance, not just poop.

Best hike: Buttermilk State Park

This award could just as easily go to any of our wonderful parks, recreation ways, or trails. But we like to think that Buttermilk won because you can extend a great gorge walk into a lovely pond path, then circle back and take a dip in swimming hole right by a waterfall.

Best place to make friends and Best bartender: K House Karaoke Lounge & Suites and Reed Mizener

Alina Kim, owner of K-House, attributes being named a winner to the staff—known within as the “K-FAM”—but particularly to their bartender, Reed Mizener. “We have been hoping for a Best of Ithaca award since we opened in 2014, so this is a huge milestone for us,” Kim said. “We generally only advertise through word of mouth and participation in community events, so this award really tells us that we’ve ‘made it.’”

Best place to bring a visitor: Ithaca Farmers Market

Every town these days has a farmers’ market. There are even a number of them in the heart of Manhattan. What makes the Ithaca Farmers Market special, and the Best Place To Bring A Visitor, is its unique atmosphere. Combine the lakeside Steamboat Landing location with the distinctive assortment of vendors and you get something out of the ordinary. But what puts it over the top is that it is filled with Ithacans. And of course, there’s the annual Rutabaga Curl on that last market Saturday of the year.

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