Right whale at Museum of the Earth

In the interest of broadening your horizons, why don’t you get on your bike (or a Big Red Bike), in your car, or on the bus and roll down East or South hill and check out the rest of the world beyond the campus.  

Robert Treman State Park

Hiking enthusiasts will want to make their way to all of our parks and gorges, but Treman State Park (105 Enfield Falls Rd.) offers several intriguing and picturesque possibilities for hiking. There’s nine miles of hiking path past 12 waterfalls, including the 115-foot Lucifer Falls. In order to check out the Rim & Gorge Trail Loop, you must enter the park and pay the entrance fee. The Rim & Gorge offers an imposing stone staircase and a sweet view of the Lower Creek swimming area; the hike continues on the Gorge Trail. The next hike won’t cost you a fee unless you start in the upper park area; it begins at Woodward Road at the crossing of the Finger Lakes Trail. You’ll see remains of the old CCC camp that built all the trails; continuing on the South Rim Trail takes to the Lucifer Falls Overlook.

The Lighthouse

One of the more dramatic places to experience Cayuga Lake without actually being on the lake is the lighthouse at the end of the pier that forms the eastern side of the mouth of the Cayuga Inlet. You have to park at the Newman Golf Course building and walk the road along the western edge of the course to a wooded area on the point. A trail leads straight through the woods to the pier. This concrete structure is in rough but passable condition. The lighthouse was built in 1917 on the west side of the inlet and moved to its present location a decade later. It is a wonderful place to watch the sun go down (or come up) and a decent place to do some birdwatching.

Ithaca Children’s Garden 

The garden is south of Cass Park on Route 89/Taughannock Blvd. It is a great place to take visitors with little kids, but garden holds some fascination for older folks too. The environmental artwork includes a large sculpture made of grapevines that you can walk through and metal percussion instruments that are fun to play. The giant concrete turtle is impressive for its sheer mass and compelling for its evocation of creation myths from around the world. There are numerous events at the garden through the year (including a day that encourages children to get very, very muddy) and a permanent area that encourages children to make their own play structures out of junk. 

The Discovery Trail

This is a “virtual trail” not one that you actually hike. It includes seven institutions, some—the Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth and Cayuga Nature Center, the Laboratory of Ornithology, the Plantations—associated with Cornell, and some—the ScienCenter, the Tompkins County Public Library and the History Center are not. The Museum of the Earth (1259 Trumansburg Road)  is a natural history museum full of fossils and climate information. The nature center (Taughannock Blvd/Route 89) has trails through 100 acres of woodland and field and a lodge with exhibition and meeting space. The “Lab of O” (159 Sapsucker Woods Road) is in Sapsucker Woods a 230-acre wooded sanctuary with trails throughout and guided bird walks on weekend mornings. The Plantations (1 Plantations Road) consists of 25 acres of designed gardens and the 150-acre Newman Arboretum. The plants are from all over the world and are beautiful in any season.

Tompkins County Public Library (101 E. Green St) isn’t just another resource center. TCPL has one of the best film/TV/media sections I’ve ever seen in any public library, and they also have a great DVD library. The History Center (E. State St.) is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The current exhibit is about Bob Moog, who invented and manufactured several early analog synthesizers in nearby Trumansburg. The ScienCenter ( First Street) is mainly for kids, but college students interested in teaching or developmental psychology should be intrigued to see how children are taught science. 


We know you’re showing up with Netflix and hulu plus accounts, butyou’re also entering a movie lover’s paradise, best exemplified by our local indie theaterCinemapolis(120 E Green St, 277-6115), Boasting digital projection and five screens, Cinemapolis is on the indie cutting edge, showcasing everything from foreign fare and local favorites to mumblecore and student films. They also offer special digital simulcast programs, special guests and other specialty programming. They also do the best gourmet popcorn in town; I’m not the biggest popcorn fan, but when I want it, I want it Cinemapolis style, with Parmesan cheese, garlic and extra butter.

Friends of the Library Book Sale

This is one of the largest book sales in the country and it is held on three “long weekends” in October and May (see booksale.org for the schedule). People camp on the sidewalk for days ahead of the opening of the doors at 509 Esty St. Each sale includes over 250,000 books, audio books, records and other media. The quality ranges from the Collectors’ Corner, which includes rare and valuable items, right down to the last day of the sale when everything on the shelves is a dollar a bag. Donations are accepted throughout the year except for a few weeks before and after the sale itself.

Chili Festival

The Downtown Ithaca Alliance sponsors a number of festivals throughout the year, but the February chili festival is the event most focused on food and perhaps therefore attracts a large number of students. Perhaps it is also the competitive nature of the festival that attracts the residents of two very competitive institutions. Cooks (or teams of cooks) from area restaurants and institutional kitchens prepare cauldrons of chili (vegetarian and meat) using a wide variety of recipes. Festival-goers are invited to try each recipe, but it is a panel of judges that ultimately awards prizes to a select few of the participants. This is a very upstate New York kind of event in that it involves thousands of people standing out in the cold for hours. 

Village of Trumansburg

If you are from the suburbs, then the provincial city of Ithaca probably already seems a little foreign to you, but to get a better feeling for what most of upstate looks like, you might want to visit the village of Trumansburg. It is only 15 minutes north of Ithaca on Route 96. The downtown consists of two blocks of 19th century brick commercial buildings on either side of a small creek. It is the most complete economic landscape in the county outside of Ithaca with several restaurants and bars, a Gimme! coffee shop, a bookstore, three (used) clothing stores, a surprising hip gift shop, and health-care professionals in storefronts. Off Main Street you will find tree-lined neighborhoods of Victorian homes and a grocery store and pharmacy are just outside the village limits.

Greater Ithaca Art Trail

This constellation of 41 artists includes people working in all media and in a variety of styles. The public may visit the studios on two weekends in October (see arttrail.com for the dates) and on the first Saturday of each month. All the studios are open for the October event, but only about 10 at a time are open for the monthly events. Although they would obviously appreciate it if you bought something, this is also an opportunity to speak with working artists about their process and technique and to see unfinished work.

First Fridays (“Gallery Night”)

The galleries (and other businesses that display artwork) in downtown Ithaca cooperate to hold openings between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. on the first Friday of each month throughout the year. Most of the exhibition spaces are within a few blocks of the Commons. The artists are mostly local (or regional) but some galleries (like State of the Art and the Ink Shop) will invite colleagues to bring their work to Ithaca. Quite frequently the artists themselves are present at the openings, presently you with the opportunity to praise their work, ask questions, or buy it (or all of the above). §


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