Ithaca is _____. A Townie’s Top 10

21 Mar

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We headed to my beloved hometown last weekend for a break from that so-called “reality” and to show HT the sights. He’s come there with me before, but he’s never really had a chance to see the I-town I know and love. As a townie, I have a pretty solid go-to list of must-dos, must-sees and must-eats. Thought I’d share!

Yes. Ithaca, NY is Gorges. But it’s much more.

1. Ithaca is Delicious.

Ask me where to go to get a bite to eat any time of day and never, ever  be disappointed?


Ithaca Bakery, an Ithaca institution. There are branches all over town, but downtown is the best (and closest to home). We grew up eating dozens of IB bagels per week, stopping after church most Sundays and I never leave town without a locally sourced, fresh, bagel sandwich when I visit these days.

FAVES: Melissa and Mexican bagel sandwiches, Sherwood Forest panini, sticky buns & carrot cake

400 N. Meadow Street
Ithaca, New York 14850
Open Monday-Sunday 6am-8pm

2. Ithaca is Active.

I give Ithacans credit. Bad weather does NOT keep them inside. It’s almost always cold and or gray (or will be in a couple hours) in Ithaca, but it doesn’t stop people from getting out and enjoying the gorges, trails and fresh air. I love hiking Taughannock’s Rim Trail when I’m home, just a mile or so from my Mom’s house and pretty spectacular for a local mini hike on a well-maintained trail. She’s lucky to live so close to something so naturally stunning. Look for another post on this hike in particular, soon!

fun 112

There are also great mountain biking trails like Shindagin Hollow (dad’s favorite), bike paths throughout the city (and a “share the road” mentality) and a general appreciation for being outdoors among locals. Ithacans are good at dressing for all weather. Growing up, the radio weather guy’s favorite sayings were “wintry mix” (9 months of the year) and “The three Hs, hazy, hot and humid” (the other 3). C’est la vie! My Ithaca upbringing made Burlington winters in college and Boston winters post-college seem like NBD.

Bells (my sis) also reminded me that Cass Park is an obvious pick. It’s a lakefront park at the southern tip of Cayuga Lake, very near the house where we grew up, with great biking and running on the Cayuga Waterfront Trail, views of the Farmer’s Market, IC and Cornell crew boathouses, boat launches, fields, a GREAT dog park and a rink and outdoor swimming pool. It’s also home to the Hangar Theater, a great local venue for plays and music.


In high school we used to rollerblade here with our dog. One of us would skate ahead and call her name, and the other one would be pulled by the pooch, and we took turns. I’m not sure what’s worse, the fact that we rollerbladed and I’m admitting it or that we let the dog haul our asses around. Anyway, Cass is not a bad place to spend a few leisure hours.

3. Ithaca is Good At Sharing.

Ithaca is a locally-focused little city with a connectedness that really does support resource-sharing efforts like fruit and veggie CSAs, butcher shares with the Piggery, local car-sharing at and co-op shopping at Greenstar. I love taking part in these local programs when visiting my parents and friends. My brother has a meat share through the Piggery, both of my parents love their produce CSAs and I just appreciate how seamlessly all these programs work their way into daily life in Ithaca. I’m telling you, these people are not all crunchy hippies with VW vans (although I respect those who are!), they’ve just found a way to use resources better, together.


4. Ithaca is Cultural.

There is a wealth of ever-changing cultural experiences in a dual college town like this one. Check out for upcoming events any night of the week. Plays, art installations, lectures, meetups and more abound in this community and visitors are welcomed. Ithaca embraces its collegetown vibe and welcomes all of  the transient students, visitors, professionals and intellectuals that pass through. Even locals sometimes forget to  advantage of something interesting! We love the Ithaca Festival, Apple Festival and I realizied as we were driving for hours on Rt 17 that Friday of last week was Dragon Day, a rite of passage for 1st year Cornell architecture students…


Video from Cornell University

I told you there was always something going on.

5. Ithaca is Thirsty.

Right in the heart of Finger Lakes wine country, Ithaca is a great jumping off point to explore local lakeside wineries. The region tends to do Rieslings really well, but for me, they’re just too sweet. I’d rather a beer tour ANY day, so I can’t wait to utilize the relatively new Finger Lakes Beer Trail. Ithacans love local and the local beer offerings are great and expanding each year.

And, I am partial to one special stop on the tour in particular. Grab a growler or take a tour at Bacchus Brewing Company. The beer is damn good, and the owner may or may not be my dad (you’ll also find Bacchus all over town on tap). Just try the beer, have I steered you wrong yet? And you don’t have to buy a t-shirt, but I did design them.

15 Ellis Dr

Dryden, NY 13053

(607) 844-8474

Thurs: 4pm – 6pm, Fri: 3pm – 6pm, Sat: 12pm – 6pm, Sun-Wed: Closed




6. Ithaca is (a little bit of) Everything.

By this I mean, depending on where you are coming from, the trip to Ithaca means exposure to a little bit of everything. Driving from downstate or CT we LOVE to stop in Richford, NY, just 17.7 miles from downtown Ithaca, just for the fun of it. Let me illustrate (click if it’s too small).

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A lot changes in 17 miles.

7. Ithaca is Fresh.

Try the Ithaca Farmer’s Market, you’ll love it! I did take HT once before and although intimidated by the VERY stringent recycling and composting guidelines, I think he was secretly impressed. Fresh fruits and veggies, food made on the spot, honey, sauces, jellies & jams, wood carved items and cutting boards, clothing, pottery, hammocks, baked goods…anything you could ever want is here. And it’s on the water, so you can even come by boat…what’s not to love? Bring cash—the ATM always runs out.

8. Ithaca is Dog-Friendly.

There’s such a thing as dog-poop composting. Leave it to Ithaca to develop it, but who are we to complain?  Thanks to the Tompkins County Dog Owners Group (DOG) there’s a lovely dedicated dog park near the water (I mentioned it when touting Cass Park) where we’ve taken Miss P multiple times and she seems to love.

It’s also just a dog-friendly town, with dogs welcome at some local establishments and hotels.

My favorite Ithaca pooch… Don’t be jelly Miss P, this one had my heart first.



9. Ithaca is Musical.

So many great music venues and local bands, so little time. Here are a few worth checking out:

Felicia’s Atomic Lounge 

The Haunt (where I literally used to go to the 18 and under night)

Carriage House (haven’t been but I’ve heard great things)

The Gates (in Collegetown)

The Rongovian Embassy AKA The Rongo 

10. Ithaca is My Home.

That’s reason enough. I feel nostalgia pulling into town and a little bit of joy every time I run into an old family friend on a trip to Wegman’s. What can I say.

So, fellow Ithacans, visitors, students…agree, disagree? What have I forgotten?

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4 Responses to “Ithaca is _____. A Townie’s Top 10”

  1. Bells March 22, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    You forgot the lovely ‘Shops at Ithaca Mall,’ which never ceases to impress with its’ fine selection of stores – from The Bon Ton to the (numerous) alpaca stores and phone-cover kiosks…sigh.

    • Bells March 22, 2013 at 10:50 am #


      • bluebinbarbie March 22, 2013 at 10:51 am #

        It’s a wonder I didn’t include those in my initial list. Spencer’s Gifts and the Sears Portrait Studio just don’t jump out as top ten contenders…


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