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The saying goes “Ithaca is gorges!” Never has a slogan or play on words rung more true. This spectacular town in Upstate New York is filled with breathtaking views and gorges aplenty. If you have followed this blog for a while, you know that I like to take a mini vacation for my birthday instead of presents. And this year, my husband made it even better by planning and surprising me with the whole thing! Seeing that I normally take the lead on every vacation we take, this was such a treat. I gave him a list of cities I wanted to visit, and he picked one. I was a little obnoxious trying to figure out the surprise, but it was so much fun.
October might be the single most beautiful month of the year in New England, and visiting beautiful Ithaca during the most beautiful month really can’t be beat. If you go here are the things you should put on your list.
This quaint Rockwellian downtown was made even more charming during our visit by the annual Apple Harvest Festival. All the downtown streets were lined with vendors selling baked goods, crafts, fruits and vegetables, and of course apples. The smell alone would draw you there from blocks away. This event alone would have made the drive worth it! Apples spilled out of barrels, mums dotted the street and the chilly nip in the air all screamed fall!
My boys enjoyed playing a gigantic Jenga game and I enjoyed a booth that had apple tastings of various hybrids, that were only identified by numbers.
The apple harvest festival is generally the end of September to the beginning of October.
This is a great area for all ages and all abilities as you can see the falls from the parking area, so tired feet do not need to hike to see the beauty. But if you fancy a hike, there is a good one to the right side of the falls. Be warned it is on the strenuous side. It is scenic all the way up, but much more crowded than the other gorges we visited. There is also an area for swimming in the summer that is manned by a lifeguard.
Plan on an hour or more if you want to swim.
Cornell botanic gardens
The Cornell botanic gardens has 12 different specialized gardens spaced out over 25 acres, which means you can have whatever garden experience you want. For us that meant anything where the boys could run. We walked along a river enjoying the changing leaves and saw the formal gardens near the visitors center. This is Ithaca in the fall at its finest!
I recommend you stop at the Nevin welcome center when you arrive. The gardens there are worth a peek and you can pick up a map to find the other areas of the gardens. But be aware parking at the Nevin center is paid parking, but nothing else is.
Plan on spending 1-3 hours.
We found the prettiest view of this gorge was on Cornell campus. There is ample parking near the trail to the gorge and steps down to a view platform. It is truly breathtaking. The coolest thing about it is that you could be walking in the gorge and never notice that there is a city built around you. The occasional bridge would be your only clue!
Plan on 30 minutes to an hour.
Ithaca Farmers Market
A wooden structure perched along the the tip of Cayuga lake hosts a weekend farmers market. There are built out stalls for food, artisans, vegetable and flowers. There are lots of cheap little treats for the kids like cookies, honey sticks, apples, and peaches. Our favorite find was ground cherries which were a cross between a tomato and a gooseberry!
There is plenty of parking and it is stroller friendly! Check the website for their year round hours.
This is an interesting restaurant, as it is located in The Statler Hotel on Cornell campus. The Statler is a hotel run by hotel management students attending Cornell. When I was researching food options for Ithaca it really peaked my interest.
We went to Taverna Banfi for Sunday brunch and had a really fabulous meal. We were served by a student who had a professor looking on while she talked us through the brunch offerings. We chose to have the buffet, and as we moved into the buffet room we saw many other students being looked after by their professors as they arranged food, replenished trays, and made omelettes.
I can honestly say it was some of the best service we ever had, and the attention to detail at the restaurant was perfection.
Brunch had lots of offerings even for our pickiest little guy, and we all left stuffed to the gills.
Purity ice cream
We love ice cream and we are kind of ice cream snobs. Ok I am. I think everyone else would eat any kind of ice cream placed in front of them. Purity Ice Cream is good! Really good. I was surprised at how creamy it was and the flavors available were a little more exciting than usual ice cream fare. My favorite was cinnamon flavored ice cream that tasted like the filling to a cinnamon roll.