IIthaca, New York is home to Cornell University and is surrounded by amazing waterfalls (more than 100 within 10 miles of downtown) in the Finger Lakes region. The most impressive is the Taughannock Falls which is the central feature of the Taughannock Falls State Park. Check out all the waterfalls near Ithaca here. It is possible to do a day trip to Ithaca from Ottawa, Toronto or Montreal to enjoy the waterfalls but you’ll get the full experience by spending at least one night in Ithaca.
There are lots of things to do in Ithaca, besides visit the waterfalls. Ithaca is in the Finger Lakes Region which is New York’s largest wine-producing region with over 100 wineries and vineyards. Ithaca sits on Cayuga Lake, the longest of the Finger Lakes, which offers tons of opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, kayaking, fishing and swimming. Ithaca also boasts award-winning wineries and vineyards across the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail as well as world-class ciders.
TIPS: if you’re driving from Ontario to Ithaca, chances are you’ll take a toll road so make sure to bring some American cash. If you’re parking in Ithaca, use an awesome app to park called ParkMobile that gives notifications for when you’re about to run out of time and you can add more from your phone, rather than running back to the meter to pay again. So handy!
Where to Stay in Ithaca
Camping: Campgrounds and campsites are plenty, ranging from background to full-hookup convenience and everything in between. Ithaca Tourism has put together a fantastic list of campsites here. What’s great about camping is it’s incredibly affordable and offers you the opportunity to stay close to your preferred hiking trails. I recommend the Robert H. Treman State Park or Taughannock Falls State Park. The Robert H. Treman State Park is a beautiful area with gorges and winding trails and the Taughannock Falls State Park boasts the areas tallest (and magnificent) waterfall.
Hotels/Inns: If camping is not your style, check out the Inn on Columbia bed and breakfast, or the Bed & Breakfast and Vacation Rentals of Greater Ithaca (a small association of small, locally owned and operated accommodations).
Cornell University: Have a chance to stay on campus at Cornell University in the The Statler Hotel.
Where to Eat in Ithaca
Best Pizza: Franco’s Pizzeria It was the best, greasiest pizza I’ve had in a while and I loved it.
Best Cafe: Ithaca Bakery is a classic that has been open in Ithaca for over 100 years. They serve lots of local goodies including sandwiches, soups, entrées, fair trade coffee and more.
Vegetarian: Moosewood Cooks
Pub food: Ithaca Beer Taproom (with a wicked outdoor dining patio).
Ithaca Falls are located within the city of Ithaca and a super easy stop after grabbing some grub. A parking lot is very close to the falls (less than a 5 minute walk) and they are roaring and magnificent! Plan to get a little wet from the mist (especially if you want to get closer).
Robert H. Treman State Park
Next, stop at the Robert H. Treman State Park, about a 15 minute drive from Ithaca Falls. There is a great little outdoor swimming pool complete with a ladder, stairs and lifeguard in the summer. The Gorge Trail is about a 1.5 hour hike to get to the falls and approach from the back and is highly recommended by a local we saw on our visit.
Cost: $8US (in season)
Parking: included in state park fee
Walk to falls: less than 10 minutes
Taughannock Falls State Park
By far my favourite waterfall is Taughannock Falls, and I recommend it as your last stop because it is so impressive (you’ll want to work your way up to it). It is about a 20 minute drive from the Robert H. Treman State Park with two vantage points: an upper lookout to see the falls from above and a lower trail and lookout to see them up close. The upper lookout is right beside the parking lot with a set of stairs to get a bit closer, as well as a public bathroom and gift shop. The lower lookout is about a 5 minute drive and then a 1.2 km (3/4 mile) walk to see the falls from below.
Cost: FREE (from lookout) or $8US for state park access (lower lookout)
Parking: included in fee
Walk to falls: 0 minutes from upper lookout and about 20 minutes from lower trail
Here are the two amazing shots from my friend Ben.