Home & Leisure



Idyllic Ithaca's History and Activities Enchant


By Victor Block

In the morning my wife, Fyllis, and I walked along a path right in town that skirts waterfalls that tumble to the bottom of a deep gorge. Then we strolled in a lovely botanical garden set in an expansive natural environment. Lunch consisted of fresh farm-to-table produce accompanied by cider, for which the destination is famous, and dinner featured similar fare augmented by equally well-known wine.

Our introduction to Ithaca, New York, included some attractions for which the small city is famous, but it only scratched the surface. Many people equate Ithaca (population about 32,000) with Cornell University, Ithaca College and nearby Tompkins Cortland Community College. Those learning institutions augment -- but don't define -- what the town has to offer visitors.

Its "Ithaca Is Gorges" motto encapsulates both the proliferation of narrow ravines that bisect steep rock walls, many of which are home to cascading waterfalls, and the beauty of the surroundings. It also refers to rolling farm fields, grapes growing in vineyards that dot the area and Cayuga Lake, the longest (38-plus miles) of the 11 narrow Finger Lakes gouged out by Ice Age glaciers as they moved south from present-day Canada.

Cayuga Lake is named after the indigenous Cayuga people, who were there when the Europeans arrived and still reside in the region. Early in the 19th century settlers began to build houses and mills that were powered by waterfalls. At one time dozens of factories manufactured flour, paper, agricultural equipment and other goods.

Much local history comes alive at The History Center, a state-of-the-art museum that includes interactive displays, collections of Native American artifacts and other exhibits. But it's outdoors where the appeals of Ithaca are most evident. The area in and around town claims more than 150 waterfalls, and the viewing begins right in Ithaca itself. Aptly named Ithaca Falls is located within the city limits. Nearby Buttermilk Falls takes its name from the foaming water created as it descends in a series of rapids. With a vertical plummet of 215 feet, Taughannock Falls is 33 feet higher than Niagara and the tallest single-drop falls east of the Rocky Mountains.


While waterfall-watching is a favorite activity in the area, an almost alphabet-long list of other things to do also vies for attention. An Art Trail leads to the studios of dozens of resident artists, and a Murals Map outlines a tour to view wall paintings and installations throughout the city. Hiking, biking and other trails crisscross the surrounding woods.

The Discovery Trail links an enticing group of attractions that range from the magnificent Cornell Botanic Gardens and Cayuga Nature Center to the Johnson Museum of art and a 226-acre ornithology sanctuary, where more than 230 species of birds have been recorded.

Fishermen cast their lines into stream waters and troll for landlocked salmon and trout in Cayuga Lake. Others explore the lake in tour boats, while some view it from hot-air balloons sailing above.

A drive through the bucolic countryside that surrounds Ithaca provides an introduction to other things to see, do and enjoy. Some are off the main roads and, in their way, offbeat. One such sojourn led us to the tiny town of Trumansburg, which was incorporated in 1872 and just celebrated its 150th anniversary. Originally the community was called Tremaine's Village, a tribute to founder Abner Tremaine, who was granted the land for his service in the Revolutionary War.


swipe to next page

Copyright 2023 Creators Syndicate, Inc.




Ginger Meggs Mother Goose & Grimm Bill Bramhall Barney & Clyde Between Friends Clay Bennett