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Located on the tip of Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, Ithaca is a bustling college town. Its streets are lined with unique shops and busy eateries, and you’ll see students rushing by the colorful brick buildings of the Ithaca Commons to get to their next class. Ithaca has a number of notable museums, including the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, which was designed by a world-renowned architect, and the interactive Sciencenter, which engages visitors of all ages.
The surrounding area is famous for its beautiful lakes and the towering Taughannock Falls — which can be accessed by a relatively short hike through the state park — and its wine region, home to more than 400 wineries. For a bird’s-eye view of the area’s gorgeous scenery, you can head to the Cayuga Nature Center, which features a six-story treehouse that offers sweeping views of the Finger Lakes region.
The closest airport is Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport (ITH), just a 15-minute drive away; you can fly into Philadelphia (PHL) or Detroit Metro (DTW) and get a connecting flight to Ithaca. While taxis and buses are available, it may be more convenient to rent a car, especially if you plan to check out the rest of the Finger Lakes district. You can also take a bus from New York City, with a travel time of around five hours. Once you’re in Ithaca, it’s possible to explore most of the main sights in town on foot or by renting a bike.
Thanks to the vibrant student life and outdoor attractions, Ithaca is a great place to visit all year round — so long as you pack for the seasons. The town is bustling during the fall, as students come back to school after summer break. The Ithaca Apple Harvest Festival, held in late September or early October, features a range of musical events and apple-themed treats like cider and apple doughnuts against a backdrop of beautiful fall foliage. Just note when securing your vacation rental in Ithaca that autumn is a very popular time to visit the Finger Lakes area, especially on the weekends.
During the winter, the city quiets down as the temperature drops —bringing with it rain, sleet, snow, and gray skies — and students head home for the holidays. The snow can last through April, and chilly temperatures often linger through May. In the spring, the flowers begin to bloom as the weather slowly warms up. Summer brings hot, sunny days that are perfect for visiting the nearby natural attractions or taking a swim in the lake.
This four-block, pedestrian-only section of town is Ithaca’s cultural hub. The streets are overflowing with trendy boutiques and a seemingly endless array of eateries. The alleyways are full of street art where buskers often perform, and the area is full of students hanging out with friends all hours of the day.
These magnificent falls, plunging 215 feet over a rocky cliff into the gorge below, have one of the biggest drops east of the Rocky Mountains. The nearby park offers miles of hiking trails, including the three-quarter-mile Gorge Trail, which starts at the base of the falls and offers easy access to the beautiful Cayuga Lake.
As the longest of the Finger Lakes, Cayuga offers the perfect spot for kayaking, swimming, or paddleboarding, followed by a meal at one of the many lakefront restaurants. Anglers flock here to catch trout, bass, and crappie. Take an eco boat tour or a sunset boat tour to make the most of your visit to the lake.