If you don’t want to drive, Shortline Bus (www.coachusa.com) has frequent service from New York City’s Port Authority Bus Terminal. (Visit www.coachusa.com for a list of other communities with direct service to Ithaca.) From Binghamton (NY), it’s only an hour trip. Greyhound (www.greyhound.com or 800/231-2222) offers service from Baltimore and Washington, D.C. with a change in Binghamton.
For details about airlines serving Tompkins Regional Airport, go to www.FlyIthaca.com.
Direct air service to Ithaca is available from Detroit (Delta), Newark Liberty International Airport (Continental), New York LaGuardia (U.S. Air) and Philadelphia, PA (U.S.Air.)
After You Arrive
Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) provides local and regional bus service throughout Ithaca and the surrounding area. For detailed route and schedule information, visit www.tcatbus.com, or call (607) 277-RIDE (or 277-7433), Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time.
Downtown Ithaca is the best choice for accommodations for visitors who don’t want to drive. All TCAT buses begin and end at TCAT’s terminal at Greene and Commons The terminal is also the best place to purchase unlimited passes for one-day ($3) or two-days ($6). (Passes are not sold on buses.) You can also order passes online, but please allow enough time for them to be mailed to you.
To get downtown from Tompkins Regional Airport, take TCAT route 72 weekends, Route 32 weekdays. Both routes operate every hour.
From the bus terminal (served by Shortline and Greyhound), TCAT route 14 operates hourly, seven days a week.
Where to Stay The most convenient places to stay are the big downtown hotels (Holiday Inn, Hilton Garden Inn). For local color, try the William Henry Miller Inn, a beautifully restored historic downtown property. Downside to downtown: you a pay a premium for great location. For great downtown digs at a good price, contact the Inn on Columbia and ask for their “procrastinator special.” It’s a special discounted rate based on availability within 24 hours of arrival. www.millerinn.com/ www.columbiabb.com/
Inexpensive Green Lodging Ithaca’s EcoVillage is a sustainable, green community designed for low-impact living. It’s about two miles from downtown. It has two onsite B&Bs with some of the lowest-cost lodging in the area. EcoVillage is 10 minutes walk from the Route 79/Eco Village bus stop on TCAT Route 20. More frequent, hourly, service is available on Route 14. From the 14, get off at the first entrance to Lindermann Creek Apartments, and walk back to EcoVillage. (The walk is a little longer than from the EcoVillage stop on route 20. For more information, contact the 2 B&Bs:
B&B Frog’s Way B&B: www.frogsway-bnb.com/ (phone: 607/592-8040) Wild Goose B&B www.wildgoose-bb.com/ (phone: 919/951-0607).
What To Do During Your Visit Bike Rentals and Bicycle Trails The Outdoor Store: 206 State Street, Ithaca NY 14850-5548, Phone: (607) 273-3891 (no website). Rent a bike for $25 for 24 hours. Ask for a copy of the local bike map. View a copy of the map online at: http://www.tompkins-co.org/itctc/BikeSuitability/Ithaca7-13print-final%20map2010.pdf.
A fairly easy flat trail in Cass Park is good for either biking or walking. The Ithaca Visitors Bureau says there are 150 waterfalls within 10 miles of downtown Ithaca. With a bicycle, you can explore some of Ithaca’s gorges and state parks. Check out these popular attractions:
Ithaca Falls: The city’s largest waterfall, it’s located in a city park about 12 blocks from the downtown Commons. Easily walkable but you’ll save time traveling by bike through the lovely Fall Creek neighborhood.
Robert Treman State Park: About 3 miles south of downtown, it’s gorges and waterfalls are the city’s most spectacular. Biking is the only alternative to driving. Bonus: there’s no $7 charge for parking if you bike or walk into the park.
Buttermilk Falls State Park: About 2 miles from downtown, also served by TCAT bus 67 (3 trips most days). The upper gorge is stunning and well worth the hike.
Taughannock Falls State Park: Home to New York’s tallest waterfall. At 215’ it’s three stories taller than Niagara.
Puddledockers rentals is located on the Cayuga Lake Inlet. Rentals by the hour or day. http://www.puddledockers.com/
Walking Ithaca is a great walking town, particularly the central city and Cornell Campus. For recreation trails try the new Cayuga Waterfront Trail, Six Mile Creek Recreation Way, and the Cascadilla Falls Trail (connects Cornell & Downtown). http://www.cayugawaterfronttrail.com/ http://www.visitithaca.com/attractions/
Exploring Ithaca by Local Bus—Just $3 per day for an all-day pass
Remember to pick up a one-day ($3) or two-day ($6) unlimited bus pass at the TCAT terminal: Green and Commons, order it online at www.tcatbus.com. (If you order in advance online, be sure to allow enough time to get it by mail.)
(On TCAT’s web site, visit the Popular Destinations page to find out about more places served by bus.)
Here are a few ideas for outings while you are here:
Stewart Park and Ithaca Falls are both served by TCAT Route 13—except NOT on Sunday.
Ithaca Falls is the city’s largest waterfall. It is just ½ mile-1 mile walk from Downtown Ithaca.
Stewart Park, a waterfront park at the end of Cayuga Lake includes walking trails, a pavilion, and a historic carousel.
Other attractions served by Route 13 include the Ithaca Farmers Market, and the SCIENCENTER.
Buttermilk Falls: Served by TCAT route 67 three times Saturday and Sunday, more frequently on weekdays. TCAT recommends getting off at Elmira (New York State Route 13) and Spencer, crossing NY 13, and walking east on Elmira to the entrance to Buttermilk Falls. Here you can enjoy waterfalls, swimming, a picnic area, hiking and the gorge itself. (Since the wait for a returning bus can be as long as 3-4 hours, biking may be the better way to get here.)
Ithaca Farmers Market: Third St., Steamboat Landing, www.IthacaMarket.com (phone: 607/273-7109)—take TCAT Route 13 to the Aldi stop (arrives 11 past the hour, and returns at 47 minutes past the hour) every day except Sunday. Ithaca Farmers’ Market
|Located on Ithaca’s waterfront under a covered pavilion. Featuring everything from fresh locally-grown produce, meats and cheeses, to art and furniture. There’s always something special at the Ithaca Farmers’ Market! April–Dec 9am-3pm, May-Oct Sun 10am-3pm, Nov-Dec Sat 10am-3pm|
Art and Science Museums—good choices if the weather isn’t so good.
Herbert F Johnson Museum of Art: Located on the Cornell University campus, admission is always free. The Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. www.museum.cornell.edu. (Phone: 607/255-6464) The Johnson Museum has one of the finest collections of art in Upstate New York and is recognized as one of the most important university museums in the country. Spanning the history of art, the Museum’s collections are especially strong in Asian art, nineteenth- and twentieth-century American art, and the graphic arts. TCAT Routes 30 and 70 serve the Museum. From Route 70, get off at Milstein Hall and cross the arts quad to the museum. From Route 30, get off at Rockefeller Hall, cross the street, and cross the arts quad to the museum. Returning, catch the 30 (or any other bus marked “Downtown”) from Goldwyn Smith Hall.
Two science museums are also convenient to TCAT bus stops.
Sciencenter:601 First Street, www.sciencenter.org (phone: 607/272-0600). The Sciencenter is a hands-on science museum for people of all ages with over 200 exhibits, educational programs, an outdoor science park, a seasonal 18-hole miniature golf course and a gift shop. (Admission is $7 for adults, and $6 for senior citizens.) TCAT routes 13 and 17 serve the Sciencenter.
Museum of the Earth: 1259 Trumansburg Road (Route 96), www.museumoftheearth.org, (Phone: 607/273-6623). The Museum of the Earth at the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) is a major natural history museum located in the heart of the Finger Lakes in Ithaca, New York. Using PRI’s world-class fossil collections, audio, visual, and tactile displays in a new state-of-the-art facility, the Museum tells the story of our planet, as preserved in the geological record, with an emphasis on New York State and the Northeastern United States. The Museum also features the skeletons of the Hyde Park Mastodon and Right Whale #2030 and the 500-foot mural, Rock of Ages Sands of Time created by artist Barbara Page. (Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for senior students and college students, $5 for young people under 18.) TCAT Routes 14 and 21 serve the museum. TCAT staff suggest taking Route 14 to the Cayuga Medical Center, and then walking back to the Museum. (The bus from downtown also stops in front of the Museum on request. To return downtown, walk to Cayuga Medical Center.)
Ithaca College (www.ithaca.edu) presents a wide variety of musical, theatre, and dance programs. For information, go to the college’s Calendar webpage. TCAT Route 11 provides service from downtown to Ithaca College seven days a week, at ½ hour intervals.
Wine Tastings: Finger Lakes Wine Center: 237 South Cayuga St. www.fingerlakeswinecenter.org/ (Phone: 607/882-9663). Open from 12-7 Tuesday-Saturday, the center offers tastings of various wines from the Finger Lakes region. A Flight that includes 5 samples of different wines costs $6. This can be a real find for wine lovers who don’t have the time or desire to visit lots of wineries, but still want to experience the fine vintage wines from this region.
Experience Finger Lakes (www.experiencefingerlakes.com, phone: 607/233-4818). This service, owned and operated by Laura and Alan Falk (from Ithaca), focuses on helping visitors experience the wineries, waterfalls, gorges, and other wonders of Ithaca and the Finger Lakes. Standard tours include visits to wineries, outings to gorges, and even a boat trip along Cayuga Lake.
They pick up at several downtown hotels, and are glad to pick up from the local bus station or airport. We especially like the idea of experiencing the beauty of this area with knowledgeable guides, without having to drive. (Tours can be arranged for as few as 2-4 people.)
Well, the weekend is nearly over and—alas—it’s time to leave the beauty of Ithaca and return home.
But, if you’re like us, you’ll probably want to return many times.
Do you have a favorite vacation spot visitors can enjoy without driving? Let us know. Perhaps, we can spotlight it in a future column. E-mail email@example.com with your comments or suggestions.