Ah, Ithaca. Some of us may be returning to Cornell this semester, while others may be exploring the area for the first time. Regardless, being in Ithaca isn’t just about being at Cornell–our college experience can also be shaped by the activities we partake in and fun times we share outside of the library and classroom.

Many of us who spent the summer in a big city are probably still adjusting to the change to a seemingly middle-of-nowhere town. But we should remember how lucky we are to go to school in such scenic, spacious and ~gorges~ area. While most students are familiar with the typical weekend activities and favorite spots around Ithaca, sometimes we need a little more of an adventure. There are a number of areas of Upstate New York many of us have yet to explore but can easily do so on a day trip or two. While the weather is still somewhat warm and prelim season has yet to arrive, use your free time to explore some of the beautiful areas surrounding Ithaca.

Watkins Glen

While wine tours are undoubtedly one of my favorite parts about going to school in Upstate New York, there are actually other sites to see around here that don’t include wineries. Watkins Glen State Park, about a 45-minute drive from Ithaca, is one of the famous Finger Lake State Parks. The park has gorge trails surrounded by the waterfalls as well as swimming, fishing, and picnic areas.

After a hike, swim, or hour spent taking scenic photos, you can head over to the town area for lunch or a stop at a brewery (told you it wasn’t all wine). Rooster Fish Brewing and Beer Garden offers tasting of flights of beer, great food, outdoor seating and a cool vibe.

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Lively Run Goat Dairy Farm and Creamery

If you really want to be reminded of how you go to school in the middle of nowhere, the quaint little farm at Lively Run will do just that. Located about 20 minutes north of Ithaca is every farm lover’s dream. Especially great for animal lovers, you can meet the farm’s goats up close and personal. If, however, standing in a stable of goats is not your idea of fun, Lively Run also offers daily cheese tastings and farm tours. For just $5 you can taste all 10 of the farm’s cheeses, many of which are made on-site, and from both goat and cow’s milk. Or, if farms are really your thing, you can choose the hour long tour of the cheese making process and goat stables.

Photo by Alanna Fichtel

Cayuga Lake Creamery

After you’ve filled up on cheese and goat cuteness, head down the road for some ice cream! Cayuga Creamery in Interlaken makes all of its own ice cream on site and has a ton of flavors, including many unique ones like lavender and maple bacon. The scoop sizes are more than generous, and there is indoor and outdoor seating for you to enjoy your ice cream at. The creamery offers gluten free and vegan flavors, as well as wine sorbets (because it wouldn’t be Upstate New York without it).

Photo by Alanna Fichtel

Hazelnut Kitchen

If you travel just about 20 miles away from Ithaca, you’ll find a delicious farm to table restaurant in Trumansburg. The menu is small and specific because it changes frequently based on the freshest food in season. You might be a little skeptical about what you choose to eat, but just go with it–you won’t be disappointed. This is especially true if you choose the menu option of “let the kitchen decide,” a weekly special created by the chef that’s kept secret until it’s brought to your table. Hazelnut is a bit more upscale than the typical Ithaca restaurant, yet still casual enough for a date, dinner with friends, or your parents.

Syracuse

There are tons of activities to do in the area of one of our neighboring Upstate schools. Syracuse is a bit bigger of a market than Ithaca, so it often hosts some pretty good concerts. Recent headliners at the Lakeview Amphitheatre included John Mayer and Luke Bryan.

If you need a mini vacation or want to celebrate big for a special event, Turning Stone Resort and Casino isn’t far away. Activities include golf and other sports, a luxurious spa, and gambling (if you’re of age).

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National Women’s Hall of Fame

You may at times feel that Ithaca and Upstate New York has nothing but scenery, wineries and open roads, but the area is actually rich in history. You may remember learning at some point in your school years about the Seneca Falls Convention, the birthplace of the women’s rights movement. Ithaca is located only an hour away from Seneca Falls, now home to the National Women’s Hall of Fame. If you want a day trip that will also give you an educational experience and a dose of feminism, consider taking a trip to this nearby museum celebrating the great women of history and modern day.

While us Cornellians tend to love Ithaca and everything it has to offer, branching out of town every so often is a good idea too. Add these trips to your Cornell bucket list (in addition to the typical 161 things to do), and see how many you can cross off.