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Ithaca: Weekend getaway in charming Finger Lakes college town

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The Ithaca Farmers Market at Steamboat Landing on Cayuga Lake is open from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. Saturdays through Dec. 21, Photo by Erin Klema

The Ithaca Farmers Market at Steamboat Landing on Cayuga Lake is open from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. Saturdays through Dec. 21, Photo by Erin Klema

Published on: Thursday, October 31, 2013

By Erin Klema, Sentinel Travel Editor

In the picturesque Finger Lakes region of New York state, a charming college town offers visitors an array of activities for a weekend getaway.

Roughly a five-hour-and-30-minute drive from Prince George’s County, Ithaca, N.Y., borders Cayuga Lake in the East Coast’s largest wine-producing region. It’s also home to Ithaca College and the Ivy League’s Cornell University, a charismatic downtown and enough waterfalls and gorges to earn its motto: Ithaca is Gorges.

Stay downtown at the Hilton Garden Inn or the Holiday Inn and walk to unique boutiques and locally-owned restaurants, or unwind at a cozy bed and breakfast outside the hustle and bustle in this quaint west-central New York destination.

Sip award-winning Rieslings at Finger Lakes vineyards

The forested hillsides surrounding deep lake water creates an ideal climate for producing high-quality Rieslings, and the Finger Lakes region — renowned for its award-winning Rieslings and Cabernet Francs — has more than 120 wineries.

In Ithaca, relax with a glass of semi-dry Riesling or the Ithaca White, a white-wine blend with apple flavors and a melon aroma, on the deck overlooking the tree-topped valley at Six Mile Creek Vineyard. The winery, located on Route 79, is open daily for tastings inside its Dutch colonial barn.

Wine isn’t your cup of tea? Libations abound at local breweries, distilleries and a cidery in nearby Trumansburg, N.Y.

Find farm-fresh produce at the Ithaca Farmers Market

Visiting the farmers’ market at the Steamboat Landing on Cayuga Lake is an Ithaca tradition. The wooden-pavilion-covered market is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday through Dec. 21. It reopens in April with full hours from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays through October 2014.

Shoppers will find organic vegetables, fresh fruits, artisan cheeses, specialty foods, fine art, woodwork and other crafts. Vendors serve hard cider tastings, fresh apple cider and doughnuts, Asian dishes, Hungarian pastries and crepes, organic smoothies and vegan cupcakes. Waterfront tables and benches provide scenic picnic areas to enjoy your tasty purchases.

Savor flavors of local ingredients at Ithaca eateries

With more restaurants per capita than New York City, Ithaca is making its mark on the foodie map.

An Ithaca staple for 40 years, Moosewood Restaurant brings a farm-to-table concept to Downtown Ithaca. Moosewood’s menu changes each day to feature the season’s freshest ingredients and always puts health at the forefront — offering vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free meals.

Downtown’s Ithaca Commons features fine and casual dining, including Simeon’s on the Commons, an American bistro in a converted 1920s soda shop. Also downtown is Maxie’s Supper Club and Oyster Bar, where raw, shucked oysters are half-price from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily and free live music streams through the New-Orleans-inspired restaurant on Sundays and Tuesdays. Order the shrimp and yellow grits in a spicy tasso sauce with andouille sausage for a meal that packs a flavorful punch.

‘Ithaca is Gorges’ and more outdoors

Athletic adventurers can enjoy hiking, fly fishing, boating, swimming and golfing in Ithaca. Hikers will find trails and parks and can follow a Waterfalls Trail Guide to the 19 most popular gorges and waterfalls in and near Ithaca. To get a Waterfalls Trail Guide, contact the Visitors Bureau at 1-800-284-8422.

For more information and to start planning your trip, check out

Weekend happenings in Ithaca


Free wine tastings at Triphammer Wines & Spirits

4 to 7 p.m. every Friday and most Saturdays

Taste test wines and liquors with cheese pairings from neighboring Ithaca Coffee Company. This event is for adults ages 21 and older.

Improv Comedy Hour with Comedy FLOPS

6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Lot 10 in Downtown Ithaca

Free improvisation comedy show performed weekly by local comics. Donations benefit Healthy Food for All, a charity that provides CSA shares to local low-income families.

Booker’s Backyard Free Live Music Fridays

9 p.m. to midnight at Booker’s Backyard Barbecue

Beer, ribs and live tunes until midnight!


Ithaca Farmers Market

At Steamboat Landing on Cayuga Lake

Shop for fresh and local produce, artisan cheeses, specialty foods, handmade art and clothing along the waterfront.

Animal feedings

Noon at Cayuga Nature Center

See snakes, fish, turtles, birds and other animals. Feedings are included in admission.

Sciencenter Showtime Presents…

2 to 2:30 p.m. at Sciencenter

An interactive, family-friendly science presentation. Included in museum admission.


Helpful websites to plan your trip

Downtown Ithaca Alliance

Ithaca Farm to Fork

Finger Lakes Wine Country

Ithaca Farmers Market

Erin Klema is a travel blogger at She was in Ithaca, N.Y., Oct. 11-13. Her next trip is to Lexington, Ky.

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