In nice weather, you should take a trip up to Taughannock and see the waterfall. You can either do a relatively small walk and see the waterfall from below, or actually hike up the mountain and be up on the waterfall (it isn't a very hard hike, either). It is very pretty up there.
You can combine this trip with swimming in Cayuga - first go for a walk and see the waterfall and then go to down to Cayuga again for cooling yourself off in the water.
Ithaca is way inland and far away from the coast. Nevertheless you can go on a cruise - on the about 40 miles long Cayuga lake!
You go on the cruise for about 2-3 hours, going around Cayuga while having lunch or, more usual, dinner. The food is perhaps not quite as excellent at is claims to be, but the cruise is a very fun and even romantic thing to do anyway.
Don't forget you sweater or a jacket. Ithaca gets chilly at night, even in the summer, and especially out on the lake.
Hosmer was a very friendly, warm experience. They have a lovely view from the main house, and it was relaxed and truly enjoyable tasting. It's less organized than Lucas, but it had some of the best Ithaca wines I've tasted. There's a discount for buying wines in the tasting.
Science Centre at Ithaca is a great museum come activity centre. We arrived to see a lot of young children and we thought that it would be too young for us but no, it was great fun.
Things we enjoyed -
the shouting chamber - sound proofed but records the decibels 105db was my record
making and launching paper planes and rockets at a target
dancing on the musical stairs
using ice to create images at the infrared camera
We just had great fun here - it is so hands on. There is also outside play areas and mini/crazy golf when it is warmer
We had trouble finding the place so get a map of directions before you go. If you have children of primary age this will be a great place to see
Several years ago, The Commons was in its heyday. It was THE spot to hang out. When I was living out of state, a friend had told me that The Commons wasn't as nice - stores were closing, etc. Now that I'm back in the area, I've been back to Ithaca a few times in the last few months. It's not quite as nice as I remember (is anything?), but it's not nearly as bad as my friend described! Stores are moving in, people are still hanging out, musicians are still playing. It still has a wonderful atmosphere to it, which it what makes it so nice.
This is a pedestrian mall; people go there a lot to people watch. Grab a cup of coffee from one of the cafes and hang out. In addition to the couple cafes right on the Commons, try the one on the second floor of Autumn Leaves (the book store). This is a great bookstore that's worth checking out. They just moved into a new, much bigger space which makes it all the better!
There are lots of specialty stores on the Comons - clothing, a kitchen store, jewelry, music. One Thousand Villiages carries unusual, international products and is worth some time.
Unfortunately, Ben and Jerry's closed - I'm so disappointed!
In the summer, there's usually live entertainment - bands, jugglers, whatever. Worth checking out.
In the middle of the Commons is a place called Center Ithaca which has some nice take-away food places: Greek, Japanese, pizza, etc. There's plenty of tables and also has (relatively) clean restrooms on the second floor.
There is a cinema there, too, that has more artsy films.
This is a 4 day festival in a nearby village. It's become so popular that people come from all over the country just to camp out and hear good music. Usually this festival takes place around the third week in July. There are local food vendors and local arts and crafts available.
"Collegetown" is the neighborhood immediately to the south of Cornell's central campus, and is where many Cornell students live. The retail center of the neighborhood has a number of shops, mostly restaurants and bars. Also found in the center is Cornell's performing arts center.
Next to the performing arts center is the beginning of the Cascadilla Gorge Trail, which winds down through the gorge all the way to downtown. It is closed and dangerous to walk in the winter, late fall and early spring, but in the summer it is absolutely fantastic. Going down (or up) allows you to walk past a series of waterfalls, bridges and spots where you feel like you are miles away from civilization.
This is the only park open in the winter and even when we were there in an unusually cold Easter, other parks were not safe enough to be opened - i.e. too icy
Follow the signs and park up. There is a 20 min walk to the falls along easy terrain along the gorge. This was a pleasant walk - quite a spectacular deep gorge really.
This is higher than Niagara apparently. The effect of the frosting due to the spray makes for a good pic I think.
These falls are wonderfully high. They have been extremely dry in the last several years, but I've heard that the water is now flowing merrily over the falls. I'm sure the amount of rain we've had recently will push keep them happy for most of the summer. A definite must for any visit to the Ithaca area.
This is a pretty unspectacular and simple activity, but swimming in Cayuga Lake in the summer is very fun. You can go out to Taughannock, pay your entrance fee and then "set up camp" right next to the lake. You can read, swim, watch people and have barbecues, a very relaxing way to spend the summer!
Ithaca has a fun and attractive downtown that has a good balance of shops, entertainment and culture. Downtown revolves around The Commons, a two-block pedestrian-only street with a number of attractive 19th-century buildings. Along the Commons are a series of local specialized shops, where you can shop for anything from free trade pottery to men's business suits. There are several small playgrounds for children, and in the summer, the whole street is busy with festivals, outdoor sales, and people enjoying the weather and the atmostphere at outdoor tables.
Just off of The Commons is North Aurora Street, known to locals as "Restaurant Row" This single block has about a dozen restaurants and bars that serve a variety of cuisine. Ithaca has some of the best selection of world cuisine in upstate New York.
Other activities downtown include the numerous art galleries, two theaters, a two-screen movie theater.
Cornell University has an attractive campus, whose main attraction is the Plantations. These extensive botanical gardens offer plenty of hiking and a lot of good photo ops. Dating back over a century, they have long been a favorite place for Cornell alumni to visit when the return to campus.
Here are a 25-acre botanical garden with 14 specialty gardens, the F.R. Newman Arboretum, Beebe Lake, a 4300-acre natural area, fens, old-growth forest, gorges, and much more.
Lucas is a well-organized, hugely successful winery, but it has none of the snobbery and pretentious nature that vineyards sometimes offer forth. It's Cayuga Lakes oldest winery, and it has one of the only reds that I really enjoy from the area. As with most of the tastings in this area, it only costs a dollar if you don't buy anything. It also has a lovely outdoor garden with a fantastic view of Cayuga Lake. Try to get there around sunset. Well worth the trip!
When I've seen US cartoons/films showing the 'open for the season' signs I have never really understood what it means - the football/soccer season, cricket season? I realised that 'the season' is the time that the warm weather arrives so that everyone can enjoy the outdoor life.
On this trip we saw many campsites that were open for the season just a shame that the season in question was winter!! I know it was Easter but it was colder than Christmas so we were told.
Cornell University is located on top of East Hill on a beautiful site overlooking Cayuga Lake and downtown Ithaca. In addition to location, Cornell has one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. Its central campus is located between two river gorges, and its beautiful architecture and open quads make for an extremely pleasant stroll. Specific sites includ the Arts Quad - the historic core of the campus, Library (Libe) Slope - where you can look out over the entire city of Ithaca and the lake, Cornell Plantations - a collection of natural areas including a series of gardens and an arboretum, and the gorges themselves - Cascadilla Creek and Fall Creek. Also on campus is the I.M. Pei designed Johnson Art Museum, which has an excellent overall collection.