As astounding as it seems, I have to own up to the reality at hand: I leave Ithaca in 11 days, at which point I’ll no longer be a freshman. It feels simultaneously like O-week was forever ago and like it was just yesterday — seriously, where did the time go? In my last few days here, I’m trying to do all of my favorite things one last time before the break, and as such, I thought it’d be fitting to compile a list of said things for people who might be visiting (or living in) Ithaca in the near future.
Disclaimer: While Ithaca is irrefutably gorgeous (pun employed reluctantly), I’m still no outdoorswoman. Thus, my list will not include the stellar opportunities for gorge-viewing, hiking, or general nature-appreciating. I’m sorry, but this is my list, after all.
1. Cornell Dairy Bar
This holds a special spot on my list because it was one of the first things I did when I visited Cornell as a pre-frosh. It was also part of the lunch/dessert date with my then-future and now-current roommate. Regardless of the sentimentality, the Dairy Bar is an absolute must. The “ice cream” (rumored to have been deemed too fatty to actually be considered ice cream by the FDA) is locally made–literally at Cornell–and each bite is more delicious than the one before. With a wide variety of flavors, sundae, and milkshake options, the Dairy Bar boasts something for everyone, provided you have a sweet tooth. Even if you don’t, I’ve heard their real food (i.e. wraps, sandwiches) is pretty good as well.
2. Ithaca Farmer’s Market
An assemblage of local vendors selling clothing, jewelry, fresh produce, and made-to-order food, the Farmer’s Market is Ithaca at its finest. It stays open for most of the year, surprisingly, but fall and spring are definitely the best times to visit. Order a sesame ball, crepe, apple cider donut, or flatbread pizza (among seemingly endless options), then sit on the dock, stare out at the water, and enjoy the either fleeting or much-awaited nice weather.
3. Commons (Eats)
The Commons alone is a must-do when visiting Ithaca. It’s “downtown” and, let’s face it, there’s not much else to do here. In addition to a limited amount of shopping, there’s also Cinemapolis, a super cute old-fashion kind of theatre that shows mainly indie films. Other than that, my primary purpose for going to the Commons is to eat. There are many restaurants and I can’t pretend like I’ve been to all of them, but my favorites are Taste of Thai, Madeline’s, Waffle Frolic, and Saigon Kitchen. For the first month or so of school, we went to Taste of Thai weekly. It’s that good. Madeline’s has great food, but phenomenal desserts–a glass case full of cakes, mousses, different flavored creme brulees, and other goods? Truly a dream come true. Waffle Frolic is a similarly delightful experience.
Though I’ve only had sweet waffles so far (peanut butter, chocolate chips, banana, honey, apple butter, etc.), their savory waffles and even grilled cheeses are supposed to be just as tasty. Lastly, while Saigon Kitchen is not technically on the Commons, it’s a relatively short walk away and it is 100% worth it. Here, you’ll find really yummy Pho and other dishes as well.
4. Collegetown Bagels (CTB)
Like the Central Perk of Cornell. There are endless possibilities for noms and slightly (outrageously) overpriced specialty drinks, but the most important part about CTB is that it’s a major facet of student life here. It’s just essential to the Cornell experience. It’s also very good, so that doesn’t hurt. My usuals are Eggs Christina (with cheese and on a sesame bagel) and Hawaiian pizza bagel.
5. Buffalo Books, The Bookery, and Autumn Leaves
Because a town without a bookstore is no town for me. The first two on this list are located in Dewitt Mall, which is just a fancy name for a small collection of stores on the end of the Commons, near Moosewood. Though Buffalo Books is not a used book store (and, consequently, sells books at their full price), it’s gratifying to feel that your purchases are benefitting the small-business community in your town. It is, however, a cooperatively owned bookstore, so I guess that counts for something. Autumn Leaves sells used books at decent prices and also has a cafe, though I haven’t actually been there during its operating hours.
6. Ithaca Mall
It’s not necessarily a must-do, but it is one of the “things” to do. There are a few popular stores to shop at and there’s also a Target–super crucial. You can, of course, find food and sweets here, one notable option being Smart Yogurt (fro-yo). The Regal Ithaca Mall Stadium 14 is the only movie theatre in town that shows the blockbuster hits when they come out, so head here to see the new Avengers movie because Cinemapolis is not showing it. Don’t make a rookie mistake.
7. Old Tea House
Good boba tea. Late-night hours. Enough said.
8. Sweet Melissa’s
Closing out my list is another place where you can find scrumptious ice cream. Sweet Melissa’s is awesome because the hard flavors (as opposed to soft serve) are homemade and rotate every few days. To best handle this spontaneity, you can sometimes check the Facebook page to find out what’s being offered. My personal favorite is Honeycomb, which just the other day, my roommate and I dropped everything to go buy/devour. Not exaggerating. Honeycomb is not a joking matter.
Places I’ve not yet had the pleasure of visiting: Carriage House, Collegetown Pizza, The Nines, Stella’s, Just a Taste, Viva
I realize now that this list is basically just enumerating my favorite places to eat. Oh well, what can I say? There might not be an abundance of things to do in Ithaca, but there is certainly enough good food to fill your visit (and stomach).