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Come for the Conference, Stay for the Weekend (at least!)
personal notes by Seth Sicroff, Ithaca Conference organizer
Though not yet a truly dog-friendly stination, Ithaca is definitely worth visiting -- with or without your dog.
Beauty isn't everything, but it helps. Lake Cayuga is the largest of the Finger Lakes, formed by the retreat of glaciers during the last ("Wisconsin") ice age. The lakes are pretty enough, but the most amazing result is a skein of gorges and waterfalls that is without equal in North America. (Yes, the western canyons are deeper, but they're mostly arid; Ithaca's are lush, and they are also easily walked on miles of well-designed trails.)
Brains, too! Ithaca is also home to Cornell University, the most beautiful university campus in the world. [Check out the virtual tours on their new Web site, designed by Franck Vidal, the brainy guy to the right; the rhino in is arms is Tchavo.] Johnson Art Museum is a world-class museum. The chimes in the iconic library tower are regularly used to serenade students between classes. Nearby Ithaca College has a fine music department and excels in broadcast arts. The presence of these universities has turned what was a rather redneck little town into an artsy-fartsy enclave, with more galleries, outdoor art, and pretentious restaurants than you would believe.
What's for dinner? Among the restaurants are Moosewood, home of the vegan cookbook series; Just a Taste, a so-called tapas place that is not nearly so little-finger-in-the-air as it sounds, and at least four very respectable Thai restaurants, including one, (Thai Cuisine), that has been judged the best in NY State -- which is saying a lot, considering that NY State also includes NY City. The main student union at Cornell, Willard Straight Hall, has a nice terrace where you can eat overlooking the entire valley -- very impressive, especially given the kaleidoscopic sunsets hereabouts. If you prefer quantity over quality, there are several all-you-can-eat troughs, notably Kings Restaurant near Tops Supermarket on S. Meadow.
Wegmans, a rather haut-de-gamme supermarket that in 2004 was judged #1 best place to work in the US, has a good take-out department. Ithaca Bakery is a lot more than a bakery, and Gimme Coffee! is said to be much better than Starbucks. One of my favorite places is Max's, the bar at Holiday Inn -- they have [huge!] half-price appetitizers from 4 to 11 pm and very generous margaritas. For full sit-down meals, I like Lost Dog, on the south side of the pedestrian "Commons."
Tipple on! Ithaca is also in the middle of a wine-growing region, and there is a well-established tasting-trail.
Recreation There is skiing at Greek Peak, 18 miles from Ithaca -- though I hope it won't be operating in late April. You can rent kayaks and bikes. There's a skateboard park. The M/V Manhattan runs nice cruise part of the way up Cayuga Lake, and their dinners are not bad at all.
Of course, the best spot in town for most of us is the so-called dog park. My wife and I are the only ones who have been heavily ticketed -- we have collected nearly 30 tickets over the past year, with fines upwards of $500. Fortunately for most people, the Vestal vigilante who has been calling down the police has only been able to identify us (because of our rather conspicuous Irish Wolfhound), and the general level of enforcement has been desultory at worst.
Parking is generally unproblematic -- except on campus. Greyhound and Shortline have a bus-station about half a mile from the Commons -- and right next to the Greenstar Food Co-op, a refuge for unregenerate hippies with an excellent snackbar. Tompkins County Regional Airport (served by US Airways, Northwest, and other real airlines) is about eight miles from downtown Ithaca.
Lots of wildlife around here, too: deer (of course), otter, beaver, racoon -- just to name a few you might run into around the dog park. Birds -- many raptors (including a bald eagle), bluebirds, woodpeckers, etc. etc. Cornell's Sapsucker Woods is one of the best ornithological preserves in the States.
Holiday Inn and several other hotels accept dogs, and there are numerous doggie-daycare places around Ithaca. If you network a bit, you may even be able to find someone with whom you can leave your dog while you go gallery-hopping.
Other attractions not too far away: Watkins Glen (Formula 1 racing); Corning glassworks (and museum); Doug's Fish Fry ("not famous since 1982") in Cortland; a huge collection of factory outlet stores in Waterloo; and an IMAX movie theater in Syracuse (an hour and a quarter from Ithaca).
- Dog-Friendly Accommodations
- Daycare for Dogs
- Other Dog-Friendly Businesses
- Great Walks
- Visit Ithaca: Complete information for the visitor
- Ithaca Events: Performing arts; galleries and museums; cuisine, wine and agriculture; tours, lectures and workshops; annual events. A service of the Community Arts Partnership.
- Museum of the Earth
- Biggest bones around -- but they probably don't allow dogs.
- Ithaca Times restaurant listings
- Web site of the City of Ithaca, NY.
- Weather.com -- Local Weather Page
- Travel agent specializing in dog-accompanied travel.
- Comprehensive information for dog-accompanied travelers.
- Fido Friendly -- the travel magazine for dogs
- DogFriendly.com -- full-service travel site