Thu, May 30th, 2024


Top 10 Social Distancing Activities in the Ithaca Area This Summer

We’ve carefully reopened here in Tompkins County and daily life is slowly starting to feel somewhat normal. Restaurants are opening for indoor and outdoor seating, many retail stores are open for in-person shopping, and everyone’s hair is back to its desired length! Although many beloved activities are back on the table, social distancing and mask wearing remains a priority, as they are critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19. That concern is why all large-scale events have been canceled this summer. There is no question that this will be a socially distanced summer, but that doesn’t mean there’s not lots to do in Ithaca and its surrounding areas. Honestly, Ithaca and the Finger Lakes Region in general is probably one of the best places for social distancing activities! There’s plenty of waterfalls and hiking trails to go around. Take a look at our list of social distancing activities and hopefully you’ll get inspired to visit this gorges place this summer!


  1. Outdoor Movies at the Mountain

Just a 25-minute drive from ITH you can visit Greek Peak Mountain Resort, central New York’s largest ski resort and valued partner of the Ithaca Tompkins Intl. Airport. A new feature of Greek Peak is their Outdoor Cinema, which opened to the public on May 15th. Every Friday and Saturday they show a newly released movie on a 28’x16’ screen at their Outdoor Adventure Center. They typically show family friendly films, so this would be a great activity if you have children. It’s only $20 per car which includes a $5 credit at the concession stand. Dinner can also be delivered to your vehicle prior to the showing!


Entrance to the concession stand and restrooms requires a mask.


  1. Bike the Black Diamond Trail

The Black Diamond Trail is named after the Black Diamond Express, which once ran from Buffalo to New York City along the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The trail is perfect for cyclists of all levels and offers beautiful views from start to finish. It begins by the Ithaca Children’s Garden, where you can find plenty of parking, and ends at Taughannock Falls State Park in Trumansburg. The 8.5-mile stone-dust trail along the upland slopes of Cayuga Lake makes for a leisure and enjoyable bike ride, with a 215 foot-waterfall waiting at the end. If you aren’t a cyclist, walking or running is another way to experience the range of natural landscapes, from a towering canopy of maple and other trees, to views of agricultural lands, and dozens of ravines racing towards Cayuga Lake. There are also certain spots along the way to stop and rest on a bench facing a waterfall.


  1. Camping at Taughannock or Watkins Glen

Many activities are canceled this summer, but camping is not one of them. Camping is the ultimate social distance getaway, and a great way to disconnect with reality and reconnect with nature. This summer in particular you may have more privacy than ever at your campsite due to social distancing regulations. The Finger Lakes Region is a very popular camping destination, as it’s home to some of the most extraordinary parks in New York State. We suggest Taughannock Falls State Park or Watkins Glen State Park, both of which have outstanding natural attractions. Taughannock Falls State Park is home to a 215-foot waterfall and has campsites and cabins overlooking Cayuga Lake, while Watkins Glen State Park offers 305 campsites and will keep you busy with its famous glen streaming 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs, generating 19 waterfalls along its course. There are incredible hiking trails at both parks, but Watkins Glen boasts an Olympic-size swimming pool and excellent fishing in nearby Seneca Lake.


  1. BBQ in Stewart Park

It would be easy to spend an entire summer day in Stewart Park; pavilions, playgrounds, tennis courts, basketball hoops, picnic tables, fishing spots, and most importantly, BBQ stands! Bring some charcoal, claim a BBQ stand and grill the day away on the shoreline of Cayuga Lake. Stewart Park is very spacious, making social distancing a piece of cake. It’s the perfect place to play, relax, and explore, whether you’re with the whole family, just a few friends, or that special someone. Oh, and we highly recommend sticking around for the sunset, as Stewart Park offers some of the best lake views in Ithaca.


  1. Walk the Waterfront Trail & Picnic in Cass Park

Connected to Stewart Park is the Cayuga Waterfront Trail, a 5.5-mile, multi-use trail connecting Ithaca’s most popular waterfront destinations. If you want a little more excitement than just walking, the Waterfront Trail is perfect for running, biking, roller skating, skateboarding, scootering, and more (anything non-motorized is fair game). A 2-mile loop in Cass Park extends to a linear trail connecting the West End/Inlet Island area, the Ithaca College and Cornell University Boathouses, Ithaca Farmers Market, Newman Golf Course, Stewart Park, the Ithaca Youth Bureau, and the Chamber of Commerce/Visitor Center. Cass Park is a perfect place to have a picnic lunch, as there are several secluded picnic tables with gorgeous lake views.


  1. Paddle the Cayuga Lake Inlet

The Cayuga Lake Blueway Trail is dedicated to providing information and opportunities to paddlers on Cayuga Lake. They outline a number of ‘Day Trips’ for people who would like a specific route to follow, and we suggest their four-mile loop titled ‘Cass Park to Cayuga Inlet Loop’. Heading south, this trip follows the Cayuga Inlet past Inlet Island, left at the fork, to Six Mile Creek; then turns east up the creek to the Plain Street bridge. Turning around, the trip heads west back up the creek to the Flood Control Channel; and turns north to head back to Cass Park. If you have your own canoe or kayak, you can launch them at Cass Park, or you can rent from Puddledockers, located right on the Waterfront Trail.  The inlet is a very peaceful place to paddle with lots of wildlife to observe.


  1. Cornell Botanic Gardens & Lab of Ornithology

Nevin Welcome Center at the Cornell Botanic Gardens

Spend a day this summer exploring some of what Cornell University has to offer. Their Botanic Gardens are open to the public this summer, as long as visitors wear a face covering and maintain social distance inside the gardens. Typically you’d start your visit to the gardens at the Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center, but it is currently closed due to COVID-19. Once you arrive at the gardens, you can choose whether you’re up for a gorge hike or a leisure garden stroll. There is lots to explore and lots to learn at the Cornell Botanic Gardens. While you’re on campus, keep the nature train going by visiting the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The lab is surrounded by a 230-acre sanctuary with 4 miles of trails, open daily from 10am until 4pm. The visitor center is currently closed, but that could change as NYS opens back up. Be sure to check the website before your visit. The outdoor trails remain open for visitors to explore and observe birds.


  1. Explore Downtown with an Ice Cream Cone

Ithaca Commons (New York)

Downtown Ithaca has lots of offer, from street art, to live music, to the unique four-block pedestrian walkway known as The Commons. The Commons are jam packed with more than 100 independently owned and operated shops and boutiques, restaurants, art galleries, and more, but it’s been awfully quiet for the past few months. Although The Commons won’t be quite the same this summer, it’s still a fun area to explore, and several shops and restaurants are open to the public (mask and social distancing required). We suggest you begin your downtown exploration by grabbing a soft serve ice cream cone from Sweet Melissa’s, located on 200 W Seneca St, connected to Shortstop Deli.


  1. Fishing in Fall Creek

Fishing is another great social distancing activity that is already very popular in Ithaca, specifically in Fall Creek. There are nearly 11 miles of Public Fishing Rights along Fall Creek, and the common species vary; above Ithaca Falls you’ll find brown trout, brook trout and smallmouth bass, whereas below Ithaca Falls you’ll find rainbow trout, brown trout, Atlantic salmon and smallmouth bass. Although you may have more luck in the Fall than the Summer, it’s still a fun activity to try.


  1. Eat outside on Restaurant Row

Now that restaurants have been allowed to open back up, residents and visitors have been very excited to dine outside, especially on the iconic and beloved Restaurant Row. Located on Aurora Street, restaurant row is downtown Ithaca’s dining hub with a wide variety of cuisine options. From fine dining to tapas to street inspired food, Restaurant Row has you covered. The City of Ithaca has closed down this block of Aurora Street so that restaurants can extend their tables to the edge of the sidewalk and pedestrians can walk in the street; this will last throughout most of July, possibly longer. For more details on what Restaurant Row can offer, check out their webpage on!


Shameless plug – you can also get takeout from The Flying Rooster Kitchen located inside our terminal and eat it out outside at our quaint outdoor seating area!

We hope that you’ve enjoyed our list of activities and see that Ithaca has lots to offer, even under social distancing guidelines! Have fun this summer, do your part, and be safe.

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