Things to do in Ithaca in the Winter are many and you will be spoilt for choice.
When the snow covers the undulating hills and the Finger Lakes have that sparkling icy surface, it can only mean one thing: it’s winter in Ithaca again!
Winter in Ithaca can be an especially lovely time of year, and the holidays always put people in the mood to get together and participate in some fun winter activities.
The brightly colored leaves have been replaced by newly fallen snow and snow-covered trees, but the area is no less beautiful.
Do not let the cold conditions keep you inside this winter.
Head over to Tompkins County and enjoy the season.
Check out my suggestions for a truly magical winter journey to the Ithaca region and begin planning your trip right away.
Here is a list of things to do in Ithaca in the winter.
Things to Do in Ithaca in the Winter
Go on a Frozen Hike
If you’re looking for an adventurous winter activity in Ithaca, a frozen hike may be just the thing.
Hiking on frozen surfaces is definitely one of the best things to do in Ithaca in the winter.
Ithaca is home to many stunning waterfalls and gorges.
It’s a famous summer sport, but there’s something magical about it in the winter when it’s covered in white sparkling snow and ice.
A waterfall that has frozen over for the winter is an extremely impressive sight, perhaps even more so than when the cascade is flowing in the warmer months.
Hike the plowed Gorge Trail at Taughannock Falls State Park to see the tallest waterfall in the Finger Lakes area in a static condition.
Ensure you dress in layers and wear shoes with good grip, as the trail can be slippery in spots.
Another winter hiking option is the Buttermilk Falls Trail in Buttermilk Falls State Park.
This trail winds through a wooded gorge, with frozen cascades and sparkling icicles lining the path.
Go Ice Skating or Sledding
If you are interested in ice skating, The Lynah Rink at Cornell University offers public skating hours where you can skate with friends and family, rent skates, and enjoy the icy winter scenery.
If you love indoor skating, then Cass Park or The Ring offer two great options for indoor ice skating.
Alternatively, if you prefer sledding, there are several hills in Ithaca that are perfect for sliding down on a sled!
Some popular spots include the hill at Ithaca College near Clarke Lounge, the hill by Cascadilla Hall, and the hill near Forest Home Drive.
Additionally, Rice Hill is a popular location for outdoor pond skating and sledding.
Do not forget to bundle up and stay safe while enjoying the winter fun!
Ice skating and sledding are definitely among the top things to do in Ithaca in the winter.
Visit Nearby Restaurants
You’ll have worked up an appetite after exploring the outdoors, and you’ll probably sense the need to hold a warm drink in your hands.
Ithaca restaurants and cafés provide a variety of culinary options, including seasonal menus.
Warm up with homemade soups, side dishes, and specialty coffees and hot cocoas.
Here are some popular restaurants in Ithaca:
Moosewood Restaurant – Serving vegetarian and vegan cuisine
Just a Taste – Spanish tapas and wine bar
Ithaca Ale House – Pub-style food and craft beer
The Heights Restaurant & H Bar – Upscale New American cuisine
Coltivare – Farm-to-table dining with a focus on locally sourced ingredients
Agava – Latin-inspired cuisine with a tequila and mezcal bar
Saigon Kitchen – Vietnamese cuisine
Gorgers – Sandwich shop with unique flavors and options for dietary restrictions
Simeon’s American Bistro – Upscale American cuisine featuring local ingredients
Mia Restaurant – Mediterranean cuisine with vegetarian and vegan options
Exploring the restaurants in the area is definitely among the top top things to do in Ithaca in the winter.
Visit a Nearby Museum
Several museums and educational opportunities in the Ithaca region.
There is an entire trail dedicated to museums in Ithaca.
Discovery Trail is a collaboration of eight fascinating locations where you can engage in hands-on learning and fun activities.
The Science Center and Museum of the Earth provide an easy entry into science and the natural world for all ages.
Another free museum is the Cornell Johnson Museum of Art, which has over 30,000 works of art to view.
The Cornell Botanic Gardens and Lab of Ornithology provide an opportunity for immersion in gardens and birds.
Additionally, the Johnson Museum of Art has works from most world cultures spanning six millennia – plus an unparalleled view of Ithaca.
Definitely visiting the museum is among the best things to do in Ithaca in the winter.
Attend Bread Baking Classes at Wide Awake Bakery
Wide Awake Bakery in Trumansburg offers baking workshops throughout the winter and early spring, teaching participants how to bake their own artisan bread at home.
The bakery is only a twenty-minute drive from Ithaca.
You can learn how to make rye bread, pizza dough, pretzels, and more by taking a workshop and bringing what you learn home with you.
Check out their baking class schedule and sign up shortly because they fill up quickly!
Other locations in Ithaca where you can learn something new or take a class include The Danby Gathery, Foundry Ithaca, Gourdlandia, and The Metal Smithery.
Attend Ithaca Annual Chili Contest
The Annual Chili Contest is an event that takes place in Ithaca, New York every February.
It brings together local businesses, restaurants, and residents to showcase their chili recipes and compete for top honors in several categories.
There are several options to choose from, including Best Meat Chili, Best Vegetarian / Vegan Chili, Best Overall Chili, and People’s Choice Chili.
There is also a small farmer’s market with a range of items for sale from local wineries, breweries, and farmers.
It’s the ideal time to stock up on winter essentials and savor some delicious chili!
During the event, attendees can purchase tasting tickets and sample chili from various vendors.
Attend a Live Performance
There are many live performance options in Ithaca during the winter.
You could attend a show at the State Theatre, which hosts a variety of concerts, comedy shows, and theatrical performances.
Another option is The Hangar Theatre, which presents a range of plays and musicals throughout the year.
The Kitchen Theatre Company is also a great choice for smaller, more intimate productions.
Additionally, Cornell University and Ithaca College often have concerts and theatrical performances throughout the winter season.
Check out their event calendars for more information.
Visit the Winter Ithaca Farmers Market
The Winter Ithaca Farmers Market is open from January to March in Ithaca, New York.
It is held every Saturday from 11am to 2pm at The Space at Greenstar, which is located at 700 West Buffalo Street.
This farmers market offers fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy products, baked goods, and crafts that are grown and made locally.
Many of the vendors at the market use sustainable and organic farming practices.
Visit the Greek Peak Mountain Resort
Greek Peak Mountain Resort is a ski resort located near Cortland, New York.
The resort is a favorite destination for locals and visitors during the winter.
There are many activities and amenities on offer and they include skiing and snowboarding, a tubing center, an indoor water park, a spa, and several dining options.
The resort also features lodging accommodations in the form of hotel rooms, suites, and vacation rentals.
Enjoy the cascades pools, skiing, snowboarding, zip line excursions, snow tubing, and other activities at Greek Peak Mountain Resort.
Greek Peak is located just outside Tompkins County and is about 30 minutes from Cornell Campus.
Stargazing in Ithaca during winter is an experience that can take your breath away.
As the night falls and the cold winter air sets in, the sky over Ithaca reveals a dazzling display of stars scattered across the vast expanse of space.
With little light pollution, Ithaca provides the perfect opportunity for stargazers to observe the sky’s wonders in all its glory.
The night sky over Ithaca is at its clearest during the winter months, making it an ideal moment to observe some of the most magnificent constellations.
Some of the brightest stars such as Sirius, Orion, Canis Major and Taurus are easily visible from Ithaca.
Whilst there are many great spots to stargaze in Ithaca, there are several areas that are particularly well suited for a night of sky-gazing.
The Cornell observatory offers regular stargazing sessions throughout the winter months, often with expert astronomers on hand to help point out the various sights.
Bird watching in Ithaca during winter can be a thrilling and rewarding experience for any bird enthusiast.
Despite the cold weather and snow, Ithaca provides an excellent habitat for a variety of bird species.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology houses one of the world’s largest bird research facilities.
It is one of the best locations to start bird watching in Ithaca during the winter.
Visitors can visit the Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary, which covers over 200 acres of trails and woodland.
Visitors to this sanctuary have a one-of-a-kind chance to see several bird species.
They include the red-bellied woodpecker, the eastern bluebird, and the American goldfinch.
Another excellent location for bird watching in Ithaca during winter is the Cayuga Lake.
The lake attracts a wide range of bird species, such as the common merganser, the bald eagle, and the horned grebe.
Bird watching is definitely among the best things to do in Ithaca in the winter.
Things to Do in Ithaca in the Winter – Tips for Surviving Ithaca Winters
Winters in Ithaca are infamous.
Anyone who has lived in the area for more than a couple of years will be acquainted with “ithacation.”
A unique combination of rain, sleet, and snow that occurs from January to May.
Newcomers who aren’t used to winter in Ithaca may be surprised by how quickly the weather can shift.
Here are some of the strategies for toughing out the cold, gray months:
Dress in Layers: Wear multiple layers of clothing to stay warm, and make sure to include a warm coat, hat, gloves, and scarf.
Get the Right Footwear: Invest in a good pair of waterproof boots with good traction to help you navigate through the snow and ice.
Keep Your Home Well-Insulated: Properly insulating your home can help to keep the warmth in and the cold out, which will not only keep you more comfortable but also help to lower your energy bills.
Stock Up on Supplies: Make sure to stock up on winter essentials such as non-perishable food, batteries, and blankets in case of power outages or other emergencies.
Stay Active: Exercise can help to keep your body warm and improve your overall mood during the darker winter months. Consider joining a gym or finding an indoor activity that you enjoy.
Take Care of Your Mental Health: The colder weather and lack of sunlight can impact your mood
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Ithaca in the Winter
There are many things to do in Ithaca in the winter.
From hiking the beautiful frozen trails and enjoying snowy landscapes to taking part in a variety of winter festivals and events, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Do not let the colder weather deter you from exploring all that Ithaca has to offer during the winter season.
Book your trip today and enjoy what Ithaca has to offer!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Taughannock Falls open in the winter?
YES. The overlook is open all year; however, due to hazardous conditions, the stone stairs leading to the lower viewing platforms are closed during the winter.
Is Gooseberry Falls open in the winter?
YES. The visitor center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day during the winter. In the winter, only one path to the Upper Falls is maintained. Bring ice cleats (or buy them at the park store) no matter where you intend to hike to avoid slipping.
Is Brandywine Falls open in the winter?
YES. Brandywine Falls Provincial Park is generally open year-round, but some facilities and services may be closed during the winter due to snow and ice. The waterfall and hiking trails are accessible in the winter, but it's important to check the weather and road conditions before heading there as they may affect your travel plans.
Do the Finger Lakes freeze in winter?
YES. The Finger Lakes area transforms into a winter wonderland during the colder months. Some of the lakes freeze excessively, and snow covers the ground, creating the ideal setting for a winter getaway.
Why does Cayuga Lake not freeze?
Cayuga Lake, located in central New York, does freeze over during the winter months, but not completely. This is because the lake is quite large and deep, and its waters have a relatively high salt content. This salt content keeps the water from freezing as easily as freshwater, and also causes the lake to freeze in a non-uniform pattern. Additionally, the lake's currents and winds can also prevent the water from freezing completely.
What is Ithaca famous for?
Homeland of Odysseus. Ithaca is widely recognized as the home of Odysseus (Ulysses), the hero of Homer's epic Odyssey. Ithaca is the country where Penelope patiently waits for her husband to return from the Trojan War for twenty years.