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The Short Version: Ithaca, New York, is an inimitable place where couples can enjoy the best that both nature and city life have to offer. Get to know your partner better by hiking romantic waterfalls and gorges, attending one of the innumerable festivals featuring local and international artists, or giving your taste buds a treat at one of the many diverse restaurants, cafés, wineries, and breweries. Ithaca is a hidden New York gem that’s worth unearthing, and today we’re here to recognize the city as a 2018 Featured Destination.
Most of us have been on a date that we’ll never forget. Whether it was the location, the activities, the food, the romance, or the person we were with — it’s one that’ll stay with us for the rest of our lives.
The next time you’re looking to plan a memory-making date, Ithaca, New York, has got you covered. This laid-back, cultured college town offers a variety of things to do that allow new daters and seasoned couples alike to spark romance.
Ithaca Spokesperson Peggy Coleman said it best, “The general vibe here is quirky in the best way. It’s so open, and there’s this unique energy all the time. It’s an energy that just lifts you up. People just feel comfortable here — no matter who they are and what they’re about.”
One of Ithaca’s standout features is its access to nature. Filled with trails, waterfalls, and gorges, it could be the setting of a rom-com in its own right. Peggy has several recommendations for visitors, but this is one of her favorite ideas guaranteed to spark a little amore.
“A really fun date for an active couple would be to mountain bike along the Black Diamond Trail. You go by waterfalls and a bison farm, which is really kind of cool because you don’t see many of those in Upstate New York. It gives you an opportunity to be outdoors and active and enjoy the beautiful scenery, but then see some unique kinds of things,” she said.
Another favorite activity of Peggy’s is the Cascadilla Creek Gorge. “It starts a block from downtown on the commons, and then you’re walking along these beautiful natural stone steps past a series of waterfalls. It’s nice and cool in the summer. It’s ideal for a hot day. There are places along the gorge where you can stop and just connect with each other for a bit.”
With four state parks within five miles of Ithaca, there’s no shortage of walking, hiking, running, and biking trails. They offer a wide variety of distances, difficulty, and natural features, so you’re sure to find one to fit your needs.
Peggy told us that getting out into nature can be a fun way to deepen a relationship. “It’s great for an active date when you’re just getting to know somebody. Or if it’s something that you like to do with someone you know and are moving forward in a relationship, it gives you a lot of flexibility there, she said.”
When you want to catch a show, grab a bite to eat, or enjoy an event or festival, head to the Ithaca Commons. Artsy couples can visit one of the many galleries, like Art in the Heart of the City, to inspire creative discourse. In addition, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, which is known primarily for Asian art and prints, is home to pieces from Rembrandt, Matisse, and Stieglitz, among others. You’ll have plenty to discuss and interpret.
Peggy is also a fan of a Friday regular, “One of the best things is when we have the open studio tours. They’re typically on the first Friday of the month. From an artsy perspective, it’s a great way to enjoy multiple locations and see people create objects and art in front of you. Sometimes you even get an opportunity to do a hands-on art experience.”
The Commons features tons of fun shops as well. Steal a kiss in the stacks at Autumn Leaves Used Books, or stop by Sunny Days to purchase unique gifts from New York State artisans to remember your time in Ithaca. There’s plenty of shopping to help you find anything you might want or need.
Ithaca is a foodie paradise of the highest proportion. For a fancy dinner, Peggy recommends Taverna Banfi. This dining destination offers Tuscan cuisine with an expertly curated wine list.
“The food is spectacular, and the view is equally spectacular. It’s on a higher-level inside the hotel, so you have beautiful views of the campus, the quad, and the clock tower. It’s a very elegant and romantic environment,” she said.
She also told us John Thomas Steakhouse can make for a memorable evening. “It’s one of those places where people go for a special date, and then they go back to get engaged. Everything there is sourced locally. It’s a very relaxing experience in a really unique, old farmhouse that’s been converted into a restaurant.”
Couples who came for quirk will love Atlas Bowl. Formerly an old supermarket, the new owners have renovated and added six antique bowling lanes to the restaurant. Peggy said, “They have a really cool bar with local craft beers, wines, and ciders. And their food is great.”
As for music, Atlas Bowl has a DJ, but guests can browse the restaurant-bowling alley’s vinyl record collection for what they want to hear. The place also hosts special activities, like trivia nights, throughout the week.
Peggy said another event for music-loving couples to check out is the Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival.
“It’s been going on for over 20 years. It has over 80 different acts performing over a four-day period. There’s camping available on-site and B&B’s nearby — many farm-to-table food experiences, too,” she said.
And no trip is complete without a visit to one or more of the Finger Lake wineries. Organize a wine tour or venture out together on the Cayuga Wine Trail. Or you can head to one of Ithaca’s breweries for a beer pairing and live music.
Ithaca, with its unique, laid-back attitude, can be the perfect place for a date or romantic getaway. The limitless activities can help you and your other half learn more about each other and strengthen your bond.
But that’s not all. Peggy said the city has a lot going on in the years to come, especially for couples who want to take their relationship to the next level.
“We’re focused on raising awareness of our community as a destination wedding location. We have some unique venues that you just can’t find anywhere else. If you love circuses and want to make it a part of your big day, we can find a place for your big top tent — whatever you want! We also have locations in these beautiful rural areas with spectacularly stunning scenery with antique barns,” she said.