20 Best Things to Do in Ithaca in Winter

Ithaca is an amazing place to visit any time of year. With special deals and offers on accommodations, meals, and activities, spending winter break in the Finger Lakes region is a no-brainer. Here’s 17 budget-friendly things to do in Ithaca as a winter.

Are you an educator looking for a budget-friendly winter break getaway? Luckily, Ithaca loves teachers.

This February marks the 18th annual Ithaca Loves Teachers Celebration, which welcomes educators with activities and discounts from February 16-28.

What is Ithaca Loves Teachers?


Ithaca Loves Teachers is an annual celebration of educators, scheduled
during the mid-winter recess to offer educators the perfect opportunity to treat themselves.


Ithaca Loves Teachers provides lodging offers, food and beverage deals, shopping discounts, and discounted activities to all pre K through 12 public school teachers and support staff.


Registration for the event is free. All participants should be prepared to show proof of
employment, with a school ID badge or an equivalent form, to claim offers.

20 Best Things to do in Ithaca in Winter

After spending four college years a 30-minute drive from Ithaca, I have a few suggestions for the best things to do in Ithaca in winter.

Additionally, we recently spent a few days in Ithaca exploring some new-to-us hikes, restaurants, and exciting businesses. We’ve prepared a list that includes something for every interest area. 

Atlas Bowl

If you’re looking for a night of fun and good eats, check out Atlas Bowl. Leave no pin standing and enjoy signature boozy milkshakes and local beers on tap from the bowling-themed bar. This has quickly become one of my favorite things to do in Ithaca!

Choose between six old-school tenpin bowling lanes or the one Candlepin bowling lane. Candlepin bowling is a New England-style game where bowlers hold a small ball in the palm of their hand before sending it down the lane to knock over a tall, skinny bowling pin. 

I know that I’ve brought a modified version of candlepin bowling back to my gymnasium for my students to try. It’s always fun to expand their horizons with a fun spin on something they’re otherwise knowledgeable about!

Photo Credit: Visit Ithaca

Breweries

What’s something all teachers have in common by Mid Winter break? They need a drink. Luckily, Ithaca has you covered with several local breweries. 

Ithaca Beer Co offers craft beers in its industrial tasting room. Stop by on a weekend if you want a tour! And you can find Liquid State Brewing Company and Lucky Hare Brewing Company right downtown.

Make sure you explore the massive tree house at Cayuga Nature Center

Cayuga Nature Center

The trails and Treetops Treehouse are open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. Take an easy winter stroll through the trails at Cayuga Nature Center to enjoy the beauty and stillness of nature. 

If you’re a local educator, Cayuga Nature Center also provides student programming throughout the year. Take your students to the center for apple cidering in the Fall or maple tapping in late winter. 

Image Credit: Local First Ithaca

Children’s Garden

Celebrate the joy of getting kids outside at Ithaca Children’s Garden. ICG believes that providing hands-on, exciting outdoor experiences for children is the best way to grow the future. 

Attend an upcoming program or explore on your own. There are so many amazing ways for children to experience nature here. Take a story walk, let your imagination run wild in the troll house, and check out the recycled greenhouse. 

Children will love the Hands-on Nature Anarchy Zone. This adventure playground is sure to be a favorite while simultaneously cultivating environmental stewardship.

Photo Credit: LocalSYR

Chili Cook-Off

The annual Chili Cook-Off takes place on Ithaca’s Commons in March. Businesses and organizations from all over Tompkins County come together for a little friendly competition. 

A chili cook-off ticket provides you with numerous food and beverage samples throughout the day. Local restaurants fight for the title of ‘Best Chili in Ithaca’ while local breweries and cideries are happy to share their favorite craft beverages and cocktails with participants. 

A cook-off or a bake-off could be a fun event to bring to your students if you have the resources. Cooking and baking teach a myriad of skills including measurement, following step-by-step directions, and more! Have students compete in a most creative pancake competition and ask other teachers to be the judge. 

South Hill Cider has amazing ciders, unique food options, and amazing views!

Cideries

Taste craft ciders in the Ithaca area. Local orchards grow special apples that give Finger Lakes ciders character. This is one of those things to do in Ithaca that’s fairly unique to the area!

Head on over to South Hill for farm-to-table food and guided tastings at a location perched up on a hill with beautiful views of Cayuga Lake and amazing outdoor seating. 

The Finger Lakes Cider House is another great place to visit for great cider on weekends. With food sourced from local producers and a variety of delicious craft cider, it’s a great place to spend an afternoon. Hop on a farm and cidery tour and you might just feel inspired to join their cider club to receive 3 or 4 bottles of quarterly.

Photo Credit: Cornell University

Cornell Cinema

Stop by Cornell Cinema to see a variety of Hollywood and foreign classics, documentaries, silent films, and experimental work. 

The film calendar shows what will be playing for the month. Cornell Cinema often shows two different films 5-7 days a week.

The historic Willard Straight Theatre boasts the largest screen in Ithaca, Dolby Digital Surround Sound, and the best projection in the area. Complete with a concession stand, this is a great way to spend a special date night in Ithaca! 

Photo credit: Cornell Chronicle

Cornell Winter Botanical Garden

Tour Cornell’s botanic garden in winter to experience true quiet and stillness. Snow-covered gardens truly provide a winter wonderland, especially the one designed for cold  weather.

Learn about sustainable gardening practices, explore rotating art exhibits, and use your mobile device to learn about Cornell Botanical Garden through a self-guided tour. 

The grounds are open year-round from dawn to dusk. It is important to note that restrooms are not available during the winter months so prepare accordingly.

  

Photo Credit: Visit Ithaca

Cross Country Skiing

Cross country skiing in the Finger Lakes Region allows skiers of all abilities to enjoy the change of season.

Check out Podunk Cross Country Ski Center, about 20 minutes North of Ithaca. Ski rentals, lessons, and a warming hut with food are available to visitors. There is no fee to use the trail system, so this is a great, inexpensive way to enjoy winter in the Ithaca area! 

Greek Peak Mountain Resort is well known for its downhill skiing, however, its lesser-known nordic skiing facilities often go untouched. You’ll find miles of beautiful trails for all skill levels adjacent to Hope Lake Lodge. Trail passes are required for use.  

Photo Credit: NYskiBlog

Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

About 30 minutes from downtown Ithaca you’ll find Central New York’s largest ski resort. Greek Peak Mountain Resort offers 33 trails, beautiful lodging, several dining options, a spa, and other fun activities like snow tubing and a Mountain Coaster.

Greek Peak is actually where I learned to snowboard when I was in college! It’s a beautiful, family-friendly mountain with options for every level.

Photo Credit: Visit Ithaca

Finger Lakes Wine Pairing Event 

Finger Lakes Wine Pairing events are extremely limited, so if you’re a wine enthusiast you need to order your ticket now. Tickets are available for $55 (15% off for teachers!) and are available to those who are not participating in the Ithaca Loves Teachers event as well.  

Join sommelier, Laura Winter Falk, for an evening of pairing Finger Lake wines with 5 plant-based West African bites. Discover what is all the rage in the current wine and beverage scene. 

Maybe this event will inspire you to bring cultural information to your students in the form of a kid-friendly pairing event! What better way to learn than through all 5 senses? 

Photo Credit: VisitIthaca

Cayuga Lake Creamery

Visit the Cayuga Lake Creamery’ production room to see how their hand-crafted ice cream is made. Take this opportunity to sample hand-crafted ice cream fresh!

Open Tuesday Through Sunday from 1PM to 8PM, Reservations are required, and you can book through messaging on facebook.com/CayugaLakeCreamery.

Photo Credit: Cornell University

Hangar Theatre

Music teachers and drama club directors will love Hangar Theatre, which nurtures a lifelong love for performing! 

This winter the Kiddstuff series is presenting Little Red Riding Hood and you can catch some concerts as well. When the weather turns warmer, the Mainstage will offer a full season of shows.

The Kitchen Theatre Company has offerings during the winter, wrapping up
“The Ding Dongs” at the start of Ithaca Loves Teachers, with two more shows – “No Child …” and “And I And Silence” – closing the season.

Check the schedule for the Ithaca Loves Teachers event and plan to attend something that tickles your fancy!  

Ithaca Falls is a short, simple walk from the road and it’s beautiful in winter!

Hiking

There are many beautiful state parks and other local outdoor recreation opportunities for those who love to hike. Hiking the gorges is one of the most popular things to do in Ithaca.

Although most of the gorge trails are closed in winter for safety reasons, there are always trails available to explore. Bring a pair of snowshoes with you just in case there is ample snowfall. 

Some of my favorite local state parks include Taughannock, Robert Treman, and Buttermilk Falls. Additionally, outdoorsy folks should register for Visit Ithaca’s free Waterfall Challenge. Meet the Challenge benchmarks and pick up some prizes.

Photo Credit: New York Upstate

Indoor Waterpark

Greek Peak Mountain Resort is also home to an amazing indoor waterpark. Enjoy 84-degree weather all year round at Cascades Water Park.

A wave pool, four slides, interactive play structure, basketball cove, and toddler area offer a full day of fun for the kids. Adults will love the indoor/outdoor hot tub and a beverage from the Edgewater Cafe.

Photo Credit: Kellie Cox

Mural Challenge

Art teachers will love the Mural Challenge! Use the 2021 Ithaca Murals map to create your own Mural Challenge.

Choose from 180 different murals and create your own challenge! Ithaca prides itself on adding color to the community.  

Leave winter break with some creative inspiration and take some photos to share with your students! Even better, design an epic field trip to the closest space in your area with murals. Take a mural walk with your students and create a fun challenge for them! 

Photo Credit: Museum of the Earth

Museum of Earth

Explore earth and its prehistoric past at the Museum of Earth! Calling all science teachers -or dinosaur lovers- to experience hands on features, brilliant fossils, and interactive exhibits!

The museum includes one of the most complete Mastodon skeletons every found, a 44-foot long Right Whale skeleton, and journey 540 million years back in time with a 500-foot mural.

Check out the Sciencenter and let your inner kid come out as you explore and learn

Sciencenter

The Science Center might be designed for children, but I’ll tell you about two full-grown adults who loved every minute of their time there. 

Yeah, you guessed it. It’s us! Spencer and I had an absolute blast exploring the Sciencenter during our last Ithaca stay. From astronomy, to live animals, weather, and sustainability this hands-on museum really has it all. 

Ignite your child’s curiosity for the way things work during the Ithaca Loves Teachers event or bring some new and exciting ideas back to your classroom after a visit to the Sciencenter. This is by far one of the best things to do in Ithaca with children!

Photo Credit: Rasa Spa

Spa Day

Numerous spa and wellness services will be offered at a discount to teachers and their one additional household member. 

Enjoy sugar waxing at Alta Spa, 60 and 90-minute massages at Attuned Life Massage and Wellness, and a discount on all services, plus a free manicure, at Transformations Hair and Body Studio. These offerings and many more will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated after your mid-winter recess! 

Ithaca Loves Teachers wants to send you back to school feeling ready to take on the second half of the school year.

Check out the Commons and the surrounding area for great restaurants and shops

The Commons

Downtown Ithaca Commons is a great place to do some shopping and to grab a bite to eat. The famous Ithaca Commons serves as the city’s cultural and economic center. 

It’s four walkable blocks of restaurants, unique shops, public art, and frequent community festivals. Various shops and restaurants are offering discounts to those registered for the Ithaca Loves Teachers event. 

Search for music and arts, dining options, and a variety of stores at visit Ithaca

Ithaca Loves Teachers, and this teacher loves Ithaca!

What is Ithaca Loves Teachers?

Ithaca Loves Teachers is an annual celebration of educators! It falls perfectly over the mid-winter recess and provides the perfect opportunity for teachers to treat themselves. 

Ithaca Loves Teachers provides lodging offers, food and beverage deals, shopping discounts, and discounted activities to all pre-k through 12 public school teachers and support staff. 

Registration for the event is free. All participants should be prepared to show proof of employment through a school ID badge or equivalent to claim offers. 

Escape to the beautiful gorges or Ithaca, New York

Why Should Teachers Visit Ithaca?

Taking the time to visit Ithaca during your school break will leave you feeling refreshed and inspired. There are so many fun things to do in Ithaca for every type of traveler.

With endless opportunities to have fun, relax, and learn something new, Ithaca is a great place to visit any time of year. 

Repurpose your favorite experiences for your classroom and enhance student learning. Bring something new you’ve learned back with you and share it with your students. 

Ithaca Loves Teachers is a multi-purpose getaway. It’s designed to thank teachers for their dedication to our youth while also helping to inspire creative learning opportunities in their classrooms. 

Take advantage of this opportunity and plan your trip to Ithaca today! 

New York Weekend Getaways

New York is full of absolutely amazing places to get away to for the weekend. I have a soft spot for Ithaca since spent four years close by while earning my bachelors degree, but there are so many other great areas of the state to explore as well.

And honestly, so much more!

 

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