With over 100 wineries, the Finger Lakes are well-known as the largest wine producing region of New York and at the southern tip of Cayuga Lake you'll find Ithaca, founded in 1790. Growing up closeby, my mom and I spent a lot of time summering at the cottage in nearby Keuka Lake. But, it's been a while and I'm back!
Now feed my ego and tell me how cute I was. Ok, thanks!
Once arriving in town, I didn't want to waste any time, so obviously I set my priorities straight and headed to the nearest winery. Six Mile Creek Vineyard is located just outside the city limits on Slaterville Road.
I was happily greeted by Holly, the tasting room manager, where I immediately fell in love with the expansive views of the surrounding vineyard and valley.
Six Mile Creek Vineyard in Ithaca, New York
Holly was quite the wine connoisseur and the tasting menu had a diverse amount of unique selections—which was awesome when coupled with her descriptive recommendations. I opted for their riesling (a Finger Lakes favorite), vignoles, cabernet franc, pinot noir, Ithaca blush, Ithaca red, amore and lastly—a swig of their gin. Although I was a fan of all of them, I ended up buying a bottle of refreshing vignoles (a hybrid wine grape), since I thought it would be perfect to pop the cork when the soon-to-be spring temps hit 70°. Very soon, right?
Working up an appetite from all of the intense lifting and swigging, I was long overdue for lunch and rushed over to an Ithaca landmark known for its exquisitely prepared farm-to-table cuisine—the Heights Restaurant.
Following in the tracks of my recent Four Seasons Hotel visit, I went skin-on with line-caught, local lake trout over a golden beet (I just can't get enough of my beets) and radish salad, splashed with lemon vinaigrette. Satisfyingly large and delicious, it sure hit the spot and I was ready to conquer the rest of the day.
Ithaca may be well-known for Cayuga Lake and the surrounding wineries, but it's also home to Cornell, a prestigious Ivy League university, founded in 1865 by Andrew Dickson White and Ezra Cornell.
Perched high atop East Hill, the sprawling historic campus overlooks Cayuga Lake, Ithaca and beyond. Luckily, so did my room at The Statler Hotel, a luxurious 4-diamond hotel operated by the Cornell School of Hotel Administration.
Graciously greeted by the affable valet and concierge, I made my way to the front desk to check-in, then taking the elevator up to my tower view guest room located on the very top floor, which afforded stunning panoramic views. See?
The School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University was founded in 1922 as the world's first of its kind devoted to the hospitality field—aka you're in good hands.
The Statler hotel company was founded by E.M. Statler in Buffalo, New York—whom built many iconic hotels you'll still see in operation today—such as the circa 1927 Boston Park Plaza. After his death, provisions in Statler's will allowed this unique Ithaca hotel to be operated as an experiment in hotel education.
Conrad Hilton called it "The greatest hotel school in the world."
It's easy to see why, check out these local Ithaca goodies waiting in my room! Ginger beer is my absolute favorite. Give me some Don Julio and you have yourself a perfect Mexican Mule.
I won't lie, I devoured the Emmy's organic cookies fast and furiously. I love that toasted coconut taste.
Since I was all checked-in, it was time to explore around town. Although rain was in the forecast, I ended up walking down to Ithaca Commons. Making my way down the epic calf-tightening hills, I passed through Cascadilla Gorge to Ithaca Falls below. Unfortunately, the gorge trails were still closed for the season. Nonetheless, I was able to get this close-up!
Ithaca Falls in Ithaca, New York
Located in the center of downtown, Ithaca Commons is a 3-block pedestrian mall filled with restaurants, locally-owned boutiques and art galleries. The eclectic street also plays host to a multitude of annual events such as "Taste of Ithaca" and "Summer Concert Series."
I took some shots of my favorite architectural landmarks.
Built in 1910, Ithaca Town Hall was originally a United States Post Office and the historic Clinton Hall was constructed nearly 200 years ago back in 1847.
I headed back up hill through Collegetown to check out Sage Chapel. Opened in 1875, it's the final resting place of Cornell's founders, Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White.
The interior is full of a rich and detailed history with many of the artistic renderings representing numerous themes. I was lucky to catch a glimpse of an organ lesson being given to a student.
Sage Chapel is only a stone's throw from the hotel, so I made my way back to the room to get ready before heading out for dinner at H Bar over in Cayuga Heights.
I started off by ordering the "Rhapsody in Red" cocktail—a concoction of tequila, tea, lime, agave and fresh, muddled berries. Absolutely delish, I perused the menu and indulged on watermelon hummus, while enjoying conversation with Amy—the friendly and talented mixologist.
With so many unique interpretations on the menu, I ultimately decided on their "Roasted Sea Scallops."
The visually stunning dish was prepared with parsnip purée, asparagus, wasabi peas, heirloom tomatoes, crispy speck, lemon aioli, anise gastrique and that one deciding factor that makes even the most savory of dishes taste even better: thick-cut, juicy bacon.
The Heights Restaurant and H Bar opened over 2 decades ago alongside renowned Culinary Institute of America graduate, James Larounis, who has even graced the Food Network's "Rewrapped."
Thoroughly convinced by Amy to get dessert, I chose the Height's "Citrus Crème Brûlée." Prepared with decadent torched pear, French custard and crème Chantilly—I left feeling full and anxious to return for more. Click here to make a reservation.
After stopping in for a couple nightcaps at the Regent Lounge—just off the lobby of The Statler Hotel, I headed up to my room only to be greeted by this breathtaking evening view.
The following morning before check-out, I was determined on getting up early enough to climb the 160+ steps to the top of McGraw Tower and hearing the Cornell Chimemasters work their magic. Perhaps it was embedded in my mind, since the tower was always gazing right back at me from my bed.
First, with 5 minutes to spare before they rang, I took in the view from each angle at the top of the clock tower. I knew no matter what that the gigantic bell hovering over me was going to make me jump—as much as I tried to prepare for it. And then just like clockwork, I jumped.
The Cornell Chimes at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York
On my way back to the hotel, I toured the grounds of the A.D. White House. The mansion was built during 1871 in the Second Empire-style, for Andrew Dickson White, the co-founder and 1st president of Cornell University. It's richly decorated with stone carvings according to White's tastes, intended to remind students of men's accomplishments, to inspire them to higher purpose and an appreciation of beauty. I'd say it does a good job of that.
After that nice little morning excursion, I returned to my room and was delighted to be welcomed by one of my favorite morning activities: room service.
And that view! Ithaca sure is gorges.
The scrumptious room service breakfast from The Statler Hotel's Taverna Banfi consisted of Banfi's Benedict, complete with poached eggs, prosciutto, asparagus, pesto hollandaise over focaccia and rustic home fries, plus fresh berries and melon galore, a side of bacon of course–all this topped off with a nutritious green smoothie made with kale, parsley, spinach, pineapple, yogurt, banana, honey and orange juice.
I can't wait to head back to Ithaca this summer (bringing back the newest addition to our family!), hike the gorges in their entirety and dive right into Cayuga Lake!