For all of the traveling I’ve done so far, I have done very little of it in my own backyard. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook the things that are right in front of you, but I have been trying to make myself more conscious of that. Ithaca, located in Central New York, is known for its colleges, gorges, and waterfalls. The bustling city has been piquing my interest for some time now, and it just so happens that my friend Lex currently lives there—which gave me the perfect excuse to hit the road!
Over the past weekend, my friend Dana and I were able to catch up with Lex during a very brief visit upstate. The three of us have tried to plan a weekend away together for at least two years, but one thing or another kept getting in our way. So although we only spent one full day in Ithaca, those twenty-five hours were nothing short of a small miracle for us. When I climbed into Dana’s car on Friday afternoon, the first thing we discussed was which snacks we’d brought along for the ride, so I knew it’d be a good road trip. While we were both familiar with parts of the long drive, we still found ourselves in awe of just how beautiful New York was.
Once we arrived in Ithaca, we ventured downtown for the Ithaca Festival Parade. I was surprised at how large and diverse the parade was, but my favorite part had to be all of the dogs who marched alongside their humans. (Yes, obviously I cried at every single puppy I saw. They had shirts!) From there, we walked through the Ithaca Commons and enjoyed a fresh Mexican dinner at Viva! Taqueria and Cantina. As a vegetarian, I know that Mexican food is usually a safe bet when I go out to eat, and one of my favorites, but I was surprised to see so many vegetarian and vegan options on the menu! We were also lucky enough to spot the tiniest Golden Retriever puppies as we drank frozen margaritas on the restaurant sidewalk and I could not have been happier.
On Saturday morning, the sun was shining and the air was crisp. We drove through Cornell University’s campus and stopped by Collegetown Bagels for breakfast. I was a happy camper as soon as I got my coffee (a delicious iced cold brew), and even happier after I took my first bite of the 5K wrap (crunchy peanut butter, granola, apples, and raspberry jalapeño jam). Again, there were so many vegetarian and vegan options on the menu. Way to go, Ithaca! And then we saw a huge, fluffy white puppy and I pretty much died.
We met up with Lex’s boyfriend after breakfast and the four of us headed to Buttermilk Falls State Park, named for the frothy appearance of the churning waters: “Here cleft by a mountain torrent, that comes pouring over the sharp rocks of its bed in a mass of thick, frothy foam, that evidently suggested to the unaesthetic and domestic countryman the name of Buttermilk Falls.” One of the things I had most looked forward to doing in Ithaca was seeing the waterfalls, and Buttermilk did not disappoint. As we hiked along the Gorge and Rim trails, I stopped every three minutes to gush over the gorgeous scenery (and try to catch my breath).
In the afternoon, we squeezed in a visit to the Ithaca Festival, which celebrates Ithaca’s rich musical, artistic, and creative culture. The festival reminded us of the street fair we’ve frequented for years in the quirky, riverfront town near our childhood homes. I’ve always found such joy in seeing pieces of home everywhere I travel. Sometimes the world is so much smaller than we think. (The food truck bruschetta mac and cheese didn’t hurt either.) Post-hike and post-walk-around-town, we were ready for a nap. On our way back to the apartment, we visited Purity Ice Cream for a cool treat that may have doubled as dinner. Oops! Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever had a bigger single scoop of ice cream in my life though—and I’ve eaten a lot of ice cream.
After a quick nap and a recap of the previous week’s episode of The Bachelorette, Dana and I packed up the car and said our goodbyes. By the time we got on the road, we had clocked a mere twenty-five hours in Ithaca. I had initially been pretty bummed that we were only going to get one day out of our “weekend” trip, but we squeezed in as much as we could and really made the most of our time, both with each other and exploring the area. You don’t need a lot of time or money to make good memories; you just need a couple of good friends (and some good food).