October 13, 2022

WEIRENS | Ithaca: The Perfect Staycation?

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With half the semester under our belts, another fall break is behind us. In the days leading up to break, hoards of eager students fled campus in droves, filling buses, Ubers and carpools out of Ithaca. Many of these students flocked to nearby New York City, Boston or Toronto for a vacation with friends, while others traveled home, wherever that may be. However, many other students choose to stay behind in Ithaca. Normally, such a decision is sheepishly admitted, with a shrug and sigh. Yet, I believe that staying in Ithaca is massively underrated. It’s an opportunity for remaining students to grow closer, while getting to enjoy and explore Ithaca without the usual rigorous academic pressure. 

Food science major Wendy Bollum ’25 used her extra time in Ithaca to try something entirely new: Canadian Thanksgiving. Canadian Thanksgiving, typically held on the second Monday in October, conveniently occurred during Cornell’s fall break. Canadian students, food science majors and their friends remaining in Ithaca decided to celebrate by cooking and eating a massive feast together, playing the Canadian national anthem and counting their blessings. 

On a different note, other remaining local students got creative and bonded through the popular anonymous messaging platform, Sidechat. Through the sheer momentum of their boredom and ingenuity, a social gathering was planned entirely on the app, generating a turnout in a local apartment complex of about 50 to 60 students. 

For the more low-key evenings, students were relieved to get a full night’s sleep, binge their favorite TV shows, attend office hours, socialize and get caught up on schoolwork. Chemical Engineering student Michael Constant ’25, and his friends used their extra time in the Physical Sciences Building to do something besides study and walked to the rooftop balcony to admire the fall colors, which are incredibly vibrant this time of year. I’ve particularly enjoyed watching the autumn sunsets, which were incredibly vibrant over break, especially from the scenic Libe Slope. 

In terms of tangible places to visit, there’s the classic weekend staples of Ithaca like the farmer’s market and hiking the campus gorges. I would avoid the The Cayuga Mall due to its distinct dreariness and lack of stores, although a Target run to stock up on essentials is always recommended. Sammie Labourne ’25 went guitar shopping and found the perfect one at Ithaca Guitar Works, spending the break practicing her new instrument. There’s also a new restaurant on the commons — no, not the cult, I’m talking about Paris Baguette. Paris Baguette honestly blew me away with its quality and selection of pastries and other snacks. Expecting a homely bakery with a couple types of donuts and croissants, the Paris Baguette in Ithaca is more comparable to popular bakeries I’ve seen in New York City. I’d personally recommend the fruit pastry. 

Even if you don’t have a car, parks like Buttermilk Falls and Robert Treman are worth the Uber splurge if you enjoy hiking, or are a walkable distance if you really enjoy hiking. If you have a car, Taughannock Falls is a beautiful state park to explore, as is Watkins Glen. 

On the way back from Watkins Glen, I’d recommend a detour to the Spotted Duck, an ice cream shop where you can sample a wide selection of homemade ice cream made from duck eggs. For longer day trips, you can explore the neighboring Lake Geneva or tour a vineyard in the Finger Lakes wine country. 

It’s nice to get away from campus and explore the world, but it can also be delightful to stay back and relax without having to worry as much about schoolwork. Although I used to believe that the most vibrant part of Ithaca is the rotation of students that come from around the world to study at Cornell, spending both the summer and several breaks here have led me to believe otherwise. The city itself is a vibrant bastion of personality and culture that I hope all Cornell students can explore and make memories that last for years to come. 

Aurora Weirens is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. The Northern Light runs alternate Thursdays this semester.