Taking young kids to visit a college campus as a part of a fun getaway can get them inspired about learning without any added pressure. With magical gorges and beautiful waterfalls, amidst an Ivy League campus, Ithaca is an ideal destination for such a visit.
With its emphasis on sustainable and artistic culture, Ithaca is the most well known town in the Finger Lakes region. The clock tower overlooking the Arts Quad gives a postcard view of the sprawling Cornell campus and Cayuga Lake, a highlight of any visit to Ithaca.
Cornell University was my home for five long years through graduate school. Being back for a weekend after many years reminded me how inspirational this place can be.
Join our NEW Facebook Community: Making Travel Easier. We promise to always tell you what we would tell our best friend -- what works for kids, what doesn’t and what you need to know before you go to have the Best. Family. Vacation. Ever. Our group of travel experts are ready to answer your travel questions!
If you’re planning a visit to the Finger Lakes it is totally worth setting aside a day to visit Ithaca. Late spring to early fall is the ideal time for a visit when the weather is pleasant and the scenery is at its peak.
Visit Cornell University:
A campus visit will be a motivating and memorable experience for kids as they will be able to visualize their ambitions of being a college student one day. Situated much further from its Ivy League counterparts, the Cornell campus is very spread out.
The juxtaposition of old stone buildings to state of the art new creations symbolizes how Cornell has evolved from one of the oldest institutions in the nation to one of the world’s leaders in nanotechnology.
Walking through campus is like going through a time capsule. You can learn about the university’s contribution to the early advancement of science such as developing the atomic bomb to research in nanotechnology, where studying extremely small things take place today.
If you’re interested in seeing what a nanotechnology center looks like, visit Duffield Hall and walk by the glass windows on the first floor. You can get a peak of the “clean room” where students conduct experiments dressed in special suits covered from head to toe to ensure no dust particles are allowed into the facility.
The main campus buildings are located on a hill overlooking Cayuga Lake with several bridges connecting the campus across scenic gorges. Cornell has several libraries but Uris library which is mostly occupied by undergraduates is my favorite for its beautiful interior design.
Visit Cornell Plantations
Cornell Plantations, the botanical garden and arboretum of the university, is a great space to let kids run about and discover nature. The beautiful flower gardens are ideal for taking photos and identifying plants. We wished that we had budgeted more time to explore this area.
The entrance is free for all but do check the parking and open hours before your visit.
Stop by Collegetown
Collegetown, the main student hangout, is a strip of restaurants, bars and coffee shops. Located at the bottom of the hill from main campus, it spreads through College Avenue and by streets and can be easily explored on foot.
The entrance to Collegetown is signaled by its flagship store, Collegetown Bagels (CTB), the perfect place to grab some coffee. They are well known for their bagel sandwiches with rather unusual combinations of fillings.
Collegetown has a diverse selection of cuisines that reflect the multicultural presence of the Cornell community. Aladdin’s Natural Eatery (Mediterranean food), Souvlaki House (Greek food) and Sangam (Indian buffet) are a few of our long standing favorites.
Head to downtown
Downtown Ithaca is located even further downhill from Collegetown. The city center, thriving with students during season, has families with strollers taking over restaurants, cafes and pubs in the summer.
The pedestrian square flanked by shops and restaurants on either side is a great space for little ones to walk about without any fear of vehicles, while the parents relax on the sidelines.
There are a number of ways to experience Ithaca while keeping the kids entertained. Dropping by the farmer’s market for some fresh fruit or baked goods, visiting the
Sciencenter and playing a game of space themed mini golf, exploring state parks (at Treman, Buttermilk Falls, Taughannock Falls), catching a musical or theater performance (at the State theater, Schwartz Performing Arts Center or Main Stage Theater) are a few of my favorite weekend activities.
If you’re looking of an educational as well as a scenic place to take your kids, do head over to Ithaca. Campus visits maybe the best free way to immerse your kids in the world of academia while traveling. We look forward to bringing our son back for regular visits.