Last week, one of the yahoo stories of the day (those fluff pieces that scroll across the screen on the homepage) was entitled “10 Great All-American Roadtrips”. I’m a big fan of roadtrips, but am consitently dissapointed that on the majority of these lists, most of the roadtrips take place either out west or down south. I was pleasantly suprised to find that the #7 spot on this illustrious list was the Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway in the Finger Lake region of New York.
The Lake Cayuga Scenic byway is an 87 mile road that encircles the second largest of the Finger Lakes. The Finger Lakes region is a pretty cool area and visually a gorgeous place. I’ve been to the town of Ithaca several times, and driven portions of this highway on my way home from Rochester, and on a mother’s day trip to Taughannock Falls State Park a couple of years ago. Each time , Itold myself I’d try to make a day or weekend trip back. This article might just be the push I needed.
This scenic drive is appealing because it is something feasible, for those of us who live in the northern tiers of Pennsylvania, to accomplish in a day for a relatively low cost. Lake Cayuga is about an hour and a half from Scranton, and is a frequent bus trip destination to visit the many wineries, distilleries, and breweries that dot the area. For those of you living in southern PA, it would make a quick, cheap, and easy weekend of overnight stay.
Ithaca, New York is on the southern tip of Lake Cayuga and anyone traversing the highway willstart and end here.
Ithaca is part hippie, part college town. Driving in to Ithaca from the south, Ithaca University sits on a hill overlooking the town. Across the valley and to the northeast, Cornell sits atop another ridge. The downtown, with all it’s artsy influences, sits between the two colleges, bordering the lake shore.
Besides for its institutes of higher learning, Ithaca is known for its “Ithaca is Gorges” catchphrase. Small streams, gorges, and waterfalls cascade down the mountainous New York landscape and into the lake.
Now, there’s alot to do in Ithaca, but for this post, we’re focusing on the drive. It’s your main event. Here, however, are some links I found interesting, and that I would consider as pre-drive stops. If you want to make Ithaca an overnight stay, check out the link above for the Visiting Ithaca website, which is very helpful.
- The Ithaca Brewery is one of Ithaca’s microbrewery that brews its own beers and soda.
- Puddle Dockers, located on the lake rents kayaks, canoes, and stand up paddle boards. $22.00 for two hours in not bad at all.
- www.downtownithaca.com is the resource for those of you who want to explore the restaraunt and shops the downtown has to offer.
- If you feel like letting someone else do the driving, and don’t mind trading in some scenery for some vino, check out the Cayuga Wine Trail.
- If I actually opened my eyes and enjoyed the scenery whenever I skydived, Lake Cayuga would be one of my top picks. Unfortunately when heights are involved, I’m a pansy. This is actually located in Ovid NY, which is about forty minutes north of Ithaca, but since I found it on the town’s website, I’m including it here.
- Check out the Ithaca website for the many bars and restaraunts Ithaca has to offer. If I were to make stop somewhere, I’d either go with somewhere with a lake view, or to Pete’s Cayuga Bar, only because the review mentioned it was NOT the place to impress a first date. Right up my alley.
- Buttermilk State Park is 7 miles south of Ithaca. If you’re coming up from Pennsylvania, you should pass right by it. Buttermilk State Park is unique because it has several waterfalls that feed a pond which is set up as a sort of old fashioned swimming hole.
Stops on Your Drive:
The Cayuga Scenic Byway is mostly known for the scenery, the lake, wineries, and antiquing. Now, I have little to no interest in antiquing, and there are too many wineries for me to list everyone. I also got excited about this drive because it could be a very affordable day. I’m keeping my stops to a select few State Parks and one of the three lighthouses that dot the shore.
Taughannock Falls State Park is only a few miles northwest of Ithaca. The park has a $7.00 per car entrance fee and boasts a beach on the lake, hiking trails, kayak and canoe rentals, and both cottages and camping if you wish to stay over night ($47.00 for a cottage, and only $15 to camp). The park’s crown jewel is the Taughannock Falls. Although no where near as wide, the falls are 33 feet higher than Niagra Falls, and are pretty spectacular.
I hiked to the falls years ago and you can either choose to walk up the river bed (it was mostly dry when we were there) or along the rim of the gorge (we did both). While I’m not sure if it’s technically allowed, several parties of people were swimming and showering in the fall pool.
- Long Point Park is on the eastern shore of the lake, somewhat across from the falls. This park also has a $7.00 parking fee and offers camping and beaching.
- Myers Point Lighthouse: Lake Cayuga has three lighthouses, but after doing some research via google image, only the Myers Point Lighthouse is worthy of a visit (the other two look like glorified powerpoles). It’s located in a small town park in the lakeside town of Lansing, also located on the lake’s west shore.
I would look up more sights to see, but part of the fun of a roadtrip is discovering things along the way.
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