Category Archives: NorthEast Travel

College Town by the Lake

There is no highway that takes you into the quaint little city of Ithaca, NY. Winding country roads with very few gas stations is more the speed of things. Ithaca sits at the bottom of Cayuga Lake, one of the lakes that makes up the wine-laden Finger Lakes region of New York State. It’s home to Ithaca College and Cornell, both a stone’s throw from the downtown area.

I’ve been to Ithaca twice, both times for my son’s swimming events held at Ithaca College. On my last visit, since he was staying with his team, so I chose to book a room at a downtown hotel and enjoy some of this lovely little town we hadn’t really gotten to see before.

We stayed at Canopy by Hilton Ithaca Downtown. It was right in the small central pedestrian shopping area, Ithaca Commons, with restaurants everywhere. Amazingly though, most of the restaurants were quite small and without reservations, it was not easy to find a place to eat late on a Friday night. Note to self and all of you, make reservations. We did manage to find a table at one of the restaurants I had scoped out.

But first, the parking situation. Hotels in downtown Ithaca do not have parking. The hotel did have a little 15-minute drop-off, and pick-up area by the front door with a few spots to drop off your luggage. We missed it so brought our luggage from the garage. There are several public garages that were easy enough to get in and out of. We parked in the Seneca Street Garage just 1 block away. Some hotels had designated floors to park on and some sort of agreement with the garage, but Canopy did not.

We walked across the street from our hotel to Mahogany Grill for dinner and it was lovely. A small cozy upscale Italian restaurant. They had some interesting drink choices and the meal and service were fantastic. I dared to try gnocchi. I grew up with parents from Italy who made gnocchi regularly, and it’s hard to find a suitable substitute for my father’s gnocchi. These were good. Very good. Not my father’s good. But pretty good. Delectable desserts as well. We enjoyed our meal and ran into another swim family. It was early March and very cold so we didn’t linger in the shops, but returned to the hotel and stopped for a nightcap at the bar. It was busy for a hotel bar, nice atmosphere that night.

Rooms at Canopy by Hilton are average size and very comfortable. The sink is open to the entry hallway and then a sliding door encloses the toilet and shower. Even though the room is somewhat compact, there was ample storage. We opted for 2 queen beds because when I booked I wasn’t sure about the team situation and if our son would be staying with us.

The hotel has a large lobby area, small meeting room, full bar, and restaurant which appeared to have good food albeit a small menu.

Saturday afternoon after a morning of swim preliminaries, we had a hearty lunch at Ithaca Ale House. Also right across the street from our hotel. We sat at the bar and it was crowded with people waiting for seats even though this seemed to be the biggest place in town. We luckily found 2 seats available at the bar when we walked in so didn’t have to wait.

Saturday night, the boys wanted pasta to carb load before finals in the morning so we took them to Pasta Vitto. You guessed it, it was right across the street as well, right across from Ithaca Ale House. My impression was this was more of a fast-food-type pasta place, but we ended up eating here with another couple and all the boys from our team, just 5 of them, and it was quite good. A real sit-down Italian restaurant, albeit much more casual than most. Kudos to this restaurant for accomodating a large group of 9 of us on the fly and then adding 2 more. It was packed and people kept coming in and being turned away. We arrived just in time, and snagged the last 3 tables.

Guilderville Boys Varsity Swim Team representing Section 2 at NYSPHSAA Championships

Canopy offered an a la carte breakfast which we ate both mornings. You could do a room package that included breakfast or just pay.

We enjoyed our short but sweet stay in downtown Ithaca and hope to do it again someday soon when the weather is better and we can wander around a bit more and take a drive to the lake and visit some wineries. We do love the Finger Lakes wine region.