A Local’s Midweek Getaway…

Speaking of cool towns and hidden gems, I visited Corning with my family today.  I live in Ithaca and pass by Corning often, but I’ve never actually visited the Corning Museum of Glass or spent much time in the downtown historic district.  A museum showcasing glass may not have seemed like a venture fit for my one and three-year-olds (partly because I assumed “hands-on” to mean non-toddler hands, and mostly because I imagined one of my children bumping into a tall display of casserole dishes) but I am relieved to report that we were all pleasantly surprised at how kid-proof the glass (and how friendly the staff!) was.

We arrived just as the museum opened at 9AM and had most of the place to ourselves to roam at our own pace.  For $6 (for local residents and kids and teens are free!), we spent the morning exploring the galleries and glass demonstrations, watched a woman mold hot glass into the shape of a mouse, and purchased a set of 12 drinking glasses on sale for $9.99 in the museum’s Glass Market.  Fun for everyone!

In search of snacks, we headed to Corning’s historic district and stumbled upon the charming Soul Full Cup on Market Street—a local coffee roaster that has been roasting organic beans and making fancy coffees for nearly 18 years!

My little ones and I settled into big comfy chairs near the window with a banana-nut muffin, a blueberry scone, small milks, and a Mexican Mocha, while we watched the steady stream of locals pop in for a mid-morning cup.  We chatted with the friendly barista and bought a bag of Soul Full Cup House French Roast beans to-go before heading back to the street to stroll the shops.

With Wegmans at one end, the Rockwell Museum at the other, and several hip salons, cute shops, a brewery, patisseries, and parlors in between, all encouraging passers-by to “Shop Local,” I decided I definitely would add Corning to my list of “cool places to recommend.”

By the time I buckled us all in and turned off Market Street, the little ones were fast asleep (and likely would be for a couple of hours!), which inspired my next detour (30 min. away!) to one of Budget Travel’s newly declared “coolest small towns”—Hammondsport, NY, on Keuka Lake.


The description of the tiny town being cradled by gentle hills and a jewel of a lake is as accurate as its supporters claim, and the clever shops, pubs, and well-kept homes that surround the village square have as much charm and character as its history suggests.  Unfortunately, I took in the town by car this time —the drive-by version—not wanting to wake sleeping babes,  but I saw enough to confirm its “cool small town” status and to warrant another trip when my travel mates have some energy to spare.

This leads me to the hour-drive back home to Ithaca—and how I never fail to marvel at the many “hidden gems” along the way.  One of my favorite things to do in the Finger Lakes is to drive between the Finger Lakes—winding and sloping along open roads, past hill-top farms, grazing animals, apple orchards, wineries, small uninhabited lakes, and miles of vines.  It is shocking how much open and natural land still exists as you cruise from one magnificent lake to the next, following a patchwork of tiny and charming towns along the way and adding to your ever-growing list of “cool places to recommend.”

It doesn’t matter if you are a life-long local—in the Finger Lakes every outing feels like a getaway and every new town, a hidden gem.

Blog & Photos: G. Knight

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