Picturesque Ithaca is piled like a diminutive San Francisco above Cayuga Lake and culminates in the towers, sweeping lawns, and shaded parks of Ivy-League Cornell University. On campus, which is cut by striking gorges, creeks, and lakes, the sleek, I.M. Pei– designed Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art (Tues– Sun 10am–5pm; free; Tel:607/255-6464, Web: www.museum.cornell.edu ), across the street from the gorge-straddling suspension bridge, merits a visit more for its fifth-floor view of the town and lake than for the moderate collection of Asian and contemporary art. Adjacent to campus lie the Cornell Plantations (daily: dawn to dusk; free; Tel:607/255-2400, Web: www.plantations.cornell.edu ), the extensive botanical gardens and arboretum run by the university.
The pick of the countless waterfalls within a few miles of town are the slender Taughannock Falls, ten miles north of town just off Hwy-89 and with swimming beach; they are taller than Niagara at a height of 215ft. Buttermilk Falls State Park, two miles south of town on Rte-13, is a delightful spot, and the dangerous-looking Lucifer Falls, at lush Robert H. Treman State Park, three miles further south, should not be missed. Parking is $7 for the day, which covers all three parks. Cayuga Lake provides excellent boating and windsurfing opportunities; boards and boats can be rented from several places, including Cayuga Boat Rentals (Tel:607/277-5072), in Cass Park, off Hwy-89.