Upstate New York’s university town is a study in stylish hotels that act as base camps for the area’s lakes and mountain trails.
Extending from the southern tip of Cayuga Lake, Ithaca is the largest of Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes towns. It’s home to Cornell University, but there’s much to celebrate beyond its Ivy League credentials. A thriving farmers’ market showcases a wealth of local produce, while the surrounding landscape is dotted with gorges, waterfalls and trails. Whether you’re a foodie or an art lover, in town for a romantic treat or with college kids in tow, we’ve found the right hotel for you.
Local history buffs are sure to fall for this beautifully crafted 19th-century property, designed by Ithaca’s most prominent architect, after whom the inn is named. Its brooding slate spire and ivy-clad, red-brick façade have something of a fairytale quality about them, while inside, much of its original family-home character has been carefully retained and restored. Wake up to a breakfast of warm blueberry pancakes with maple syrup, or choose from numerous downtown eateries, just a few minutes’ walk away.
For those seeking a rather more refined hotel experience, the Statler Hotel is a benchmark. Sitting on the Cornell University campus, it was established in 1950 as an experiment in hotel education and is still the showcase for the School of Hotel Administration. Expect exceptional service from seasoned professionals – who are sharing their craft with aspiring students – as well as access to campus facilities, such as a golf course, a climbing wall and an art museum.
This well-established family-run hotel is set in 70 acres (28ha) of grounds, a few miles out of town – it’s one for explorers of the great outdoors. As it neighbors Buttermilk Falls State Park, keen ramblers can find the start of some of the area’s prettiest gorge trails right on their doorstep. Recuperate post-hike in the hotel’s August Moon Spa, which uses botanicals grown in its gardens, before having dinner at La Tourelle restaurant, where local, seasonal ingredients dictate the menu.
A top pick for art lovers, this boutique hotel boasts one of the finest collections of 20th-century artworks in the area – even including original pieces by famous painters such as Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró. The historic inn itself is a work of art, meticulously restored by local artisans, inside and out. Velvet drapery, vintage wallpaper and French antiques create richly plush chambers; over the winter months, keep toes toasty and ask for a room with heated stone slab floors.
For foodies keen to dip their taste buds into Ithaca’s burgeoning dining scene, the Ithaca Marriott Downtown on the Commons puts you within easy reach of the best of it. The trendy dining hub of Restaurant Row (also known as Aurora Street) is right on your doorstep, offering everything from posh tacos to locavore pub grub. The hotel’s on-site restaurant, Monks on the Commons, also comes highly recommended, with a dining experience it has dubbed “fine-casual” – a more upmarket take on homestyle cooking.
Traveling with kids who get bored easily? The Hope Lake Lodge makes sure they’re artfully distracted with some of the most impressive fun-focused facilities you’ll find in the area. An outdoor adventure park provides forest-based adventures on zip-lines, climbing walls and rope courses. If the weather turns, there’s an indoor waterpark with slides and pools to stave off the sulk. Accommodation is family-friendly, too, with apartment-style suites, complete with kitchens and toasty fireplaces.
Budget-conscious travelers who are not fussed about a surplus of perks should find what they’re looking for at the Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott. It’s set on the edge of town, with easy access to Ithaca’s impressive outdoors; indeed, it backs onto the popular Buttermilk Falls State Park. Rooms are clean and comfortable, and a stay includes a hot breakfast buffet every morning. There’s also a small indoor pool if you fancy a dip.
Perfect for those seeking seclusion amid unspoiled nature, the Quinta Rosa Estate is a quaint, turn-of-the-century inn nestled in a thick forest, yet still just a 10-minute drive from town. The family-run guesthouse is set in pretty gardens with rolling lawns and a babbling brook that runs alongside a working railroad. Feast on a breakfast of freshly baked scones, free-range eggs and locally roasted coffee while watching deer peep out from the pines. It’s all rather idyllic.
If you’re overdue for a romantic getaway, the Inn at Gothic Eves – in the quaint village of Trumansburg – has all the elements for just that. Each of its sumptuous wine-named suites is individually styled, such as the Syrah Suite, with its cathedral ceiling and Alice in Wonderland mirror, or the Riesling Suite, with slate walls and a moonlight effect. De-stress with a hot-stone massage à deux before soaking in a private jacuzzi tub, or during warmer weather, cuddle up in a garden hammock made for two.
Digital detoxers can find the perfect place to power down in this Firelight Camps hotel-style glamping experience. It offers a choice of two luxury safari tents (some with electricity and others without), all with hardwood floors, outside decking and mesh screens to keep the critters out. Sitting on the grounds of La Tourelle, you’re just a short amble from the trails and gorges of Buttermilk Falls State Park. Happy glampers also have access to the hotel’s spa and wellness facilities when it gets a bit too outdoorsy.