Amid the Finger Lakes region in New York State lies Corning, America’s crystal city. Corning is well established for the Corning Museum of Glass. While the Corning Museum of Glass is a spectacle in itself, it is not the only reason to visit Corning. Corning has a lot to offer in both its history of glass making and its technological advancements in the field via Corning Incorporated. Yet, Corning is more than just glass.
Things to Do
We spent quite a bit of time in the Gaffer District while in Corning. The Historical Gaffer District is the downtown area of Corning; Its’ pretty tree-lined streets lined with shops, galleries and restaurants. I spent hours meandering down Market Street, popping in and out of the shops. It seemed that every store front in Corning had a story to tell. I paused to appreciate the small details in the facades.
Everyone seems to congregate in Centerway Square by the clock tower. It serves as a great meeting point in the Gaffer District. I enjoyed sitting in the square, people watching and appreciating all the greenery around me.
Corning Museum of Glass
The Corning Museum of Glass is one of my favorite museums I have ever been to. Something about this museum made me feel light and happy. Perhaps it’s the way the sun basks the museum with natural light. Whatever the reason, I have a new-found affection towards this museum. The Corning Museum of Glass should be #1 on your list of things to do while in Corning. (Prices: Adult: $19.50 ; Children (17 and under): Free). (Tip: Allow plenty of time in the Corning Museum of Glass. We were there for about 4 hours but I could have stayed longer).
Stroll through the contemporary exhibits, where the artistry of glass is being re-imagined. Take your time to appreciate the history of glass making in the glass collection galleries. Here you can see the history of glass, dating back 3,500 years.
After checking out the museum, head to a live glass blowing demonstration. Watching the live glass blowing demonstration was amazing! The demonstration made me appreciate glass blowing even more.
For a unique perspective of glass blowing, you can even make your own glass in the studio. You get to choose your project and assist in the creation of it. This was such a fun and interactive way to experience the Corning Museum of Glass. (Prices differentiate depending on your project; range from $9 – $30).
Combine your trip to the Corning Museum of Glass with the Rockwell Museum for a discounted price. (Adult: $27.25 ; Children: Free). Making things even more convenient, a free shuttle brings you back and forth from the two museums every 15 minutes.
The Rockwell Museum is the only Smithsonian affiliate in New York State, outside of New York City. While the Rockwell Museum is small in size, its collection is impressive. The museums features art depicting the American experience. It was interesting to see how different artists depict America; some are realistic depictions, others are greatly romanticized.
I really appreciated the sense of community at the Rockwell Museum. The Rockwell Museum has community activities to promote further education of the arts such as the Alley Art Project. The museum even gave the community a chance to give a name to the Buffalo on the exterior of the building. After a community vote, the name chosen for the Buffalo was Artemus. Artemus stands for “Art is a Must”. The precedent that this name sets is how important art is. The Rockwell Museum goes the extra step to insure that children are learning about art. They even design a scavenger hunt to keep children excited about the museum. (Prices: 55+: $10 ; Adult (18-54): $11 ; Children (17 and under): Free).
The murals in Corning are part of an Alley Art Project through the Rockwell Museum. The Rockwell Museum has partnered with local high school students to create murals inspired by the artwork at the museum. You can even see some of the murals from the upper deck of the Rockwell Museum. I took to the alleys in search for some of the murals. While there are murals scattered around Corning, many are located right in the Gaffer District. The murals added some vibrance to the otherwise drab alley ways.
Between museum hopping and strolling through the Gaffer District, take some time to relax in Centennial Park. Centennial Park, overlooking the Chemung River is a nice place to have a picnic or take a walk. During my short time in Corning, I made quite a few stops at the park.
Little Joe Tower
Little Joe Tower is the symbol of Corning. The tower was originally used to create glass thermometer tubes, using gravity. Hot glass was pulled 196 feet up the tower, then it was cut and cooled to length. Now, however, Little Joe Tower stands as a landmark of Corning. The gaffer illustrated on the side of the tower symbolizes Corning’s glass making status. (Tip: The best views of Little Joe Tower can be found across the pedestrian bridge.)
Where to Eat
Corning is one of those places where the “where to eat” column is as long as the “things to do” column. While there is a lot to do in Corning, a big part of my trip was the food! There are so many amazing places to eat, drink and devour in the Historical Gaffer District. After eating and drinking my way through this small city, I can say that Corning has a great food scene.
Soul Full Cup Coffeehouse
The first thing I searched for when I arrived in Corning was coffee. Coffee tends to be on the top of my list. I first stopped into Market Street Coffee & Tea, the air lingered with the scent of freshly roasted coffee beans. Market Street Coffee & Tea offered freshly brewed self-served coffee. Yet, I was in the mood for a cafe with more variety.
Down Market Street is Soul Full Cup Coffeehouse. The charming name and exterior beckoned me into the cafe. There was a wide array of types and flavors of coffee. I ended up with the iced-chai latte, perfect for the warm Fall day. Soul Full Cup has a cool and cozy atmosphere, perfect for an afternoon hang out spot.
The Source at Factory no. 2
The Source at Factory no. 2 has quite the history. Over the past 45 years it has developed from a natural food shop to a customized gift basket company to what it is today. Today, The Source at Factory no. 2 is a cafe, juice bar and gift shop! The gift shops sells local products from ranging from dog treats to decorations. The Source even makes and sells their own chocolate. After browsing in the gift shop, have a fresh sandwich or smoothie in the airy cafe.
Hand + Foot
The ambiance at Hand + Foot was very hospitable with its cozy corners adorned with velvet furniture, high top tables and exposed brick elements. I loved the community table set up, it made for a very inclusive and cozy atmosphere.
We had a chance to talk with the owner, Dan, who told us a little back story on the restaurant. He told us that the name came from the card game “Hand + Foot” that his family played growing up. The game fostered a sense of community within his family which he wanted to extend to his restaurant.
I appreciated Dan’s passion in the quality of food sold at Hand + Foot. He believes in sourcing the best ingredients, whether they be local or far-flung. The menu is a reflection of the high quality ingredients. Hand + Foot has a seasonal menu that is subject to change. We started off with %*@! me pretzel, the artichoke and tostones. The %*@! me pretzel has local sharp cheddar melted over it and is the perfect comfort meal. I felt that the artichoke was almost too beautiful to eat. And while the tostones has a beige appearance, the flavor packed a punch! The tostones with their chili-garlic aioli was my favorite thing I ate at Hand + Foot. After finishing our appetizers, I was on to the main attraction. I choose the poke with seared ahi tuna and watermelon radish. It was a refreshing entrée after our dense appetizers.
The Cellar is the perfect place for those looking for upscale food without an uptight atmosphere. I was surprised by how causal the atmosphere felt for a place with such a comprehensive menu. With 40 varieties of wine by the glass and over 100 by the bottle, The Cellar is a good spot to stop for tapas and drinks. However, I focused my attention on the food rather than the drinks. Everything was so good that we had no issues clearing our cheese board and calamari appetizer. In addition to our standard cheese, we even tried some vegan cheese. I went for the Day Boat Sea Scallops for my entrée. The scallops came with corn bread and creamed corn which was a unique, home style take on scallops.
Market Street Brewing Company
Great beer and great people can be found at Market Street Brewing Company. Upon entering the brewery, I noticed that Market Street Brewing Company had a combination of both “cool brewery” and “neighborhood hang out” type of vibe.
We got flights to sample the various beers from Market Street Brewing Company. My favorites include the Blackberry Lager and the Wrought Iron Red Ale. The Blackberry Lager is a light beer with notes of blackberry; and the Wrought Iron Red Ale has a full yet smooth flavor. Typically I am not an IPA drinker yet the Wheelhouse IPA was pleasantly surprising. The Wheelhouse IPA didn’t linger on the tongue or have an after taste that I tend to experience with IPAs.
Dippity Do Dahs
After hearing that Dippity Do Dahs sells hand crafted ice-cream, I was sold. We all but ran down Market Street after dinner to make it to Dippity Do Dahs before it closed for the evening. There are so many flavors that narrowing down your selection in no easy feat. Everything looked so good! Aside from the signature flavors, Dippity Do Dahs has specialty flavors that are inspired by the seasons. I had a tough time deciding between a classic or a Fall flavor. Finally, I settled on the Chocolate Explosion.
Where to Stay
Hampton Inn Corning
The Hampton Inn Corning is located 3 miles away from the Historical Gaffer District and close-by all the points of interest in Corning. Due to the its close proximity to the Historical Gaffer District, we were even able to stop at our hotel to freshen up between exploring and dinner.
Come Join My Journey was hosted by Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes, however, my opinions are as always my own.