What to Do in the Finger Lakes: Corning’s Museums and Main Streets
The Finger Lakes’ Corning is a cultural haven in a lovely locale . Image by Kayti Burt.
The Finger Lakes region of New York is a picturesque cultural haven only a drive away from many of the Northeast’s major metropolitan areas. Last month I was lucky enough to spend three days in the region. This is the first in a three-part series exploring the many offerings of this lovely locale.
As a history nerd and frequent museum-goer, I focused my time in the Finger Lakes on its rich cultural traditions — from wine-making to glass-blowing to the region’s importance to great American author Mark Twain. Here is everything you need to know to make a trip to the fabulous Corning, New York — a place where glass-making is a way of life and history is never forgotten.
Get a (Fun) Education in Corning, New York
Corning Museum of Glass
Corning is home to the world-renowned Corning Museum of Glass, a not-for-profit institution founded in 1951 by Corning Incorporated. The museum tells the story of the 3,500-year history of glass, weaving together science, technology, art, craft, and design to tell a narrative that continues with the museum’s live glass-making demonstrations, offerings of glass-making class, and artists-in-residency.
I had the chance to make my own glass flower (with some generous help from a designated Make Your Own Glass worker), an exercise that made me appreciate even more the intense artistry and craftsmanship that went into the creation of the museum’s many pieces. Chihuly’s “Fern Green Tower,” located in the foyer of the Corning Museum of Glass. Image by Kayti Burt.
On the day I was visiting, some of the museum’s glassblowers — or gaffers — were in the process of fusing glass and metal together for the first time ever. Visitors to the museum were able to watch this labor-intensive, collaborative process in the larger of the museum’s two glass-making demonstration rooms.
The new 100,000-square-foot Contemporary Art + Design Wing includes a 26,000-square-foot gallery to display works from 1990 to the present. The 5 galleries feature 117 works from the museum’s permanent collection, but the space itself is a work of art in its own right. The massive, white, cloud-like curving walls serve as the support system for the skylights that are the entirety of the galleries’ roofs.
Image by Kayti Burt.
I am a bit of a museum geek. I’ve been to museums across the world — from London’s British Museum to Florence’s Uffizi Gallery to New York’s Met. This is one of the most well-designed, expansive, engaging museums I have ever been to. Even if it wasn’t surrounded by a beautiful region, it would still be worth traveling for.
“Continuous Mile” by Liza Lou is composed of 4.5 million black glass beads woven into a mile-long rope. Image by Kayti Burt.
Cost: An adult ticket is $18 (good for 2 consecutive days); children 17 and under are free. Check the website for more information about admission hours and ticket discounts.
Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes
If you prefer your museums quirkier, check out the Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes. It features multiple buildings: the Benjamin Patterson Inn (1796), Wixon Road Log House ( circa 1855), the Browntown Schoolhouse (circa 1878), the Starr Barn, and the Cooley Blacksmith Shop (circa 1870).
The Benjamin Patterson Inn’s guest quarters, where visitors could rest their weary heads. Inn rule: Only five allowed to a bed. Image by Kayti Burt.
The village is a tribute to early American life, with a special focus on the region’s history. In addition to hour-long tours of the grounds, the village offers workshops in blacksmithing, home hearth cooking, and other era-appropriate practices.
Image by Kayti Burt.
Cost: An adult ticket is $6; a family of 2 adults and 2 children is $14. Check the website for more information about admission hours and ticket discounts.
The Rockwell Museum
The Rockwell Museum, located in Corning’s old, gorgeous City Hall, dedicates itself to American art and the tradition of “the Western frontier.” Though the museum is best known for its contextualization of the great migration West (in all its complicated wonder and horror), its collections extends well beyond that.
The third floor of the Rockwell Museum focuses on “The American West: People, Places, and Ideas.” Image by Kayti Burt.
For example, The Rockwell currently has a series of Andy Warhol prints on display, as well as a special exhibit on Civil War photography. The institution places a special emphasis on education, hoping to fill the arts curriculum gap for New York school children. Kids who visit the museum can hang out in the Family Exploration Studio and anyone 17 or under can visit the museum for free.
Deborah Butterfield’s “Untitled,” one of many pieces on display from female artists at The Rockwell Museum of Art. Image by Kayti Burt.
Cost: An adult ticket is $10; children 17 and under are free. Check the website for more information about admission hours and ticket discounts.
Get Some Rest in Corning, New York
Radisson Corning, my home away from home in Corning, NY. Image by Kayti Burt.
While in Corning, I stayed at the lovely Radisson Corning. The hotel was quiet and comfortable (two of my favorite attributes in hotels), with great wifi, an in-house restaurant, and a central location. This could have been the 5.5-hour drive to New York talking, but I also cannot say enough about the Radisson’s shower water pressure. Water pressure is highly underrated.
Eat (and Drink Coffee) in Corning, New York
Market Street Corning’s picturesque main road, Market Street. Image by Kayti Burt.
Corning’s main thoroughfare, Market Street, is far cooler than it has any right to be for a city of just 11,000 residents. Filled with artsy boutiques, restaurants, and even a cupcake shop, Market Street is a relaxing place to shop or grab a bite to eat before or after spending time in the city’s many museums.
Image by Kayti Burt.
Old World Café
Old World Café on Market Street offers coffee, lunch, and — most importantly — ice cream. Image by Kayti Burt.
While spending some time on Market Street, I stopped inside Old World Café for a quick bite to eat. The deli and dessert shop has an old-school vibe to it, complete with candy counter, floral wallpaper, and a selection of ice cream floats. This vegetarian was also able to choose from a selection of soups and sandwiches from the deli. My veggie layer sandwich was only marginally defeated in deliciousness by one of the café’s famous brownies.
Any restaurant with an item called “Butterbeer” on its menu will always steal my Harry Potter-loving heart. Image by Kayti Burt.
Soul Full Cup
For me, no travel guide is complete without several coffee options. If you’re jonesing for a more traditional coffee shop, check out Soul Full Cup(also on Market Street). In addition to its selection of coffees (and offerings of both soy and almond milk), the café also has plenty of books and some comfy sofas to sink into when you need a break from tourist mode.
Soul Full Cup is the perfect place to spend an hour or two reflecting. Image by Kayti Burt.
Have you ever been to Corning? What did you like best?