Looking for all the best things to do in Corning, NY? I’ve got you covered! After multiple trips to this Crystal City, I think I know a thing or two about what to do.
The first time I ever went to Corning was for a conference back in 2018! My friend and I spent our free time wandering around its downtown and checking out all it had to offer. Since then I’ve been back a handful of times and have enjoyed seeing how it’s changed over the last few years.
When it comes to the Finger Lakes region, I like to think of Corning as sort of the unofficial capital. Like you can’t come here and not at least stop off at the famous Corning Glass of Museum. And if you’re already planning to stop in, you might as well start looking up other things to do in Corning. When you do that, you’ll realize you need a lot longer than a brief afternoon!
Check below for my favorite picks:
Quick Corning Travel Tips
- Getting in: I’ve always driven to Corning. It’s about 4 hours from Philly and NYC. If you fly, the closest airport is in Elmira Corning Regional Airport, and it’s still a 15-minute drive.
- Money Matters: You should be fine with credit cards wherever you are. One or two places might be cash only, so have $20-40 on hand just in case as well as some cash for a hotel tip.
- Where to Stay: Downtown Corning is best so you can leave your car parked and walk most places. I’ve always stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn, which is right by CMoG and just across the bridge from Gaffer District.
- Getting Around: You can walk most places in Corning; but I recommend having a car to visit nearby towns and wineries!
The Best Things to Do in Corning, NY
1. Enjoy all things crysal at the Corning Museum of Glass
As I mentioned in my intro, if there’s one thing you don’t want to miss in Corning or even all of the Finger Lakes region, it’s visiting the beautiful Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG). The city has a long history with glass that goes all the way back to the later 1800s. Its nickname is Crystal City because of its massive glass production and innovative glassmaking techniques. For example, Pyrex was invented here!
Anyway in addition to practical inventions, Corning was home to a ton of glass designers, and CMoG celebrates both components. There are two ways I recommend enjoying the museum:
Wander through the various exhibits
The first is to, of course, enjoy all the exhibits. They’re on the second and third floors and largely have remained the same. My favorite is the 35 Centuries of Glass exhibit where you can see how glassmaking has evolved around the world. I had a cool moment looking at the Venetian display since I’d just been to a glass museum in Murano six months prior to being at this one!
For those of you that love a unique photo moment, I feel like the Contemporary Art + Design exhibit is where most people take photos (myself included). Something about all the white space and colorful glass creations make you want to point and shoot.
Try your hand at glassblowing
The next, of course, is to try your hand at glassblowing. I distinctly remember watching in utter awe as glassblowers at Renaissance Faires expertly made glass roses and vases with what seemed like total ease. I don’t think I’d ever thought of trying it myself!
However, CMoG has a really fun opportunity for anyone to try their hand at glassblowing. Don’t worry – staff is extremely hands on and unless you go rogue, there’s no way to even get close to hurting yourself. While I was there, we made glass pumpkins.
It takes about a day to cool completely, so plan to visit earlier on in your trip if you wan to pick it up in person. Otherwise they offer complimentary shipping.
2. Start your morning with breakfast at a charming Cafe
Ok, so surprisingly there are not a ton of places open for breakfast in Corning. There were two that we really liked, and that’s Poppleton Bakery & Cafe and Soul Full Cup Coffeehouse.
Poppleton has a pretty expansive menu for both breakfast and lunch, and everything is made fresh from scratch. For breakfast, think everything from savory crepes to omelettes to bagels more! Definitely do not skip their baked goods – I got something pumpkin that had the most delicious dollop of cream cheese frosting on top. YUM!
Soul Full Cup is perfect for those that just want really damn good coffee. They’ve taken their roasting and brewing seriously since 1996 and only use ethically-sourced beans. Bonus they’re open as early as 7AM during the week.
3. Check out the views from Bridge Street Bridge
This is especially easy to do if you stay at the Hilton. Walk over Bridge Street Bridge for one of the prettiest views of Corning, especially in the fall when all the foliage is bursting. It’s very short and easy to cross, so don’t skip it!
4. Treat yourself to dinner at a restaurant that doesn’t want you to tip.
You know with how frustrating tipping culture has become in the United States, you’d think more and more restaurants would adjust their prices, pay their staff a living wage, and entice diners with a tip-free experience.
This is why I’m obsessed with The Quincy Exchange. Not only do they not require tipping, they discourage it. There’s no cheeky tip bar at the hostess stand nor is there even a line for tip on the receipt. Staff is paid a living wage with both health benefits and continued educational opportunities.
Now, that’s all great but what makes this restaurant even better is that the atmosphere and the food are top tier. Located in what was once a bank building, the interior balances feeling both spacious and lush. Think white walls and clean lines with a tropical accent wall and elements of green throughout including with its U-shaped bar.
And the food. I still think about my duck breast and the pumpkin soup my friend ordered. The menu changes slightly to reflect the season and all ingredients are homemade and fresh. I promise any photo you see from their website and social media tastes as good as it looks.
And if you can’t stop in for dinner, they offer brunch on Saturdays and Sundays!
5. Stroll around Gaffer District
I’m going to be honest – I’ve looked at a map and been here multiple times, and I couldn’t tell you where exactly Gaffer District’s boundaries are and aren’t. It’s pretty much downtown Corning, and it’s where all the boutiques, restaurants, galleries, cafes, museums and more are. Most top things to do in Corning are in Gaffer District, and the famous spot often used in photographs is known as Centerway Square.
The whole concept of Gaffer District began following the devastating Flood of 1972 when locals got together to restore downtown Corning, and it has been going strong ever since. All in all, they have about 250 businesses in this one walkable area.
I really enjoy just meandering along the streets and popping into all sorts of random businesses. You never know what kind of gems you can find! Also a fun fact: there’s a Tommy Hilfiger store on Market Street because the designer is from nearby Elmira!
6. Explore one of the top museums in the northeast
CMoG is, of course a must-see museum in Corning, but I strongly recommend making time for the gorgeous Rockwell Museum as well. There’s a reason it’s a Smithsonian affiliate!
Located in Old City Hall, the museum began when locals Bob and Hertha Rockwell gifted their large American art collection to the town. Using this initial collection as inspiration, the Rockwell created exhibits answer the question, “What is American art?” They take great care to consciously expand that meaning, and I’ve really enjoyed seeing what new exhibits they feature each time I visit. My favorite has to be Blanket Stories by Marie Watt seen above.
7. Visit the Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes
Ok, ok one more museum, but if you can’t tell, I am a museum fan. And the Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes is an open air museum! Step back in time to see what life was like during the early days of Corning’s existence. The little village includes Benjamin Patterson Inn, Brownown Schoolhouse, Cooley Blacksmih Shop, Wixon Log Cabin, Starr Barn, Joiner’s Shop, a wood shed, and gardens.
If you want to join a tour, they run Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday a noon; just call 607-937-5281 to reserve. Even if you can’t join a tour, you can walk around the grounds a bit and see some of the buildings’ exteriors.
Best Things to do Within 30 Minutes or Less of Corning, NY
8. Get outside
Corning may not be on one of the famous Finger Lakes, but there are no shortage of ways to enjoy the outdoors. For those looking to get a run or walk in, Spencer Crest Nature Center is part of SUNY Corning Community College and has over 7 miles of trails. Plus, there’s a nice trail you can walk along the Chemung River on CMoG’s side.
9. Pop over to the Painted Post Depot and Museum
Technically part of the Heritage Village, the Painted Post Depot is actually a bit out of town. It’s a nice little museum that talks about the Village of Painted Post and Town of Erwin, and if you’re lucky you’ll catch a small Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.
10. Walk through the magical Watkins Glen
One of my favorite places in the Finger Lakes, Watkins Glen State Park is absolutely is stunning. Walk along the gorge trail to see all sorts of waterfalls and lush scenery. It’s especially stunning in the fall with all the colors changing and leaves falling.
The town of Watkins Glen is also very cute, so after you’ve walked through, stick around for breakfast or lunch. You can also use this is a base to explore the wineries around Seneca Lake.
11. Check out the very underrated Bath
About 30 minutes from Corning, we stopped in Bath on our way out of the Finger Lakes to get a nice greasy spoon breakfast from Chat-A-Whyle and to check out the town a bit. While it has definitely seen more bustling days, I still found the downtown area quite charming. Be sure to stop into Betty Kay Bakeshop for some treats, and if you can, check out the interior of First Presbyterian Church. It’s one of the few churches in the country that has a Tiffany Glass sanctuary!
It’s also home to the Steuben County Fair, which is the longest continually running fair the United States, so if you want to visit, make sure to time your visit for mid-August.
12. Pop over to Elmira
Only about 20 minutes from Corning, Elmira is an up and coming town with one very famous connection – the one and only Mark Twain. He married Elmira local, Olivia Langdon, and they spent their marriage summering at Quarry Farm, which is now the Center for Mark Twain Studies. You can see a statue of Olivia at Elmira College and visit their graves at Woodlawn Cemetery.
Some other things on my list to do are to check out the Art Walk and Arnot Art Museum. I also really love the food at Rye Restaurant.
13. Hammondsport (~30 min)
If you’re visiting Corning, you absolutely have to make sure you get over to Hammondsport. The town itself is right on Keuka Lake, so you can take out kayaks or go for a swim if it’s warm. There are a bunch of cute eateries and, of course, you’re close to a ton of great wineries around the lake itself.
Seasonal Things to Do in Corning
14. Run at the Wineglass Marathon
Every year, Corning puts on the Wineglass Marathon and I can say I’m running the half in this year! You can choose between the marathon, half marathon, 8K, or 5K, or just come to cheer on the runners. I’m excited for the medal, which friends have told me is one of the prettiest.
15. Come for GlassFest
Glassfest is how Corning kicks off the summer. Usually in late May, it’s a 3-day weekend event that celebrates all things Corning and glass with art vendors, live music, glass exhibits, and more. You can also expect a fireworks show on Saturday night of the event. I haven’t been to the Finger Lakes in May, so I’m marking this for a future visit.
16. Enjoy the Days of Incandescence
Occurring towards the end of October, The Days of Incandescence celebrates Corning’s role in the creation of the light bulb. You see, back in the day, the Thomas Edison reached out to Corning Flint Glass Works to help create a light bulb for his newly patented incandescent lamp. Not only did the glass need to be heat resistant, the bulb shape had to be blown by hand into a specific shape that could not use a mold.
The weekend celebrations also incorporate some spookier elements given its proximity to Halloween. During your visit, you can go on actor-guided walking tours, cemetery tours, and something called Archibald’s Libations Crawl.
In general, it sounds like a lot of fun and focuses on taking guests back to the 1880s.
17. Celebrate Pride
Thanks to the fairly new Souther Finger Lakes Pride (SoFLX Pride), there’s a growing amount of LGBTQIA+ activities all through the year with the biggest event being its Pride Festival in June! The most recent festival had all sorts of vendors, a 21+ Garden, live performances, an LGBQ+ History walking tour, drag sets, and more. Keep an eye on their Instagram page for any and all upcoming events.
And there you have it – all the best things to do in Corning, NY! I can’t wait to go up again and add even more to this list. Let me know if I’m missing anything below.
For even more New York travel, read these posts next:
- Owego Travel Guide: A Southern Gateway to the Finger Lakes
- Is Niagara Falls Worth Visiting in the Winter?
- Belleayre Skiing: What to Expect, Where to Stay, and More
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