5 Days in Downtown Ithaca With No Car and a Newborn Baby

(You May Have Heard Ithaca is Gorges)

In case you missed the message from the Ithaca Visitors’ Bureau, yes, there are a lot of gorges around here, and yes, the area is gorgeous (GET IT?????). It’s also a fairly progressive haven in the middle of right-wing gun country. And it’s also seemingly a magnet for white people with dreadlocks. It feels fairly hippie but not all that gay. But friendly enough that if you are a white gender-nonconforming butch female type and you walk around with a tiny baby in your arms, strangers of all ages and persuasions will smile and squeal “BAYYYYYYBEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!”

Obviously sleeping is going to be your #1 activity, but following are some additional ways to spend your fuzzily-awake time in Ithaca.


Hotel Ithaca

Your basic hotel. Speaking of sleep, expect a firm but soft mattress and really nicely supportive yet squishable pillows. Ahhhhhhhh.

Supportive + squishy pillows.

Also: a small but serviceable fitness center (2 treadmills, a stationary bike, an all-in-one weightlifting structure), free semi-dependable wifi that is good enough for ok but not great video calls, crib for baby, classic fried eats diner downstairs, and the nicest touch: vats of coffee and lemon- and lime-infused ice water in the lobby.

Food & Drink

Gimme! Coffee

Here you will find variations on what you need when you have a small child and little sleep. The Cascadilla location is the original Gimme!; there is not a ton of seating, but it is right next to a small park, and just off the beaten path enough that it feels like you’re taking a walk somewhere.

(Photo: Gimme! Coffee)

Greenstar DeWitt Coop

Tasty hot/cold food bar, locally made dense-as-a-brick-but-way-more-delicious whole grain muffins with a different flavor every day — chocolate chip, carrot, blueberry, cinnamon something — 5 kinds of kombucha on tap (BYOB or buy an empty to reuse), the usual health food packaged goods. Members get a discount, worker members get a deeper discount, non-members get no discount but the prices are still decent. Change a diaper in the seating area and no one will blink an eye.

Cute entrance. (Photo: Greenstar DeWitt Coop)

Hawi Ethiopian Cuisine

RUN, do not walk, for top-notch Ethiopian food. Try the meat combo platter. Or try whatever the chef recommends. This is a really short review because there’s not much to say other than if you don’t eat here you won’t even know enough to hate yourself for missing out. LOVE THYSELF. DO NOT MISS OUT. EAT HERE AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE. THINK OF THE CHILDREN.

(Photo: Hawi)

Mia Restaurant

The tapas are pretty good, not amazing if you’re spoiled on NYC food (hi), but this place shines at beverages. The Cilantro Cocktail with a sea salt and cayenne rim can make you believe in tequila again even if you had a bad date with Jose Cuervo once upon a time (…hi), and the nonalcoholic Road Goes On Forever Endlessly (is that the right name?) will make you want to drink its cucumber tanginess forever.

Diver scallops and tabbouleh with yuzu. (Photo: Mia Restaurant)

Moosewood Restaurant

Yes it’s a landmark, and there are zillions of other reviews, so there isn’t a ton else to say except it’s fresh and good and if you’re vegetarian and come to Ithaca and don’t eat here you might feel like you missed out, if you care about these sorts of things. Wait, two other things to say: vegan chocolate cake, and fresh fruit crumble. Ok the end.

Mushroom Tofu Pecan Burger. (Photo: Moosewood Restaurant)


Autumn Leaves Used Bookstore

Spotted on the $1 rack: 1960s knitting patterns, Roger Bannister’s The Four Minute Mile, circa early 2K home exercise book with baggy pants models. For the love of Pete, take one home!

The puppy-in-residence. No, we’re not kidding.

Crybaby Cinema at Cinemapolis

WOW this place is amazing!! Every Thursday they host 11:20am baby-friendly screenings with the house lights semi-up and the sound semi-down, strollers welcome, $9 admission, playing their regular indie fare (think Herzog & co., so consider whether your child is old enough/aware enough to be traumatized by shoe-eating, bear attacks, and whatnot). The sit-down cafe in front serves popcorn and nice treats. AND there is an all-gender restroom, labeled “all-gender restroom,” with a changing table.


Farmer’s Market (multiple locations)

The DeWitt Park location is tiny but has great produce, plus some cooked on the spot meals from local restaurants. Apparently the Saturday location down by the water is where it’s at.

Did someone say farmer’s market?


Maybe you are glued to the baby and vice-versa but still need a workout BAD? Strap that kid into a carrier and walk uphill (like San Francisco-style uphill) past some gorges to the Cornell campus to admire the combination of Gothic/brutalist architecture and feel your legs burn.

Post-hill workout. Feels good.

Jillian’s Drawers

New and second-hand baby stuff, and a ton of it. Dollar rompers? Yes ma’am! Every kind of baby carrier you can imagine, and classes on how to use them? Go rock some Moby wraps! Also? This place has a community room with a play space for kids (indoor bouncy house and ball pit, various toys/games), AND a quiet area with a changing table and a one-person bathroom, and just a general “kids welcome” vibe that doesn’t really exist most other places. If only every neighborhood in all the land had a Jillian’s Drawers. It would considerably cut down parental panic about “where will Baby blow out this diaper next?” every time you leave the house.

Happy babies = Happy You.

Unsolicited Parenting Advice

Parents love to tell other parents what to do. The below travel advice might be common sense to you already. Skip this if you’re over it.

1) Road-Tripping With Baby. Here’s a lesson learned the hard way: In-car bottle feeding = unable to burp baby/rubbing baby’s tummy not enough = a really freaking long painful sleepless night for all.

2) New Mom Bat-Signal. If you’re worried about feeling isolated, ask your social circle for recommendations in Ithaca/Atlanta/Boise/Fall River/Wherever. You will likely get at least one invitation to hang out with a local parent and kiddo(s). Take the invitation. Even if you have nothing in common but parenting, will be a relief to spend time with someone who gets it when you say things like, “I’m so sleep-deprived that I’m not sure what my face is doing right now.” And you’ll be getting to know the area via a local . . . which is what you’re on Waddle for, right?

Now go have some fun. You deserve it.

List o’ Suggestions

Hotel Ithaca
222 S Cayuga St

Gimme! Coffee
430 N Cayuga St

Greenstar Cooperative Market
215 N Cayuga St

Hawi Ethiopian Cuisine
113 S Cayuga St

Mia Restaurant
130 E State St

Moosewood Restaurant
215 N Cayuga St

Autumn Leaves Used Bookstore
115 E State St

Crybaby Cinema at Cinemapolis
120 E Green St

Jillian’s Drawers
171 E State St


A taco-based life form, my quest is decent east coast carne asada. Blah blah blah, cats, boba, merry-go-rounds, parenting, etc.


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