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Our trip through the Finger Lakes took us through the city of Ithaca, home of Cornell University. When researching our route I had stumbled upon a place called Gourdlandia, some 3 miles west of Ithaca. When I looked into what this was all about I decided it was just the quirky sort of place we like to explore on our travels. So, whilst it wasn’t exactly on our planned path it was close enough to fit our travel plans for the day.

Despite being only a few miles from Ithica we found ourselves in rural upstate New York and even with the GPS is was a little challenging to find the turning for Rachel Carson Way. The first part of the road is unpaved so we thought we had gone the wrong way, but after a couple of hundred yards, we arrived at Gourdlandia. It was a small, unassuming cabin-like building so we were not quite sure what to expect when we walked through the front door. We were amazed. There was a little shop area with a fantastic range of things for sale, from bowls to lamps to decorations, all made from gourds. Some of the carving in the gourds for sale was exquisite. Who knew that gourds could be used to make so many beautiful things! 

Wandered through the store and ended up in the workshop at the back where a couple of families with young children were busily carving gourds. As we stood there a lady introduced herself and the artist and owner of Gourdlandia (which she runs with her hubby). This was Graham Ottoson (yes a lady called Graham!), a former midwife turned gourd artist. It was fascinating to talk to her about her art and about the gourds, which she grows in her own back garden. You occasionally get to meet people with great, infectious energy and she was one such person – a beautiful character with a wonderful sense of fun and humour. 

We could have probably spent the whole day talking to Graham but we had to move on, but before leaving we headed out into the yard to see the gourds growing. Some of these gourds are big, not necessarily the diameter of the base, but the length of the tendrils, which can reach 6-feet long. Her whole garden is dedicated to growing gourds of one variety or another. Once fully grown the gourds are harvested and put aside to dry for many months.

Spending some time at Gourdlandia was a total joy and we loved the gourd art and Graham Ottoson. If you are in the Ithaca area we recommend you take a small part of your time there to make a visit to Gourdlandia.

Some of the carved bowls and decorations at Gourdlandia
The gourd lamps were amazing with delicate carved ' shades'
The gourd lamps were amazing with delicate carved ' shades

Planning your visit to Gourdlandia

Address:77 Rachel Carson Way, Ithaca, NY 14850
Website:https://www.gourdlandia.com/
Telephone:T: (607) 277-0589​
Hours:

Opening hours depend on the time of the year. Check the calendar for the current hours. https://www.gourdlandia.com/calendar

Admission FeesNo charge

Best time to visit Finger Lakes

The best time to visit the Finger Lakes region is from May to September, when there are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the area’s outdoor pursuits. Expect higher accommodation rates in the peak months of June to August and longer lines at attractions and wineries.

Other places to visit near Taughannock State Park

1. CORNING MUSEUM OF GLASS

Corning is well known for its manufacture of glass. It is not all boring stuff as a trip to the Museum of Glass will show you. There is a marvellous collection of art exhibitions ranging from avant-garde to very traditional artwork.
 
There are also displays and exhibitions of glass-making which are really interesting.
 
The museum is pretty large so you can easily spend several hours looking around. If you are interested in glassware you could spend the whole day here!

2. WATKINS GLEN STATE PARK

Known for its natural beauty, the Watkins Glen State Park features a series of waterfalls and gorges that are sure to amaze anyone. An almost two-mile hike will take you past 19 waterfalls and up over 800 stone steps.

There are a number of small trails leading off of the Gorge Trail, giving way to a number of other outdoor activities close by the main trail. There are tent and trailer campsites, swimming pools, picnic facilities as well as guided tours of the local topography.

Leashed dogs are allowed on the outer rim trails but not on the Gorge Trail.

The entrance to the park is right on Main Street in Watkins Glen. You are never far from the conveniences of a town while being able to get away to the wonders that are the gorges and waterfalls of Watkins Glen State Park.

3. TAUGHANNOCK FALLS

The core of this interesting and diverse collection was gifted by Bob and Hertha Rockwell, local business owners who amassed an incredible collection of American art and artefacts. 

The Rockwells had keen eyes for art and exquisite taste.  They owned a department store in the area and used their store as a venue to display their remarkable collection of American art and artefacts, Carder Steuben glass, classic firearms, and antique toys.

Their collection quickly outgrew their department store.  In 1974, the Rockwells and a group of executives from Corning Glass Works (now Corning Incorporated) began working together to turn the collection into a museum for the benefit of the Corning, NY community. The Rockwells would donate their collection, and the company and the community would support the museum moving forward.

Where to stay near Gourdlandia

1. THE INN AT TAUGHANNOCK FALLS

Upscale accommodation: 
 
This boutique inn was originally built in the Victorian era by the Jones Family as their private residence. The property encompassed what is now Taughannock Falls State Park, which was later sold to New York State. When the Jones sold the property it was turned into an Inn which has expanded under the last three owners.
 
The Inn is centred around historic the original house. There are four other buildings, most units have views of Cayuga lake, some with private balconies.
 
The Inn has a restaurant and extensive grounds. There is also a trail that leads to Gorge Trail.

2. WILLIAM HENRY MILLER INN

Mid-Range accommodation:

The William Henry Miller Inn is located right in the heart of downtown Ithaca. The Inn is within walking distance of as many as fifty restaurants. Cornell University, Ithaca College and intriguing shops are right around the corner. The breathtaking Cascadilla Gorge is a block and a half away and a few more blocks down you will find Ithaca Falls.

 

3. THE INN AT GOTHIC EVES

Set within the picturesque countryside of Trumansburg, The Inn at Gothic Eves offers comfortable accommodation and a full range of facilities, including free Wi-Fi and a lift. It is ideally positioned for those wanting to visit local attractions. There are 8 charming rooms at the bed & breakfast, each providing all the necessities to ensure a comfortable stay. Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport is less than a 25-minute drive from The Inn at Gothic Eves. It is also a short drive from Ithaca and Watkins Glen.

 

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