7 Delicate and Bold Things to do in Corning NY

WHY GO: Are there things to do in Corning NY that don’t involve glass-making or involve the company that for over 170 years “has combined its unparalleled expertise in glass science, ceramics science, and optical physics with deep manufacturing and engineering capabilities to develop life-changing innovations and products?

Well, yes there are and we let you in on those below. But first, a bit about Corning Inc:

When Thomas Edison required a “glass envelope” for his electric light, he asked the geniuses at Corning Glass in Corning NY to engineer something that would withstand the high temperature of the fragile filaments.

The scientists came up with the design we still use today – the light bulb. Established in 1851, Corning Glass Works moved from Brooklyn NY in 1868 to this upstate NY locale to be closer to coal (heating) sources. It’s been here ever since.

Corning Museum of Glass NY

To say that Corning NY is a company town would be an understatement. Most residents work for the lab that gave the world the 2-cup Pyrex Measuring Cup, Corelle tableware, and lately, Gorilla Glass for cellphones. (In 1998, Corning Glass spun off its consumer lines to concentrate on science, technology, and fiber-optic communications products). It has grown into a $10 Billion company with 46,000 employees around the world. Many live here.

Unless you are doing business with Corning, or interviewing for a job, most travelers visit for one main reason: the fantastically engaging Corning Museum of Glass.

But, that’s not the only reason to plan a couple of days here. Corning is also home to the Smithsonian Affiliate Rockwell Museum, a bright and cheery feminist bookstore, a downtown full of fun shops and restaurants, and a bevy of chain hotels to choose from.

When you’re wandering NY State, what other dreamy spots would you like to hit? We’ve got ideas in this Best Romantic Getaways in NY post.

Things to Do in Corning NY

Patio Corning Museum of Glass

TOUR/MAKE: Corning Museum of Glass

This intriguing Corning Museum of Glass brings you closer to the best of contemporary studio glass and glass objects throughout the ages than any other institution in the world. In 2015, a new 100,000 sq. ft. wing was added to house the museum’s highly admired collection of Contemporary Glass Art. These weird and creative installations, within 26,000 sq ft of  bright white galleries, make you think. And smile. And, often stare in wonder.  Be prepared to Instagram the hell out of each piece.

History of Glass

Extravagant Glass Furniture, Corning Museum of Glass, Corning NY
Extravagant Glass Furniture, Corning Museum of Glass, Corning NY

Plan to spend an hour perusing the History of Glass section, which begins with “The Origins of Glassmaking” in 2,000 BCE. Naturally, there’s lots of pearlescent Roman Glass. Those ancient Italians actually invented glassblowing, which up until then had been made in molds.

You’ll see a good amount of dainty, colorful Islamic glass, which introduced relief or cameo-style elements. And, of course there’s a wonderful collection of Venetian Glass, gilded Russian Glass, deeply colored chandeliers popular with Indian Royalty, and fantastical glass furniture.

One, an ornamental glass table topped by a frenetic, Rococo-ish punch bowl, is said to have a twin once owned by Liberace. 

Contemporary Glass Gallery Corning Museum NY

Naturally, you’ll find American glass from Jamestown to Corning – aka “Crystal City” – the Waterford of America. Holdings focus on cut glass from the 1850’s to early 1900’s and the “largest collection of glass paperweights in the world” including “Megaplanet” – the “World’s Largest Paperweight by Josh Simpson.

Watch a Demo and Make Your Own

Author making glass flower at Corning Museum of Glass, Corning NY
Author making glass flower at Corning Museum of Glass, Corning NY

Before seeing a “Hot Glass Demo” where a bowl is made on the spot, take some time to explore three floating pavilions of the interactive Innovation Center. For the ultimate in interactive, book a Make Your Own glass activity. It’s not as expensive as you’d think – and very hands on. (Plus, you’ve got a great memory to take home and display with bragging rights).

Gearing up for glassblowing, Corning Museum of Glass NY

I can attest to the thrill of working with molten glass as it emerges from a 2,000-degree furnace.  There’s nothing like it.  RSVP is necessary – and slots fill up quickly. Check website for museum hours, dates open, and admission fees.

Rockwell Museum Smithsonian Affiliate Corning NY
Rockwell Museum Smithsonian Affiliate Corning NY

VISIT: The Rockwell Museum (Smithsonian Affiliate)

What is a world-class Museum of American Art, with a focus on Western Art, doing in this Northeastern US town? Yes, that is somewhat of a puzzle, but one that should be contemplated from inside its grand halls. The Rockwell Museum showcases Audubon to Warhol, and everything in between – with a deep dive into Frederic Remington and Charles Russell.

Intimate, approachable, and engaging, Rockwell staff welcome visitors warmly. With most tourists bound for the Corning Museum of Glass nearby, they seem surprised, but very happy, to see you. 

Frederic Remington Rockwell Museum Corning NY
Frederic Remington Rockwell Museum Corning NY

The building itself – formerly the 19th century Corning Old City Hall – is exceptionally beautiful. It should definitely be seen from both inside and out. After scoping out the art, spend some time in the terrific gift shop. You’ll do doubt find a functional work of art (or book, or jewelry) for yourself or friend at a reasonable price. Check website for dates, hours open, and admission.

VISIT: Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes

It might seem strange to create an homage to Colonial times, when Corning Co. is on the cutting edge of modern technology. But the Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes – a small living history museum in town – allows visitors to step back in time to understand the conditions under which people settled here in the 1700’s. Within the grouping of nine buildings, you can visit the Benjamin Patterson Inn – preserved as it was when it welcomed pioneers on Williamson Road, known as the “frontier highway.”

You’ll also find the requisite tool barn, blacksmith shop, and historic museum – but also the tiny and spare Wixon Log Cabin, built in 1855 by a subsistence farmer for his family of five. It provides an excellent example of the hardscrabble way most people lived back then.

Feminist Bookshop - Card Carrying Books Corning NY
Feminist Bookshop – Card Carrying Books Corning NY

SHOP: Card Carrying Books and Gifts

Do you have a little feminist at home? And by “little,” I mean a young pre-pre-teen daughter you’d like to see grow up with the self-confidence to take on the world?

The cool Card Carrying Books and Gifts is so much more than just books. It’s mission – to create a feminist future by providing great books, exclusive gifts, and quirky cards for socially progressive folks of all ages – is just the start. Card Carrying Books agenda includes a monthly Girl Gang Youth Group for locals. But fear not. You can sign up for a monthly packet of books, activism material and “delightful merch” delivered right to your door.

EXPLORE: Gaffer District and Centerway Square

You can’t visit Corning without spending some time in Corning’s downtown Gaffer District. This is where you’ll find best restaurants, shops, galleries, ice-cream shops, boutiques, and live music. At the center of it all find the unmissable Centerway Square – named “Best Public Square in the USA” by USA Today – identified by the 50 foot tall Clock Tower made entirely of local Antrim stone.

Where to Eat and Stay in Corning NY

EAT: Locals seem to love almost everything in town

Try Hand and Foot for contemporary bites. The Cellar for great tapas. Cugini Italian Market/Cafe for deli sandwiches. Tossed for vegan fare, and, terrific salads. Nickel’s Pit BBQ and Slammin Jammin BBQ, both given the thumbs up by bbq-savy eaters.

STAY: Gaffer Inn

Corning has mostly chain hotels, but the small 4-room Gaffer Inn is an exception. On Market Street – and a few minutes walk from the Rockwell Museum, it’s located above the Gaffer Bar and Grille. Be aware that you check in at the bar, and must bring your own luggage up a set of stairs. Rooms are lived-in comfy.

STAY: Chain Hotels

You have your pick of chain hotels, and generally Staybridge Suites gets the best reviews, followed by Hilton Garden Inn Downtown. There are plenty more – just check discount sites for the best hotels and rates.

Author

    by
  • Malerie Yolen-Cohen

    Malerie Yolen-Cohen is the Author of the cross-country travel guide, Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3562 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6. She contributes frequently to Newsday, with credits in National Geographic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal, Yankee Magazine, Shape.com, Sierra Magazine, Porthole, Paddler, New England Boating, Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications. Malerie’s focus and specialty is Northeastern US, and she is constantly amazed by the caliber of restaurants and lodging in the unlikeliest places.