Thank God for hometowns. First kisses and touchdowns. Thank God for the county lines that welcome you back in when you were dying to get out. – Carrie Underwood
That quote summarizes my feelings for Elmira, NY so accurately it’s scary. When I was a teenager, like most that grow up in small towns, I was so restless and eager to leave the place I grew up in. My I thought my dreams were too big for that town, so I got out as soon as I could. Even though I’ll probably never move back to my Elmira, I’m so thankful I grew up there and even more thankful that I get to visit often.
There’s something special about knowing streets like the back of your hand, running into old friends at the grocery store, feeling like you’re always welcome, and meeting a memory at every corner. There’s something special about hometowns.
So if you ever find yourself in upstate New York, these are a few places that will make you smile and feel at home.
Elbow Room (Elmira, NY): To the few that call Elmira home, there is simply no other place that compares to the wings at Elbow Room. Served with 3 basic flavors (mild, medium, or hot), piled high with celery and overflowing ramekins of homemade bleu cheese, this place is an absolute MUST. I’ve never dined at Elbow Room without running into someone I know, which I always consider a great thing!
The rest of the menu is filled with typical bar fare, but the wings are the real reason to make the trip.
Collegetown Bagel (Ithaca, NY): New York is famous for its bagels – for good reason. Cornell students (and the general public) flock to Collegetown Bagel for an inexpensive selection of the most awesome breakfast sandwiches. While some might call the menu intimidating, there’s no arguing that there’s not something for everyone here: tons of bagels, tons of spreads, tons of sandwich options, tons to choose from overall.
Market St. Brewing Co. and Restaurant (Corning, NY): This is a blue jeans and flannel type of place, serving excellent traditional American food. Think burgers, pulled pork and other yummy bar options. Don’t forget about the beer, of course, as this place makes its own. Blackberry lager? Yes, please.
Horigan’s Tavern (Elmira, NY): Don’t waste your time with anything on the menu except for the french onion soup. It’s not that the rest of the menu is bad, it’s just that the soup is SO GOOD. Why would I recommend a restaurant where I’ve only sampled one thing off the menu? THAT FREAKIN’ SOUP IS WHY! It will change your life. I crave it whenever I’m sick (happy, sad, tired or it’s Monday). I want it all the time!
Pietro’s (Elmira, NY): Pepperoni Roll + Stella Artois = best thing that will happen to you. If you love cheese and garlic and pepperoni and homemade marinara all wrapped up in a delightful crust and baked with love, look no further than Pietro’s pepperoni roll.
The Drive-In ( Elmira, NY): The drive-in in my hometown is the most picturesque vision of small-town charm that exists in this world. It has two screens, one of which is snuggled right into the rolling hillside and still plays intermission videos from the 60s, complete with psychedelic graphics of dancing candy. I love packing up a car too full of blankets and snacks and spending the night under the stars at the drive-in. Summer just doesn’t feel like summer without at least one trip to this blast from the past.
Mark Twain’s Summer Home (Elmira, NY): History or literature buff? Elmira is home to Twain’s summer home, the place at which he penned The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. You can tour the home – the place Twain called “the quietest of all quiet places” and pay respects at his resting place at Woodlawn Cemetery.
Waterfalls & Gorges (Ithaca, NY): There are more than 100 waterfalls in the region, so visiting the area without seeing one would basically be criminal. Some are small; some are huge; all are gorgeous. You don’t have to put aside a whole day to appreciate the natural beauty, although there are plenty of hiking trails to choose from (should you want to hike all day). Don’t forget your camera!
Finger Lakes (Rochester/Ithaca, NY): While the Finger Lakes have come to be best known for their many wineries, we mustn’t forget about the beautiful lakes themselves. Forget about grapes for a second and consider this: the peaceful flow of water. Watkins Glen State Park is a great place to hike, camp and soak up natural wonders. And Keuka Lake, of course, is the ultimate of all the Finger Lakes. I mean, look at the view!
Keuka Lake Wine Trail (Finger Lakes): Keuka started it all. The seven wineries along this trail began cultivating America’s wine industry back in 1860, so, as you might guess, they’ve had time to perfect the art. You can purchase a Keuka Passport for a one-time fee to enjoy tasting for two. Wineries to hit: Dr. Franks, Heron Hill, Keuka Spring
Seneca Lake Wine Trail (Finger Lakes): The well-renowned Seneca Lake Trail not only offers great wine and stellar views, but you can also attend fun events like the Seneca Lake Cardboard Boat Regatta and others that are scattered throughout the summer. Wineries to hit: Glenora, Hazlitt, Red Newt, Glenora, Belhurst
Ithaca Beer Co. (Ithaca, NY): You can find Ithaca’s brews all over the country. Why? They’re exceptional. The Flower Power IPA is probably Ithaca Beer Co.’s most famous beer, and I’m 100% loyal to it (so good!).
Hi Haven (Hammondsport, NY): Of course you can’t stay here. This is the name of my family’s cottage on Keuka Lake. The cottage is home to my favorite rope swing, “big rock”, the wooden raft (R.I.P), the old sailboat/death machine/king of the hill device that caused countless bruised ribs and busted knees, and priceless memories for my entire family. Whenever we’re at the lake, my cousins and siblings (all full-grown adults) turn into children that throw each other into the water, have swimming competitions, pick on you mercilessly, teach you new card games and make you belly laugh. Our little spot on Keuka is my favorite place to go when my body is in need of rest and my mind of peace.
I hope you enjoyed a small look at my hometown, a place I’ll always cherish.