Last Updated on May 26, 2014 by Jody Halsted
Continuing our drive east we removed ourselves from interstate 90 in New York and drove not far north of the Pennsylvania border along I-86. With no plans set for where to stop, we pulled off the highway at an exit that looked promising, i.e.: hotel signs posted along the highway.
As we had been passing through western New York for a few hours I was well used to the villages situated in scenic valleys; most so tiny that I wondered how they supported the many churches I could recognize due to the steeples. I figured that this town wouldn’t be much different. We drove from the interstate through a beautiful wooded valley and around a curve in the road. I was surprised by the lights that spread before us- Corning, New York, was a much larger town than I had anticipated.
Corning, home of Corning Glass Works, was incorporated as a city in 1890. As it’s glass industry developed it became known as the “Crystal City.” Ahhh… CorningWare (which was purchased by World Kitchen brand in the late 1990’s).
We found the Radisson, as promised by the sign on the highway, without any problem. I was greeted by Tom, the incredibly friendly clerk at the front desk; he secured our room, chatted with me about the town and pointed us in the direction of a restaurant with “pizza that even non-pizza lovers love”.
A quick stop in our room revealed a very spacious “junior suite” with two queen size Select Comfort beds, a desk, a comfortable chair, wireless internet access and a large bathroom with a tiled floor and marble countertops.
Exiting the hotel through the courtyard we turned toward Market Street, the main street of the Gaffer District and dinner. Market Street is lined with shops and restaurants, galleries and history…most closed as it was Sunday evening, so we did a bit of window shopping on the way.
Aniello’s Pizzeria is a bright and welcoming spot. It’s a no-frills pizza joint, filled with booths and offers its pies from 11 am to midnight, 7 days a week. The menu board is filled with options: salads, soups (Tuesday & Thursday, October thru May), specialty pizzas and a list of toppings. Doug and I easily agreed on the White Garlic pizza with tomatoes while Brenna asked for her current favorite, Hawaiian. We ordered a medium with half of each and a large salad for us all to share.
Our salad covered a large dinner plate and was filled with tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese, olives and a wonderful Italian dressing. Our pizza was delivered hot from the oven and was closer in size to a large pizza than a medium. The slices were large, cut for folding in half and eating on the go. The crust was perfect; not too thick and overpowering but not so thin that it was crispy. The White Garlic pizza was a wonderful blend of cheese and garlic; the tomatoes added just a bit of color and flavor. The Hawaiian half of the pizza had enough pineapple to make my crazed fruit eater happy and delicious chopped ham.
Back at the hotel we tucked the girls into bed and turned on the TV to find Cars showing on one of the kid friendly channels. Doug & I logged on to the free internet and we were all set for the evening. (The hotel has a pool; luckily it is “hidden” so my girls didn’t see it.)
After a wonderful night’s sleep we left the hotel in search of a local diner. Donna’s, on the corner of Cedar & Market in the Gaffer District, fit the bill. This is truly a local joint. Everyone seemed to know everyone else and, at first, I felt like we were intruding. We were waited on by Donna herself, who set us at ease and made us feel right at home as she brought out pancakes for the girls, French toast for me and corned beef hash for Doug.
We filled ourselves and packed the pancakes the girls didn’t finish to go. Then we went just up Cedar half a block to the Rockwell Museum of Western Art located in the grand Old City Hall building. Inside the historic building you will see many forms of Western Art. From beautiful landscapes to beaded moccasins; pottery to photographs; statues to stuffed buffalo (that you can buy in the Trading Post). The girls most enjoyed the Indian bead worked clothing and the amazing headdress. Doug loved the huge landscape oil paintings. I enjoyed the large rooms and the layout of the exhibits. It’s a very inviting museum. For the young kids a “seek and find” sheet is available- find all the images and get a prize! Also for the young ones is “Kids West”, an area where they can play “Wild West” complete with costumes, trading area and teepee.
The Rockwell Museum of Western Art is open daily 9 am- 5 pm, until 8pm Memorial Day thru Labor Day and is closed New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Kids 19 and under are free, adults are $6.50, seniors and students are $5.50.
Because we were on a tight schedule we didn’t take as long here as we would have liked. We commented that we would like to come back one day and stay longer. That was only reinforced by an email I received a couple of days later from Dave DeGolyer, Communications Manager for the Steuben County Conference & Visitors Bureau. I made a brief mention of stopping in Corning on my other blog and he was kind enough to drop me the following note:
“I am glad you stumbled across Corning. I’ve lived in the area most of my life and, until recently, I look for granted all there is to do and see in Corning & the Finger Lakes….
If you’re ever out this way again and have a day or two, there’s a lot here you and your family might enjoy, like a visit to the world-renowned Corning Museum of Glass, one of New York State’s most popular attractions, and home of the most extensive collection of glass art in the world. Watch gaffers create original works of art, then stop by The Studio and create your own one-of-a-kind piece to take home. Although most kids might lack the patience to tour the entire museum (over 3,500 years worth of glass, over 45,000 pieces), there are certain spots they’re sure to enjoy, like the Innovation Center, where you can bend glass, bend light, bend your imagination! In the summer kids can design an item and then, if it’s chosen, can watch as a master glassblower makes it. See how glass is used in everything from massive telescope lenses to panels for the space shuttle, from funky 3-D flight simulators to fiber-optics (think cell phones and the internet) and the LCD technology taking over the world of home entertainment. The Corning Museum of Glass is a place where extraordinary art is appreciated, but it’s also a place of adventure; a place where everyone is encouraged to create; a place where you can experience the wonders of glass with your own hands. Even children under ten can create art by sandblasting glass cups and plates, layering flat glass to make original wind chimes, picture frames, or even sun catchers. Or stop by Hands-on Glass Studio where children can even blow glass ornaments or pumpkins. The Rockwell Museum of Western Art, with one of the largest and finest collections of Western Art in the US (“Best of the West in the East”), has special backpack tours that encourage children to interact with art so the experience is both educational and fun. You and your girls can paint pottery, make glass bead jewelry, or try one of the many other immersion activities available.
We have camping, hiking, kayaking, sailing, geocaching, golfing, soaring (in a glider or a vintage aircraft), blueberry picking, and state parks with beautiful waterfalls, deep gorges, and views to take your breath away, not to mention the chance to flip, dive, swim, and make waves on beautiful Keuka Lake.”
For the most recent visitor's guide to the Finger Lakes Region call 1-866-WINE FUN or visit the website: Corning Finger Lakes. We definitely plan to return one day.