About 10 miles north of Ithaca  thunder Taughannock Falls, a skinny but dazzling 215-foot-long stream of water flanked on either side by towering stone walls. Just 10,000 years ago, the falls cascaded straight down into Cayuga Lake , but erosion has moved them almost a mile inland. Thirty feet higher than Niagara, Taughannock Falls are the highest straight falls east of the Rockies.
The falls are situated within the 783-acre Taughannock Falls State Park (Rte. 89, 607/387-6739, dawn–dusk daily, parking $6–8), which also offers lake swimming, fishing, boating, hiking, cabins, and a 76-site campground. Children will enjoy the park’s imaginative playground, equipped with wooden towers and platforms. For campground reservations, call 800/456-CAMP. An overlook before the park gate offers a nice chance to see the falls without a commitment for those short on time.
One of the top music clubs in the region is the Rongovian Embassy to the U.S.A. (Rte. 96, 607/387-3334, www.rongo.com ), a big, comfortable, laid-back joint with live jazz, rock, reggae, country, or blues most nights of the week. Tasty Mexican food is served.
In July and August, free jazz, Latin, folk, and rock concerts take place weekly in Taughannock Falls State Park (Rte. 89, 607/387-6739).
Two lovely options close to Taughannock Falls are the best bet for this area. The proximity to Ithaca  (10 minutes) makes this peaceful alternate locale worthy of consideration for a base to explore the city.
The Halsey House (2547 Trumansburg Rd., 607/387-5428, www.halseyhouse.com , $199–229) sits at the entrance to the Falls road and offers that perfect mix of romantic elegance and modern convenience (Wi-Fi, flatscreen TVs with a broad DVD collection, robes, individual air-conditioning, complimentary snacks and drinks) in sumptuous bedded rooms with gorgeous upscale whirlpool bathrooms. Lovely innkeepers, cozy fireplace common areas, and the included gourmet breakfast add to the experience.
Inn at Gothic Eves (112 E. Main, 607/387-6033, www.gothiceves.com , $149–199) is an 1855 inn nestled in the heart of the tiny village. This unique property offers a selection of rooms (from Victorian to the recently renovated Potter House fireplace suites) and a true farm-to-table breakfast using eggs, berries, and local cheeses, often harvested that very morning. A can’t miss at this spot is a session in the outdoor wood-fired hot tub, included in the stay and stoked by the innkeeper by appointment.