Located on the Chemung River in upstate New York's stunning Finger Lakes region, the city of Corning sprung up around the glass industry in the late 19th century. Today it's known as the headquarters of Corning Inc., the inventor of Gorilla glass (the ultra-tough material used in cars and cell phones), Pyrex, and Corningware plates. While glassworking is a mainstay of the city's tourism, its restaurants, museums, wine and spirits scene — and incredible residents doing incredible things — are the real draw. Here are the top eight reasons to visit, plus where to eat and where to stay.
Founded by Corning Inc., the museum takes a multi-pronged approach to telling the story of glass, with separate wings dedicated to the science, history, and art behind glassmaking. Its various art collections alone span 35 centuries and 4,000 pieces. Don't miss the live studio demonstrations by resident artists. Adults, $19.50; children, free. cmog.org
The museum's Studio lets guests make their own project (think: paperweight, ornament) with the help of a seasoned pro, from $21-$40. Nearby, Hands-On Glass, the original glassmaking experience in town owned by artist Rodi Rovner, offers a similar but more personalized and family friendly experience.
Corning's downtown, called the Gaffer District after the old-school term for a glassblower, is a commercial hub packed with restaurants, pubs, boutiques, art galleries, and offices.
Pictured: Centerway Square
While wine country isn't far, you don't have to leave Corning for the smooth burn of craft bourbon. Four Fights Distillery — named so because quality moonshine gets the drinker into as many altercations, and because owners Matthew and Donna Bowers have "at least four fights a day"— offers sips of bourbon, apple pie moonshine, and Cinnamoon (the grownup version of Fireball) at its tasting room. (More of a beer person? There's also Iron Flaming Brewing in town.)
The Chemung River winds through Corning, making the town an ideal spot to embark on a kayaking trip. Local tour company STKT leads guided paddles ($55) from Bottcher's Landing, a 10-minute drive east of downtown.
Last year, the Rockwell Museum (no relation to Norman) became the first Smithsonian affiliate in upstate New York. Its collections comprise art of the American West, by names like Andy Warhol, as well as up-and-coming Native American artists like Tammy Garcia, Christin McHorse, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.
There are more than 100 wineries in the Finger Lakes region, and Corning is within a 45-minute drive of some of the most prominent, including the fourth-generation-family-owned Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery — the vineyard that introduced classic European grape varieties to the region.
The entire Finger Lakes region is an exceptionally scenic one, and Corning offers some of the best views around.
Pictured: Sunrise of Centerway Bridge
Breakfast: Poppleton Bakery. The mother-daughter duo behind this adorable bakery are known for their sweet and savory crepes, quiches, and scones baked fresh daily.
Lunch: Fill up on homemade soups and sandwiches before indulging in a sweet treat at the Victorian-themed Old World Cafe and Ice Cream.
Dinner: Main street tapas and wine bar The Cellar has won a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence five years running. Choose from a menu of modern fusion and more than 100 wines available by the bottle.
On historic Market Street, the Radisson is within walking distance of the Rockwell Museum and all that downtown has to offer. Staybridge Suites, on the other side of the Chemung, is a practical option for business travelers and families; it's next door to Iron Flamingo Brewery and within a short walk from the Corning Museum of Glass.