cornell library in ithaca

Literary City Spotlight: Ithaca Edition

While big cities often seem ideal for writers, due to tons of events and the ability to make connections in the writing industry, smaller cities have their own charm and perks—like hyperlocal literary scenes, tight-knit communities, and plenty of inspiring nature. Enter Ithaca, New York, the home of cascading waterfalls, breathtaking gorges, a thriving indie bookstore scene, and some of the top MFA programs and reading series in the country. Writers like Kurt Vonnegut, Toni Morrison, and E.B. White all once called Ithaca home. This picturesque college town packs a population of just 32,000 but is full  of woodsy, upstate charm. Don’t miss these literary spots if you’re planning a writerly getaway. 


Autumn Leaves Used Books

115 E. State St.


With more than 60,000 books, spanning everything from fiction and children’s books to politics and philosophy, Autumn Leaves has one of the most diverse book selections in Ithaca. . Its used selection makes it one of the best places for affordable and rare finds across decades and even generations. In addition to books, Autumn Leaves also stocks thousands of records— it shares a building with Angry Mom Records, which also hosts shows by local musicians. Pair a secondhand poetry collection with a record you’re excited about for the perfect Ithaca souvenir. 


Odyssey Bookstore

115 W. Green St.


Odyssey Bookstore, nestled in a historic building and with a lush garden leading up to its front steps, is small and cozy, with a standout, well-curated selection. Expect to see many books from local authors and emerging independent presses among the store’s estimated 8,000 titles, The store is also known for hosting amazing community events, like readings and book release parties—check out their Instagram to see what’s up next. 


Cornell University Library

161 Ho Plaza


Soak up Ivy League ambiance and charm at the main library at the Cornell University campus, which is also one of its most notable campus landmarks. The library was built in the 19th century, meaning you’ll feel a part of literary history as you peruse its many tall shelves. The library system has more than 8 million books and is open to the public. 


Cornell Lab of Ornithology

159 Sapsucker Woods


There’s long been a connection between birding and poetry, so what better place to read or write than in a bird sanctuary? Walk the trails to discover herons, ospreys, and more, or go inside the museum to learn dozens of bird-related facts you can incorporate into your next research-driven poem. 


Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art

114 Central Ave.


Write an ekphrastic, or art-inspired, poem based on one of the thousands of works in the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. Along with fantastic rotating exhibitions, the museum features a permanent collection spanning ancient to modern works, as well as works from nearly every culture and country. The museum also regularly hosts meditation sessions, yoga classes, drop-in artmaking, and more. 

Looking for other East Coast literary hotspots? Check out our recs for Boston and New York City.