I love small towns. As a kid growing up in western NY, when we wanted to take a day trip, or “go for a ride”, as we say, and we didn’t feel like going to Niagara Falls, we went to small towns. Niagara-on-the-Lake, over the border in Canada, was always a great option, especially if the Shaw Festival was on and we could go see a show. Saratoga Springs, to go see the horse races (and stop in an excellent bookstore, in recent years) is one of my mom’s favorite long drives. The Finger Lakes are a closer to home trip, and in recent years we’ve had a few lovely days in Skaneateles, including a boat trip on the lake.

When I was home for Christmas and we were thinking of something to do, I remembered my family had gone to the Corning Museum of Glass a while ago and raved about it. I asked if they’d be willing to go again, and they were! So the day after Christmas we took a ride to Corning.We made one stop along the way: Hammondsport, on Keuka Lake. It was too cold, and we were too hungry, to get out of the car and walk around, but I got my dad to drive us around town. It’s a tiny place but I pointed out landmarks like a pro: there’s the Irish pub, there’s the library, there’s the Opera House building with apartments in it… all of which feature in the Blue Heron romance series by Kristan Higgins, in the town of Manningsport, which she based on Hammondsport. While I did not spot any sexy cops/vets/professors/vineyard owners on my brief tour, I did see enough cute shops and lovely lake views to tell my family that we will have to make another visit in warmer weather.

We continued on to Corning, a larger small town, where we got a quick lunch on the Main Street before driving over to the Corning Museum of Glass. I regret that I took no picturesque photos of either small town, even though both were very pretty — again, in my defense, it was pretty cold.

The museum was amazing. They’ve renovated it recently and added a contemporary wing, the source of the first photo in this piece. I loved the variety of styles and subjects, from the slips of color that floated in the air like flying boats to the glassware displayed to suggest trees to the butterflies suspended from the ceiling, casting shadows on the wall and floor.

From the contemporary exhibit we went to watch a glassblowing demonstration and witnessed the creation, by hand, of a gorgeous vase. The glassblowers explained what was happening as they worked and we watched them warm the glass, shape it as it cooled, and warm it again. At the end they gave away a few pieces to the audience — unfortunately we weren’t lucky enough to receive one.

Before we left we took a quick turn around the historical glass exhibit. My favorite pieces there: Tiffany and Frank Lloyd Wright windows and a pair of glass slippers made for a film of Cinderella that was cancelled. If I visited again I would take more time in the parts of the exhibit detailing early uses of glass — what I did see was beautiful and fascinating.

The museum has an excellent gift store, and while I didn’t buy anything I had a great time looking around. I had such a lovely visit that day, and I can’t wait to go back to Corning and Hammondsport — when it’s just a little warmer outside!

What are your favorite day trips from your hometown?