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        Best of Ithaca: Entertainment

        For all intents and purposes, this is the Oscar Awards of Ithaca presented by The Ithaca Times.

        Each year, the Best of the best are nominated by the Ithaca community for the Best of Ithaca Awards. Hundreds of entries were submitted this summer as community members placed stakes in answering some of the most pressing questions of the year: What was the best entertainment? Who had the best food? Where served the best drinks? And so forth.

        ?It’s not only a chance for the community to highlight their favorite parts of living in Tompkins County, it’s an opportunity for nominees and winners alike to be celebrated for their contributions to it as well, with a dash of friendly competition mixed in.

        In light of this year’s events, we’ve chosen to include some new categories like Best Local Mask Maker and Best Activist, along with some old favorites. We hope you enjoy reading about the Best of Ithaca award winners and finding out what your neighbors might’ve found so special about them.?

        Starting with the entertainment section, we'll be publishing our winners here on Ithaca.com, as voted by you.

        As always, congratulations to everyone who was nominated, and a special congratulations to the winners. As this year continues, be sure to reach out to us with your suggestions for next year’s categories. It’s anyone’s guess what next year could look like. In the meantime, enjoy.


        Best Book Written by a Local Author: Bob Proehl’s The Nobody People?

        “This is so great to hear! I started writing these books in the summer before the 2016 election, as a way to make sense of some of what I was seeing, and find a way through it. It’s weird to leave characters and a world that have lived in my head for almost four years, but I’m glad the books have found an audience, especially here in Ithaca.”?

        Best Local Band: Fall Creek Brass Band?

        Fall Creek Brass Band started more than 10 years ago as a group of young horn players, but has since experienced a resurgence and grown into a tight brass-funk group, according to music director Alec Staples. In past years, they have been seen at GrassRoots, Porchfest, Finger Lakes Thaw, Ithaca Festival and CFCU Downtown Concert Series, along with many other venues.?

        Best Music Performance: Fall Creek Brass Band?

        Alec Staples told us, “All the members of FCBB would like to express our deepest gratitude for all of the love and support that we’ve received from our Ithaca community! We can always count on Ithacans to be ready to dance whenever we show up to play. The past six months have been very rough on the music scene, and it’s made us realize what a big role music plays in our lives. We’re very excited for what the future holds, and we can’t wait to get out and play again!”?

        Best Solo Artist: Joe Crookston?

        “OMG! I love that in this 2020 year where live music stopped and no shows happened, I was awarded ‘Best Solo Artist’. The less I do, the more I win! Also, please vote. District #23 needs a rep like Tracy Mitrano. Oh, I would like to thank Ruth Bader Ginsberg for her fierce dedication to justice, and thank you to Rick Manning for his tireless work on the Waterfront Trail. I ride my bike on it and it makes me happy. Be safe and take good care, my Ithaca friends. Thanks for wearing your masks.”?

        ?Best Theater Performance: Hangar Theatre?

        Hangar Theatre Marketing Director Thena Gitlin says, “Due to the continued impacts of COVID-19, we made the decision to replace all live artistic programming this summer with new, virtual experiences this March. We offered a completely virtual season consisting of five Mainstage plays, four KIDSTUFF plays, two The Wedge plays, a Virtual Lab Company, and online Next Generation School of Theatre classes for young people. The productions in our Mainstage season were all chosen for times of change and transformation: “The Skin of Our Teeth”, “Uncommon Excerpts and Others”, “The Wendy Chronicles”, “Queens Girl in the World”, “Honk Your Horn: Celebrate! Musical! Theatre!” and “Sense and Sensibility.” The success of our virtual summer season was possible because of a combination of our artists, our partnership with Ithaca College, and the support from our community. We plan to continue inspiring with virtual plays this fall, and we hope to produce a live virtual season next year.” Stay posted at www.hangartheatre.com.?

        ?Best Arts Event: Porchfest?

        In a stroke of sour irony that pretty well defines 2020, Porchfest co-organizers Lesley Greene and Andy Adelewitz got this good news the day before Porchfest would have happened. “We’re incredibly flattered,” they said. “Porchfest is a celebration of Ithaca, so really, this honor belongs to our amazing creative community. It’s bittersweet in this difficult year, when Porchfest has been canceled like pretty much everything else, but we’re optimistic about bringing it back, as joyous as ever, when it’s safe to do so.”?

        ?Best Local DJ: DJ DoughBoy (Devan Carrington)?

        Devan Carrington, or DJ DoughBoy, has been the Friday resident DJ at Silky Jones for a while, and has been gigging around town for the last five years. Born and raised in New York City, he was always surrounded by all genres of music, and credits his uncle Melvin and high school friend Byron Crooks for encouraging him to become a DJ.?

        ?“Being a DJ means more to me than just pressing play and buying some fancy equipment,” he said. “Music is powerful. My role is to facilitate fun, good vibes, aerobic movement and positive energy. A successful set to me is when a guest comes up and says ‘I was having such an awful week, but the couple of hours I spent here really helped.’ That is why I do what I do and living in Ithaca has given me the chance to give back to the community that has given so much to me.”?

        Best Comedian: Kenneth McLaurin?

        “First of all, I want to thank God and my family. Without the support of my daughter Sankofa, my son Kenneth and my wife Sing Trece, I would not be here accepting this award. This honor is truly not mine alone. It has been a wonderful journey creating comedy in Ithaca. Bringing people together, providing stages for diverse voices to be showcased, and building positive community connections all around laughter has been fun to be a part of. I want to thank all the people who were part of this comedy journey with me. To the Tan Holmes Duo, JSK, JYL, Uncle Joe and Big Tyme Barbershop, the venues that opened up their spaces to us, and everyone who came to a show and laughed at a joke. Anyone I didn’t mention directly, y’all are all included and I want to say thank you for the good times, new friends and great memories. Ithaca, stay safe, stay sane, socially distant and sanitized. Remember, life’s a joke, find the funny.”


        Best of Ithaca: Food and Drink

        • Updated

        Best Bagel: Collegetown Bagels??

        “We are so excited to have been recognized by the Ithaca community with the award of Best Bagel,” said owner Ramsey Brous. “It has been a fantastic journey, having been in business since 1976 at our original College Avenue location, and now having grown to five stores with a much broader product line. Our newest location at 420 College Avenue is going great and is such a fantastic space in a beautiful and historic building. It has been very well received and includes the most up to date technology to serve our customers while maintaining our unique, some say quirky, Ithaca style. While we scaled back the varieties of bagels of late, be on the lookout for some new special flavors in the near future.”?

        Best Burger: Ithaca Ale House?

        Like many eateries, COVID-19 forced Ithaca Ale House to work with a smaller menu – and fewer burgers – for now. John O’Leary says that when they’re allowed to open to full capacity, all of their burgers will return. “We are honored again to win Best Burger. It is special to us, because it is voted on by our customers and it is a great feeling to win this award repeatedly. A huge ingredient in our burgers is the hard working staff that takes pride in what they do and appreciates the recognition of this award. We as a restaurant have been blessed to keep the same key employees year after year and it shows in all of our food.”??

        Best Pizza: Franco’s?

        A repeat winner in the Best Pizza category, this is Franco’s third straight year nabbing the prize.Owners Salvatore and Frank Evola have found both cricial and commercial success since opening the West State Street pizzeria.?

        Best Sandwich: Shortstop

        “On behalf of all of our employees here at Shortstop Deli, we are honored to be voted best sandwich in Ithaca, thank you very much,” said Shortstop’s owner Chuck Dong. “Being a locally owned and operated business, having the support of our community means everything to us, especially in these unsettling times of COVID-19. Born and raised in downtown Ithaca, I am proud to serve our community and keep the 40-year tradition of Shortstop Deli going into the future. Stop by and get your award-winning sandwich. We look forward to seeing you!”?

        Best Wings: Wings Over Ithaca

        Wings Over has locations everywhere from Ithaca to Knoxville to Milwaukee — though contained to the general northeast of the country. Their Ithaca location is on Dryden Road, and offers sauces that range from traditional BBQ, to tropical mango habanero, to bold teriyaki and to eye-watering Buffalo.

        “Wings Over Ithaca is extremely proud to be a part of the Ithaca community and to be named Best Wings In Ithaca! Let’s celebrate with free delivery when you use code: BESTWINGS at Order.WingsOver.com. Thank you for your support and look forward to serving you again soon.”

        Best Food Truck: Silo

        Based out of Ovid, New York, Silo Food Truck is the collaboration between the “Chicken Wizard,” or Jesse Steve, and the “Biz Wiz,” Katie Foley. The food itself? A variety of chicken dishes in gravy or curry, mac and cheese with ham and pickles and fresh-baked cornbread complete with honey butter.

        “We love serving food in the midst of music, art, culture and celebration,” the website states. “We believe that life is what you dream it to be and that with hard work, integrity and community mindedness anything is possible! We take risks and embrace being uncomfortable… as we’ve learned that it’s the only way to achieve great things.”

        Best Salad: Wegmans??

        Marcie Rivera of Wegmans Food Markets PR said, “We are honored to be selected as Best Salad by the readers of the Ithaca Times. The support of our customers and their passion for excellent food drives our team’s high standards to provide incredible customer service every day. We are grateful for the opportunity to serve the Ithaca community and will continue to give you our best. Thank you, Ithaca!”?

        Best Ice Cream: Purity Ice Cream

        Purity’s extensive flavor list, including Gimme Mocha Fudge, Chocolate Raspberry Truffle and Cookie Dough After Dark, makes a second appearance in a row for this award — and for good reason. These excellent, original flavors have certainly become a staple in Ithaca, and its desserts certainly live up to this reputation, too. See “Best Dessert” if you need more proof.

        Best Comfort Food: Luna

        The around-the-world menu at Luna offers comfort food from all corners of the globe, though you’ll find your staples there as well. Banh mi meets baja fish tacos, which meets a huevos rancheros burrito, smoked gouda mac and cheese, a separate spot for fries and an excellent selection of burgers. The choices, which include options for vegans, vegetarians and gluten free diets, are seemingly endless, making it the perfect menu for a relaxed evening in — or any meal, really.

        Best Outdoor Dining: Ithaca Beer Company

        When the pandemic shutdown began in March, no restaurant was better equipped to deal with social distancing than Ithaca Beer Company, located just outside of the city of Ithaca on a farm. The outdoor picnic tables, scattered around a large grassy field, were already a key draw for summer customers, though their home-brewed beer, including its flagship Flower Power IPA, and dinner menu were certainly a reason to return too.

        Best Dessert: Purity Ice Cream

        Weather getting too cold for Purity’s ice cream? The shop, located on Cascadilla Street, offers the best homemade desserts too. Cupcakes, pies, muffins, cakes, cookies and brownies stand proudly inside the glass display cases preceding the register — a tasty temptation for those looking for an ice cream alternative.

        Best To-Go Experience: Taste of Thai

        One of multiple Thai restaurants in Ithaca, Taste of Thai stands out for its streamlined takeout experience, an aspect of their service many have been taking advantage of during the pandemic. The restaurant offers Grubhub and in-house delivery of its mountainous rice, noodle and curry dishes, just parts of a lengthy menu with delicious options.

        Best Wine & Liquor Store: Northside

        At Northside, online shopping just became a little boozier. The 11,500 sq. ft. of retail showroom carries more than 6,000 brands, including a handful of Finger Lakes wines. Choose from the liquor store’s top picks — the $10 Golden Gate Cellars 18 Cabernet Sauvignon from California or the $45 Louis Jadot 17 Savigny-Les-Beaune "Les Hauts Jarrons” from France. Spirits are available for pickup only. Northside is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

        Best Closed Business We’ll Miss the Most: Carriage House

        Once the primary and worth-the-wait breakfast spot in Collegetown, Carriage House Cafe will be most missed in Ithaca for its superb breakfast menu and buzzing atmosphere on a Sunday mid-morning. In addition to its downstairs cafe, the upstairs of the restaurant was renovated into a cocktail room or meeting space. Though the restaurant was early to switch to delivery and takeout, it closed in June, the end of a defining legacy in the city of Ithaca.?


        Best of Ithaca: People

        • Updated

        Jordan Clemons speaks to the audience at the most recent racial justice rally.?

        Best Social Justice Activist: Jordan Clemons

        Humbly, Jordan Clemons said “activist” is a title others often give to him for his work on Unbroken Promise Initiative, an organization to benefit those who have been “disenfranchised, marginalized and victimized by systemic oppression” in Ithaca. He said his mother, who died in 2016, had a significant impact on his life, starting from a young age when she taught him about the fight for equality for Black people in Ithaca.

        He said he also wanted to thank his family, those who have donated to Unbroken Promise, and Yasmin Rashid, a childhood friend and partner in Unbroken Promise, for the support they have given him throughout his life and community work.

        “We need people that really have a passion and have a conviction for all of humanity and for the world that we live in, and it starts right here in our backyard,” he said.

        Dr. Alexandra Karnow

        Best Primary Care Doctor: Alexandra Karnow

        Part of Cayuga Family Medicine’s providers, Karnow is part of a team of doctors that brings a “high-caliber, intelligent team of physicians and nurses serving our patients.” Her extensive experience ranges from her medical degree at New York College of Osteopathic Medicine to being a clinical assistant instructor for SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. In addition, she is fluent in Spanish and English and conversational in German, an excellent range that patients of all backgrounds can appreciate.

        Best Veterinarian: Colonial Animal Hospital

        Colonial Animal Hospital opens its doors to your pets with a number of services for them, including alternative medicine like acupuncture or holisitc care “to look at all aspects of the entire animal and be open to using a variety of treatments,”?according to their website. Under preventative care, the veterinary hospital also offers wellness exams, vaccinations and flea/tick/parasite control, essential to the health of animals — all while doing this with the utmost care.

        Chantelle Farmer of FLX Fitclub

        Best Entrepreneur: Chantelle Farmer

        Although FLX Fitclub, which opened March 2017, closed temporarily in the spring, Chantelle Farmer, co-owner and general manager, is back in business. FLX has since moved its typically indoor workouts like cycling to an outdoor venue, offering a pandemic-friendly group workout space. She said that although she is surprised to have won the award, she is flattered and thankful for the vote of confidence.

        “In terms of being an entrepreneur, I mean, my gosh, there's so many great business people in Ithaca,” she said. “I've seen a lot of people out in the community also having to do creative things to stay alive. So it's definitely been a tough, tough year for small business, and … I still have a lot to learn about owning a business, but I guess that's what makes it fun.”

        Best Dentist: Ira Kamp

        Dr. Ira Kamp, this year’s winner for Best Dentist, said he appreciates that people would think of him and his work when voting for this award. He enjoys working in dentistry — and taking a break to jam out with his bandmate and wife Marnie O’Shea — because he said it is a profession in which people will be honest about their dental problems, or else risk a procedure that is more painful than they need.

        He said he is honored to receive this accolade because it shows people trust the work he provides.?

        “[A dentist’s office is] a very authentic place to work,” he said. “I can have really straight conversations with people, and I really enjoy that.”

        Visual artist Ryan B Curtis

        Best Visual Artist: Ryan Curtis

        Nature-inspired artwork meets faded colors and layered patterns in Ryan Curtis’ artwork, created through experiential printmaking using wood, paper or raw canvas. According to his artist’s page, Curtis is inspired by human and animal forms, sacred geometries and nature.

        “I’ve [specialized] in animal totems — but also love portraits, landscapes-the abstract and the surreal,” he said.

        Best Keeper of Local Knowledge: Carol Kammen

        Carol Kammen, chair of the Tompkins County Historical Commission, said she is delighted to be chosen for this award because recognizing the importance of local history is imperative. She said the collaborative efforts between herself and other historians in the county is what makes her job so special.

        “I'm so pleased because I'm not the only one who does local history,” she said. “There are a lot of us, and recognizing that it's important makes me very pleased for all of us.”

        Mayor Svante Myrick

        Best City Employee: Svante Myrick

        Svante Myrick thinks this award is a mistake — at least, he said via email, in comparison to the talented people that “knock [his] socks off every single day” and make Ithaca an ideal place to live and work. Another second-time winner in the “Best of Ithaca” section — last year it was for Best Elected Representative — Myrick also loves to read fiction and graphic novels when not scrolling through his inbox.?

        “The best part about being Mayor of Ithaca is getting to live in Ithaca,” he said via email. “I love this city, I love the people who live here and I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve it. Every day, even the longest, hardest day, is a blessing.”

        Best Local Philanthropist: Purity Ice Cream

        Without an $80,000 donation from Purity Ice Cream, the Alex Haley Municipal Pool at the Great Ithaca Avtivities Club may have never opened this summer. The pool was closed early on in the season due to both the shutdown restrictions and the city’s pandemic-related financial woes, however Phase 4 of reopening would have allowed the pool to open had it had the funding. That’s where Purity stepped in. Thanks in part to the ice cream shop’s donation, the pool opened and youth programming commenced.

        Tattoo artist Phoebe Aceto

        Best Tattoo Artist: Phoebe Aceto

        Operating out of Here’s To You Tattoo & Piercing Shop, Phoebe Aceto’s botanical and earth-inspired designs have exalted her to this award, something she said she is honored to receive. Though she said the job is often demanding, she enjoys the challenge.

        “There's a lot of talent in this town, and it just makes me feel really good … that clients put their trust in me like that,” she said. “My favorite part is to be able to really trust and follow my instincts more and that my clients trust that as well.


        Best of Ithaca: Essentials

        • Updated

        Full Plate Farm Collective

        Best C.S.A.: Full Plate Farm Collective?

        Founded in Ithaca in 2005 by Stick and Stone, Remembrance and Three Swallows Farm (now the Youth Farm Project), the Full Plate Farm Collective CSA is a unique collective model CSA, where multiple farms work together to provide produce for the shared community. Coordinator Molly Flerlage told us, “Thank you to our members for the incredible outpouring of local food love this season. And thank you to the farm crews doing truly essential work every day to feed our community.”? ??

        Best New Business: Odyssey Bookstore

        The Odyssey Bookstore at 115 W. Green St. was all set to open on March 14, according to owner Laura Larson, but the next week everything shut down. Odyssey officially opened on June 23 with a new website and curbside orders.?

        ?“What a wonderful surprise!” Larson said. “Wow, we are all so excited and honored. Thank you so much, Ithaca! We are very excited to be a part of our amazing book-loving community. We are delighted to join a dynamic group of booksellers and places for people to find their books. It’s been an interesting journey to get here and we appreciate the many people who’ve helped create our space, who’ve joined our team, and who have chosen to stop by and talk books.”?

        Physical therapist Christine Trumble

        Best Physical Therapist: Christine Trumble ?

        As Christine Trumble sees it, her IC education helped her pass her licensing exam, but it was her patients who taught her how to be a good physical therapist, and five years ago, she opened Trumble Physical Therapy. “My colleagues and I saw a huge void in addressing the needs of people with very personal, painful, life-altering and sometimes embarrassing issues that were poorly understood and infrequently treated. The community responded and now I have the best job in the world, surrounded by dedicated PTs and staff, making the world a little better, one pelvis at a time.”? ?

        Best Non-Profit Organization: G.I.A.C.?

        A heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who has supported the selection of the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC) as non-profit of the year.? Since 1972, GIAC has been serving our community because we believe strongly GIAC programming IS essential for this community to thrive. The staff and board are committed to our mission to provide multicultural, educational, and recreational programs focused on social and individual development. We are committed to providing programs and services that work to improve the quality of life for the people we serve; support the rights and needs of youth, families, underrepresented and disenfranchised populations; provide structured employment training for at-risk youth and adults; and fight against oppression and intimidation in our community. The practice of social justice is embedded in all GIAC’s programs and is needed now more than ever.A few of our many programs include the School-Age Child Care Youth Program/Camp, Teen and Senior Programs, Chet Cashman Boxing, Alex Haley Pool, Conservation Corps, Basketball Leagues, and events, including the upcoming Harvest Dinner and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast. We offer a successful and collaborative job training program – the Hospitality Employment Training Program (HETP). We don’t do these things alone and rely on our community partners and funders who support our grants and other funding applications. The recent financial generosity and love from the community helped us re-open summer and school year programs. We are positioned to expand with the purchase and reconstruction of the former Immaculate Conception School gymnasium.? With the community’s continued love, we will keep GIAC’s vision of being “A Place to Be Me,” alive. For more information on how to support GIAC, visit http://giacgrows.com, the United Way of Tompkins County website, call (607) 272-3622, or email Director Leslyn McBean-Clairborne at lmcbean@cityofithaca.org or GIAC Board President Annie Perry at annieperry@twcny.rr.com.?

        Best Real Estate Agent: Jill Rosentel?

        Jill Rosentel came to Ithaca 20 years ago looking for a more enlightened environment. She worked as a server and manager at Viva Cantina for seven years while attending college, transitioning into real estate after graduation. “I feel very honored and humbled to have such enthusiastic supporters. I love what I do and am very grateful to be able to work with such wonderful clients and colleagues in the Ithaca community.”??

        Best Thrift Store: Finger Lakes ReUse Center?

        Jessica Orkin terms FLRC as “a growing group of problem solvers.” And they are growing, with a new retail location, ReUse Community Hardware in the Triphammer Marketplace, and a new drop-off location at 700 West Buffalo Street. “We are honored to win “Best of Ithaca” this year!” said Orkin. “What makes our ReUse Centers so special? Daily we handle a lot of amazing locally donated materials and facilitate reuse for our community. We are always working, working, working to flow materials back into the community and make goods accessible to all.”?

        Best Local Gift Shop: Sunny Days

        I just learned a few hours ago that you beautiful people have again awarded us Best Gift Shop. I’ve been asked to “say a few words” in acceptance of this award. Thank you isn’t sufficient. I know the struggle is real for so many of us right now, and I really appreciate those who took a moment to write our name on the ballot. It’s not at all about the “win,” it’s about the validation that what we’re doing has a positive impact on the community. Validation – whether in the form of a lovely honor like this, a purchase at our store or on our website, or a nice comment or like through social media – is a wonderful boost to help energize me to keep moving forward. We are keeping it super safe and remaining open (by appointment or walk-ins when no appointment in session, but only 1 group at a time), but understand that some you may need to lay low for a while. I miss seeing your faces, but I totally understand and look forward to better days ahead. Stay safe, everyone! (Oh, by the way, in an attempt to be prepared for whatever these next few months bring, I’m regularly adding new products to our website – www.sunnydaysny.com – as safe as it gets with free local pickup or delivery!).

        Best Home Improvement Contractor: Trade Design Build?

        “This recognition floors everyone at Trade Design Build,” says Gideon Stone. “We are fortunate to have great clients, and our network of subcontractors and vendors in the area are a huge key to our success. However, this acknowledgement speaks volumes to the people we have on our team and their effort every day. Thank you to everyone who voted for us! We are looking forward to meeting those of you who are just learning about us now, so if you’re interested in any design or building services, check out our website and get in touch!”??

        The Tompkins Mask Makers

        Best Local Mask Maker: Tompkins Mask Makers

        The Tompkins Mask Makers Collective (currently made up of Draya Koschmann, Amanda Kellerson, Jillian Goldfarb, Stephanie Allen, Francisca Struve-Entelis, and Alfreda Kwakye-Talbot) is so honored to receive this Best Of Ithaca award! For us, selling masks is a way to facilitate the other work we do in the community, and we are incredibly grateful to our customers for their support!

        Our collective’s beginning was such a whirlwind in April, and we are so indebted to many local organizations. The Tompkins County Health Department and the Chamber of Commerce who have continued to refer businesses to us. Businesses like CFCU, Gimme Coffee, GreyHaven Motel, and WaterWorks who took a chance on a relatively unknown group of sewists to outfit their employees in fabric face coverings. Bike Walk Tompkins who provided much needed financial and tech support right when we started, and Mutual Aid Tompkins which has been an inspiration and a collaborator since the beginning. Greenstar Coop, Mama Goose, and Purity Ice Cream who stock our masks in their stores. Workforce NY, Sew Green, Quilter’s Corner and many individuals who supported our Youth Program this summer with time, publicity, and material/monetary donations. We thank all of our customers--it has been a joy to outfit your families in beautiful face coverings. Thank you for choosing local! And MOST IMPORTANTLY we want to give a shout out to all of the individual mask makers in Tompkins County who have sewn and donated masks both in collaboration with us and in separate efforts. You are AMAZING. We have learned so much from so many of you and are honored to be associated with you all.

        Best Virtual Fitness Class: FLX Fitclub?

        “We are excited to be voted Best Virtual Fitness Class in Ithaca,” says FLX Fitclub’s Chantelle Farmer. “We’ve been open for live group fitness classes since 2017, but like so many other businesses, we were forced to shut down in March due to the pandemic. After it became clear the closure was going to last more than a few weeks, we wanted to find a way to help our loyal members stay connected and motivated to keep up with their fitness. Our instructors worked hard to adapt to a new way of teaching, the team from Calf Audio did a fantastic job with our tech setup, and the participants in those first few classes gave helpful feedback that allowed us to improve the experience over time. One unexpected bonus is that now people who are on vacation, or even move or live across the country can still take classes and stay connected with us. We see the unique benefits of virtual and plan to continue offering that option. We are so thankful to have had the opportunity to adapt and improve, and we are grateful for the support of our amazing community!”?

        FLX Fitclub virtual class setup


        Best of Ithaca: Places

        • Updated

        Best Place for a Birthday Party: Stewart Park

        A gorgeous view, pavilions available for rent, tennis courts and a playground — what better a setting for a birthday party? The lawn that faces Cayuga Lake is also an excellent spot for socially distant gatherings or ventures to the outdoor activities it offers. When celebrating a birthday pandemic style, Stewart Park gives the best of the best.

        Best Place to Make New Friends: Ithaca Commons

        A second-time winner for the award, the Commons — or any common place for that matter —? were just some months ago another public space to be wary of. But while the pandemic has not gone away, the Commons’ spirit hasn’t either. Given the seemingly endless options for food, retail and entertainment, the Commons is a fantastic introduction to Ithaca for the new college students that flood the city in the fall or for newcomers looking to get a taste of their new home. For locals, it continues to be a spectacle and staple for the city’s culture and annual events, including the Apple Harvest Festival and the Chili Cook-Off.

        Best Bike Ride: Black Diamond Trail

        Approximately 8.5 miles of agricultural lands set to the tune of cascading water, Black Diamond Trail is a peaceful yet lively trip for trailblazers seeking a quintessentially outdoor Ithaca experience with an exquisite view of Cayuga Lake. The stone-dust path slopes along what was formerly the Rail Trail, the railroad of the Black Diamond Express. The perfect location for a bike ride, as indicated by this award, the trail is also excellent for a casual stroll.

        Best Gorge/Waterfall: Cascadilla

        Approximately one mile long, the trail of Cascadilla falls features a superb waterfall, a must-visit for newcomers locals alike. The gorge, picturesque with 20 feet of cascading water, connects Cornell University with downtown Ithaca. The location is perfect for socially distanced, masked dog walks, hikes or runs, as well as year-round bird watching.?

        Best Kids Attraction: Children’s Garden

        This three-acre children’s garden is committed to providing youth activities in a natural environment, free of charge. The garden also hosts learning initiatives that connect children with the earth beneath them with the goal of creating a space in which children can physically and emotionally enrich themselves. Host to a number of events, including the Scarecrow Jubilee, the Children’s Garden bolsters youth education while connecting the community with the environment.

        Best Local Garden: Cornell Botanical Garden

        With seasonal highlights, gardening clubs and natural land to explore, the Cornell Botanical Gardens offer Ithaca residents a plethora of opportunities to connect with their land. Though unable to host on-site programs, the botanical garden is seeking activities to bring the garden to you at home. Visitors are required to wear a face mask at all times, maintain a distance of six feet and come alone or with small groups.?

        Best Place for Stargazing: Mt. Pleasant

        Complete with an old observatory, Mt. Pleasant is the perfect place for stargazing, both in the location and historical significance of the nearby building. Observe the sparkling night sky and open space to see it from — a gorgeous spot for a shooting star or milky way sighting.