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The Buffalo News

May 13, 2007

Corning: More than glass
By Christine A. Smyczynski



Most people associate Corning, about two hours southeast of Buffalo, with the Corning Museum of Glass, and rightly so, since it is one of the top tourist attractions in New York State. However, there are also many other interesting attractions and things to do in the Corning area. My family recently spent a couple days in Corning exploring some of these other options.

 

Arriving around lunch time, we headed to Market Street, a four-block historic area of boutique shops, arts galleries and restaurants which has many buildings that were constructed in the late 1800’s. This area is also referred to as the “Gaffer District,” a term that is used to designate a master glassblower.

 

 

We opted to have lunch at Sorge’s, a Corning landmark since 1951, which is noted for their homemade Italian dishes. After lunch, we browsed through just a few of the shops. We returned to Market Street the next day to visit the rest of the shops.

 

Our next stop was the Stonebridge Motor Company, just east of downtown. Anyone who is interested in European and American classic cars will enjoy wandering through their lot and showroom. Owner, Don Coon was in the process of remodeling when we stopped in, but he expects the new showroom to be ready by summer. In addition to the vintage cars, which are all for sale, he has all sorts of Watkins Glen, NASCAR and vintage racing memorabilia displayed.

 

We then headed to the Rockwell Museum, located in a restored 1893 building which was formerly city hall. This museum has one of the most comprehensive collections of western and Native American art in the eastern United States, including works by Fredric Remington, C.M. Russell and other artists that portrayed the western frontier. There are also works by contemporary Native American artists.

 

For kids, the museum offers “Artpacks,” backpacks filled with worksheets and a clipboard that take young ones on a scavenger hunt of sorts when viewing the exhibits. Children will also enjoy the Kids West Gallery, where they can dress us like frontiersmen and role play using props found in the “Wild West.”

 

Since Corning is dubbed the “Crystal City,” our next activity involved learning about glassmaking. At the Hands-on Glass Hot Glass Studio, located on aptly named Crystal Lane, owner Rodi Rovner, a glass artist for the past 16 years, offers glassmaking workshops for all ages. Children age two and up can experience glassblowing by creating their own ornament, while teens and adults can make paperweights. Everyone gets to pick what colors they want in their glass creations.

 

                                       

 

 

It was Easter week, so all four of our kids decided to make the egg-shaped ornaments, while my husband and I opted to create glass paperweights. I have to admit that we were a bit nervous about working with 2,000 degree molten glass, but Rodi guided us every step of the way. The glass items have to cool overnight and are ready for pick-up or shipping the next day.

 

We headed back to Market Street for dinner at the London Underground. While the food was wonderful, I had the rack of lamb special; the restaurant may have been a tad too upscale for our four year old!

 

Our hotel of choice when we visit Corning is the Staybridge Suites, located next to the glass museum. We like it because they have two-bedroom suites available, which are perfect for larger families like ours. Having four beds, three TV’s, two bathrooms makes for one happy family, especially when you throw in an indoor pool, a basketball court and a free breakfast!

 

The next day, we checked out two new sports-related attractions. The Park Avenue Sports Center has a championship miniature golf course, as well as a driving range with elevated covered tees. Unfortunately when we visited, they weren’t open for the season yet, but from what we saw, it looked really nice.

 

The Sandlot Sports Academy, a 15,000 square foot, year-round, indoor facility which opened this past February, offers pitching mounds, batting cages, a state-of-the-art golf simulator, high-end putting green and more. Owner Donna Ayers gave me a tour of the facility, which is the only indoor sports facility of its kind in the area.

 

There was a baseball sport camp taking place because of the school break, so my kids weren’t able to try out the batting cages. They did, however, have an opportunity to use the golf simulator, which is accurate in analyzing your golf swing within 1% either way.

 

They offer instructional programs, as well as rental of the facility by appointment. However, walk-ins are welcome if the equipment is available. Donna added that the facility is not just about sports; they also encourage positive values and life skills. Eventually, Ayers wants to add indoor soccer and lacrosse fields to the facility.

 

Since we had a couple hours before it was time to drive home, we couldn’t resist; we made a quick stop at the Corning Museum of Glass. Since we had visited before, this was enough time for us. If you’ve never been here, you may want to set aside the entire day for touring the museum, especially if you want to sign up for one of their glass workshops, which the kids did the last time we visited. Just be sure to sign up early in the day, as they tend to fill up quickly.

 

On a previous visit to Corning, we went to the Benjamin Patterson Inn Museum, which depicts life in the 1800’s. Several buildings are located in this complex, including the 1796 Benjamin Patterson inn, which sits on its original site. Patterson was the first innkeeper in Corning. Other structures in the complex, including a 1784 settler’s cabin and a 1787 one-room schoolhouse were moved to the museum from other locations. A replica blacksmith shop is also on the grounds.

 

There were a few attractions we didn’t have time to check out on this trip. The 250-acre Spencer Crest Nature Center has two ponds, seven miles of hiking trails and a museum of natural systems with changing displays. There is also a planetarium located at Corning Community College, which is open to the public the first and third Friday evening of each month. The Fun Park, which is open seasonally, has miniature golf, a driving range, climbing wall, bumper boats and more.

 

Corning is really a year-round destination. A friend of mine, Doreen Albee, visited Corning with her family in early December about twelve years ago and they enjoyed it so much that they have returned every year since, making it an annual family holiday tradition. During December, Market Street is decorated with holiday lights and the shops are open late. There are open houses at the museums, musical performances in various venues, horse and carriage rides, carolers and more. She noted that the breakfast and lunches with Santa were a big hit with her kids.



If you go
The Information Center of Corning (607-962-8997, 866-INFO-CNG, www.corningny.com) 1 West Market Street, Corning. This visitor’s information center, operated by the Corning Chamber of Commerce (607-936-4686) is located in the heart of Market Street. They also are a distribution point of literature published by the Steuben County Conference and Visitors Bureau and the Gaffer District.


Steuben County Conference and Visitors Bureau (607-936-6544, 866-946-3386, www.corningfingerlakes.com) 1 West Market Street, Corning


Gaffer District (607-937-6292, www.gafferdistrict.com )


Stonebridge Motors (607-738-9605; www.stonebridgecars.com) 363 E. Market Street Ext., Corning.

Rockwell Museum (607-937-5386; www.rockwellmuseum.org) 111 Cedar Street, Corning.


Hands-on Glass Hot Glass Studio (607-962-3044, 866-962-3044; www.handsonglass.com) 124 Crystal Lane, Corning.


Staybridge Suites (607-936-7800) 201 Townley Ave., Corning.
Park Avenue Sports Center (607-936-4820) 412 Park Avenue (Route 225) Corning.
Sandlot Sports Academy (607-937-2226; www.sandlotsportsacademy.com) 11417 LPGA Drive (Route 352, east of Corning), Corning.


Benjamin Patterson Inn Museum (607-937-5281; www.pattersoninnmuseum.org) 59 W. Pulteney Street, Corning.


Corning Museum of Glass (607-937-5381; www.cmog.org) exit 46 off I-86.


Spencer Crest Nature Center (607-962-2169; www.spencercrest.org) 2424 Spencer Hill Road, Corning.


Corning Planetarium (607-962-9100; www.corning-cc.edu/visitors/planetarium ) 1 Academic Drive (Corning Community College), Corning.