One of my favorite places to go in Corning is the historic Market Street district, a four block area which has restored 19th Century buildings housing over 100 stores, art studios, and restaurants. Among my favorite shops along West Market Street is Vitrix Hot Glass, where you can watch craftsmen blow glass items right in the studio. One of the more popular and definitely the cutest item they have for sale during the holiday season are their snowmen, which retail for $42 and $55. “We sell about 500 snowmen a season out of our gallery,” said Bob Kelly, business manager of the studio. “We also sell them wholesale to other galleries all over the country.”
Across the street, Imagine That, has a large selection of upscale children’s clothing, along with gifts and toys. This is a perfect place to shop for holiday gifts for the kids or grandkids. A few blocks down, on East Market Street, be sure to stop by the Glass Menagerie. I always refer to it as the kaleidoscope store because of the shop’s large selection of kaleidoscopes, which range in price from $4 to $4,000. The shop’s proprietor, Richard Pope, is a part-timeprofessional magician who specializes in glass magic.
Also on East Market Street, Connors Market Street Mercantile is like a country store in the city. They carry a wide variety of items, including Vera Bradley merchandise, Lang cards, Byers Choice figurines, collectibles, gourmet foods, Corning souvenirs and more.
Around the corner from Market Street, the Rockwell Museum of Western Art features the art collection of the Robert Rockwell Family, one of the most comprehensive Western Art collections in the country. Their gift shop, The Trading Post, features many interesting items, including Western and Native American related items, including silver and turquoise jewelry, pottery, books, music, and more.
Make your own glass pieces
If you want to get creative, you can actually try your hand at glassmaking. The Corning Museum of Glass offers a “make your own glass experience,” including holiday ornaments formed from hot glass, along with projects using fusing, flamework, and sandblasting. These sessions sell out quickly, especially during the holidays, so be sure to make reservations. Advance reservations can be made online; tickets for these sessions are also available on a first come, first serve basis the day of your visit when you purchase your museum admission tickets.
You can also make an appointment to create your own one-of-a-kind ornament or paperweight at the Hands-on-Glass Studio, operated by glassmaker Rodi Rovner. On my family’s most recent trip to Corning, we had a lot of fun creating our own glass items here. Rodi guides you one-on-one though the glassmaking process. Your finished pieces have to go though an overnight annealing (slow cooling) process. The finished items can be picked up the next day if you stay overnight or you can arrange to have them shipped to your home.
More holiday fun in nearby Elmira
Take some time to explore the nearby city of Elmira, just a short drive from Corning. Author Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) wrote many of his well-known works here, as his wife, Olivia, was an Elmira native. The Clemens spent their summers here and both are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira.
To learn more about Elmira, take one of the tours of the city’s Victorian Near West Side Historic District, which are offered by tour guide Samuel Draper. Over 20 homes in this district are used for his tours. During December the homes are decorated for the holidays in Victorian style. After the first of the year the homeowners will begin decorating for Valentine’s Day. I haven’t had the opportunity to go on any of his tours yet, but after looking at the website, this will definitely be on my to-do list in the near future.
To get into the Christmas spirit, stop by the Christmas House in Elmira, a unique gift shop located in an 1894 Queen Anne Victorian style mansion. “Our name is a bit of a misnomer,” said owner and E.I.C. (elf in charge) Julie Delgrosso. “Although at Christmas we scream Christmas, we also carry gifts for all occasions. We are especially proud of the number of products that we carry that are either locally made or represent our area or region.” The shop carries thing like ornaments, wooden replicas of historical buildings, Mark Twain books, and much more.
Another unique place to shop near Elmira is a store called Oldies but Goodies in Big Flats. I haven’t had the opportunity to visit it yet, but I’ve hear it’s really nice. It has over 12,000 square feet of retail space and they carry a variety of times including furniture, home décor, collectibles, and more displayed in 50 separate rooms.
Holiday events in the Gaffer District
Downtown Corning, which includes historic Market Street, is referred to as the Gaffer District (A gaffer is a term for a master glassblower). This holiday season the Gaffer District will be sponsoring the 35th annual Sparkle on December 5th from 5-9pm. Market Streetwill be closed to traffic and activities include horse and carriage rides, food vendors, live entertainment, ice sculptures, and more.
The live Christmas tree at Centerway Square will be lit on Saturday November 28 at 4pm, followed by a parade of lights at 6:30pm along historic Market Street. Starting the Friday after Thanksgiving, Santa will be in the Crystal House in Centerway Square each Thursday through Sunday during the holiday season.
Places to eat and sleep
The past few times we went to Corning we stayed overnight at the Staybridge Suites, located within walking distance of the Corning Museum of Glass. There is also a Radisson hotel just steps away from Market Street, along with several bed and breakfast inns located in both Corning and Elmira. There are also dozens of restaurants located near and along Market Street, from fast food to upscale.
Corning Museum of Glass (800-732-6845, www.cmog.org) One Museum Way, Corning
. Open daily 9-5:30. Adults $12.50, children 19 and under are free.
Vitrix Hot Glass Studio (607-936-8707, www.vitrixhotglass.com) 77 West Market Street, Corning
. Mon-Fri. 8-6, Sat 10-6.
Imagine That (607-937-4242, www.imaginethatkids.com) 86 West Market Street, Corning
. Open M-W 10-6, Th.-Fr 10-8, Sat. 10-5, Sun. 12-4.
The Glass Menagerie (607-962-6300, www.corningmenagerie.com) 37 East Market Street, Corning
. Sun. 12-5, M-W 10-5:30, Th.-Sat 10-8.
Connors Market StreetMercantile (607-937-4438, www.connorsmercantile.com) 16 East Market Street, Corning. Sun. 12-5, M-W 10-6, Th.-F 10-8, Sat 10-6.
Rockwell Museum (607-937-5386, www.rockwellmuseum.org) 111 Cedar Street, Corning. Open 9-5 daily. $6.50 adults, children 19 and under are free.
Hands on Glass Studio (607-962-3044, www.handsonglass.com) 124 Crystal Lane, Corning
. Glassmaking by appointment.
Near West Side tours (607-732-1436, www.historicnearwestside.com ) Tours are by appointment. $12/per person.
The Christmas House (607-734-9547www.christmas-house.com) 361 Maple Avenue, Elmira
Oldies but Goodies (607-562-7416, www.oldiesbutgoodiesinc.com ) NY 352 and Carpenter Road, Big Flats
Corning Gaffer District (607-937-6292, www.gafferdistrict.com)
Staybridge Suites (607-962-5000) 201 Townley Ave. Corning
From Buffalo, take the New York State Thruway east to the I-390 south. Follow that until it ends at the I-86 east to Corning and Elmira.