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  • Writer's pictureMaanasi Sridhar

Corning, America's Crystal City

Nestled in Steuben County in the beautiful Finger Lakes region, New York's largest wine producing region with over hundred wineries and vineyards, Corning was named the "most fun small town" in America. It has a charming small town vibe that’s hard to match— historic buildings, streets lined with antique shops, boutiques, art galleries, cafes and restaurants, and two world-class museums.

Corning is home to the world's largest glass museum dedicated to glass art and artifacts: The Corning Museum of Glass. Although I live in the east coast, I’ve never had the opportunity to visit the museum, until recently. When it was announced that the Corning Museum of Glass was the conference site for TBEX North America 2018, I immediately decided to sign up for it. In fact Corning’s proximity to New Jersey, where I live, was one of the reasons I decided to attend the travel conference this year.

With Corning as its home, the Corning Museum of Glass exceeded all my expectations! I spent five days exploring the city and the Southern Finger Lakes region, while attending the travel conference. The museum had an impressive collection of glass production from around the world, including collection from Steuben, an American fine glass and crystal luxury brand, founded in 1903 in Corning. As a TBEX delegate, I had access to the museum for the duration of the conference. I spent so many hours admiring the exquisite craftsmanship and revisiting my favorite exhibits at the museum. The live glass-blowing demonstrations at the museum were amazing, and I even got to create a one-of-a-kind keepsake. I particularly liked the museum's Contemporary Art and Design Wing, it had over 900 skylights in the ceiling, and the play of glass and light changes this space over the course of the day.

Corning is also home to another world-class collection housed in The Rockwell Museum, the only Smithsonian affiliate in upstate New York. Housed in Old City Hall, Corning's original City Hall, built in 1893, the museum's collection explores the history of Native American artifacts, American landscapes, and works of contemporary American artists. On the first day here, I was so intrigued by this museum. There's a huge sculpture of a bison's head crashing out of the building's facade, who I later found out, was the museum's mascot, Artemus (for "Art Is A Must"), created primarily with fiber glass, with a sturdy metal skeleton.

Although glass blowing is the heart of this town, Corning has been blazing a path in the 21st century with its cutting edge advances in glass science and technology. Corning is the Headquarters of Fortune 500 Company Corning, Incorporated. The company has been the vanguard of glass science for nearly 170 years — from making light bulbs for Thomas Edison; to inventing and producing durable glass-ceramic cook-wear; producing environmentally conscious LCDs, inventing Gorilla Glass, and providing Fiber Optic Technology. If you think about it, your smartphone's screen is made of Gorilla Glass, Corning's brand of chemically strengthened glass. Steve Jobs used Corning's glass on the original iPhone, and in 2017 Apple invested $200 million in the company to “support Corning’s R&D, capital equipment needs, and state-of-the-art glass processing.” If you're reading this on your smart phone, its most likely that a part of that technology came from Corning, a small American city in upstate New York.

One of the days here, I spent an idyllic afternoon walking on the historic Centerway Bridge, built in 1921, which connects the north and south sides of the city, across the Chemung River. This beautiful pedestrian pathway was restored to its present state a few years back. Needless to say, the views from the bridge were beautiful. There are so many things to do and places to visit in and around Corning, and over a hundred wineries and vineyards in the Southern Finger Lakes region, but you really don't have to look far for great dining options. Corning restaurants offer a variety of cuisines, and some of the best restaurants are in Market Street. The local draft beers at Market Street Brewing Co., a brewpub, came highly recommended, and it did not disappoint. After a long day of attending seminars at the conference, I'd look forward to dining at the restaurants here. One of the popular places to dine at Corning, called Hand + Foot had the most amazing sandwiches, and I really enjoyed The Cellar, a great wine and tapas bar, as well. From good food to exciting day trips, Corning offered a great experience. The Village of Watkins Glen is about 40 minutes from Corning. I went to see the famous Watkins Glen International Speedway, and explored the stunning Watkins Glen State Park.

Steeped in history the town’s Gaffer District is named after a gaffer or a master glassblower. For nearly ten years Gaffer District has been hosting GlassFest, a four-day celebration of glass and the fire arts featuring glassmaking demonstrations, live music, entertainment, shopping, dining and more. The famous Market Street has dozens of locally-owned stores, amazing food, historic architecture, and tree-lined walkways, just minutes from The Corning Museum of Glass. Speaking of architecture, the town has a 50 ft high clock tower in Centerway Square, a memorial to Erastus Corning, for whom the City of Corning is named. When the TBEX Conference concluded, and it was time for me to return home, I knew I'd definitely be seeing Corning again. Maybe on my next trip to this region, I'd treat myself to a great meal at Market Street, and drop by the museum to say hello to Artemus! Corning definitely has that quintessential small town essence and big city vibe to it, it's both charming and renowned, and is one the best places to visit in America.

The Corning Museum of Glass at Corning, New York
The Contemporary Art and Design Wing at CMoG
Corning: America's Crystal City.
Corning, New York
The clock tower in Centerway Sqaure, Corning
Historic Market Street
The Baron Steuben Place houses the Information Center of Corning and several other businesses.
First Bank & Trust Company Building in downtown Corning.
Thomas S. Buechner Park nearby The Rockwell Museum.
Centerway Bridge
Centerway Bridge

Location: Corning, New York

Photos: Maanasi & Sri

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