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En route to the Corning Museum of Glass, I figured a three-hour visit would be plenty. Then I arrived. Assumption shattered!  


Nestled in the mountains of rural western New York, Corning is the Crystal City. In the 1860s, Corning Glass set up shop making functional glass, notably Edison’s lightbulbs. Fine art and crystal glassmakers moved in. With mergers, Corning became a leading manufacturer in glass—from lightbulbs and windows to cut glass, crystal, art blown glass, scientific glass and fiber optics, Pyrex dishes and Gorilla Glass (probably part of the screen you’re reading this on!).

The  company and town—near which I grew up—attracted creative thinkers. Mr. Hanley, my seventh-grade science teacher, told us that if the team at Corning took a prospective employee out to eat and the interviewee salted the food before tasting—that’s it, they failed the interview! Apocryphal? Maybe!

Start in Town

Corning was forward thinking in preserving its Victorian downtown in the 1970s. Artists were given incentives to live in town and keep it sparkly. Today it’s hopping with locally owned restaurants, craft breweries, shops, small galleries, and a Smithsonian-affiliate museum. The Centerway outdoor plaza buzzes with locals and tourists.

Corning’s a walkable city. Parking the car and not touching it for two days? Joyous! Were I less motivated (or the weather less amiable), there’s a shuttle.

Our weekend began on the grassy Corning Riverside Walk. The embankment offers sweeping views across the Chemung River, and of the town and mountains. We crossed the pedestrian Centerway Bridge, leading to the historic Gaffer District on Market Street.

Chemung River at Sunset

The shops include two yarn stores. At Rabbit Row Yarns and Haberdashery, the owner Barb thoughtfully stocks regional and sustainable yarns. Her center display is covered with tempting haberdashery: sashiko supplies, basketry, accessories, gifts. All are welcome at the weekly Making and Mending night. Another shop, Wooly Minded, is a few blocks away.

Glass enthusisasts, get your glow on! A friendly resale shop offers collectors everything from traditional antique to modern. Craft galleries sell handmade original glass work. An old school movie theater beckons incandescently. It’s not all glass—it’s just very present.              

In Which We Fall in Love with Glass

It’s a short walk to the Corning Museum of Glass, easily mistaken for a college campus. Stunning architecture houses galleries as well as research, performance and studio spaces.

Here’s where I take a closer look at my glassumptions: I love glass for function but as my 11-year-old travel partner would say, glass as art was, I thought, “mid.” Glass seemed to me unfriendly and purely decorative as an art form. The medium switches from solid to liquid to solid to liquid. It requires fire and dramatic moves to be in the right state of matter at the right time. Unlike, say, yarn. I can drop a skein on the ground, pick it up and keep knitting. I can shove it in a bag, take it with me—it’s still sweet yarn.   

But less than three minutes into the museum tour, I understood how wrong I was.

By Beth Lipman, All in All, 2020

We began in the contemporary galleries, flowing spaces reflecting the medium, gorgeously lit.

By Javier Pérez, Carroña/Carrion, 2011

Modern fine art glass is beautiful, and thought provoking, and has context!

By Flora C. Mace, Still Life with Two Two Plums, 2000

Next we hit the historical galleries, learning how glass was worked over the centuries and in diverse cultures.

Beaded Wedding Box from Indonesia, Sumatra, 1930–60

By the time we got to the science side of things, we needed a break. Literally. We  sat down for a fascinating talk about how and why glass breaks, one of many daily live demonstrations.

My maker heart leapt at the museum’s Make Your Own Glass workshops that require advance registration. We were eager to experience this tricky medium.

Designed for success, you’re assisted in handling glass in its molten glowing taffy stage, blowing into a tube to shape a vessel, pulling it to shape with long pinchers and turning metal poles in the gaffer role.

In addition to the hot glass piece class, we signed up for a bead  workshop, twirling small glass pieces in a torch, melting on colored glass rods. Rating: 10/10!

Work for sale by Netflix’s Blown Away artist and host Katherine Gray!

The gift shop has soccer field dimensions. Glowing tables showcase pieces by artists from all around the globe. We shopped for glass jewelry, sighed over enormous sculptures, listened to glass wind chimes by the dozen … beauty overload! It was late afternoon as we exited.

In town, dinner and a stop by local ice cream maker Dippity Doo Dahs ended a smashing day. 

More to Explore

After picking up our now annealed glass (Look! The color swirls worked as we’d hoped!), and with just a few hours left of the weekend, we set out to explore.

In town there’s the Rockwell Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate focusing on American art and culture with an extensive Native American collection. Had we known how much we loved playing with hot glass we’d have signed up for a longer experience at local studio, Hands On Glass.

Nearby Watkins Glen has a lively downtown and another yarn shop, Fiber Arts in the Glen. It’s situated on Seneca Lake, with wineries surrounding. For the outdoorsy: a hike in Watkins Glen State Park is magical.

Near Ithaca, we took in the beauty of the Finger Lakes Region by riding off into the sunset (OK it was still light out) on a spectacular trail ride, perfect for the inexperienced horse person, at Painted Bar Stables.

Now get out there and have a crack at Corning!

Note: Each piece in our series A Knitter’s Weekend is written by a knitter with local knowledge and a personal point of view. If you have additional places or information you’d like to share, please leave a comment. And here’s how to save this article in your MDK account.

More Travels—and Knits—with Gale

A Knitter’s Weekend: The Olympic Peninsula

I Made It With Atlas: Louise Cardigan

A Knitter’s Weekend: South County, Rhode Island

About The Author

With a degree in photojournalism from the University of Minnesota, Gale Zucker has made a career of capturing the humanity and humor in the people and places that are her subjects.


  • Great article! I went a few years ago. I also loved the Museum of Glass and Watkins Glen and just walking around the town. We also toured the Cornell campus. But I missed the yarn shops. I “made” a handblown pumpkin at the workshop.

  • If you travel to Corning on Route 17/86, check out the annual strawberry festival in Owego, NY June 16-17, 2023! A quaint town on the Susquehanna.

    • My aunt is from Owego, how did I never know about this? And I grew up in Watkins Glen, still have family there and visit at least once a year.

      • I grew up in Watkins Glen. We regularly visited CMOG. If you go, plan for a whole day at the museum if possible – there’s so much to see and do. Next time I visit my family, I will definitely have to check out the yarn shops in Corning. I’ve only been to the one in Watkins Glen, which sadly didn’t exist yet when I lived there.

        If you have time, I highly recommend the Glen Gorge trail in Watkins Glen State Park. It’s a hike through the beautiful gorge, including through 3 waterfalls and over a suspension bridge. It’s over 800 stone stairs, so wear appropriate footwear – no sandals or flipflops. Wish I could put pictures. We love camping in the park. But don’t go during NASCAR race weekend, unless you are going to the race!

    • Owego has a new knitting shop, Red Bird Fiber Arts. Young, bright, friendly owners, a bright space, lovely yarns. The town has a new bake shop, “Baking by Numbers.” Again, charming, energized young owners and bakers. I promise memorable sourdoughs, babkas, brioche, and other exquisite pastries. Owego has many offerings, on the mighty Susquehanna!

  • Thank you for the article on this beautiful little city. I was born and raised there, and can attest that the town has always been charming and that Corning Incorporated is a center of innovation, inclusivity, and creativity. But, sorry – Mr. H. was wrong! I ordered a chef’s salad at my job interview, definitely salted it before I tasted it, and recently retired after decades with this wonderful company.

    • Nooooo! Mr Hanley was wrong! LOL!

  • I must be really old or have been lucky enough to have a somewhat diverse life (probably both) because in the last two days I have experienced both MS&W and Corning. Gale had only so much space (filled very satisfyingly with her beautiful photographs) or she might have included the wonderful examples of antique Steuben glass pieces found around town. I believe some people still collect them. Just one more thing that make Corning such a little gem of a town. Thank you so much, Gale, for the memories.

  • Connecting knitting and glass is a sculptor Carol Milne. I bought one of her piece’s and it’s on my mantle. Making me happy each time I see it.

  • I live not far from Corning, NY and agree that it is a wonderful town! The yarn shops are stellar with very kind and helpful staff! Great museums, restaurants, clothing stores in a lovely setting.

  • Thank you, Gale & MDK, for a beautifully written tour of our Crystal City. After growing up in the region & moving back 9 years ago, I still feel like I’m on vacation – so much to experience. It was a pleasure to welcome you to Rabbit Row – come back soon!

    • I know Barbara! We used to volunteer together at our kids’ school library when we lived in Northern Virginia. So thrilled her charming LYS made the pages of MDK. Congratulations, Barb! Someday I’ll make it up there to shop and say Hi.

      • Hi Ingrid!! ❤️ Thank you for the kind words. Good times volunteering at STL. I hope you make it here to visit too!

    • Hi Barbara, it’s me, Barbara, who visited you on Monday in your charming shop. You were such a help in helping me choose mini-skeins to make the Corning hat and I will definitely come back to see you again next time I’m up there!

      • Hi Barbara! I love that you found my shop before MDK made me famous. Come back soon!

    • Rabbit Row is now high on my list of shops to visit!

  • Thanks for this wonderful trip suggestion—a town with at least two museums and two yarn stores! And a strawberry festival on the way there. I can’t wait.

    • Nearby Elmira has Mark Twain sites. His sister-in-laws farm, where he had a gazebo built where he did his writing, and his grave. You can’t visit the farm, but they moved the gazebo into town.

  • My parents enjoyed their get-aways to Corning. I have yet to go, and this makes me want to! Nice piece!

  • I did a glass blowing class in Asheville and came away with a tiny pumpkin. I’m very impressed with the big glass art piece the author made.

    Now Corning and Watkins Glen are definitely on the travel list.

  • Love it! Thank you for sharing!

  • I have visited the Finger Lakes almost every summer since college in the 80’s (I have a friend who’s father was a VP for Corning Glass Works). There is so much to do there you could spend many happy weeks in the region. I can recommend Sorge’s for dinner in Corning. Their handmade pasta is wonderful. I’ll be back this summer staying in a cabin on Seneca Lake, and I’ll have plenty of knitting time!

  • My father worked for Corning glass and it’s the place I grew up in, in the 50’s. Thank you for this wonderful update.

  • I’ll be attending my 40th high school class reunion in Watkins Glen in July so I’ll definitely be checking out those Corning yarn shops!

  • Hi Gale, how timely your article is. I was just in Corning this past Monday on a spur of the moment trip up to the Finger Lakes from my home in Virginia. I met the lovely Barbara at Rabbit Row Yarns who was so helpful in helping me select yarns for a Corning hat (a new pattern released by Blue Sky Fibers in Woolstok. Wholeheartedly concur on the glass museum. Outstanding! And my quads still haven’t quite recovered from those steps at Watkins Glen!

    • Sounds like a perfect trip!

  • I live not far from the Corning/Ithaca area. When I moved to upstate NY, our landlord (and neighbor) showed me several examples of their collection of Steuben glass, which was made there by a relative who worked as a glassmaker. Apparently if glassworkers were caught smuggling out second-rate versions of pieces, they would be fired on the spot!
    Needless to say, upstate NY is a great place to go thrifting for Pyrex and Corningware. There are always some pieces at our local thrift stores, and some of it is the vintage Pyrex made pre-1996.

  • Oh!! So excited! I am visiting family outside Binghamton,NY and googled Corning and it is only an hour away from where I will be staying! Trip there is now on my list to visit! Thank you soooo much!

  • My daughter and son-in-law lived for a few years in Corning and loved the walkability of it. We have visited many times and gone to both museums. They moved several miles away to Elmira to purchase a home, but still visit Corning often. This weekend is Glassfest, where they will be performing on Friday as the opening act for Fuel.

  • Your glass piece is lovely, what fun to make it!
    Thanks for the vicarious trip!

    • You’re welcome! For the record ,the curly swirly sculpture is Zoe’s piece! I was impressed that 11 year olds could participate (and younger) in the workshops. I made a slightly wonky flower .

  • Thanks for sharing, Gale! This looks like a great trip. Glass plus cute town plus yarn!

  • I love Corning. I tell people all the time that the Corning Museum of Glass is in my top three best museums I’ve ever visited, and I am a museum lover who has traveled A LOT in Europe and lived in Washington, DC! My boyfriend and I also went there thinking it could be done in two to three hours, but I spent that much time just looking at the art glass! I really want to go back.

  • YAY! I went to college in Elmira and have long had a love for this part of the country. Corning is such a neat place. Thanks so much for this post!

    (I also was about to start planning my own western NY road trip to the glass museum, but then I remembered that I have a 2 year old … so maybe we’ll put that off a few years!)

  • I’d be happy to help with Asheville NC.

  • This looks like a blast! Not a crash, I hope! Horses and art and ice cream!,

  • I went to college in Geneva, NY, on the northern end of Seneca Lake. I’ve visited Watkins Glen on a school trip but alas, having no car at the time, never made it as far as Corning. Now I really want to visit. Although I think I’ll wait until the kids are older than 5 and 10 months. Thank you for the vicarious visit to tide me over in the meantime!

  • It’s shocking that only one yarn shop — the newest of the three — received more than a sentence of mention. I travel to the area annually to shop and you have done a great dis-service to the other shops. Your article is unfair, shows your lack of knowledge, especially of Wooly Minded which has been a great addition to Corning for many years.

  • Thank you Gale for such a rich and inspiring article! Of course, the photos are amazing as is all your work. We are fortunate to have had you as our Berroco photographer for many years – you make our collections come alive.

    • Thanks Jan! I have THE BEST clients and gigs.

  • thanks for the article!! we visited this past weekend due to scheduling conflicts for our original vacation idea. the museum was amazing and Watkins Glen is gorg-eous!

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