Glass glimmers and sparkles. Glass reflects light. Glass is something we use every day as we cook, use a computer, decorate, and so much more. Over the years, our lives have been transformed by glass.
To learn more about the history, art, and science of glass, plan a visit to the Corning Museum of Glass. Known as the Crystal City, Corning is nestled in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Corning sits between New York City, which is a four- to five-hour drive, and Niagara Falls, which is a three-hour drive.
Corning Glass Works (now Corning Incorporated) established the museum in 1951 on its 100th anniversary as a company. A not-for-profit museum, The Corning Museum of Glass is dedicated to exploring glass. Nearly half a million visitors from around the world visit each year to view the world's most comprehensive glass collection. The Corning Museum of Glass is also one of the world's top glassworking schools.
When I visited the Corning Museum of Glass, I was amazed by how much there was to see and do. Here are some tips for a great experience at the Corning Museum of Glass.
1. Purchase Tickets Online
All tickets must be purchased in advance using the online system. Note that If you are traveling from another state, you may be required by New York State to quarantine for 14 days. Please check the website to verify.
2. Plan Your Day (Or Days)
You can do a quick visit in three or four hours, but it will be fast, and you won't have time to participate in the interactive areas. I would plan at least six hours. The ticket is a two-day admission for a reason.
On the first day, I would suggest visiting the museum, signing up for hands-on activities for the afternoon or following morning, participating in the interactive exhibits, watching some demonstrations, and visiting the gift shop to see what is available.
Return the second day and view any things you missed. Enjoy the hands-on activities you signed up for, and then return to the gift shop to make your final purchases. Don't forget to pick up any items you created.
Be aware that you will need to return a few hours after creating a hands-on activity to pick up the finished product when it cools. When I visited, I was given an assigned time. Since I completed the activity late in the day, I had to pick up my completed project the following morning.
3. Free Parking Is Available
There is plenty of free parking for both cars and RVs, and it is just a short walk from the entrance. There is also a free shuttle from the parking lot.
4. Enjoy Welcome Center Convenience
The museum’s welcome center is located in the main parking lot and is staffed, heated, and has restrooms and maps of the museum available for you.
5. Take The Museum Tour
You can tour the Corning Glass Museum on your own or with a guide. It is an informative, educational, and entertaining tour. I recommend the guided tour. I did the tour myself and more or less roamed around the building the first day I visited. The second time I took the guided tour, and I realized how much I had missed the first time.
There are over 3500 years of glassmaking history in the galleries. You can enjoy small and large works of glass art. The Contemporary Art + Design Galleries house highlights 30 years in glass. The 500-seat Amphitheater Hot Shop is where you will be able to watch live glass demos.
6. Use The App
They now have an app that provides a tour. Bring your smartphone or tablet and headphones, connect via free Wi-Fi, and explore contemporary glass on the GlassApp. There is a great deal to enjoy in terms of glass mechanics and engineering, glass history, and glass art. (The app does not work until you are in the museum.)
7. Don’t Touch
Several large glass sculptures are displayed in open cases. The museum requests visitors to refrain from touching the artwork to help preserve it for future generations.
8. Skip The Phone Call
Avoid using your cell for calls while in the galleries. Visitors are asked to step outside for the duration of all calls.
9. Take Lots Of Photos
Photos are welcome unless otherwise indicated on specific displays. While photos are encouraged, they ask that you do not use flash. Flash photography, selfie sticks, and tripods are not permitted in the galleries. Images taken in the museum may not be used for commercial purposes.
10. Get Charged Up!
There are over 43 charging stations located throughout the Museum campus for recharging mobile devices. Just connect and charge.
11. Watch The Live Demonstrations
Master glass artists transform molten glass into beautiful works of art. The Corning Museum of Glass enjoys sharing its passion for the art of glassmaking with visitors. Live demonstrations are available every day, year-round, and are included in the cost of admission.
Hot Glass Demos take place in the Innovation Hot Shop and are live, narrated demonstrations lasting approximately 30 minutes.
The master glassmakers take a gob of glowing molten glass on the end of a pipe and use their skills to shape them into bowls, vases, or sculptures. There are cameras inside the 2300-degree furnace so you don't miss a single step.
Flameworking Demos are held in the Glass Innovation Center and include a live, narrated demonstration of glassworking at 5000 degrees with a gas- and oxygen- powered torch.
Expert flameworkers demonstrate the glassmaking technique and talk you through the process. During the demo, you'll see the flameworker melt the rods of glass and shape the softened glass into any variety of shapes, from glass animals to beads to ornaments and sculptures.
12. Participate In A Hands-On Experience
Hands-on Make Your Own Glass experiences are fun, engaging, and a perfect way to preserve a memory. You can choose from the following experiences:
These are fun activities for everyone regardless of age. No experience is necessary. Each activity lasts 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the project.
When I visited, it was in October, and I participated in a glass blowing experience. I created a pumpkin that turned out beautifully:
These activities are popular, and spots fill quickly. I recommend booking your experience online when you get your tickets. The hands-on experiences are an extra fee. Learn more in my piece on why glassblowing is an experience you should not pass up.
13. Visit The Corning Museum Of Glass Gift Shop
The Corning Museum gift shop is one of the largest in the country. You will find everything from Corelle bowls to glass bead necklaces, Christmas decorations, and lawn ornaments. There are many items, and they range in cost from a few dollars to hundreds.
14. Use The Shuttle
After you visit the Corning Glass Museum, ride the shuttle to explore the Rockwell Museum and Corning's historic Gaffer District. The bus will return you to the welcome center and parking lot.
15. Visit The Rockwell Museum
The Rockwell Museum provides the story of the American experience through fine art. It’s a Smithsonian Affiliate museum located in Corning’s Old City Hall.
16. Enjoy The Downtown Area
I found the Gaffer District to be full of quaint shops and charming cafes. There were artist studios, antique shops, craft breweries, and the Corning Incorporated World Headquarters, where the original Corning Glass factory was located. I enjoyed browsing around a puzzle store that had more puzzles than you can imagine.
17. Stay The Night
There are several hotels just minutes from the museum. Many have special packages for Corning Museum of Glass visitors. You can check the hotel packages out here.
18. Go To The State Park
Watkins Glen State Park was named the third best state park by USA Today in 2015 and the second best New York attraction in 2018. It showcases 17 waterfalls and gorges. When I visited, it poured down rain but was still beautiful.
19. Spend The Weekend
There is too much to see in the area to just stay one day -- make it a weekend and enjoy the area. The surrounding Finger Lakes region boasts 11 beautiful lakes, 120 wineries, and many craft breweries and distilleries. It has quaint country inns, eclectic college towns, roadside markets, and stunning views.
While you're in Upstate New York, consider: