When someone tells me that an attraction has “something for everyone,” I'm sometimes skeptical. Everyone? Really?
But in some instances, it's just true! And I'm convinced that it's true of the Corning Museum of Glass in New York.
The Corning Museum of Glass (or CMoG) is the largest museum dedicated to glass in the world. And while it has some art museum elements to it like you might expect, it's not just an art museum; at times it feels like a history museum and science museum, too, meaning that, yes, there kind of IS something for everyone here.
I first visited the Corning Museum of Glass back in 2017 as part of a short trip to the Finger Lakes region of New York. My husband Elliot and I spent a few hours wandering through gallery exhibits, watching glass-making demonstrations, and even trying our hands at hot-glass working.
And as someone who often admits that she gets bored at conventional art museums, I was genuinely surprised that we spent nearly half a day at CMoG without even realizing it.
I guess that's why tickets here are good for two consecutive days!
An intro to CMoG
The Corning Museum of Glass was opened in 1951 by Corning Glass Works (now Corning Incorporated), with the goal of preserving and promoting the history of glass.
The original museum was expanded once in 1980 following a devastating flood in 1972, and again from the mid 1990s-2001, when CMoG added a glassblowing studio, the current Contemporary Glass Gallery, Innovation Center, and more. The museum went through one more expansion that opened in 2015.
Today, the Corning Museum of Glass covers hundreds of thousands of square feet, comprising more than 50,000 objects representing 3,500+ years of glass history. The Museum is also home to an extensive library, and conducts research and curates special exhibits on its own.
There are certain permanent exhibits that won't ever fully change at CMoG, but they're always acquiring new pieces, learning more about old pieces, and launching special exhibits – meaning even if you forget about all the exciting hot glass demos, there's always something new to see.
If you're thinking of visiting the Corning Museum of Glass for yourself, read on to learn about how to make the most of spending a day here!
Note: This guide is brought to you as part of a paid partnership with the Corning Museum of Glass. But, as always, all my opinions and suggestions are 100% my own and based on my personal experience.
Top things to see/do at the Corning Museum of Glass
First things first… let's talk about what you can actually see and do at CMoG. The museum is divided up into distinct galleries and spaces, many of which are permanent (though the exact works within them sometimes do get updated).
Some highlights that you don't want to miss include:
1. Contemporary Glass Galleries
Arguably the most striking part of the interior of CMoG is the Contemporary Art + Design Wing, which was designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners and opened in 2015. The contemporary galleries feature stark white walls and floors and soaring ceilings with skylights that really make the glass artwork come alive.
The main gallery features 70+ international works from the Museum's permanent collection, many of them large and very visually striking.
I'm usually someone who doesn't connect to contemporary art, but this is my favorite part of CMoG.
2. 35 Centuries of Glass
This large gallery is incredibly impressive for multiple reasons. First, it literally does cover 3,500 years of glass-making history, from the ancient Egyptians and Romans to the Venetians to the American glass masters. Second, it's even shaped to mimic the flow of hot glass.
There's SO MUCH to see in these galleries, from ancient functional glass pieces to more modern glass art. There are exhibits in this gallery dedicated to the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany, and also to Corning itself and its emergence as “Crystal City.”
Plan to spend a decent chunk of time in this gallery to even scratch the surface. If you wanted to actually stop and read everything, you could probably spend an entire day just in this part of the museum!
3. Innovation Center
Here's where the museum turns more science-y and hands-on! The Innovation Gallery is suspended above the second floor of CMoG, and explores the importance of glass in science and technology.
You can learn about important inventors and inventions that have used glass to solve all sorts of problems, and explore everything from optics and telescopes to windows and how Pyrex was invented.
Within the Innovation Galleries you can also watch flameworking demos (glassworking using a 4,000°F torch) throughout the day, as well as Hot Glass Demos in the Innovation Hot Shop.
4. Hot Glass Demos
Speaking of Hot Glass Demos, these take place multiple times throughout the day and are a big part of the CMoG experience.
Demos happen in the Innovation Hot Shop, as well as in the larger Amphitheater Hot Shop. Most hot glass demos last up to 30 minutes, and are narrated live so you can learn about how a blob of molten glass can turn into a beautiful vase or glass sculpture before your eyes.
There are usually at least 1-2 hot glass demos per hour every day the museum is open. Check the museum's daily schedule for more info.
5. Temporary exhibits
But wait, there's more! CMoG has some smaller permanent galleries, too, as well as many temporary galleries and exhibits. When I last visited as part of a Finger Lakes road trip in October 2021, I also saw exhibits like:
- Fire and Vine: The Story of Glass and Wine (running through the end of 2021)
- In Sparkling Company: Glass and the Costs of Social Life in Britain During the 1700s (running through January 2, 2022)
- Crafting Connections: Our Relationship with Handheld Glass (running through May 16, 2022)
- Blown Away Season 2 (running through January 2022)
You can perhaps begin to understand now how it's very easy to spend hours at this museum without even trying.
6. Make Your Own Glass
Another unique part of visiting the Corning Museum of Glass is the opportunity to try your own hand at glassmaking. The Make Your Own Glass studio gives visitors the chance to try things like glassblowing, fusing, and sandblasting.
No experience at all is required, and projects in The Studio last anywhere from 15-40 minutes. The pricing is very reasonable, too, ranging from $14-$33.
Most glass projects need to cool overnight, so you either need to pick up your work of art the next day, or CMoG can ship it to you for an additional fee.
They always have fun seasonal glass projects you can make, like glass pumpkins in the fall, or glass ornaments and snowmen in the winter. You can also design fusing projects like photo frames, windchimes, and night lights. More info on Make Your Own Glass projects here. (You definitely need to book these well in advance!)
Note: During the pandemic, physical glassblowing is not happening at CMoG. You can still design and help make glass projects like this, but you won't be using a blowpipe like in the past. It's still fun, though!
7. Museum shops
And, of course, CMoG also has a large retail shop (18,000 square feet!) on the first floor. Here, you can purchase glass made by artists at CMoG, as well as work from other glassmakers. There are special sections featuring local glassmakers, too. This is always a great spot to buy unique gifts.
How much time do you need at CMoG?
If you go and Google “how much time to spend at the Corning Museum of Glass,” the most common answer is going to be 3-4 hours.
And I would agree that 3 hours is probably the absolute *minimum* amount of time you can spend here and still get a good overview of things. But tickets for CMoG are actually good for two consecutive days, which should tell you all you need to know about how much time you could conceivably spend within the Museum's walls.
If you truly want to be able to browse each exhibit, watch a couple Hot Glass Demos, AND work on a glass project of your own, then you're probably looking at at full day at the Corning Museum of Glass.
How to spend one day at the Corning Museum of Glass
CMoG is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. each day. So grab a museum map, and let's plot out one day at the Corning Museum of Glass!
- 35 Centuries of Glass – Even though you'll enter the museum near the Contemporary Glass Gallery, I personally think it's cool to learn about glass in chronological order here. So I would head back to the 35 Centuries of Glass galleries first, to see a physical timeline of glassmaking through the millennia. (1-1.5 hours, though you could spend longer)
- Hot Glass Demo – These demos run at least once or twice an hour (or more or less continuously during the busy summer months), so pop into a morning one. You'll get a daily schedule along with a map when you get to CMoG. (30 minutes)
- Contemporary Glass Gallery – Next, explore the contemporary galleries (my favorite part!). (30-60 minutes)
- Special exhibits – This is a good time to browse through any of the temporary exhibits that are on display that catch your eye, or any of the smaller permanent exhibits. (30-45 minutes)
- Lunch at the Cafe – You could leave the museum and get lunch in Corning, but if you're all about maximizing your time at the Museum, I recommend getting lunch at the on-site Cafe. There are several food stations serving up everything from soup and salad combos to burgers and pizza. You can eat either indoors or outside; they start serving lunch at 11 a.m. (1 hour)
- Make Your Own Glass – Head over to The Studio after lunch to work on a glass project of your own! Just be sure to book ahead, as slots do often sell out. (30-60 minutes from check-in through to completing your project)
- Innovation Center – Head back into the main Museum building and explore the third floor Innovation Center. Hopefully you'll be able to catch a flameworking demo, too. (1 hour)
- Hot Glass Demo 2 – The great thing about the Hot Glass Demos at CMoG is that it's up to the glassmaker to decide what she/he will make during each one. If you watched a demo in the Amphitheater Hot Shop before, maybe catch a second one in the Innovation Hot Shop (or vice versa). (30 minutes)
- Museum retail shop – I don't always visit museum gift shops, but I promise the one at CMoG is worth it. You can browse for functional glass, jewelry, art, and more. I always end up picking up unique gifts here. (30-60 minutes)
If you add up all that time, you can see that it's incredibly easy to spend an entire day at the Corning Museum of Glass!
Key things to know about visiting CMoG
And now for all the practical stuff…
Corning Museum of Glass tickets
As of fall 2021, advanced tickets are required to visit the Corning Museum of Glass, which can be purchased online. Tickets have timed entry, but this is just to ensure everyone doesn't arrive all at once. Once you are at CMoG, there's no limit on how long you can stay.
Tickets cost $20 for adults, $17 for seniors (62+) and military members, and $10 for local residents. Anyone under the age of 17 gets in for free.
Your ticket is good for two consecutive days, and includes all the exhibits, galleries, and glass demos.
Tickets for Make Your Own Glass projects must be booked separately.
Parking at CMoG
You can park (for free) at the Corning Museum of Glass Welcome Center, which is just off I-86. Free shuttles can take you from the welcome center to the entrance of the Museum, or it's a short walk.
These shuttles also pick up in downtown Corning from the corner of Pine Street and Market Street roughly every 15 minutes.
CMoG even has electric car charging stations at its Welcome Center now!
The entire Museum is wheelchair accessible with the use of ramps and elevators. Wheelchairs are available for guests to use at no charge on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you're bringing young kids to the Museum, the use of strollers is also permitted inside.
There you have it! Everything you need to know about spending a day at the Corning Museum of Glass.
Have you been to CMoG before? If not, are you inspired to visit now?