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Welcome to the City of Ithaca, NY


Ithaca is the geographical, commercial, and cultural center of Tompkins County at the south end of Cayuga Lake. It is a quintessential college town with Cornell University on East Hill and Ithaca College on South Hill. During the school year students make up about a third of the population.


The perennial joke about Ithaca is that it is “centrally isolated.” It is, in fact, at least 40 minutes from a four-lane highway in any direction, but in the age of the Internet it is now much less culturally isolated. It is a hub of a social-economic movement to built a local sustainable economy, and the presence of Cornell and Ithaca College’s thousands of employees helps to fund this trend. This has meant an emphasis on “locavore” menus in restaurants, a thriving boutique agriculture community raising organic vegetables and livestock, and a growing sector making products using locally sourced materials.

Recreation & Entertainment

Ithaca is almost all about recreation and entertainment and the arts. There are an enormous number and diversity of restaurants (several of high quality), reputedly more per capita than New York or San Francisco. There are several live music venues of varying sizes offering folk, traditional, rock and classical music. There is a concentration of galleries downtown and more scattered through the city and town.

Transportation & Traffic

Public transportation consists of a bus system that is primarily designed to move passengers to and from Cornell, but also serves the general public, especially within the city, but extending out to several small towns. There is also a local carshare service. Ithaca is served by regional bus lines and the Tompkins County Regional Airport, but there is no train service.

Pros & Cons

Given its small size (~30,000 people, about half of them students) Ithaca is remarkably cosmopolitan. It is also a politically progressive city, which means that it has a lot of social services and strong emphasis on quality of life. This includes making the city as walkable and amenity-rich as possible. It is surrounded by steep hills cut by deep gorges filled with waterfalls and cascades and looks out on a deep, clean lake fed by five creeks that cut through the town and city. In short, it is very pretty.