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Welcome to 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.


Although most people consider the town and the city are considered a single entity, the town has a completely separate government, which means different zoning laws and different taxes. While primarily residential, there are also nodes of commercial activity in the town, but all of these are built on a suburban model. While “Ithaca” has the reputation of being counter-cultural, the town of Ithaca is more of a politely left of center place. This amounts to a willingness to build and maintain recreational pathways, a steadfast resistance to the spread of an overly crass commercial landscape, and a pronounced reluctance to hunt the resident deer.

Recreation & Entertainment

The town has a network of paths that are open to pedestrians and bicycles. Many of them are oriented to facilitate non-motorized commuting to the university. About half of the Cornell campus is in the town, including the Plantations. This includes 25 acres of botanical gardens and the 150-acre Newman Arboretum. Both are open to the public. The Plantations also oversees over 4,000 acres of natural areas in the town and beyond.

Transportation & Traffic

The regional bus service extends from the city out into the town, but its schedule is very much set by the needs of Cornell commuters, with scant service in the middle of the day and none at night. As noted above, the built landscape of the town is set up for automobile transportation. Several state highways cross the town, but traffic on them is light, except during the morning and evening commutes.

Pros & Cons

The town of Ithaca was largely developed during the 20th century on former agricultural land. As such it consists of beautiful rolling countryside with many views of higher hills or ridges across broad valleys. Four large creeks wind through the town, and their tributaries can be dramatically beautiful (think waterfalls and beaver ponds).