Local Atmosphere

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3 College Senior

Local Atmosphere: It is a very small town, so shopping and events are pretty much the bare minimum. It has an amazing college town feel though in the sense that all the locals know about and everything pretty much revolves around the school. There is gorgeous scenery and hiking within a short radius.

2 people found this useful Report
4 College Senior

Local Atmosphere: The Commons are a super fun place to go for food and shopping. Ithaca itself loves to embrace all peoples and cultures and there are many festivals throughout the year. And you have to go to the farmer's market - it's awesome!

1 person found this useful Report
4 Recent Alumnus

Local Atmosphere: The town is small and very far from major hubs. However, there's TONS to do on-campus, which I always took advantage of. Offerings such as: movies at the Cornell Cinema (super cheap and free popcorn!), festivals (Holi in the spring), talks (John Cleese of Monty Python), sports matches (HOCKEY!!!), campus club events (Latin ballroom classes), etc. There's really great food available at Collegetown, quaint shopping in the Commons, and a Target at the mall. The local bus system takes you pretty much anywhere you need and when it's nice out (or not, if you're adventurous) go for a hike. Ithaca is one of the most beautiful places I've been in.

2 College Freshman

Local Atmosphere: Pretty much the middle of nowhere!

1 person found this useful Report

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Student Author OverviewWhat's This?

Mandy Kain and Radhika Arora
Hewlett, N.Y., and Ithaca, N.Y.
View all previous student authors

It’s no secret that Ithaca is not an urban environment. Those used to large cities may find Ithaca’s activities to be limited. However, the town is actually quite dynamic, with beautiful outdoor scenery allowing for fun recreational activities, local festivals, lots of restaurants/shops, and a vibrant activist community.

The Cornell campus itself is teeming with activities, as is Collegetown, adjacent to the campus—you never have to leave Cornell to find something to do, but there’s plenty of activity in Ithaca if you look for it. Activities range from athletic, like salsa-dancing, to academic, like any one of the many distinguished speakers who lecture on campus. For those who crave an urban setting, New York City, Philadelphia, and Montreal are all within reasonable driving distance. It’s no secret, though, that Ithaca’s weather, like much of the Northeast, is often gray, cold, and dreary. Still, the campus’s beauty is unparalleled in the spring and summer.

Facts & Statistics

Fun Local Trivia
  1. Ithaca offers more restaurants per capita than New York City.
  2. An alternative currency called Ithaca Hours was founded in 1991 by Paul Glover. Ithaca Hours are honored locally by more than 400 businesses.
  3. The downtown Ithaca Commons was named one of the New York's top design projects of the century by the state chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
  4. Cayuga Lake splits the upper half of Tompkins County in two. The lake stretches about 40 miles northward from Ithaca, is the longest of the Finger Lakes, and is one of the deepest lakes in the eastern United States at 435 feet.
  5. Newfield Covered Bridge was erected in 1853 to protect those crossing the Cayuga Inlet Creek in Newfield. It is still standing and is the only covered bridge in the Finger Lakes District.
Notable Natives
  • Gillian Anderson
  • John Lithgow
  • Gavin MacLeod
  • Christopher Reeve
  • Carl Sagan
  • Rod Serling
  • David Foster Wallace
  • Paul Wolfowitz
Local Slang
  • Beast: Refers to the beer Milwaukee's Best, which you'll find in kegs at most fraternity parties
  • Full Suicide: The Full Sui, found only at Hot Truck, comes on a half loaf of garlic bread. It is built by layering tomato sauce, mushrooms, sausage, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese. Finally, it is baked to perfection. What a sandwich!
  • IC: Ithaca College, sometimes called IK
  • Ithacating: The perpetual mist, similar to a light drizzle, which is unique to Ithaca
  • Libe Slope: The hill that leads from west campus to the libraries and the quad of the College of Arts and Sciences is fondly called Libe Slope. The length of Libe Slope at the longest section is 480 feet, and the steepest angle is approximately 18.8 percent.
  • Nasties: Name given to Bear Necessities, a convenience store/dining hot spot located in Robert Purcell Community Center on North Campus.
  • Prelims: Short for "preliminaries"; some classes, rather than having a midterm and a final, will have 1-3 prelims spaced throughout the semester, as well as a final.
Points of Interest
  • Buttermilk Falls
  • Cayuga Lake
  • The Gorges
  • Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Fine Art
  • R. H. Treman Park
  • Taughannock Park
  • Wineries
Shopping Centers
  • Carousel Mall (Syracuse)
  • Ithaca Commons
  • The Shops at Ithaca Mall
Movie Theaters
171 E. State St.
(607) 277-6115
Movie Theaters
Cornell Cinema
101 Willard Straight Hall
Cornell campus
(607) 255-3522
Movie Theaters
Fall Creek Pictures
1201 N. Tioga St.
(607) 272-1256
Movie Theaters
Hoyts Cinema
2251 N. Triphammer Rd.
(607) 266-0717
Movie Theaters
Regal Cinemas at The Shops at Ithaca Mall
40 Catherwood Rd.
(607) 266-7960
Major Sports Teams
Distances to Nearest Major Cities
  • New York City: NY: 4 hours, 30 minutes
  • Philadelphia: PA: 5 hours
Did You Know?
  • There are large, beautiful gorges all over Ithaca, including on Cornell's campus. Almost everyone seems to own a shirt that says, "Ithaca is Gorges," or some variation there of.
  • The Ithaca Friends of the Library used book sale is the third largest in the country. On the last day of the sale, you can buy a bag of books for $1! The fall sale is for two weeksin October.

Student Polls

Rate the local atmosphere on the following topics    Based on 76 responses

Very poor
  • Cost of living
  • Dining
  • Friendliness of locals toward students
  • Museums/cultural attractions
  • Nightlife
  • Parking
  • Parks and recreation
  • Professional sports
  • Safety
  • Scenery
  • Shopping
  • Transportation

What is the local atmosphere like at your school?    Based on 77 responses

  • 13% Painfully remote.
  • 1% In or near a big city, but there's not much to do off campus.
  • 30% Small town with plenty of charm.
  • 56% Vibrant college town. There's no big city, but there are plenty of things to do off campus.
  • 0% City living at its finest. There's always something fun and interesting going on.

What is the proximity to other universities? Is there much interaction?    Based on 76 responses

  • 9% There aren't any nearby schools.
  • 67% There are nearby schools, but students do NOT interact much.
  • 24% There are nearby schools that students often interact with.

Can you see yourself living here after graduation?    Based on 76 responses

  • 53% No way.
  • 41% Maybe, if I could find a good job.
  • 7% Totally.



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