"Ithaca (is Gorges), New York" Top 5 Page for this destination Ithaca by ianerin

Ithaca Travel Guide: 235 reviews and 310 photos

"10 Square Miles surrounded by Realty"

That, as a local bumper sticker states, is an accurate enough description of this small city. Ithaca is a pleasant place nestled in the hills of upstate New York, one of the gateways to the Finger Lakes region. It is a liberal enclave in the heart of upstate New York, a place where every member of the Common Council is a democrat, and numerous bumper stickers proclaim that "Ithaca is not GEORGE'S" (a pun of the popular "Ithaca is Gorges" slogan).

Ithaca combines a great collegetown atmosphere in a beautiful natural setting that includes wonderful gorges, waterfalls, state parks, all directly in the city. There are also a myriad of parks and recreational opportunities found just outside the city throughout the nearby Finger Lakes region.

Ithaca's remote location (about 40 min. from the nearest highway) is exactly what makes it attractive to many who call it home. One does not travel through Ithaca, it is a destination. While it is close to larger cities like Binghamton and Syracuse, I would argue that Ithaca has more to do than both of these cities combined, with the exception of better shopping, and even then all Syracuse has is a bigger mall.


Ithaca was founded at the southern end of Cayuga Lake at the confluence of several transportation routes. Its early years were as a roudy frontier town. Hopes for significant growth were dashed when the important railroad lines in the region were placed outside of the city. There were connections from Ithaca to the Erie Canal via the lake, but traffic along this route eventually dried up due to the long distance (50+ miles) to the canal, and drop in importance of the city as a transportation hub.

The city's transformation from upstate backwater to university town began in the mid-19th century. A local landowner, Ezra Cornell, who had made a fortune in the telegraph industry, decided to donate most of the land of his farm estate to found a new university. The new university was named after himself, and run initially by Andrew Dickson White, who shaped the early architecture and open space of the campus. Cornell University was founded in 1865, and started in 1868. Cornell's vision for this university was "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study".

For a brief period in the early 20th century, Ithaca was one of the centers for the country's film industry. Attracted to the area by the beautiful scenery, film directors shot several hundred silent films in the area before the entire industry picked up and moved to Hollywood in the 1910s and 20s.

Ithaca in the 20th century was similar to many other cities across the country. Population grew, mostly on the periphery of the city. Manufacturing jobs left, and downtown decayed. There is little doubt that Cornell and Ithaca College provided a stable economy through which Ithaca entered the 21st century relatively healthy compared to almost every other upstate New York city. Today, Cornell and Ithaca College continue to grow, Downtown has been revitalized and the city is emerging as one of the most popular tourist destinations in upstate.

Higher Education

Higher education is the big industry in Ithaca, with both Cornell University and Ithaca College adding up to about 26,000 students. Both schools are located on hills overlooking the downtown, which is located in a valley. The large number of students, which includes students from the Tompkins-County Community College or Tc3, is certainly the reason why Ithaca is such a vibrant place for its size, despite the opinion of many locals that Ithaca can do just fine without the local universities.

Ithaca is an interesting mix of students, professors, locals and those who moved here for the quality of life. Ithaca is certainly a "lifestyle" city and attracts transplants seeking the liberal atmostphere and outdoor recreation opportunities.

It is not common for those who graduate from either Cornell or Ithaca College to stay in the area, and thus one of the things the city suffers from is a small population of young professionals.


  • Intro Updated Apr 14, 2006
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Reviews (17)

Comments (3)

  • kooka3's Profile Photo
    Aug 14, 2006 at 11:16 AM

    Great page on Ithaca! It's one of my favorite places. (I have to mention, though, that the one time I was in the Chanticleer, the only people I met were college students! lol)

  • Pawtuxet's Profile Photo
    Apr 14, 2006 at 9:59 AM

    Nice intro to Ithaca. I've made a few visits to the school, apple orchards, and great wineries. Lovely little park as I recall.

  • KiKitC's Profile Photo
    Apr 14, 2006 at 7:26 AM

    Fantastic tips. Great photos. Think I'll have to make a day trip this summer to Ithaca!

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