Ithaca is a small city in the Finger Lakes region of central New York, at the southern tip of Cayuga Lake. In addition to being the home of Cornell University and Ithaca College, Ithaca is known for its several gorges and waterfalls, small eclectic shops and restaurants, and deep interest in politics.
In some ways, Ithaca is a town of many contrasts that can attract different types of visitors. Ithaca is very much a college town, but it is also home to very solid and vibrant permanent community. The town is small and surrounded by outdoor amenities. Cornell University has the feel of the Ivy League school that it is, yet it excels in state-wide agricultural and veterinary research, and is the state's land-grant university.
Ithaca/Tompkins Convention and Visitor's Bureau (607) 272 1313
Call, go online, or come into the Visitor's Center at 904 East Shore Drive (Rte. 34) for maps, and help finding lodging, dining, events and attractions in Ithaca and Tompkins County. Visit the website for information on planning group accommodations including weddings, conferences, reunions, etc.
Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce (607) 273 7080
Relocation packets, and information on local businesses.
The Ithaca Tompkins County Regional Airport, located northeast of the city has flights on US Airways to and from Philadelphia and New York (Laguardia), on Delta Air Lines to and from Detroit, and on Continental Airlines to and from Newark. Hourly bus service to the Ithaca Commons and Cornell University are available on TCAT Route 32 (weekdays) and 72 (weekends), until around 11pm each night (4pm on Sunday) for $1.50, click  for more information. Taxi service is also available, although you may have to wait for a cab to arrive, especially during peak hours. Its a good idea to call as soon as your plane lands.
Airports in Binghamton, Scranton, Syracuse, and Elmira additional departures and sometimes cheaper fares, although Ithaca's fares have become much more competitive since the addition of Continental.
By car, Ithaca is about 1 hour south of Syracuse, 1 hour north of Binghamton, 2 hours southeast of Rochester, 4 hours north of Philadelphia, and 4 hours northwest of New York City. The main routes into the city are New York highways 13, 79, 89, and 96. Interstate 86 (formerly NY State Route 17) intersects NY State Rt 13 in Elmira, about 45 minutes southwest of Ithaca. Interstate 81 connects with NY State Rt 79 half an hour from Ithaca at Whitney Point, and with NY State Rt 13 about 20 minutes from Ithaca in Cortland. You can reach Interstate 81 by taking NY State Route 17 (currently being transitioned to Interstate 86) West from New York City, or Interstate 476 North from Philadelphia. Interstate 90 connects to NY State Rt 96 near Geneva, NY, about 45 minutes from Ithaca.
Shortline (Coach USA) offers  several daily departures to New York City via Binghamton, although Shortline primarily serves the Cornell University Campus and some departures skip the Ithaca City Bus Terminal.
Trailways is a regional carrier primarily serving Western New York that offers service to Rochester, Buffalo, and southern Ontario in Canada.
Although Ithaca once had rail connections to New York City, Scranton, Philadelphia, Buffalo and several cities in New England, the last passenger train left Ithaca in 1961, with the majority of service ending in the 1930's. Today, the nearest Amtrak stations are on the Empire Corridor in Syracuse and Rochester. There is one bus per day to Ithaca (Greyhound Station) from the Syracuse Amtrak station and two to three buses per day to Ithaca from the Rochester Trailways Bus Station, a three-minute walk from the Amtrak station. The two colleges sometimes run shuttles to the rail stations around semester breaks.
As Ithaca is a college town, bus service by TCAT (Tompkins County Area Transit)  is frequent and runs late into the night. Taxi service is an inexpensive way to get around the small city, and it is available by phone, but expect to wait an hour or more on busy or cold nights. Avis & Hertz Rental cars are available at Ithaca Tompkins County Regional Airport, and Enterprise-Rent-A-Car and National Car Rental, in Ithaca. Ithaca also features a Car Share program that offers instant access to a network of cars throughout the city, 24 hours-a-day.
Parking is easy in most parts of Ithaca. However, there are some parts of Ithaca where parking can be tricky. If you park illegally the chance you will get a ticket is higher than average. Note that it is also illegal to leave your car in the same non-metered space for more than 24 hours.
Downtown and the Commons
Street parking is metered and more difficult to come by (in some areas a 15 minute maximum on the meters), although there are always spots available if you're willing to walk. There are three municipal parking structures, one on Green Street just east of Cayuga Street, one at the corner of Tioga and Seneca Streets and the other on Cayuga Street to the south of the Commons. All three garages are free on evenings and weekends. Some local retailers will provide a token for an extra free hour. Parking at metered spaces and the garages is $1 per hour, up to a maximum of $10. Free one-hour parking has been terminated at all three garages, and the daily maximum has been raised as of January 1, 2011. Weekly and Monthly parking passes are available at discounted rates.
Street parking in Collegetown is also metered with some non metered spaces a few blocks from University or Stewart Avenues. There is one, spacious parking garage on Dryden Road. Note that unlike the downtown garages, the first hour is not free, the hourly rate is $1.50 (with no daily maximum) and fees are charged around the clock including weekends with an automatic payment machine being used in the off-hours.
It is difficult to find parking on the Cornell University campus. It is generally best to avoid driving to campus at all. Bus service onto campus from downtown and other areas of Ithaca runs frequently during the day. One hassle-free and relatively fast parking option for visiting campus during the day is to park at the Seneca and Tioga streets parking garage in downtown Ithaca and then ride the Route 10 bus to campus. Route 10 departs from a heated bus stop located inside the parking garage every 10 minutes (7:30AM-5:00PM on weekdays, less frequently later in the evening) and the ride to Cornell takes only a few minutes. Check TCATbus  for schedules and more information.
If you have to park on campus during the day, you will need to buy a visitor parking permit from one of the parking booths around campus, and then you can park in a spot labeled for visitor parking, which are few and far between. The parking booth attendant can give you a map showing visitor parking spots, but during a school day expect not to find anything. There are several small metered lots, including one behind Willard Straight Hall and one in the lower level of the parking garage by the football stadium, that are convenient to central campus but are often full. Larger (and rarely full) metered lots are located across from the Dairy Bar and next to Bartels Hall, but both are at least a 15 minute brisk walk to most places on central campus. After 5 PM, some of the various "tiered" parking lots are available for general parking, but be sure to read the signs, as many lots have restricted parking until 8PM or 10PM and others are restricted at all times. If you are arriving on campus by car during normal business hours, expect to spend at least 10 to 15 minutes looking for parking, and 10 to 15 minutes more walking from your parking spot to your destination, so plan to arrive on campus at least 30 minutes before you need to be somewhere. You can park for free or for cheaper off campus in Collegetown or in Cayuga Heights, but expect your walk to be 20-30 minutes to your destination if it is on central campus.
The parking situation at Ithaca College is also equally as poor, as over the past few years, there hasn't been enough parking for on-campus students, despite fee increases and discounted public transit passes. The only sanctioned visitor parking is a frequently full, visitor lot located near the football stadium, and half a dozen spots near the main administrative building (Peggy R. Williams) for visitors to the office of admissions. Elsewhere parking is reserved based on a color coded permit system, which is strictly enforced during the week - park without a permit and your car will definitely be ticketed, and very possibly towed. On weekends, red (student) lots open up to visitor parking.
If you are visiting a specific person on campus (such as staying overnight with an on-campus student) you may be able to obtain a temporary permit from Public Safety. Availability is not guaranteed and if granted, you will be restricted to a specific lot, usually one intended for commuters. You will need your vehicle registration and proof of insurance to obtain the permit.
The following are official exceptions often made for special events:
During School of Music concerts, attendee parking is permitted in lot nearest the Towers and the Whalen parking bridge (J Lot West)
Patrons attending IC Theatre events may park in the lot directly behind Dillingham (Lot F)
For Bombers home games, fans may park in the large lot near Butterfield stadium (Lot L)
Participants at conferences or events held in the Emerson Suites may park in the Campus Center Lot (Lot U)
Many off campus students either walk or take the bus to school. TCAT service to the IC campus from downtown is plentiful, Routes 11 and 65 provide service every half hour or so during the day and every hour at night.
Other areas in and around Ithaca
Parking in Cayuga Heights is easy. Note however that it is illegal to park overnight on streets in Cayuga Heights.
Some parts of the City of Ithaca have dense housing and parking at night can be tricky, especially between November 1 and April 1, when alternate side of the street parking is in effect. There is no parking (from 2AM to 6AM) on the even side (house numbers) of the street on even days of the month, and no parking on the odd side on odd days of the month.
Ithaca College - keep an eye out for the free concerts in particular
Waterfalls - many of the local waterfalls are located in state parks with hiking trails that were built (or rebuilt) by public works projects in the 1930s, often featuring stone staircases and bridges. The waterfalls are found along creeks that flow into Cayuga Lake. At parks with trails, you will typically find a "gorge trail" that follows the course of the creek, and a "rim trail" along the edge of the gorge, with overlooks to the falls underneath.
Buttermilk Falls State Park - Route 13 S., King Road, and off Rt.96B in Danby. Swimming, hiking, picnicking, and camping. Even if you can stay for only a minute, you should still come and drive in to see the lovely falls at the lower entrance on Route 13. From the lower entrance you can take a hike up along the falls and gorge; from the upper entrance there is a less strenuous hike around the lake.
Robert H. Treman State Park - Route 327 (off Rt.13 S.). Swimming, hiking, picnicking, and camping. Hike along the gorge, a relatively vigorous walk if you do the whole loop. Or, you can dip in from the upper entrance and in a short walk see the main falls, called Lucifer Falls. The lower entrance area includes one of the more popular swimming spots in the area. It includes a diving board and the ability to swim underneath a waterfall.
Cascadilla Creek Gorge - easy to get to, free & beautiful. A stone staircase climbs spectacularly along the edge of the falls. The walk up from the entrance at Cascadilla Park up to the exit at College Ave. is an essential part of the Ithaca experience (after all, Ithaca is Gorges!) Closed from early winter until mid-spring due to icy, dangerous conditions.
Ithaca Falls - Located near the mouth of Fall Creek, Ithaca Falls is 150 feet high and 175 feet wide. Though there is no trail, the base of the falls is accessible from the small park on Lake Street at the base of Gun Hill.
Cornell University is part of the Ivy League and is one of the most selective universities in America. It has world class Veterinary, Hotel, Agriculture, Architecture, and Engineering schools. Located far above Cayuga Lake, on a hill overlooking Ithaca, it is separated from the city, yet an integral part of it.
Johnson Art Museum. Several of the floors have steady exhibits, but they bring in new art and other, sometimes interactive exhibits several times a year. The 5th floor houses an impressive collection of Asian art but also happens to have one of the nicest views of Ithaca, the Cornell campus, and Cayuga Lake.
Cayuga Nature Center - Visitors to Cayuga Nature Center can explore the wonders of the natural world first hand. Cayuga Nature Center has over five miles of trails and a lodge filled with indoor exhibits including a kids' activity room. Cayuga Nature Center prides itself with our collection of indoor and outdoor live animal exhibits and our seasonal butterfly house. TreeTops, our six-story tree house, and five miles of trails are open from dawn to dusk. Cayuga Nature Center offers a wide range of educational activities including environmental and animal programs, an active outreach program, our TEAM Challenge ropes course, and much more.
Sciencenter - The Sciencenter, located at 601 First Street in Ithaca, is a hands-on science museum for people of all ages with over 250 fun exhibits, educational programs, an outdoor science park, a seasonal 18-hole miniature golf course, an animal room, and a gift shop. The Sciencenter is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 10AM to 5PM and Sundays from noon to 5PM Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $5 for children ages 3-17. Admission is free to members and children under the age of three. The museum's traveling exhibitions change seasonally and there is always something new to explore. The Sciencenter, named the “2006 Not-for-Profit Organization of the Year” by the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, welcomes more than 91,000 visitors per year. The Sciencenter is a proud member of Ithaca's Discovery Trail.
Light in Winter Festival - Favorite Ithaca resident Carl Sagan once said "Somewhere something incredible is waiting to be known." The annual Light in Winter Festival celebrates that possibility by looking at the world through a different lens in the hopes of enlightening, educating and entertaining visitors. LIW takes place the last weekend in January and is one of the few festivals in the world which celebrates the intersections of art and science.
Cass Park - North off Route 89, just outside town. Skating in winter, swimming pool in summer. This is adjacent to Alan Treman State Park, which contains a marina and a large fenced off-leash dog park.
Kitchen Theatre Company - Bold, intimate, engaging... Kitchen Teatre Company is Downtown Ithaca's year round professional theare. Critically acclaimed, this theatre is nationally renowned and offers four performance series (Main Stage, Family Fare, Kitchen Counter Culture, Kitchen Sink). The Kitchen presents an engaging mix of contemporary, regional, and world premiere plays and musicals in an intimate 73-seat theatre that encourages a bold relationship between audience and actor. "Important conversations happen in the Kitchen."
The Hangar Theatre, 801 Taughannock Blvd (two miles from downtown Ithaca on the shores of Lake Cayuga), ☎ 607) 273-8588, . Evening performances and matinees. A professional regional theatre presenting full-scale musicals, beloved classics, comedies, dramas, cabaret, world premieres, and a sparkling lineup of children's plays, musicals and education programs.
Ithaca College Theatre Performs two musicals, an opera, and several plays each year.
The Ithaca College Whalen Center for Music has numerous free concerts and recitals almost every day of the week during the school year. 
Ithaca is home to one of the world's most successful local currency experiments. The Ithaca Hour is Ithaca's local currency and is accepted by more than 600 local merchants and service providers. Using Ithaca Hours contributes to Ithaca's economy and small businesses. The Autumn Leaves bookstore at Ithaca Commons serves as the unofficial home of Ithaca's local currency and is the best place to go to acquire Hours. Of course, U.S. dollars are also used in Ithaca.
Shopping in Ithaca is in four major areas: Downtown/Commons, Meadow Street/Route 13, Collegetown, and Lansing/Mall area.
Downtown/Commons - The most typical Ithaca items can be bought downtown in the commons area. Local crafts are of exceptional quality. Ubiquitous green "Ithaca is Gorges" t-shirts can be bought here as well.
Meadow Street/Route 13 - Also known as The Strip. The "big-box" stores have been moving in in a major way in recent years along Meadow St. Drugstores, cellphone stores, supermarkets, and major discount retailers are often present in multiple incarnations. There is not much exciting here for the out-of-towner although it is certainly practical. An exception is Northside Liquors (see the Drink section).
Collegetown, just across Cascadilla Gorge from the Cornell campus, is mostly home to restaurants and businesses catering to the college crowd, and there are several shops specializing in Cornell- and Ithaca-related merchandise.
Lansing/Mall - Finally, just north of Ithaca in Lansing is the Shops at Ithaca Mall (formerly known as the Pyramid Mall), recently expanded to hold Borders (now closing), Best Buy, Dick's Sporting Goods, and Target, offering a fairly broad and ubiquitous selection of shops. Nearby are the Triphammer and Cayuga malls, which are less elaborate.
A number of independent book sellers continue to thrive in the city and its immediate vicinity. Downtown Ithaca bookstores on or very near the Commons include the following:
Autumn Leaves, 115 The Commons. (607) 273-8239. Open 7 days a week. 60,000 books, 10,000 records and a Cafe, all under one roof.
The Bookery I, in DeWitt Mall, corner of Buffalo and Cayuga Streets. Bookery I sells used and collectible books. Companion Buffalo Street Books, also in the DeWitt Mall, sells new books.
Colophon Books, 205 N Aurora.
Home Green Home, 215 the Commons, has small book section with titles related to sustainable living.
Mayer's News Stand, 318 E. State - A huge selection of periodicals with some mass-market books.
Snow Lion Publications, 605 W. State (but enter via parking lot off 600 block of W. Green) - A Tibetan Buddhist book publisher, also has a browsable area in their warehouse for books and Buddhist tchotchkes.
Cornell University Bookstore, 135 Ho Plaza on the Cornell Campus - has a selection of general books in addition to textbooks.
Comics for Collectors, 207 N. Aurora - graphic novels and comics.
Within a 20-minute drive of Ithaca you can also find two barn-sized used-book sellers:
The Phoenix Books, 1608 Dryden Rd. [Rt. 13], going north toward Dryden
Book Barn of the Finger Lakes, 198 North Rd. just off Rt. 13 in Dryden, across from the Tompkins-Cortland Community College entrance.
Also, two "big-box" bookstores can now be found in Ithaca:
Borders, Pyramid Mall (Triphammer Rd exit off Rt. 13 N)
Barnes & Noble, Route 13 S (next to Tops supermarket)
If you'll be in Ithaca in May or October, look into the dates of the huge Friends of the Library book sale, which lasts a week or two for each sale period and offers over 250,000 items for sale, with proceeds supporting the fancy, new (but cash-strapped) county library on the corner of Green and Cayuga Streets.
Ithaca has some of the best and most diverse dining options in all of upstate New York. The areas with the highest concentration of restaurants are in Downtown and Collegetown. Downtown and The Commons has the most variety, ranging from Pizza, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Indian to fine-dining establishments. If you are uncertain about what you want to eat, a stroll along downtown's "Restaurant Row" on North Aurora Street should provide almost anything one is looking for. Collegetown also has a wide selection of dining, but has fewer fine dining options. Also notable is the area to the west of Downtown known as the West End, or The Inlet. Elmira Road, south of the downtown and Pyramid Mall, north of Ithaca in the Town of Lansing, have a selection of fast food and chain restaurants.
Collegetown Bagels/Ithaca Bakery Six locations: Ithaca Bakery (Downtown): 400 N. Meadow St., 607-273-7110; Ithaca Bakery (Triphammer): Triphammer Mall, Rte. 13 @ Triphammer Rd., 607-257-2255; Collegetown Bagels (Collegetown): 415 College Ave. 607-273-0982; Collegetown Bagels (Commons): 203 N. Aurora St. 607-273-2848; Collegetown Bagels (East Hill Plaza): 329 Pine Tree Rd. 273-1036. The Brous & Mehaffey family operates five locations around Ithaca, so Collegetown Bagels is something of an Ithaca institution. They offer bagels, sandwiches, and coffee with a whimsical, new-agey feel at reasonable prices. Some of the best authentic bagels and fairly traded coffee, and definitely the most Ithacan. Great for breakfast or lunch. $5-$10.
The Nines. A former fire station in Collegetown turned restaurant/bar, The Nines features live music several times a week, as well as some of the best pizza in the region and a patio that's pleasant on warm summer evenings. This, along with the large selection of beers on tap, makes this a favorite of the student crowd. Their service is slow; orders of pizza often take more than an hour to receive.
Viva! Taqueria at the corner of State and Aurora Streets. Maximum calories for your money. Very vegetarian and vegan friendly. Be sure to check out the Viva! Cantina next door for an expanded menu, table service, and a bar featuring a large tequila selection.
Ned's Pizza inside Center Ithaca. Bargain prices on basic and loaded slices. Probably the cheapest fill-up in Ithaca.
Lincoln Street Diner on Lincoln St. between N Tioga and N Aurora, next to the Fall Creek laundromat. Cheap, good quality breakfasts and lunches. Favored by Fall Creek locals, construction and utility workers.
Rogan's Corner (formerly King Subs)  Located right off the Ithaca College campus on Route 96B serves the "best pizza on South Hill" by the slice with its signature homemade sauce. Rogan's also has hot and cold subs, calzones, wings, Italian dinners, and breakfast for carryout, delivery, or dine-in. Beer on tap coming in September 2008.
Shortstop Deli on W. Seneca St. between Albany and Geneva. Open 24 hours. Specializes in large, delicious subs. Also has breakfast sandwiches, big cookies, soups, and many varieties of coffee. Veg friendly, with veggie burger and seitan subs and vegan chili. Counter service only, but you can sit on on the window ledge outside.
State Diner on State St, a few blocks west of the commons. This railroad car diner is one of Ithaca's few 24-hour restaurants.
Napoli Pizza, 335 E State (Gateway Building a block E of Commons), 607-272-3232. Pizza, wings, and Italian standards.
Ling Ling Restaurant, East Hill Plaza on Judd Falls Road and Ithaca Plaza on Rt 13 S at Elmira Rd. Frequently voted best Chinese food in Ithaca. East Hill Plaza location has large dining room and Elmira Rd location is mostly take-out.
Ragmann's, 108 N. Aurora Street, 607-273-5236, . Known for homemade soups, specialty sandwiches, including vegetarian options, Ragmann's is on the Ithaca Commons. Sodas, beer, wine and specialty drinks available. Lunch and dinner $5-$10.
Just a Taste, 116 North Aurora Street, 607-277-9463, . Dinner every day, brunch 11-3 on weekends. Great tapas bar with a large selection of wines available by the glass. You can also select from a number of "flights" of wine, with a small taste of 4 or 5 different wines. The menu changes frequently and usually features local produce. Probably the best "walk in" eatery in town, and has less students than many other places. Tapas range from $4-$7. Expect to order 2-4 per person, and expect to share.
Maxie's Supper Club and Oyster bar 635 W. State St., 607-272-4136, . Maxie's offers dinner daily until 11PM and midnight on Friday and Saturday, and brunch on Sunday until 3PM. Maxie's Supper Club offers a good selection of Cajun seafood food including an oyster bar, as well as authentic southern barbeque. The Cajun fries are delicious, but don't miss the shrimp and grits in tasso sauce, and definitely have lots of the honey butter they serve with the free cornbread. The Supper Club is an excellent place to grab some food and drinks after a late evening event. The restaurant feature locally-produced food and the wine list is award-winningly extensive and also features upstate wines, which often pair well with spicy food. Brunch $10-$15. Dinner $10-$20.
Moosewood Restaurant Dewitt Building, 215 N. Cayuga St., 607-273-9610, . Famous world-wide for their vegetarian cookbooks, this downtown institution offers reasonably-priced (for a famous brand) vegetarian fare and fish with a different menu every night and a good selection of local wines, beers, and cafe beverages. Save room for dessert. Ask for a table in the furthest room. In the summer, the street level patio is quite pleasant. Lunch $10-$15. Dinner $15-$25.
Taste of Thai 216 E. State St (The Commons), 607-256-5487, . Taste of Thai has a lovely atmosphere . Voted best Asian and best Ethnic in Ithaca (Ithaca Times, 2003 and 2005, respectively). Heat scale 0-5, where 3 is hot and 5 is "on fire". Try the papaya salad, a curry, or one of the delicious fish or seafood dishes. Lunch $7-8, dinner $10-20.
Thai Cuisine 501 S. Meadow St., 607-273-2031. Across from Wegmans. This restaurant serves Thai food that has been called the best in the state, although perhaps their reputation is overstated. They specialize in spicy food, but if you order your food hot, be sure to explain to the server that you do in fact want it really hot, because they have been known to smile and nod to an order of "jumping hot" and serve only "medium." The menu is extensive, and the wine list has excellent choices, including local wines, that pair well with spicy Thai food. Try a Finger Lakes Riesling--it matches perfectly. Dinner $10-$20.
Blue Stone Bar & Grill 110 North Aurora St., 607-272-2371, . On the Commons. This restaurant serves a variety of American dishes with unique and exciting recipes. The menu contains a modest list of well refined dishes. The wine list is constantly improving. The drink list heavily emphasizes mojitos and martinis, but a continuing rotation of fruit infused vodkas keeps it fresh and exciting. Dinner $12-20.
New Delhi Diamond's 106 West Green St., 607-272-4508. Near the Commons. This restaurant serves a large variety of Indian dishes at dinner, and an $8 buffet at lunchtime. Dinner $15-20.
Garcia's, 344 Elmira Rd (Rt 13 S), 607-277-3600. Good chain Mexican food.
Glenwood Pines, Rt 89 (5 mi N of Ithaca), 607-273-3709. Burgers and other American fare, family friendly, dining room with lake view. Known locally for the "Pinesburger" (large burger served on french bread). Convenient stop for folks returning from wineries farther up the lake.
Fine Line Bistro, 404 West State St. (near Plain St.), 607-277-1077. One of the newer eating spots in town. Eclectic American bistro fare, complemented by a well thought out beer and wine list. Serving from 5 to 11, closed on Tuesdays. Dinner $10-$25.
The Heights Cafe 903 Hanshaw Rd. 607-257-4144, . Lunch and dinner. This upscale American-style restaurant is hidden in the ritzy Cayuga Heights area of Ithaca. The menu is definitely among the pricier in Ithaca, but the food is well worth it. This is a great place for a special occasion. Lunch $10-$15. Dinner entrees $20-$30.
John Thomas Steakhouse 1150 Danby Road, 607-273-2734 or 800-765-1492, . What is probably one of Ithaca's most expensive restaurants is also one of of the best. This traditional steakhouse is in an old farmhouse adjacent to La Tourelle Country Inn on the way to Danby, just past Ithaca College on route 96B. Big steaks prepared traditionally are rated among the best in the state, including NYC. Great for a fancy date or to have your parents take you for parents' weekend. Entrees $20-$30.
Dijon 311 Third ST 607-256-0503, . Dinner only; book reservations in advance. This restaurant is a culinary gem in the heart of Ithaca. Traditional French cuisine with an eye for seasonal specials. Dinner $20+.
ZaZa's Cucina, 622 Cascadilla St., 607-273-9292, . Located on the west end of town, this restaurant offers appealing if a bit pricey (for Ithaca) authentic Italian cuisine in a sumptuous, elegant setting that belies its former incarnation as a video store. The food gets rave reviews. Good wine list with extensive selections from Italy. Entrees $11-$25.
Boatyard Grill, 525 Taughannock Blvd., 607-256-2628, . Great lively atmosphere right along Cayuga Inlet. Located on a peninsula directly across from Cornell University's boathouse, Boatyard Grill serves greasy food (in good portion sizes). Does not accept reservations but with "call-ahead" you can cut your wait time down significantly. Even with call-ahead, expect to wait awhile on parents' weekends as this is a student's favorite when mom and pop are in paying. Entrees $15-$25.
Watercress, 2 Hickory Hollow Ln (off Taughannock Rd just past Pyramid Mall), 607-257-0859, . Lunch and dinner, Mediterranean-inspired fine food.
Wegmans , the largest grocery store in Ithaca, has a very large selection of specialty and ethnic foods, and has a large food court-like "marketplace" where ready-made food ranging from pizza to sushi can be purchased and eaten in the pleasant on-premises eating areas. A tourist experience of its own, like the Wegmans around New York State.
The other main grocery store chain in Ithaca is Tops . Tops is smaller and has less selection than Wegamans but is favored by some residents for just that reason. Tops arguably has a better selection of foreign food than Wegmans. Most grocery stores in Ithaca are open 24 hours to serve the college market, although the P&Cs tend to close at 10 or so. There is also an Aldi that sells deeply discounted store-brand foods with limited hours and no free grocery bags.
Greenstar  is a food co-op on the west end of town and is open to everyone. They offer a good selection of organic produce and bulk dry foods. Also check out their smaller location, Greenstar Oasis, in Dewitt Mall (near Moosewood) just off the Commons. If you're vegetarian and/or looking for organic selection, this is a great place to shop. It also has its version of the "marketplace" in its deli section where prepared foods are offered to either eat-in (there is a dining area) or take out. It is the only grocery store to offer fresh baked vegan desserts (which are VERY good). Here you will pay for the higher quality since it can get a bit pricey.
If you are in town on a weekend during the warm months (Saturday and Sunday April-October, Thursday afternoons June-August), you should consider getting your groceries and some bites to eat at the Ithaca Farmer's Market . There is a large selection of not only fresh herbs and vegetables, but also free-range and pasture-fed meat. The breakfast burrito is a local favorite. Many local artisans (soapmakers, woodworkers, etc.) also have kiosks, and there are about a dozen different food vendors. Local vineyards also have kiosks.
There are three main Asian grocery stores in town. The most popular are Win Li, south of downtown on Route 13 (near the McDonald's), and Ithaca Tofu, located in the "Small Mall" on Cinema Drive behind Triphammer Mall. The third is a small shop in Collegetown on Eddy Street called Tong Fang. Win Li is the largest and has a very big selection of fresh Asian vegetables and has seasonally fresh fish. They also have some Chinese housewares (pots, bowls, rice cookers, etc.) and a big selection of rice. Ithaca Tofu has a slightly more varied selection of fruit and vegetables (including fresh shiso/ohba), but has much more in the way of Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Korean sauces. In keeping with their name, they do have a large selection of all kinds of tofu, but they also have a lot of Japanese snacks, sushi-related items, and they get fresh shipments of pre-cooked Chinese deli staples (chicken feet, tripe, scallion rolls) from NYC every week. Tong Fang caters much more to the college crowd and stocks a large array of teas and instant noodles. It is located right across from the intersection of Buffalo and Eddy streets, so parking is a bit scarce.
The Chapter House An ancient institution located on Stewart Avenue, near the Cornell campus, the Chapter House has a large selection of regional/microbrew/import beers on tap. Located on Stewart Avenue, its situation between Collegetown and Downtown Ithaca draws on a diverse spectrum of local crowds.
Rulloffs "Upscale" Collegetown bar on the main strip since the late Seventies; serves lunch and dinner with sandwiches averaging $7.50 and dinner entrees averaging $11. Accepts CityBucks.
Dunbars Old hole-in-the-wall bar on Eddy Street providing cheap booze and weeknight specials.
Stella's Restaurant, bar, and coffee shop with downstairs lounge in a hip, Jetson's meets Flinstones space. Large selection of martinis, bourbons, single-malts, and local organic foods.
The Royal Palm Classic old dive bar on Dryden Road just off of the Collegetown drag.
The Nines Restaurant/Bar in an old firehouse on College Ave. Outdoor seating, serves some of the best pizza in town. Gets very crowded on big weekends (Homecoming, Graduation and Reunion) but it's a great place to sit outdoors on a summer evening. Music almost every night. Expect long waits for the food, though.
Pixel New, hip, upscale club atmosphere with live DJs often. Extensive selection of video games, beer and top shelf liquor - although drinks are expensive ($5-$8, more for beers). On an alley off Dryden Road, between College Ave. and Eddy St.
Level-B New to Collegetown: often with live DJs. Top shelf liquor - although drinks are expensive. It is the only decently cluby place in Ithaca.
Micawber's Irish Pub located on North Aurora Street
Chanticleer Local hangout on corner of Cayuga and State Street marked by a neon rooster. Downmarket, excellent jukebox.
Korova Relatively new bar on The Commons. Has a good variety of beer selection on tap. Hipster atmosphere.
Pete's Cayuga Bar Popular with both locals and students who enjoy sports and a quiet atmosphere.
Simeon's Restaurant with great food also has a large selection of microbrew and imported beer on tap and bottle, as well as wine. Aurora St. at the Commons.
Moonshadow Funky bar on The Commons with drink specials.
Viva! Taqueria & Cantina Mexican restaurant that serves Margaritas and has a large selection of Tequila. Aurora St.
Benchwarmer's Sports Bar on The Commons with many TVs, serves American/Pub style food.
Uncle Joe's Sports Bar Roomy sports bar on Green Street separated into a bar area with flat-screen TVs, main dining area for watching sports, and a gaming room with pool table and darts. Also serves American style food.
2nd Floor Bar Located above Trader K's, new bar in former clothing shop. It has a window bar that allows you to look out over The Commons. Large, perhaps even cavernous, space, includes two pool tables.
Felicia's Atomic Lounge Hip lounge, with excellent live music on Fridays and Sundays. Cool metallic atmosphere and unique drinks that you probably wouldn't think of yourself.
The Finger Lakes are a well-known wine growing region, and dozens of wineries with tasting rooms can be found along the shores of both Cayuga and Seneca Lakes within an easy drive of Ithaca. The region grows white varietals best and produces many good Rieslings and Chardonnays.
Cayuga Lake Wine Trail - Nestled in the heart of the Finger Lakes is the Cayuga Wine Trail, a 16 winery member organization surrounding Cayuga Lake and offering a unique blend of fine wines.
Seneca Lake Wine Trail - Association of 32 wineries surrounding Seneca Lake (next Finger Lake to the west from Cayuga).
Northside Liquors (identified by giant "Discount Beverage Center" letters) in the shopping center at the intersection of Elmira Rd. and Rte. 13., across from KMart. Northside Liquors has a very large selection of wines and liquors, with a rare wines room and probably the largest selection anywhere of upstate New York wines. If you go on a wine tour but in retrospect failed to buy your favorite wines, just go to Northside Liquors to pick them up instead of driving all the way back to the winery. Smaller, but also with a nice selection of wines, is Sparrow's Wines at Fulton and Green Streets and Triphammer Wines & Spirits located in the Triphammer Mall off Rte. 13.
Ithaca is not a large city, but between Cornell and Ithaca College, about 25,000 students attend school here, with thousands more people visiting daily for conferences, sporting events, and other university functions. On normal days, Hotel and motel rooms can be surprisingly hard to find and shockingly expensive when compared to the surrounding area. Finding lodging during major school events, like freshman move-in, parents' weekend, and graduation, is difficult bordering on impossible at the last minute. If you find yourself in Ithaca during those times, you may have to go as far as Cortland (20 miles away) or Elmira (30 miles away). In a real pinch, it is not inconceivable to stay as far away as Syracuse, NY. It is only about 60 minutes away, depending on weather conditions. Elmira and Watkins Glen are decent options, and lodging will likely be quite a bit cheaper there.
As a general rule, lodging that is located downtown or close to campus will start at $150/night, while the downscale motel chains located out of town start upwards of $100/night. Rooms for less than $75/night can be had at some of the locally owned (and decidedly not 5-star) establishments that are located outside of town. Rates during major school events can more than triple.
Statler Hotel, 130 Statler Drive, Cornell campus (circle driveway straight ahead from campus entrance on Hoy Road), 800-541-2501 (firstname.lastname@example.org) . The Statler is run by Cornell's School of Hotel Administration students (as well as the full-time staff), and is the most elegant and luxurious hotel in Ithaca. However, don't expect to get a reservation for graduation at The Statler! The hotel is reserved for dignitaries, trustees and guest speakers during graduation. During other times of year, rooms are largely available. It is a popular place for executive education students to stay during the summer.
La Tourelle Resort and August Moon Spa, Near Ithaca College, only a 10 minute drive to Cornell University, . Great hotel with a B&B feel. Full service spa on site. Walking trails connect to Buttermilk Falls State Park.
The Hilton Garden Inn - Downtown Ithaca's newest hotel, immediately across from the commons. Garage parking available nearby.
The Courtyard by Marriott, 29 Thornwood Dr., Phone: 1-607-330-1000, . Located near the Ithaca/Tompkins regional airport. It has a free shuttle (by appointment) to Cornell, The Commons, the airport, and to a variety of locations along Triphammer Road, including the malls and restaurants. Many restaurants deliver to the hotel, and it is within walking distance to Ciabatta's, a restaurant that's open for lunch and breakfast. It also has its own restaurant for breakfast and offers onsite catering for meetings and receptions.
Homewood Suites by Hilton, 36 Cinema Dr., Phone: 1-607-266-0000. New Hotel, opened in May 2007. Located close to the Triphammer and Pyramid Malls, restaurants, and is fairly close to the Ithaca airport. Cornell is a 10-15 minute drive away.
The Holiday Inn - Although not the classiest hotels in the area, it gets the job done. Convenient location to both colleges. A short drive up the "hill" to Ithaca College. Minutes walking distance to the commons. So if you're just looking for a convenient place to lay your head, this is the hotel for you. This hotel books solid for all college events, so make reservations way ahead of time.
Ramada Ithaca Executive Conference Center, Ramada Ithaca Executive Conference Center 2310 N Triphammer Rd Hwy 13 & Triphammer Rd, Ithaca, NY - 14850, ☎ +1 607-257-3100, .
The Inn at City Lights, Bed and Breakfast, 1319 Mecklenburg Rd., Rt.79 west, . Great accommodations, great views, just outside of town.
Hampton Inn Ithaca, 337 Elmira Road, ☎ 607-277-5500, .
Stewart Park, Buttermilk Falls, Treman State Park and Six-mile Park all offer nice walking/hiking trails. Some have parking fees on weekends and during high season. Cross country skiing is permitted on the golf course in winter. Treman State Park offers a large marina, and there is a large fenced off-leash dog park nearby.
There are two outdoor stores in the downtown Ithaca area. The Outdoor Store (206 E State St, Ithaca, NY 14850 (607) 273-3891) on the Commons and Eastern Mountain Sports (722 South Meadow Street Ithaca, NY 14850 (607) 272-1935) on Route 13 South (about 500 yards south of Wegmans.) Mountain Edge Outfitters on the Commons recently went out of business.
Also check out Cornell Outdoor Education which has rental equipment and an indoor climbing wall.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!