“I wish I could show you the little village where I was born. It’s so lovely there…I used to think it too small to spend a life in, but now I’m not so sure.” – Mary Kelly

Some find them boring; others consider them too small, and there are also those who just can’t stand living anywhere else except in a big metropolis, but regardless of all that, it’s an undeniable fact that small towns have that special charm impossible to find in huge, famous cities. One might say that there is nothing interesting about small towns, especially since they aren’t characterized by the ever-changing, fast-paced way of modern life. However, we beg to differ; has never failed to bring you places that are interesting and worth a visit (at least we’d like to think so), and we don’t plan on starting now. So, how about we shift our focus from natural treasures and put it on some man-made jewels, for a change? You agree? Great. Well, then, nothing left to do but tell you about a glorious little town in upstate New York called Ithaca.

A College Town/Summer Destination Getaway

Blessed with a beautiful glacier-carved natural setting, Ithaca, New York can be said to be a rather small, but at the same time, ethnically diverse town. Boasting a thriving and sophisticated cultural life, it enjoys an incredibly wealthy heritage and, at the same time, manages to pull-off the image of a progressive educational center that has not one, not two, but three colleges. New York State’s premier pedestrian mall is also located in Ithaca, and as you undoubtedly know, it is a popular summer tourist destination. Named after the Greek Island of Ithaca, the city is located in Central New York, on the southern shore of Cayuga Lake.

As aforementioned, the area’s “college town” atmosphere exists mostly thanks to three of its colleges, the most notable one being Cornell University, which boasts some 20,000 students, the majority of which study at its local campus, and an Ivy League status. Located south of the city in the Town of Ithaca is the Ithaca College, which is the second prominent educational institution in the area. And last, but not least, Tompkins Cortland Community College completes Ithaca’s impressive collection of facilities that focus on higher education. That being said, Ithaca’s seasonal population during the school year is greatly increased by the tens of thousands of students who pour into the colleges, with some of them settling in the area after graduation.

Naturally Breathtaking, Complete With Hundreds Of Waterfalls

Located halfway between New York City, and Toronto, Canada, Ithaca can be found in the Finger Lakes region, which is to say, south-central New York. The city itself and the surrounding area are blessed with splendid waterfalls, deep gorges, breathtaking forests and rolling hills. In fact, these scenic treasures are so characteristic of the area that they are reflected in popular local bumper stickers, which announce: “Ithaca is Gorges.” When it comes to tempering summer’s heat, Ithaca’s lake location is a real blessing; on the other hand, that same moisture produces an abundance of snow in the winter, which extends from October to early May (about 66 inches annually). And if you happen to be visiting sometime during January, you’re looking at an average of 16.9 inches of snow, which is the highest average snowfall year-round.

Ithaca is blessed with, believe it or not, 150 waterfalls that flow across the town! These are funneling water through gorges carved out by glaciers thousands of years ago. That translates into stumbling upon a waterfall pretty much wherever you go in the city. For example, the cascading Buttermilk Falls plunges 600 feet to the valley, and is the largest of 10 falls along Buttermilk Creek. Forest Falls on Fall Creek, for instance, is also a breathtaking, 25-foot cascading fall with a birds-eye view of a “hanging valley” that’s open year round. Furthermore, a centerpiece of the Cornell campus is Triphammer Falls, a 55-foot cascading fall. These and many more are just a taste of what you’ll be able to see and feel here, and we’ll leave it up to you to explore the rest personally.

Drinking Is Not The Sole Privilege Of College Students In Ithaca, New York…

And for all you beer and wine aficionados out there, don’t think your unique tastes will be left out at Ithaca. Well, the place has been a haven for wine lovers for some time now, but things are changing and wine itself is no more the exclusive privilege of Ithacans. Beer-making has become very popular in the area and breweries are popping up all over the place; it’s no wonder they are becoming an exciting stop on the Finger Lakes Beer Trail! Crafting anything from mild summer lagers to hoppy IPAs, Ithaca is quickly becoming the Mecca of brew-lovers across the nation. Just some of the amazing and skillful places where you’ll be able to treat your palate to an incredibly tasty brewsky include the Scale House Brewery & Pub, Ithaca Beer Company, Stouthearted Brewing, Bandwagon Brewpub, Bacchus Brewing Company, Ithaca Beer Taproom and many others.

On the other hand, wine-lovers won’t be left out, not by a long shot. Ithaca and the entire Finger Lakes region are, as aforementioned, a popular convergence point for wine connoisseurs from the nation and world over, and numerous wineries and cideries in the area are a testament to that. Places like the Buttonwood Grove Winery, Varick Winery & Vineyard, Six Mile Creek Vineyards, Chateau Dusseau Winery, Dills Run Winery and countless others will make certain your taste buds leave the place satisfied and your body a bit tipsy.

…And Neither Is The Area’s Arts And Culture Scene

However, anyone who thinks that drinking is all one has the opportunity to do in Ithaca is clearly unaware of the many cultural treasures the place has to offer. It is often said that no matter what you do, you’re always on a scenic route in Ithaca, especially since art is a huge part of the landscape. Artfully-planned events, museums, studios, local galleries and a whole other range of the local art scene can be witnessed almost effortlessly year-round, and if you don’t feel like hand-picking the venues on your own, the Greater Ithaca Art Trail could be an awesome way to start. On the other hand, if you do, the following are just some suggestions: State of the Art Gallery, Gallery at The Ink Shop and Olive Branch Press, John Hartell Gallery, Olive Tjaden Gallery, Handwerker Gallery, Ithaca Farmers’ Market etc.

But, arts as a notion are never complete without theaters and the many performances they host. In light of that, one’s overall Ithaca experience would also be incomplete without catching at least one show from one of the local theater groups. What sets Ithaca out as a characteristic arts hub is the fact that Broadway-caliber theater and national recording artists are mixed with undiscovered, young talents to give viewers a fresh perspective on the performing arts. And if you’re interested in experiencing such a new perspective, a couple of places that will give you just that in Ithaca are the Ithaca College Theatre, Ithaca Ballet, Ithaca Shakespeare Company, Cornell University Schwartz Center for Performing Arts, State Theatre of Ithaca, Kitchen Theatre Company and many more.

The First Of Many Possible Choices

So, in a nutshell – a small town can very much be as enticing and interesting as a big one, and we dare say, maybe even a bit more so. And if you’re particularly fond of small towns, Ithaca, NY is the perfect place to start, especially since this is the beginning of a “Small Towns of America” series of articles on On the other hand, if small towns have never been your cup of tea, all we can say to you is – give it a try, you never know what lies beyond the next bend on the road. Who knows, maybe you’ll retire some years from now and end up basking in the peace and serenity of a hidden little small town off the grid. Until then, keep learning more with us!

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