Ithaca is truly breathtaking. The spectacular view of Cayuga lake is what inspired founder Ezra Cornell to build a university so far away from the major settlements of the mid-nineteenth century. Today, you can see this stunning view by climbing the 161 steps to the top of McGraw Tower immediately before or during any chimes concert from one of the world’s largest chimes. On a balmy summer day, most Ithacans find the waters of Cayuga lake irresistible, and few places in the world are more beautiful to a Cornellian.
The SCT program is held at the historic Andrew Dickson White House, which also houses the Society for the Humanities, and is located in the center of campus near the arts quad, the Cornell University bookstore, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell Cinema, and Sage Chapel.
The Collegetown neighborhood is home to numerous restaurants that offer everything from hamburgers and pizza to souvlaki, curry, and sushi. Collegetown Bagels is also a local favorite for many students and stays open late into the night. There are also many restaurants in downtown Ithaca, including the famous Moosewood Restaurant, which offers delicious fare from tapas to enchiladas, blintzes and seafood. The downtown area also features the Commons walking area, bookshops, a local film house, night clubs, and art galleries. Both areas have numerous coffeeshops, including the famous Gimme! coffee, as well as bars, and ice cream parlors. Tompkins county has more restaurants per capita than any other county in the country.
Located near Cass Park, Hangar Theatre, one of New York state’s finest regional theatres, offers a full summer production schedule. The theatre is built in Ithaca’s original airport.
From fresh baked pies to a new litter of puppies, fresh herbs or local crafts, all kinds of homegrown specialties are available at the Ithaca Farmers’ Market. The Farmer’s Market is a cooperative outlet that is open on Saturdays and Sundays nearly year-round at the old steamboat landing on the Cayuga Lake Inlet, as well as a smaller version at the Dewitt Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Agriculture is the biggest industry in New York state, and Ithaca is blessed with many nearby farms, vineyards and orchards. The fruits of these operations are found at the markets and in many local restaurants.
Forming the south edge of campus, Cascadilla creek flows over several spectacular waterfalls. Most SCT participants take advantage of on-campus housing and live in Cascadilla hall, an attractive facility located alongside Cascadilla gorge in the heart of Collegetown, in close walking distance to the A.D. White House and the rest of Cornell campus.
The spectacular geology of the area made Ithaca a minor Hollywood in the early days of film, and left Ithaca with a lasting slogan that “Ithaca is Gorges.” On a summer day, the many Ithacan gorges can offer welcome relief from the heat, whether walking in shade or swimming in one of the many swimming holes in the area. The Cornell Plantations Path connects the natural areas on campus, and the Plantations itself also includes an arboretum, a botanical garden, an herb garden, a wildflower garden, as well as several sculpture gardens.
Not too far from campus, the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology at Sapsucker Woods has an observatory that overlooks a ten-acre pond, and houses the world’s largest digital collection of natural sounds. The lab is surrounded by the Sapsucker Woods bird and wildlife sanctuary, which has four miles of tranquil trails. Slightly further from campus, the Cayuga Nature Center, the Sciencenter, and the Museum of the Earth are three local science museums that offer hands-on education activities.
Ithaca offers several state parks and other outdoor recreation areas, including Stewart Park at the southern tip of Cayuga lake, which offers picnic tables, charcoal braziers, a carousel, tennis courts, and canoe, sailboat and windsurfing rentals; Upper and Lower Buttermilk Falls; Flatrock Creek; Six Mile Creek; Beebe Lake; the Robert H. Treman State Park; and just out of town near Trumansburg (home of the Moog Synthesizer) lies Taughannock Falls State Park, which has the highest waterfall in the Northeast. Slightly further out of town, you’ll find the Finger Lakes National Forest, which is ideal for horseback riding and berry picking, and Watkins Glen State Park, at the southern tip of Seneca lake.
By car, Ithaca is about an hour from Syracuse and Binghamton, and roughly four hours from New York City, Washington DC, and Philadelphia. The city has an airport and a bus terminal, as well as local bus lines.
For more information on Ithaca and the Cornell community, we invite you to explore the following: