What's Ithaca like?
November 16, 2007 8:06 AM   Subscribe

I'm going up to Ithaca this weekend for a postdoc interview on Monday. Any suggestions as to what I should look at to get a feel for the area?

I'm pretty sure I'll like Ithaca. From what I've heard, it's got to be better than the outskirts of Northern Virginia, where I am now. But I thought I'd take a look around while I'm up there to make sure. I don't really know where to start, though. I realize this is kind of a vague question which is hard to answer if you don't know me, so here are some specific questions I'm wondering about. I'm also interested in broader suggestions, though.
  • Are there any active Buddhist groups up there? (I don't really care about the denomination.)
  • I imagine there must be good cinemas and bookstores, since it's a college town?
  • Any good hiking groups?
  • Any good Tai Chi or Aikido schools?
  • Is there anything similar to craigslist pertaining to Ithaca? I hear the rental market is pretty tight up there. Is there a useful website specifically for that?
posted by Coventry to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I lived in Ithaca for three years while I was in grad school...

There is definitely a Buddhist presence. I know some monk live right near downtown and I would see them regularly and walk be the house often.

Cinemapolis and Fall Creek are the arty cinemas in town. Cornell has a cinema as well and, of course, there's a big one in the mall

If I assume that you're looking at Cornell, I'm pretty sure there is an active outdoor group. I would be shocked if there weren't more (and non-college related) groups around town.

Not sure about the Tai Chi or Aikido...

Ithaca has its own craigslist page. We used it a few times when we moved to get rid of things.
posted by stefnet at 8:13 AM on November 16, 2007

some monk = some monkS
posted by stefnet at 8:19 AM on November 16, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks to both of you for the info, especially the Ithaca Craigslist. I didn't find Ithaca listed on the main Craigslist page, and assumed that was comprehensive.
posted by Coventry at 8:24 AM on November 16, 2007

The gorges are amazing in the summer and are great hiking the rest of the year (except maybe in winter)

Lots of colleges of course, my favorite things were:

Bound for Glory, folk music shows as at Cornell (one this sunday 11/18)

Apple Picking south of the city

Facebook seems to have a lot of college oriented activities going on in the Ithaca area

There are a couple places to go ice skating in the winter

The gorges at Taughannock look like something out of Lord of the Rings, worth a trip.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 8:33 AM on November 16, 2007

Buddhists: Namgyal which is the Dalai Lama's order.
Cinemas: Cinemapolis and Fall Creek operated by the same people.
Bookstores: Not as good as they should be. Bookery II is a decent indie, Autumn Leaves is pretty good for used.
Hiking: Cayuga Trails Club.
There is a that is supposed to be good.
Craigslist, as mentioned above, for rentals. Cornell also has an Off Campus Housing site that lists rentals.
posted by cushie at 8:41 AM on November 16, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. That's given me lots to check out.
posted by Coventry at 9:18 AM on November 16, 2007

Drive to the Taughanock lookout point if you don't have time to go through the park itself. Cornell plantations are also a great spot for a walk.

Cornell often shows classic/artsy/foreign films in the cinemas at Willard Straight and Uris halls. Pick up the brochure to see the monthly schedule.

Rent can be costly in Collegetown, right near campus, but drops off, in rough proportion to your elevation, as you move downhill. If you're the kind of person who doesn't mind a 20-minute steep uphill walk to get to work, you stand to save quite a bit.

The campus is very pretty, it won me over within half an hour of arriving.
posted by Krrrlson at 9:22 AM on November 16, 2007

See also.

Other stuff:
The Dalai Lama was in town the other day.
Ithaca Farmer's Market is pretty good, though starting to wind down.
Gimme! Coffee is thoroughly worthwhile, if coffee's your thing.
If you pop into EMS, they have a comprehensive listing of local outdoor activity groups.
Also, MeFi meetups have been known to happen.
posted by zamboni at 9:34 AM on November 16, 2007

The bus system is very very good for such a small city and a bus pass is ridiculousy cheap.

Oh. And stay during the summer. It's one of the prettiest places during the summer time.
posted by Stynxno at 9:35 AM on November 16, 2007

We used to make fun of Ithaca from my nearby city, but no one who lives there seems to complain. Between Cornell (intellectual, big) and the whole Moosewood (progressive, organic) vibe of the place, it can be really nice. A lot of wealthy liberal types, a really beautiful natural vibe, and a strong community. I haven't been there in years, but I'm sure it hasn't changed that drastically.
posted by history is a weapon at 10:00 AM on November 16, 2007

Here's my answer to a previous AskMe about stuff to do in Ithaca. It is a wonderful town. Judging from your list of questions, I can just about guarantee you'd love it there.
posted by purplemonkie at 10:10 AM on November 16, 2007

Ithaca is the Dalai Lama's North American HQ. Monks rotate in from India regularly and offer classes to the public. They have a couple of old Victorian houses downtown (you'll see them tending the tiny gardens outside), and have just built/are building a big new headquarters just south of town.

If you like to walk to things, walk around the Commons downtown. Much of the Commons is boutiquey stuff you wouldn't normally go to but there are 2 bookstores right on it, and two more within a couple blocks. They're all small. Organic food grocery store - Greenstar - is in teh DeWitt mall, a converted 19th century school building downtown that also houses the Moosewood restaurant and a good cafe with fishtanks and two bookstores.

The natural areas in Ithaca are unbeatably awesome. The campus is good/great depending where you are on it, and Cornell has tons of resources.

The town itself is a lot of old Victorians that are mostly on the shabby side now. Rental housing downtown varies hugely in its standard of how well-kept it is -- some is totally shitty, some is gorgeous, most are in between. You MUST see a place in person before renting.

Cornell has a housing board. Go to cuinfo.cornell.edu and scroll down the page follow links for off-campus housing.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:12 AM on November 16, 2007

Lots of good suggestions already. Dress warmly, as the temperature has gone down 20 degrees the past two days (think snow flurries and wind). You might look for a copy of the Ithaca Times, our free local paper, which has a calendar section on activities / lectures / music / etc. and lots of ads for shops and restaurants you might want to check out.

Seconding the Namgyal Monastery recommendations; I go to Dharma talks there frequently. It's located (for now) in a yellow and red house on Aurora St about 4 blocks north of the Commons, not hard to find. Regular evening prayers/meditation on Mon/Wed/Fri at 5 pm. Other talks are usually posted on their bulletin board or you can check out their website at namgyal.org. They are building a large new monastery south of town a few miles (just past Ithaca College).

If you like coffee, hunt out a Gimme! Coffee location, they have the best brew (there is a Starbucks near the Commons and on Collegetown, usually avoided by locals); if you like books, look for The Bookery, 2 blocks north of the Commons in the Dewitt Mall (a converted large school building, can't miss it) and the two great used bookstores right on the Commons. You might also be interested in Greenstar, a large co operative natural foods market (with deli and take out too) on the west side of town (Buffalo St and Rt 13). Do some wandering on foot in the Commons area downtown, and probably around Collegetown close to campus, though that's more undergraddy.

Have fun. I love living here. Feel free to email me at the address in my profile if you have any questions.
posted by aught at 10:14 AM on November 16, 2007

Yeah - stay during the summer. The winters are long and gray (bring a good wind-breaking coat if you're going to be walking around campus -it's windy on top of the hill).

Go to Gimme coffee on Cayuga St while you're there to see grad students and locals hanging around in their neighborhood; check out No Radio records (fun by a friend of mine); go to the Farmer's Market if it's still open when you visit; go to the Suspension Bridge on campus (next to the art museum -- great views of town from the 5th floor).
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:16 AM on November 16, 2007

Response by poster: Wow, sounds like I'm going to have a lot of fun!
posted by Coventry at 10:52 AM on November 16, 2007

Ithaca has its own currency, the Ithaca Hour.
posted by scalefree at 11:27 AM on November 16, 2007

It's snowing here in Ithaca at this very moment, and it's supposed to continue snowing at least somewhat through the weekend. Bring a jacket.

If the weather isn't too bad, go for a walk through the Cornell Plantations since you seem to like outdoor stuff. The Arboretum is quite nice.

Given all the replies to this thread, we should really have an Ithaca MiFi meetup sometime...
posted by zachlipton at 11:47 AM on November 16, 2007

Given all the replies to this thread, we should really have an Ithaca MiFi meetup sometime...

Would people be interested in one this weekend, short notice and all?
posted by zamboni at 12:46 PM on November 16, 2007

Everyone else has suggested so much already... I'll just add the Cornell Outing Club for if you are indeed considering postdocing at Cornell.

There is an active running community here, most prominently within the Finger Lakes Runners Club.

I'd be interested in a meetup, but it's a busy weekend for me. I'll come if I can.
posted by bread-eater at 2:26 PM on November 16, 2007

And to think I was actually up in Ithaca this past weekend. I can confirm that winery tours are lots of fun, the hiking is great, even in the cold and the people are very friendly.
posted by langeNU at 10:43 AM on November 20, 2007

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