By Anya Martin
On store windows, car bumpers and telephone polls in Ithaca, you’ll find stickers with the city’s unofficial tagline, “Ithaca is Gorges” -- a tribute to the steep ravines that contribute to the city’s natural beauty. The city has dozens of waterfalls and 25,000 acres of national forest along Cayuga Lake, one of the Finger Lakes. The region is also gaining a reputation for its wineries. Even the current Dalai Lama was apparently attracted to this beauty: He founded a monastic temple here that offers classes in Tibetan Buddhism,
Ice cream lovers may find it tasty to know that the ice cream sundae was invented here in 1892. But Ithaca’s vibrant restaurant scene is about much more than dessert, and the city has been called a culinary “oasis” by the New York Times and AAA.
What really distinguish Ithaca are its two top-rated universities, Cornell University and Ithaca College, which not only provide adult classes, but also help attract lots of arts, music, and restaurateurs to the area. “It’s unusual to find so much cultural activity in such a rural environment,” says Bruce Stoff, director of Visit Ithaca, the area convention and visitors bureau. “There are public concerts, lectures and arts events almost every day--a lot of it is free, particularly the events on campus.” Downtown Ithaca is easily walkable with its own art gallery scene; new development in town includes apartments specifically for mature residents. For those who don’t want to walk up the hill from downtown to Cornell, there’s a three-minute free shuttle.
Ithaca’s cost of living is 13.4% higher than the national average, but the town remains more affordable than many other popular retirement locations in the state. The central New York town also can have lots of snow, and low winter temperatures in the teens. Still, spring and fall are beautiful here, Cayuga Medical Center is highly rated and there’s even a regional airport with direct flights to Newark, Philadelphia and Detroit.
By the numbers:
Median home cost: $223,200
Cost of living: 13.4% higher than average
Source: Sperling’s Best Places