Ithaca and the Finger Lakes region offer a rich variety of experiences and a high quality of life. Ithaca often ends up on national “best of” lists. With one of the best farmer’s markets in the country, 150 waterfalls within 10 miles of town, and local grocery stores that offer a stunning array of food choices—many imported from other countries—life here is full of surprises.
Ithaca has a temperate climate with four seasons. Summers are warm with an average high of 80°F (27°C). Winters are cold with an average high of 31°F (-1°C) and lows that can dip to below 0°F (-18°C). Rain is common in the spring and fall.
You will definitely need a warm coat and snow boots in the winter, and you’ll want to dress in many layers to stay warmer. If you are from a warm climate, it’s best to buy your winter clothing in Ithaca or from shops or online sites that specialize in cold-weather clothing. Stores in warmer places often don’t carry clothing that is warm enough for our winters.
Ride the local bus to and from campus, with service throughout Ithaca and other parts of Tompkins County. Convenient phone apps help you plan your trip.
Take this express bus service between Cornell’s New York City and Ithaca campuses.
If you own your own car or would like to, learn what you’ll need to do to fulfill New York State requirements for registration, insurance, and driver’s license.
English Language and Culture
Hiking and Outdoor Recreation
Ithaca and the Finger Lakes celebrate festivals of all kinds. In Ithaca, the festivals start in February with the Chili Cook-Off. The Ithaca Festival in June is the town’s biggest festival, with a parade and three days of events and street markets. The Apple Harvest Festival in October and the Ithaca Ice Festival in December round out the year.
The Finger Lakes region offers great live music, including bluegrass, rock and roll, reggae, and more at the nationally famous Grassroots Festival in Trumansburg. You can hear world-class opera at the Glimmerglass Festival in nearby Cooperstown.
Local Produce and Food
Ithaca and the Finger Lakes region have an abundance of farms and cottage industries that offer local produce and food products. Many people join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to receive fresh produce, meat, and other products weekly from local farmers during the growing season.
Wineries, Breweries, Cideries, and Distilleries
The Finger Lakes are unique for their viticulture microclimates, mild areas around the lakes that allow growers to cultivate grapes and other fruit. More than 130 wineries dot the region, along with cideries, microbreweries for small-batch beer, and distilleries for a variety of spirits. Many have tasting rooms.
When it comes to food, Ithaca has something for everyone. Our town is known for its numerous restaurants, many featuring locally produced food and spirits. Collegetown and the Commons have many popular eateries, including an array of international and ethnic options. You will find vegetarian and vegan items on most menus, as well as humanely raised meat. Here are a few popular local restaurants you might enjoy.
A nationally famous vegetarian restaurant, which opened in 1973 and is still collectively owned.
A microbrewery that also offers hamburgers and simple food made from local produce and meat.
A farm-to-bistro restaurant specializing in locally produced food and run by the Tompkins-Cortland Community College food program.