Feb 28, 2006, 2:31 PM
Post #19 of 333
For Cornell acceptees:
Re: [theapplepicker] The program's great, but does the food sucks? Local life!
First of all, let me preface this by saying that I love living in Ithaca. In fact, I will be spending my summer here.
Let me start with the problems I've found throughout my time here, which may or may not apply to you:
Ithaca is cold and grey for most of the year. The Pac NW is known for it's rainy weather, but Ithaca is no different. Today I walked to class in 15 degree air with a negative wind chill. Everyone jokes with me about how rainy Eugene will be if I'm accepted, but trust me--a 45 degree, rainy winter is much better than a 20 degree, snowy one, even if you have a few more sunny days in there. No sunlight will make up for a *high* of 5-15 degrees, I can assure you. And Cornell NEVER cancels class or closes. There would have to be a -40 degree wind chill, or the monster of all storms, for that to happen.
Sometimes Ithaca is not receptive to students, although that may be more related to undergraduates. For example, in Collegetown, a place where lots of Cornell students live, the cost of meter parking went up drastically this year. I think it's 25 cents for 10 minutes now. This is because the committee intentionally held their meeting during winter break, when the Cornell student representatives were visiting their families. This is not the first time they have intentionally held a meeting during a period when they knew students would not be around to challenge them. Collegetown businesses sometimes suffer because of these decisions.
Recently, a noise law was passed: police may enter a "loud" home without a noise complaint. This seems unfair to me, in the same tradition of the Patriot Act--what constitutes "too loud"? A "party"? Though bars in NY state may remain open until 4am, Ithaca bars follow more conservative Connecticut times: last call is at 12:30 on weeknights and 1:30 on weekends. Keep in mind that this is a town where the majority of residents are students and faculty, since Cornell alone has probably 17,000 students, and Ithaca College has around 7,000.
Cornell is sometimes not received well in the community because of its size and influence. Sometimes Cornell as an institution wants to do frustrating things in its own interest--like pave woods to construct a parking lot--against the wishes of the city and even its own students (see: Redbud Woods). As a result, Cornell in general sometimes feels like its own separate body, and I've found myself embarassed to say "I got to Cornell" because sometimes I feel as if the person might consider me an "elitist."
But that's all for me. Weather and town-gown relations.
The gorges are breathtaking, even in the winter. If you drive to Taughannock Falls during January or February, it looks like an ice castle from a fairytale. Lots of the gorges on the Cornell campus freeze in mid-flow, which is kind of scary but beautiful at the same time. In late Spring, after the thaw, you can easily hike down and through them. This is my favorite thing to do on a nice day. It's especially good for writing.
Cornell also has a beautiful campus in general. It is very green when the snow melts. We have plantations--near the Agriculture school--with a plethora of different flower and plant species, most of which are labeled. Go farther, and there are apple orchards, from which Cornell makes apple juice to sell in its ala carte dining places. There are horses and cows for the Agriculture students as well.
Ithaca has lots of community activities: chili cook-off in February, apple festival in autumn, Light in Winter festival, a music festival in the summer, etc. There is local theatre (and of course Ithaca College theatre and Cornell theatre). My favorite thing is the Farmers' Market, which runs from April-October. You can get lots of organic produce, and even meat if you're into that, for much cheaper than in stores, and several restaurants and bakeries also set up there. It's just a great thing to have; farmers come from all over the area.
There is a community space called The Commons, which has lots of local stores and restaurants, including the famous Moosewood Restaurant, and some headshops and great used bookstores. I buy all my used vinyls down there. It's also the place where all the festivals and town events are held.
When there is no Farmers' Market, Ithaca has a nice natural foods co-op called GreenStar, which offers organic and natural food for decent prices. If you aren't as into sustainable farming/healthy eating as I am you can always shop at the Wegman's, which is actually a very impressive supermarket, with lots of gourmet cheeses and all kinds of interesting products, like kumquats and stuff.
There are three independent movie theatres: Cornell has one, and then there are two more elsewhere. Between the three, there will almost always be a good film. And, if you get sick of the indie films, there is a mainstream movie theatre that you can get to by bus or car. The theatre is located in a mall, which is not impressive but has your typical mall stores if you're into shopping: The Gap, Old Navy, Target, Abercrombie and Fitch, etc.
Ithaca is overall a very politically liberal place, probably because of the colleges. This is a very postive thing for me; it may be a negative one for you. A common bumper sticker is, "Ithaca is not George's" (as a joke on "Ithaca is Gorges"). There are all sorts of groups around that work to promote progessive thinking and awareness. For example, a Walmart eventually came to Ithaca (you won't see it around Cornell or the Commons; it's located far downtown). The Ithaca Living Wage Coalition has been trying to fight them to pay a living wage since even before they arrived. They showed the Walmart Movie at the Commons and had a discussion group afterwards. Or, in early Fall, there was an anti-war "sit-in" on the Commons that featured lots of information booths for various groups and some speakers. Overall, people here care one way or another. Even though it's mainly liberal, Ithaca is dynamic: there are conservative groups as well. Cornell has two conservative newspapers (one of which is fine, and one that is the laughing stock of the school).
There are lots of cafes as well. Gimme Coffee has the best coffee in my opinion, but my favorite place to hangout is the ABC Cafe, a vegetarian place, where they have open jazz night. Some places have open poetry readings.
Overall, it's just a community oriented place. Gimme Coffee, Purity Ice Cream, Ithaca Bakery/Collegetown Bagels, and the Ithaca Brewery (some of the beers are really tasty) are all local places--businesses that originated in Ithaca. If you want to drive a little farther, by Wegman's, Home Depot and Walmart, you can find McDonalds and Taco Bell, but none of the big chains have really succeeded in derailing local businesses. They seem to coexist peacefully. The town supports its "own."
Lots of Cornell students seem to complain about Ithaca, but I think it's because they're used to bigger cities. There is a bar scene but it is nothing compared to other places. It is small, but I'm a nature-person and I like the rural feel. Ithaca is also bigger than it seems.
I'm not sure about rent for grad students. If you have a car it will be easy to find a cheap enough place. If you need to be close to campus, it may be harder, because rent very close to the college is obviously going to be steeper. Cornell has grad housing available (condos or apartments). If you don't want to be near lots of undergraduates, North Campus is better than Collegetown. If you have a car or don't mind having to take a bus everday, I would live on or near the Commons. A parking permit at Cornell is not exactly cheap, so keep that in mind.
Also, I do like the restaurants here. Lots of Thai food (the best is Thai Cuisine, with Taste of Thai as a close second). Moosewood is pretty good. Collegetown has more college-y food, like pizza slices and bagels. The Commons has more "nice" restaurants, like Madeline's and Taste of Thai. If you can drive, Zaza's Cucina has very good Italian food and Maxie's has good Cajun food.
If you have a car or know someone who does, something that's fun to do in warmer weather--besides driving to all the parks and waterfalls to hike and all that--is a wine tour. You drive along Seneca or Cayuga lake, and on a nice, blue day it's a beautiful road.
So between wine tours, food festivals, bars, cafes, restaurants, three theatres, plays, academic and literary readings, concerts, etc., there are plenty of things to do here. I wouldn't listen to people who tell you "it's in the middle of nowhere." Yes, Ithaca is in the middle of nowhere, and you will pass abandoned barns and all that rural stuff to get here, but once you're inside you'll find things to do.
That was long. I'm procrastinating writing a paper, so you understand. Good luck.