July 13, 2008

The Cornell Daily Sun's City Guide

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From the outside, it’s hard to understand the allure of the city Cornell calls home. But Ithaca, with all its quirks and eccentricities, has tons of opportunities for exploring, playing and having fun. So, here’s a guide of the best Ithaca has to offer.
The heart of downtown Ithaca is called the Commons. Three city blocks in the center of downtown that were made into a pedestriana mall in the 1970s, the Ithaca Commons now has tons of stores and restaurants worth trying. Retail options range from jewelry stores to bookstores to head shops, with everything in between. And restaurants, some of which are on the Commons and some extend around the corner to Aurora Street, serve up a diverse mix of foods.
Though there are a ton of great dining options, a couple have become icons for Cornell students past and present. Moosewood Restaurant, which made its name in the ’60s with its world-famous organic vegetarian cookbook, resides on Seneca Street and still serves the same cuisine. Glenwood Pines, on Route 89 by Taughannock Falls State Park, serves what it calls the world famous Pinesburger and provides nice views of Cayuga Lake. Souvlaki House, which has a long and storied history in Collegetown, serves Greek Cuisine on Eddy Street. Collegetown Bagels on College Avenue is also a popular hangout spot.
If you are into museums, a few notable ones sit nestled within Ithaca’s tree-lined boundaries. The Sciencenter on Route 13 is geared towards younger kids, but still provides fun exhibits for the college-aged crowd. The Museum of the Earth, located on Trumansburg Road, is part of the Paleontological Research Institution, and features tons of cool fossils and dinosaur bones. Lastly, the Johnson Museum, just off the Arts Quad, features a rotating list of exhibits. For bird lovers and nature enthusiasts, Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology provides a fun, educational experience.
Though most still call it by its old name, the Pyramid Mall, The Shops at Ithaca is the biggest mall in town, fulfilling your fashionista desires. The Shops also features a recently renovated movie theatre.
Often touted as the mall everyone goes to when they realize Pyramid Mall doesn’t fulfill their needs, the Carousel Mall in Syracuse has more stores than you could ever imagine. A renovation in the works will soon make it the biggest mall in the country.
Skiing was probably not the reason you chose Cornell, but Greek Peak, just 30 minutes away in Cortland, is one of the better ski areas in the region. And with a special deal, you can get student-priced season passes for under $200. The Ski and Snowboard Club provides weekly shuttles to Greek Peak for part of the winter.
Of course, it’s more than likely you were lured to Cornell by the natural scenery. One highlight is the Taughannock Falls State Park, which features falls that are higher than Niagara. Buttermilk Falls is also a majestic locale. Closer to campus, Cornell Plantations contains acres upon acres of greenery and walking trails.
In terms of supermarkets, there’s Wegmans, which is a supermarket, but so much more. Those not from around New York may be surprised at its size and the amount of ready-cooked food available. Though Wegmans — located on Route 13 — is a 15-minute drive from campus, it’s not unusual to see Cornellians flocking there in herds.
Tons of wineries line Seneca and Cayuga lakes, providing fertile ground for wine tours. One must be 21 to sample the wines, so it’s more usual for upperclassmen to take excursions into wine country. But for those of age, the wine region — often compared to the Napa Valley of California — is worth a visit.
Right off Route 13 on Steamboat Landing is the Ithaca Farmers Market, where local vendors sell delicious food, wine and seasonal produce. Open April through December on Saturdays and Sundays, it is a destination worth checking out, whether you are environmentally conscious or not.
Throughout the year, the Commons plays host to a number of different celebrations where students and residents co-mingle. In October, Applefest brings orchards and entertainers downtown, and participants sample every type of apple concoction you can think of. In February, Chilifest turns The Commons into a bustling fair filled with aromas from local restaurants who have brought their A-game chili to be taste tested. And in the summer, Ithaca Festival celebrates Ithaca, and all its quirks, with a parade and entertainment around town.