10 Great Places to Live, 2013
8. Ithaca, New York
Population: 101,564 (metro area)
Unemployment rate: 5.1%
Cost-of-living index: 102.9
Median household income: $49,789
Median home value: $215,000
What the locals love: The food scene including Just a Taste — a wine and tapas bar with a menu that changes daily — and cheering on Cornell’s men’s ice hockey team.
It may be temporary home to 28,000 students, but this college town is a great place to put down roots, too. Education is central to Ithaca’s identity, anchored by Cornell University, which is the largest employer in the county, and Ithaca College. University jobs, start-ups fueled by Cornell’s brainpower, and tourism generated by the more than 100 nearby wineries have sustained economic growth while other upstate New York communities have fallen on hard times.
On any given Saturday, you’ll see locals shopping at the Ithaca Farmers’ Market or taking in a performance at one of the local theaters. The city has more restaurants per capita than New York City. Ithaca’s natural environment — gorges, waterfalls and Cayuga Lake — not only inspires the motto “Ithaca Is Gorges,” but gives the locals good reason (beyond cabin fever) to head outdoors after the area’s long, cold and snowy winters. Hiking, biking and sailing are popular summertime activities.
Downtown Ithaca is being transformed by new mixed-use developments and a hotel expansion; Ithaca Commons, a downtown pedestrian mall, is undergoing a redesign. You’ll pay more than the median home price of $215,000 as you get closer to the city center and Cayuga Lake. The public schools are generally well regarded.