Cornell University's Location

Learn About Ithaca, Cornell's Home in Upstate New York

USA, New York, Exterior
Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

Cornell University is one of the eight members of the Ivy League, and it typically ranks among the very top universities in the United States. Below you'll learn about the university's location in Ithaca, New York.

Fast Facts: Ithaca, New York

  • The city has a similar number of residents and college students.
  • Downtown Ithaca features a pedestrian-only commons with shops, restaurants, and a movie theater.
  • Ithaca frequently ranks among the nation's best college towns.
  • Ithaca sits on the edge of Lake Cayuga in New York's scenic Finger Lakes region.

About Ithaca

Town of Ithaca
Bruce Yuanyue Bi / Getty Images

Cornell University is situated in the picturesque city of Ithaca, New York, a thriving and diverse area surrounded by incredible natural beauty. The city is well-known for its famous gorges, with Ithaca Falls, Cascadilla Gorge, and more than 100 other waterfalls and gorges located within 10 miles of downtown Ithaca. The city also sits along the southern edge of Cayuga Lake, the largest of New York’s Finger Lakes. Ithaca has a colorful history, settled in the late 18th century as part of a land grant system for Revolutionary War soldiers; for a brief time, the frontier town was known as Sodom for its supposedly questionable morals. Apart from its outdoor attractions, Ithaca offers a vibrant college town culture with its two major educational institutions, Cornell University and Ithaca College, overlooking the city from adjacent hills. 

Explore the Cornell University Campus

McGraw Tower and Chimes, Cornell University campus, Ithaca, New York
Dennis Macdonald / Getty Images

Cornell University's main campus in Ithaca, New York, occupies 2,300 acres on an attractive hillside overlooking Cayuga Lake. See some of the sites of the campus in this Cornell University photo tour.

Explore the Ithaca College Campus

Ithaca College
Allen Grove

Ithaca College, like Cornell University, sits on a hillside overlooking Cayuga Lake, although the campus is farther from the Ithaca Commons. You can explore the campus in the Ithaca College photo tour.

Ithaca Quick Facts

Cayuga Lake at Sunset
Nicholas Schooley / Flickr
  • Population (2017): 31,006
  • Total area: 6.1 sq mi
  • Time zone: Eastern
  • ZIP codes: 14850, 14851, 14852, 14853
  • Area codes: 607
  • Cities nearby:Elmira (30 mi), Syracuse (50 mi), Binghamton (50 mi)

Ithaca Weather and Climate

View of vineyards and Cayuga Lake
James Willamor / Flickr
  • Moderate continental climate
  • Long, cold, snowy winters (average high temperatures in low 30s)
  • Average annual snowfall of 66.8 in
  • Warm, humid summers (average high temperatures in high 70s)


Ithaca Car Share
paul_houle / Flickr
  • Served by Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit
  • Ithaca Carshare, a nonprofit carsharing service, is popular among students and city residents
  • No direct access to the Interstate highway system
  • Downtown Ithaca considered a walkable and bikeable area
  • Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport is three miles northeast of Ithaca. The airport is served by American Airlines with flights to and from Philadelphia

What to See

Fall Scene at Cayuga Lake
Sara Wight / Getty Images
  • Outdoor attractions: Ithaca Falls, Cascadilla Gorge, Buttermilk Falls State Park, Cayuga Lake, Beebe Lake, Finger Lakes Trail, EcoVillage at Ithaca, Taughannock Falls State Park
  • Arts and entertainment: Cornell Cinema, Cayuga Wine Trail, Hangar Theatre, The Haunt, Ithaca Art Factory, Ithaca Ballet, Oasis nightclub, State Theatre of Ithaca
  • Historical sites: Carl Sagan’s grave, Cornell Plantations, Llenroc House, Paleontological Research Institution’s Museum
  • Numerous area wineries
  • Ithaca Commons
  • Ithaca Farmers Market
  • Moosewood Restaurant
  • Sciencenter

Did You Know?

Ithaca Hours, the Local Currency
Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion / Flickr
  • Ithaca has its own currency, “Ithaca Hours,” which are widely used as legal tender throughout the town
  • Ithaca’s name comes from the Greek island of Ithaca in Homer’s Odyssey
  • Novelist Vladimir Nabokov wrote Lolita at his home in Ithaca
  • The Erie Canal facilitates water access from Ithaca east to New York City and west, through the Great Lakes and Mississippi River, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico
  • Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum’s wife attended Cornell University, and it is speculated that Ithaca’s yellow brick-paved roads at the time may have inspired the author
  • Ithaca resident and local fountain owner Chester Platt invented and served the first documented ice cream sundae in 1892
  • The first electric street lamps in America were lit on the Cornell University campus in 1875
  • The song “Puff the Magic Dragon was written in Ithaca by Cornell University student Lenny Lipton

Ithaca Colleges and Universities

USA, New York, Ithaca, Cornell University
Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

During the school year, roughly half of all Ithaca residents are students. That combined with the city's beautiful location and excellent dining and cultural opportunities earned it a place among our list of best college towns.

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Grove, Allen. "Cornell University's Location." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Grove, Allen. (2023, April 5). Cornell University's Location. Retrieved from Grove, Allen. "Cornell University's Location." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 28, 2023).