Ithaca, New York

Best Places to Retire in New York


Syracuse, at the southern tip of Cayuga Lake. It is the county seat for Tompkins County, and the home of both Cornell University (20,000 students) and Ithaca College (6,200 students). The region is known for its deep-cut gorges, carved by glaciers thousands of years ago, and its many spectacular waterfalls. It is also known for its forested lands, rolling countryside, and the more than 70 wineries that dot the region.

Ithaca was founded in the late 1700’s as a trading post and earned a reputation as a somewhat bawdy town. With access to water transportation, it became a busy port city and eventually it even benefited from the Erie Canal. Cornell University was founded there in 1865 and in1892 Ithaca College was formed and education grew to be its major industry.

The city and the colleges in combination offer a great number of cultural and entertainment opportunities. There is outstanding music, dance, live theater, entertainment, plus excellent museums. You will also find a great number of dining choices, from European to ethnic foods, pizza, fast food or fine dining. And there are dinner cruises on the lake, and nightlife.

The Downtown Ithaca Commons is very large pedestrian mall (“Commons”) featuring specialty shops with apparel, art works, crafts, jewelry, children’s stores, books, music, sporting goods, and much more. And there is more shopping at Center Ithaca and the DeWitt mall. A good number of art galleries and antique shops are in the area.

Ithaca has over 100 miles of trout streams, and Cayuga Lake — the largest of the Finger Lakes. The lake offers fishing, boating, sailing, canoeing and kayaking. There are good golf courses in the area, plus tennis, swimming, boating, miles and miles of hiking, biking, mountain biking, trail riding, and more. And of course there are many things to see and do if you wish to auto-tour in the region.

Ithaca offers a safe, small town neighborhood type of environment. It has good healthcare and a great number of amenities. It is understandable why Ithaca and Tompkins Country have become an active retirement location. 

Arts & Culture

The Center for the Arts at Ithaca, also known as Hangar Theatre, is a non-profit theater dedicated to offering quality entertainment, education and training programs. 

The Cayuga Chamber Orchestra is a 35-member professional ensemble that presents a subscription series of six full concerts, three chamber concerts and a holiday special. (607) 273-4816

Ithaca Ballet, housed at the Ballet Center of Ithaca, is a professional ensemble and a member of Regional Dance America. (607) 277-1967

State Theatre, on the National Register of Historic Places, has been updated and was re-opened in December 2001. The theatre presents both nationally recognized and regional performers, including musical groups, dance, and theater. 

Cornell’s Department of Theatre, Film & Dance offers a great number of productions open to the public. Its principal venue is the Cornell Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts, which contains three performance theatres, a dance theatre and studios, and many other ancillary facilities. 

Cornell University Department of Music offers a great many public performances, including the Cornell Concert Series.

The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players (NYGASP) is America’s preeminent professional Gilbert & Sullivan repertory ensemble.

Ithaca College Theatre, housed at the Dillingham Center for The Performing Arts, offers public performances at its 524-seat Hoerner Theatre, and the 280-seat arena-style Clark Theatre. 

Sciencenter offers “hands on” science exhibits and programs to promote learning through interaction. The center was built, in part, to honor Professor Carl Sagan. 

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University is an I. M. Pei designed facility. It houses a collection that spans many centuries and six continents. Panoramic views of the university, Ithaca and Cayuga Lake can be seen from the museum. Admission is free. 


The city’s Parks & Recreation Department maintains 22 parks and natural areas in and around the city. There are a great variety of facilities for persons of all ages, including a golf course, tennis courts a bird sanctuary, marinas, an Olympic-sized pool, a covered ice rink, over 20 athletic fields, hiking trails, pavilions and picnic areas, and more.

Newman Golf Course, the municipal course, is a 9-hole layout, which offers memberships with discounts for residents and senior citizens.{31CF9FD0-EAD4-47DE-AF38-AAD48021D575}

Cayuga Nature Center offers more than five miles of scenic hiking trails, with natural gorges and native wildlife. It also features interactive displays and a live animal collection. 

Cornell Plantations’ arboretum and botanical garden are a museum of living plants with a network of trails through the campus offering natural areas for hiking and nature study. Admission is free. 

Allan H. Treman State Marine Park is located just north of the city at the southern end of Cayuga Lake, along the western shore. It is one of the largest inland marinas in New York State with 370 seasonal and 30 transient slips. Other facilities include picnic areas, playing fields, and a boat launch site.{F1CF3458-E228-44E6-A4E3-D66D3D7A8866}&DE={A96021DD-05F6-4FFB-ADB2-38A1469B14CC}

Buttermilk Falls State Park, just south of Ithaca, cascades down Buttermilk Creek as it flows towards Cayuga Lake. The park includes a small lake, hiking trails along the gorge, picnic areas, playing fields, a campground, and a pool. 

Robert H. Treman State Park is located five miles south of Ithaca. The park features rugged Enfield Glen, a gorge that features winding trails that take you past 12 waterfalls, including 115-foot Lucifer Falls. There are campsites and cabins, and nine miles of hiking trails.

Taughannock Falls State Park is eight miles north of Ithaca in Trumansburg. The falls plunge 215 feet past the 400-foot high rocky cliffs. There are spectacular views from the rim and from the gorge trails below. It offers campsites and cabins, and a boat launch ramp and beach are nearby.

Finger Lakes Trail is a footpath for hikers that stretches 560 miles – from the Pennsylvania/New York border in Allegheny State Park, to the Long Path in the Catskill Forest Preserve. 

Downhill skiing is available just 45 minutes away in Cortland at Greek Peak Resort.

The well-known Watkins Glen Race Track in just 23 miles west. The race was originally run on a course in and around the Village of Watkins Glen. In 1956 it moved to its permanent track facility, which is a road course. It hosts the top racing circuits in the world, including Formula One, NASCAR, Can-Am, Trans-Am and Indy Cars.


Cornell University is privately endowed and is the federal land grant institution of New York State. Founded in 1865 by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White, it is a prestigious university with about 14,000 undergraduates and 6,000 graduate and professional students at the Ithaca campus. It also has two graduate units in New York City with about 750 students. 

Ithaca College, founded in 1892, is a private college with an enrollment of about 6,200 undergraduates and 250 graduate students. Courses of study include business, communications, health sciences, humanities, sciences, music and interdisciplinary studies. 

Tompkins Cortland Community College’s main campus is in Dryden, with extension centers in Ithaca and Cortland. Founded in 1968, the college offers 34 academic degree programs leading to an Associates degree. 

Senior Programs

Tompkins County Office for the Aging is a resource for advocacy, locating caregivers, employment, education, visitor programs, housing and personal emergencies.

Tompkins County Senior Citizens Council’s program, called “Lifelong,” is committed to promoting wellness through recreation, education, advocacy and volunteering. It is run by the people it serves – seniors — and offers a complete range of services. 


Cayuga Medical Center is a 204-bed acute care hospital with a medical staff of over 180 physicians. 


Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport offers scheduled commercial flights to New York’s LaGuardia Airport, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. 



The Ithaca Journal – 

Property Taxes 

State Taxes 

Chamber of Commerce

State Aging Agency


Watkins Glen – 23 miles
Binghamton – 49 miles
Syracuse – 57 miles
Rochester – 88 miles
Albany – 200 miles
New York City – 222 miles

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