Ithaca Commons is the "Downtown" area of Ithaca, NY, just downhill from Cornell University and Ithaca College. City hall is located in this area, along with two major hotel chains, and a local theatre. It consists of about two block's worth of independently owned (i.e., no chains) retail shops and restaurants (aside from a Starbucks just a block over from the Commons).

Perhaps most famously, it is home to the Sagan Planet Walk, a walking scale model of the solar system in the Commons. It is dedicated to the late Carl Sagan, Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University.

Dry facts aside, the Commons is one of my favorite places to go in Ithaca on the weekends (aside from the fraternity house), which I attribute to (1) the fact that there's not much to do in Ithaca to begin with, and (2) My lack of a fake ID precludes me from hitting up Collegetown bars with older friends. A Cornell tour guide told me that Ithaca had the most (or one of the most) number of restaurants per capita. The Commons does not by any means contain all, or even the majority of these restaurants, but it has many of my favorites in one central location. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but a description of my favorites.

The first: Madeleine's-a little pricey for the college crowd, in here what you'll mostly find is middle-aged professional couples sipping wine/scotch and eating steak, although there is the occasional date and prospective student with their families. Although a date here can set you back $80 easy (entrees are on average $20-25), the food is simply divine-braised pork, leg of lamb, steak-the best continental food you could ask for. On top of that, they have the largest variety of chocolate desserts I've seen in any restaurant-all displayed bakery-style by the kitchen. If you are absolutely strapped for cash, consider taking your date elsewhere for dinner, and come here for dessert after 8:00, when it's less crowded. A nice chocolate cake or tart with tea/coffee for two will cost ~$25-expensive, but worth it for the calm, soothing ambience. The table set up, paint scheme, and lighting are about as romantic as it gets.

Taste of Thai: traditional Thai cuisine, they have everything you could imagine, from satay, to cashew chicken to curry. Kurt Russell likes the place, and so will you. Entrees are ~$12.

Viva Taqueria: Inexpensive Mexican restaurant. There are two sides of the restaurant-one for table service, the other self-service/carry-out. The most expensive dish is no more than $15, though you might be disappointed with the side dishes. I get that Ithaca is a very hippy town, but I don't like cold vegetables as a side for my burritos. The food has never made me sick, but the "spicy" dishes are too mild, and the burritos underwhelming. Good selection of booze though. Another interesting quirk is that they charge for chips and salsa-maybe because New York is a more expensive state than mine, but I've never had to pay for this at any other Mexican restaurant. Decent though, and much cheaper than the other Mexican place (which is not on the Commons).

The Commons also hosts what is perhaps my favorite movie theatre in the entire world-Cinemapolis. You have to walk down an alley and down to the basement of a dark, shady building, but hey, every independent theatre I've been to is no-frills, such is their nature. Just last year I watched Religulous, Persepolis, Rachel Getting Married, Savages, and an interesting Rolling Stones documentary there. Highly recommended.

That's my college nightlife in a nutshell-Ithaca Commons. It's not much, but it's quaint, and the company is always what counts.

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