Ithaca and Itasca, 7 distinct differences

They sound similar, they are spelt confusingly similar, and they both have you scratching your head and knitting your brows going ”What is that, a new virus?” These are two different cities, located, in the USA, with very distinct characteristics. There is one thing though that both cities have in common: I have visited them only once. Ithaca I entered late at night, for Argentine tango, and left by noon the following day; Itasca, I entered at noon, for a commercial shoot, and left late at the night…..well, early the next morning.

Here are their identifying variances:
1. While both are very odd but similar sounding names, Ithaca is in New York, and  Itasca is in Illinois.

2. Itasca, still being referred to as a village, is a somewhat vestigial town – a glimpse of the past; while Ithaca, a blossoming cosmopolitan techie town, is a look into the future.

3. Sporting a literatti landscape, Itacha is home to the Ivy League college, Cornell University, Itacha University and Tompkins Cortland Community College. The downtown area brissles with the air of intelligencia as collegiates zip by on bicycles and hybrid cars, and smart-looking pedestrians move with purpose towards the ubiquitous cafes. Okay, so the last one was fabricated from a stereotype, but that is what all preppies do, right? Drink coffee, hangout, have frat parties, and spend mom and dad’s saving! Yea, I know, I just stirred up some ire, but, we’ll all survive that storm!

And meanwhile, back at the ranch (good, now I’ve leveled the vexation in both cities), Itasca proudly touts its industrial landscape, dotted with strip malls, McDonalds, and Chipotle (both of which were sparcely populated when we visited at 2:30pm and 5pm respectively), and a 7 o’clock curfew. Alright, so no curfew actually blew, but it was intuited, as the city came to a grinding halt at twilight.

4. As far as outlines go, Ithaca is mapped out by an academic border: Cornell to the right, Cortland to the east and Ithaca Univeristy to the west. Itascha is appropriately defined by its urban, erstwhile, commercial trail – railroad tracks on the south, Maple Street on the west, Cherry Street on the east, and Division Street on the north.
5. Ithaca boasts such inviting and activity-oriented destinations as, Buttermilk Falls State Park, Cayuga Nature Centre, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Pedestrian Suspension Bridge at Cornell, the Museum of the Earth, and 47 other reasons to visit, which include dancing Argentine Tango, and indulging in an Epicurean way in the milky, ambrosia-like, wholesome goodness of homemade ice-cream at the Cayuga Lake Creamery (you can tell I totally tore it up, right?!). While Itasca’s single brightspot is the Hyatt Place. A place, where I unreservedly enjoyed a savoury bowl of tomatoe bisque, and gazed longingly at some decadent desserts, while chatting with the charismatic and forthcoming host, Mike. But alas, even this renown hotel chain has its limitations… Itasca.

Shortcomings? There is no restaurant, but instead a retro diner type setting, where  one can order from a menu, then sit at a bar and wait for the kitchen to prepare and bring the meal. On the plus side, you get more time to enjoy the company of Mike, who is happy to fill you in on the details of the town (well, village), the history of the hotel, and its marvelous, soon-to-become-a-reality, renovation plans.

6. My visit to Itasca was for professional reasons – shooting a commercial with Keith Kelly, a man who truly means 2 hours when he says 2 hours. With the quickness and efficiency of Navy Seals, we were in and out in a flash, just like he promised. And my visit to Ithaca? Well, purely pleasure, no rush, no ceremony – dancing Argentine tango until the wee hours of the morning, totally oblivious to the world. I was afterward enjoined to stay the night, wake up to a freshly French-pressed cup of coffee (so would it then be called brewed or pressed coffee?), then cruise leisurely down Hwy 89 back to Rochester (where I was visiting relatives at the time); an offer I did not have the will-power to refuse.

7. And of course this post is not complete without mention of my companions. I enjoyed a pleasant trip from Indy to Itasca, travelling with my acting pal, Jordan Leigh, who is one helluva travel pal (despite her contradicting admissions), and lavished in the company of other resourceful and insightful actors – Colleen Mooney and TJ Martin. My trip to Ithaca, was in contrast, frightful and lonely, as described in a previous post, but with a beautiful ending, as it was here that I met the wonderful couple Tessa and Ira Goldstein (upon whose invitation I spent the night), and joined the family of talented (in all the tango styles) and welcoming, Itasca milongueros!

Now, in summation, would I recommend visits to these two cities? Most certainly! Depending on your pleasure, despite the stark contrasts, there is always something to enjoy in every part of the globe. Some of us like a warm bowl of tomatoe bisque while perched on a stool amidst a retro Midwestern decor, and others, well, we love Starbucks coffee and homemade ice-cream; though not necessarily together. So just like Itasca and Ithaca, and polka dots and plaids, it is possible to enjoy opposites, separately (yes, in particular, please don’t mix the polka dots and plaids!).

Photos taken while travelling along Hwy 89, Ithaca – Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery

Cayuga lake landing – a view from the vineyard


Private residence on the lake’s edge, Hwy 89, Ithaca


Cayuga Ridge Winery, Hwy 89, Ithaca



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