Ithaca is an historic town, with many of the original homes still standing. There are a few apartment complexes, mostly north of town, but most of the properties available for rent are in converted older homes in the neighborhoods across town. When looking for housing I would recommend Craigslist or the Cornell internal listing website run by the department of off-campus living. Other resources include Craigslist, Yorango, Zillow, Trulia, Hotpads, and the Cornell housing Facebook group.
Here is a rough map of some of the neighborhoods in Ithaca near Cornell.
Cayuga Heights – A nice wooded residential area, where a number of graduate students and faculty members live. The advantages? It is up the hill (which is a reeeeaally big hill), so you an bike or walk to campus without too much trouble. It is also near the undergrad dorms and hence one of the main gyms. Disadvantages? The bus coverage to downtown isn’t the best, especially at night. It is also on the north side of campus, while the engineering quad is on the south the side, so it is a little far.
Fall Creek – Another beautiful residential area near several of the gorges, where many graduate students and local families live. The advantages? It is near enough to downtown to walk, and thus there is great bus coverage to all of Ithaca all days of the week. It is also close enough that many of the festivals bleed into the south side. Porch Fest actually takes place here in the fall. This is great, because, festivals!, but not great if you are trying to drive anywhere on those days. Disadvantages? You are down the hill from campus, which means walking is sweaty and takes a while, and biking is not for the faint of heart (seriously, people brag about doing this even once).
Downtown – Downtown isn’t very big, but it can be a fun place to live and many graduate students do! Advantages? You are in the hot spot near all of the bars, festivals, and bus lines. Disadvantages? Housing here is generally not as cheap as being further out of town or in Fall Creek (but generally cheaper than Collegetown). There are plenty of nice new apartment buildings opening up here if luxury is your thing.
Collegetown – This is primarily an undergraduate neighborhood, though there are a few houses regularly populated by graduate students. Advantages? This is the closest neighborhood to campus and especially to the engineering quad. You are either all of the way up the hill or partially up the hill. Disadvantages? Many of the apartments are not well maintained and are very expensive. Most grad students would only recommend moving into houses already populated by MAE grad students.
Of course, we have left out many areas of town where you could live, i.e. Belle Sherman (mostly families), South Hill (mostly IC students), near the lake (often expensive and hard to get, but super fun!). Always feel free to ask specific questions on the Sigma Facebook page!