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True, it's in the Finger Lakes boonies of central New York, but Ithaca is an Ivy League outpost with great food, beautiful scenery and Naderite politics.

What we loved: The Tudor turrets and stained-glass windows of the William Henry Miller Inn, an example of the well-preserved, 19th-century houses in town.

Ithaca natives often joke that their town is "centrally isolated." True, it's in the Finger Lakes boonies of central New York. But Ithaca is an Ivy League outpost with great food, beautiful scenery and Naderite politics.

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On the shores of Cayuga Lake, Ithaca isn't burdened by big-city crime and traffic. It is home to Ithaca College and Cornell University, both situated on hills cut by steep gorges.

The town is a blend of all-American scrubbed looks and counterculture grunge. At the Commons, a two-block pedestrian mall, you'll find summer concerts (a fusion band -- playing Cajun gypsy swing and blues -- is scheduled for July 6) and shops selling "Ithaca Is Gorges" T-shirts and other funky gear.

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Powered by the two schools and the Cayuga Medical Center, Ithaca's economy has a low unemployment rate that has hovered at 3% for years. Zach Shulman, a venture capitalist for Cayuga Venture fund, says that "local start-ups in biotech and other cutting-edge industries are generating millions in revenue and will add more jobs soon."

Housing is cheap. Three-bedroom Cape Cods sell for about $130,000, Victorians downtown cost about $200,000, and lakefront homes outside of town start at around $350,000.

Town life centers on the farmer's market, the Ithaca Bakery and about 240 restaurants, including Moosewood, of cookbook fame. One hot spot is the darkly lit Maxie's Supper Club. "Their pulled-pork sandwich is as good as any I ate in South Carolina as a kid," says Whitney Barnes, a financial planner.

-- Sean O'Neill