Ithaca, New York
Population: 30,999 (~60,000 when classes are in session)
Those unfamiliar with Upstate New York might undersell Ithaca as just a college town. It is, after all, home to Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Tompkins-Cortland Community College. And though the vibe of the city is definitely heightened when classes are in session, there's a lot more to it than Andy Bernard would have you believe.
Ithaca is the perfect retreat for those wanting to escape the big city scene but keep all the perks larger cities have to offer. You can enjoy the bars and farm-to-table restaurants, catch a theatrical performance or a live outdoor concert, and shop to your heart's content without feeling like you've put 30 miles on your legs. But the city also gives you room to breathe. Admire the antique houses in the various historic neighborhoods like East Hill and Cornell Heights, two National Register Historic Districts. Slow your pace as you walk down colorful tree-lined streets through downtown, taking in architecture reminiscent of simpler times. Lazy afternoons can be spent following lush trails and crossing historic bridges leading to gorges and lakeside views not far from the city center. Chase waterfalls -- there are 150+ if them within 10 miles of downtown -- which demand to be photographed before diving in. And yes, those colleges are worth a visit: Cornell and Ithaca each boast more than a century of history and some of the the east coast's most lovely campuses. When you're done, take in the sunset over Cayuga Lake from Stewart Park, where you will inevitably wonder why you didn't come to Ithaca sooner.
Must eat & drink: Grab upscale Italian at Gola Osteria or wood-fired pizza at Ciao!, then prepare to get crisp: With the highest density of craft cideries in New York state -- 10 within a 30-minute radius -- your first move drink should probably come from an apple. Head to Finger Lakes Cider House, and if you're visiting in early fall, you can hit up the annual Cider Week. Meanwhile, you're smack in the middle of Finger Lakes Wine Country, which boasts over 200 wineries, distilleries, and breweries.
Don't leave without: A hike through Taughannock Falls State Park leads to a 215-foot waterfall roaring off cliffs that tower nearly 400 feet above the gorge. -- Carol Cain
MORE: Ithaca is also the birthplace of French bread pizza -- learn more about it here