Alright here it goes.... I was actually pleasantly surprised by Cornell. Most of the 1L's and other Cornell students lead me to believe that Cornell really was in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE and that you would have to trek 30 miles in a blizzard just got get to a gas station. Not the case at all. Ithaca actually looks like a great place and there is plenty to do. The restaurants are delish ( Taste of Thai, The Nines, Boat yard Grill) and all have a great ambiance. Ithaca commons is really neat as well. It is a strip of specialty shops, restaurants, and bars. It has everything you need...it might not be right across the street from the school, but one mile is hardly "inaccessible" especially if you have a car. About one mile from the school is Wegmas' ( freaking awesome) a super Walmart, PetsMart, Lowes, Panera, Chipotle, Taco Bell McDonals, Verizon, CVS, K-Mart, Bed Bath and Beyond, Staples....you get the picture. And they are all int eh same shopping plaza. Ithaca is also more crowded that I thought it would be. Now, if you are coming from Los Angeles or NYC, I can see why you would think this is in the middle of nowhere and such a small town. For me, I came from UF which in essence is a collegetown. Aside from the one mall, movies, restaurants, bars, and the school...there isn't a whole lot. In my opinion, Ithaca actually has more to do then Gainesville, FL. So, maybe that is why I think Ithaca isn't really that small. Obviously I wasn't here during the winter, but as long as the inside is warm...I don't anticipate frolicking in the snow for any length of time.
The school itself is beautiful. When you walk into the school you just feel...smart. I went to Vandy's ASW, and even though there is only a 2 rank difference between the two schools, I felt like Cornel was MILES ahead. Vanderbilt would certainly be more user friendly because the students are more party focused and possible Nashville is easier to navigate, but once you get acclimated to the streets and where everything is in Ithaca I don't think it would be a problem. Also, the student body was not monastic. There is a good, diversified mix, but everyone was generally friendly. I was sitting in on Clermont's class and the two girls next to me were txt messaging and what not. Seems like they are all pretty normal and not crazy academics. Next to Caucasian, I think Asian is the next largest ethnic group.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised. Before visiting and going off just what everyone at TLS said, I was ready to write Cornell off and go to Vanderbilt. Just goes to show you will never have a complete understanding of the school unless you go visit. Don't always go off of what other people say because Ithaca may be a boring, small town to some...but to me it was an upgrade. PM if you have any additional questions.
I agree with pretty much everything you said. And I think Ithaca is pretty awesome.