Editor’s Note: The IthacaTompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau set the Internet ablaze last week by jokingly encouraging would-be tourists to visit the Florida Keys instead.

After the story, the editors of the Ithaca Voice and the Florida Keys Keynoter agreed to a *friendly* competition to determine the following question: “Which is the better place to live, Upstate New York or South Florida?”

We’ve each outlined our reasons in separate editorials and are putting it up to the voters to decide who is right. Let the game begin!

[socialpoll id=”2254594″]

See here for the other side: Why Ithaca is, by far, a better place to live than the Florida Keys

Why the Florida Keys is better than Ithaca:

By the editor of the Florida Keys Keynoter:

By now, most people know that the tourism agency in Ithaca, N.Y., has surrendered to the brutal northern winter and on Monday told people the heck with it, go to the Florida Keys.

“Due to this ridiculously stupid winter, Ithaca invites you to visit the Keys this week. Please come back when things thaw out. Really, it’s for the birds here now. (Still want to Visit Ithaca? Are you sure? Ok, click here.) P.S. Send us a postcard.”

The words were posted by Bruce Stoff, director of the Ithaca/Tompkins County Convention & Visitors Bureau, along with a screen grab of the Keys’ official tourism site showing snorkelers in beautiful aqua water at Dry Tortugas National Park.

A trumpet fish slides by a coral mount off the Keys. Courtesy of the Florida Keys Keynoter
A trumpet fish slides by a coral mount off the Keys. Courtesy of the Florida Keys Keynoter

When the news went viral, we were contacted by Jeff Stein, editor of the Ithaca Voice, that small upstate New York city’s online newspaper. He felt the need to come to Ithaca’s defense as being a great place. He challenged us to convince him the Keys are a better place in which to live and vacation than Ithaca, where on Friday it was 1.7 degrees and where it will go below zero on Monday.

Is he kidding? (Notwithstanding our cool blast the past few days; Friday, the Middle Keys stood at 53 degrees).

Fact: It’s never snowed here. Fact: It never will. Fact: We have the only living barrier coral reef in the continental U.S. and the accompanying scuba diving. Fact: Our fishing is world-class. Fact: Our nightlife is teeming (Key West alone has more than 50 venues at which to hear live music). Fact: Our cultural past and present (some guys named Hemingway and Buffett are the first to come to mind) can stand with any place.

We’re considered by most people to be the most bizarre state. We embrace that.

Don’t get us wrong. Ithaca’s a nice place — in the summer. It has some great parks and the indispensible Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It also has something called the Museum of the Earth, which sounds like a fancy name for the woods or something.

But even Ithaca people want to get out of Ithaca. Many of them do, and many of them — successes in all walks of life — move here, to the Keys, meaning in their minds (and ours), the Keys are better than Ithaca. But don’t take our word for it.

Key Wester John Padget — self-made millionaire, vice chairman of the Florida Board of Education and a former Keys schools superintendent — is Cornell University Class of 1958. He grew up on a farm in upstate New York near Ithaca. He milked cows. After his parents died, he was done milking cows.

“I needed a place with all-year sun. I didn’t want to shovel anymore,” so he bought his home here in 1990 and has been living the good life ever since.

Frank Hawkins of Tavernier is Cornell Class of 1962. The international investor and marketer once headed investor relations for Knight-Ridder, which owned the Keynoter before selling to McClatchy. Which is it Frank, Ithaca or the Keys?

“The Keys. Consider where I’m living, and I had a choice,” says Hawkins, who marks 20 years as a full-time resident this coming Tuesday. “It’s been a blessing. The community is wonderful. We love the water and everything but beyond that … this is an incredibly tight-knit community.”

Mike Dunn of Marathon and Robert Foley of Islamorada also are Cornell grads — and now practicing veterinarians in the Florida Keys. Stephanie Scuderi graduated from Cornell — and is now senior vice president and director of business development for Centennial Bank in the Keys.

We could go on but we won’t. There’s no need because it’s clear the Keys best Ithaca in so many ways. Except in winter. Ithaca has the best snow. Ithaca has the best frostbite.

Us? Well, when our weather gets back to normal by Sunday or Monday, we’ll be out on the boat getting a couple lobster from the water. Maybe some nice snapper, too. We just hope this Keys weather won’t produce one of our biggest hazards — sunburn.

Stay strong under your snow and in your cold, Ithaca. This margarita is for you.

 — Larry Kahn,

Editor | Florida Keys Keynoter


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.