Syracuse, New York is located in upstate New York, about four hours north of New York City, and is known for salt, snow, and college life, amongst a myriad of other things. Syracuse is an entertainment and cultural hotspot where you can find museums, art galleries, comedy clubs, theaters, and state fairs.
There are plenty of outdoor activities for adventure seekers, as well. Syracuse is a wonderful place to visit whether you are alone, with a friend or a partner, or even your family. There are loads of things to do in Syracuse NY no matter what you’re interested in.
Clinton Square has everything you need all in one spot. Cafes, restaurants, bars, boutiques, specialty shops, entertainment, and community events all can be found at Clinton Square. Some of the favored places to go for food, coffee, and drinks are Glazed and Confused, Apizza Regionale, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Guadalajara Mexican Restaurant, Board & Bar Charcuterie, Talking Cursive Brewing Company, The Saltine Warrior Sports Pub, and Studio 54.
If you are looking to shop, the recommended shops are Showoffs Boutique and Scottie D’s Pop Up Shop, and Boutique Wonderland.
Clinton Square is also home to many festivals and outdoor events including Bacon Fest, Crawfish Festival, Polish Fest, Blues Fest, Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, Irish Fest, Taste of Syracuse, and the Farmers Market — which lasts all summer long.
EVERSON MUSEUM OF ART
The Everson Museum of Art is open Wednesday through Sunday, and offers dozens of exhibits, exhibitions, and community events.
The museum’s permanent collections feature over 11,000 paintings, ceramics, sculpture, videos, photographs, works on paper, decorative arts, ceramics, and video art. The museum focuses on modern and contemporary American art. The museum also typically has several traveling exhibitions at any given time.
ROSAMOND GIFFORD ZOO
Open year-round, the Rosamond Gifford Zoo focuses on conservation and research education of all the animals they take care of. The zoo has indoor and outdoor exhibits, and offers some exclusive animal encounters.
Rosamond has mammals, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, birds, and fish. Among the amphibians are poison dart frogs, salamanders, and the hellbender. You’ll find turtles, snakes and lizards here, but also rare reptiles, like the Komodo dragon and the banded Gila monster.
The zoo houses dozens of species of fish and birds like eels, hippo tangs, flamingos, kiwis, and penguins. The mammals that live in the zoo include tigers, leopards, bears, elephants, monkeys, camels, and more.
For the invertebrates, there are sea stars, jellyfish, octopus, millipedes, tarantulas, and the fish-eating anemone.
The zoo offers three animal encounter experiences, including the Penguin Encounters, the Elephant Bath, and the Hawk Walk and Lunch. The zoo is an amazing place to visit, and is perfect for both kids and adults alike!
THE CARRIER DOME
This massive domed stadium is located on the campus of Syracuse University. The stadium has more than 30,000 seats, and is home to Syracuse Orange football, basketball, and lacrosse teams.
The Carrier Dome also holds other sporting events, like championships games, matches and competitions, Monster Jam, and dozens of big-name performers have had concerts here. These include Grateful Dead, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Drake, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, and Kenney Chesney amongst dozens of others.
It’s a great place to catch a game or show — so check their event calendar for details!
Maxwells is known as “the place to eat, drink and chill” in Syracuse, and it’s the best restaurant for craft burgers and beer. They also have tasty brick oven pizza and a fun pub menu. If you’re visiting Syracuse, you must make a stop here!
Enjoy live music and trivia nights on certain evenings, and make sure you stop by for their happy hour — everyday from 4-7 p.m.
GREEN LAKES STATE PARK
Green Lakes State Park features two glacial lakes named Round Lake and Green Lake — and they are gorgeous. These lakes are considered “meromictic lakes,” which means the lakes have multiple layers of water that don’t mix. The result is, the lakes have a strong potential for evidence of ancient animal and plant life. Cool, right?
The state park has a golf course, pavilions, and campsites, as well as other lodging options. The park has over 20 miles of hiking trails meandering through the 300-year-old growth forest. The most popular trails are the Overlook Trail, Round Lake Trail, Green Lake Trail, and the Vista Trail.
Renting boats and bikes, swimming, fishing, and hunting can all be enjoyed during the warmer months, while snowshoeing and cross country skiing can be enjoyed during the winter months.
The park has showers, toilets, food options, and all-terrain wheelchairs available.
ONONDAGA LAKE PARK
Onondaga Lake Park is the premier home to a skate park, dog park, rowing facilities, archery range, shuffleboard, bocce, and volleyball courts, shaded picnic areas, ballfields, waterfront lawns, table games, observation area, and a fishing pier.
In the park, you can also find the Salt Museum and the Griffon Visitor Center. There is even a rental shop where you can rent all sorts of sports and exercise equipment, including bicycles and rollerblades.
Onondaga Lake park has 4 walking and hiking trails that you can explore, or you can rent a kayak or canoes and explore the park by water. In wintertime, you can use the park to go cross country skiing.
COMMUNITY FOLK ART CENTER
The Community Folk Art Center prides itself on being a “vibrant cultural and artistic hub committed to the promotion and development of artists of the African Diaspora.”
The Folk Art Center focuses on “collecting, exhibiting, teaching and interpreting the visual and expressive arts.” In the art center, you can find exhibitions, film screenings, gallery talks, and workshops, as well as classes — including dance and ceramics.
In-house exhibits at the art center change throughout the year and the center offers virtual exhibits.
Standing at 137 feet, hiking to Pratts Falls is a favorite amongst locals and visitors. While there is a viewing platform near the falls, most people opt to take the short hike down to the base of the falls. There is a small manmade pond at the top of the falls that is a perfect spot for fishing.
The park surrounding the falls has over 5 miles of hiking trails, restrooms, picnic tables, and grills. The trails here are also dog-friendly.
THE SALT MUSEUM
Syracuse was founded on the salt industry, and The Salt Museum pays homage to that heritage. Syracuse is home to one of the first-ever boiling blocks. This mechanism removed the water, just leaving the salt behind, which was then shipped all around the United States.
While this process hasn’t been used since the 1920s, you can still see kettles, wooden barrels, and other equipment that were once used. There is a map you can download for a self-guided tour of the exhibits and artifacts. The museum has several historic sites and a gift shop.
Home to the largest shopping, dining, and entertainment building in all of New York, Destiny USA is one place you won’t want to miss. The mall is filled with nearly 300 places to shop, eat, drink and play.
Destiny has dozens of places to shop for name brands, athletic gear, home goods, jewelry stores, budget shopping, beauty shops, and more. If you’re looking to be entertained, especially on a rainy day, you’ll find a multitude of options, including Get Air, iMax, Canyon Climb Adventure, Dave and Busters, mini-golf, an escape room, go-karts, and a mirror maze.
Once you’re done playing and you’re ready to eat, you have plenty of options to choose from. Destiny USA even has lodging options at Embassy Suites.
NIAGARA MOHAWK BUILDING
One of the more interesting architectural buildings in Syracuse is the Niagra Mohawk Building. It was built in the 1930s and it was the original home of the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation.
The building is now known as the National Grid, and it provides electricity and gas services to the state of New York.
UPSIDE-DOWN TRAFFIC SIGNAL
One of the most iconic things about Syracuse is its upside-down traffic signal. Considered to be the only upside-down light in the world, the signal can be found at the intersection of Tompkins Street and Milton Avenue.
The cheeky story behind the light goes like this: The Irish-Americans that were installing the light didn’t like seeing Britain’s red sitting on top of Ireland’s green so they put the green light over the red.
Labrador Hollow is an outdoor recreation area with loads of things to do. The park is open year-round and is loved by locals and visitors. When people visit the park they like to paddleboard, kayak, fish, hunt, hike and view wildlife. During the winter months, hiking trails are used for cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
The Labrador Hollow Boardwalk makes it easy for wheelchairs and strollers to explore areas of the park. Tinker Falls can also be found in the area. This 50-foot waterfall has a trail leading to the top of the falls, as well as the bottom. Both trails are short and most people make a loop of both. There are other trails that meander through the park if you’re looking for a longer hike.
BEAVER LAKE NATURE CENTER
The Beaver Lake Nature Center contains 670 acres of various habitats, hiking trails, lakes, migrating wildlife, a wildlife observation room, visitors center, children’s room, and gift shop.
Open most days of the year, Beaver Lake has 8 trails of varying length, with the longest — the Lake Loop — coming in at 3 miles. Some of the trails are actually boardwalks, allowing wheelchairs and strollers to easily explore the area, including an elevated boardwalk over the wetlands.
Canoeing and kayaking are popular activities on the lake, as well as a lesson in making maple syrup. Birding tours are offered weekly, where you can learn how to spot and identify migrating birds in the area.
During the winter months, snowshoes and cross country skiing are enjoyed.
DANIEL PARRISH WITTER AGRICULTURAL MUSEUM
This museum is located on the New York State Fairgrounds, and is only open by appointment or during the New York State Fair. The fair takes place from the end of August until the beginning of September.
Daniel Parrish is committed to creating exhibits, demonstrations, and historical interpretations of the New York area.
MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
MoST, or the Museum of Science and Technology, is open on weekends, and is a great place to take the kids!
There are nearly 20 exhibits dedicated to “discover, learn and play.” Some of the most popular exhibits are Dino Zone, Discovery Cave, Science Play House, Toothpick World, and The World of Butterflies.
Described as an amusement park for the mind, WonderWorks Destiny amazes visors of all ages. From the Space Discovery Zone to the Weather Zone and the Physical Challenge Zone, plus more, there is plenty to explore.
WonderWorks boasts the highest ropes course in the United States, at 70 feet high, and the height isn’t the only challenge. There are over 80 obstacles and games along the course!
You’ll also find Laser Tag Combat Zone and a 4D XD Motion Ride experience. This is an amazing place to bring the kiddos when visiting Syracuse.
THREE FALLS WOODS
Three Falls Woods gets its name from the three waterfalls that you can find there — Staircase, Tall Twins, and Bridalveil. There are also smaller waterfalls throughout the woods, called Little Twins and Cascade Falls. All these falls are seasonal, meaning they are at their best during spring and early summer, or after a good rainstorm.
Three Falls Woods is a designated Critical Environmental Area that protects rare geology and natural features, as well as endangered species. Hiking through the woods, you can also visit a pond on the north end of the park, and a limestone ledge that overlooks the gorge.
ONONDAGA HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION MUSEUM
The Onondaga Historical Association Museum is located in Onondaga County, close to downtown Syracuse. This historical museum is dedicated to preserving the history of Onondaga County.
Here you’ll find permanent exhibits, such as Freedom Bound: Syracuse and the Underground Railroad and From Laying the Foundation to Forging Ahead: Jewish Contributions to Syracuse and Onondage County, among others. You’ll also find temporary exhibits featured here throughout the year.
This amazing museum is free to visit.
The Erie Canal was built in the early 1800s, and was a major feat for its time. It was the longest artificial waterway in North America and the second-largest in the world. Built by the Mid-Lakes Navigation Company, the canal is no longer in use for major shipping containers.
In 2000, the canal was renamed Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor to recognize the “national significance of the canal system as the most successful and influential human-built waterway and one of the most important works of civil engineering and construction in North America.” Today the canal is mostly used for recreational purposes.
ERIE CANAL MUSEUM
The Erie Canal Museum is located in a Weighlock building, one of the last of its kind still standing. You can take a tour on a replica canal boat and visit any of the permanent or visiting exhibitions. The museum also offers digital exhibitions.
The Erie Canal Museum even has a children’s space, where they can read books about the canal, play with traditional toys, play dress-up with historic clothing, and/or put on a puppet show.
THE GREAT NEW YORK STATE FAIR
The New York State Fair runs from late August to early September, and is the longest-running state fair in the U.S. This magnificent fair sees over 1 million visitors each year.
For 13 days, the state fairgrounds are filled with food vendors, amusement park rides, games, and concerts in the open-air theater. It’s a can’t-miss event that you’re definitely going to want to check out!
NBT BANK STADIUM
If you’re a sports fan, you should try to catch a game at the NBT Bank Stadium, which is the home of the AAA affiliate of the New York Mets. The stadium is also used for other sporting events, as well as concerts.
Catch the Syracuse Mets at the newly renovated NBT Bank Stadium, and enjoy ample parking, delicious food and drinks, gift shops, and more. A visit here in the summer is a great way to get up close to the major league stars of tomorrow.
If you’re into performing arts, The Landmark Theatre is the place for you. From Bob Weir and the Wolf Bros to standup comedy, Hamilton and the Blue Man Group, this theater has something for everyone, including kids shows.
First opened in the early 1920s, the Landmark Theatre has entertained millions, and is a sight to behold in itself.
MATILDA JOSLYN GAGE HOUSE
The Matilda Joslyn Gage House is a testament to the suffering women in the U.S. have faced. Matilda Joslyn Gage was a 19th century women’s suffragist, a Native American rights activist, an abolitionist, a freethinker and an author. From exposing sex trafficking and the sexual abuse of women and children by priests, to offering her home to people escaping slavery, to supporting Native American treaty rights, Gage was well before her time.
The museum now pays homage to all she accomplished. When visiting the home, you’ll feel powerful energy as you walk through the different rooms. There is the Ruth Putter Welcome Center, Women’s Rights Room, Family Parlor Oz Room, Haudenosaunee Room, Local History Room, Underground Railroad Room, Religious Freedom Room, and Teachers Room.
The museum encourages people to touch the artifacts, sit on the furniture, play the piano, eat and drink, take photographs, explore on their own, and even write on the walls.
CLARK RESERVATION STATE PARK
The Clark Reservation State Park is popular among locals and tourists alike. There are hiking trails that let you explore the rugged cliffs and rocky outcrops, woodland and meadows, a wetland, and a glacial lake. There are 13 marked trails throughout the park, each suited for different skill levels and lengths.
The park is also a popular fishing destination where pickerel, bullheads, and sunfish are frequently caught. Swimming in the lake is also popular, however there are no lifeguards on duty.
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WHERE TO STAY IN SYRACUSE, NY
Best Downtown. Marriott Syracuse Downtown is located in Syracuse, 1,150 feet from Landmark Theatre and touts celebrity treatment with world-class service. A great spot for couples!
Best Budget Option. The Parkview Hotel is 0.3 miles from city center, and is highly reviewed at low prices. Inner Harbor Waterfront Park is 2 miles away. If you’re planning a college visit, Syracuse University is only a half mile away.
Lakeside. Cayuga Lake Cottage is a gorgeous 2-bedroom property right on Cayuga Lake that sleeps 6. The cottage views face the sunset over deep, clear water.
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