Often overshadowed by nearby NYC, Philly, and Boston, Syracuse is an amazing city in its own right, packed full of exciting things to do. It sits on the shores of Lake Onondaga and is only 30 miles from Lake Ontario.
As an east coast city, it has all the charm and wonder of nature. Beautiful fall foliage, snowy winters, and comfortable spring and summer temperatures make Syracuse a very scenic city. With hills, valleys, and lakes, it’s an outdoor playground just waiting to be explored.
It has a small-town feel, with lots of local museums, restaurants, and breweries; enough attractions to keep you entertained for days. If you’re planning a trip and trying to decide what to do while visiting this gorgeous east coast city, here are the absolute best attractions in Syracuse NY!
Table of Contents
- Top Things to Do in Syracuse
- Unusual Things to Do in Syracuse
- Things to Do in Syracuse at Night
- Where to Stay in Syracuse
- Romantic Things to Do in Syracuse
- Best Free Things to Do in Syracuse
- Syracuse Packing List
- Things to Do with Kids in Syracuse
- Day Trips From Syracuse
- 3 Day Itinerary in Syracuse
Top Things to Do in Syracuse
This NY city offers a great list of entertaining attractions. To start your trip, here is our pick of the absolute best things to do in Syracuse!
1. Snap a Picture of a Stylish Art Deco Building
The Niagara Mohawk Building is a visually stunning Art Deco masterpiece. It was built in 1932 as the headquarters for the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation. This was the nation’s largest electric utility company at the time.
Although you cannot go inside the building, the true magic is experienced on the outside. Admire a dazzling array of sculptured aluminum, steel, and glass. It’s a magical blend of right angles, curves, colors, and geometric designs.
It’s an outstanding example of Art Deco architecture and a symbol of the Age of Electricity!
The Everson Museum of Art was the first museum to dedicate itself entirely to American art and artists.
Housed in the museum you’ll find a permanent collection with over 11,000 unique works of art, including sculptures, paintings, ceramics, graphics, and photographs. It also hosts rotating seasonal and temporary exhibitions. Here you’ll find works of art from artists around the world.
The museum is open from Wednesday – Sunday. Every Wednesday there is a policy of pay-as-you-wish admission. On the third Thursday of every month, admission is free from 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm.
- Erie Canal Museum
- Landmark Theater
- Niagara Mohawk Building
3. Discover the City’s Most Charming Area
Downtown is one of the most popular Syracuse, New York points of interest. This charming area is full of beautiful 19th-century buildings and pleasant public squares.
The city’s rich architectural heritage is on full display. Many of the older buildings have even been restored to their former glory. There’s also a large variety of the city’s best restaurants, bars, and cafes.
If you want to do some Syracuse shopping, you’ll find many local stores and boutiques. The downtown area is compact and easy to navigate, making it a lovely place to wander around.
4. See the Central Park of Central New York
Onondaga Lake Park is a 7.5-mile linear greenway known for its spectacular scenery. It’s located on the beautiful shores of Onondaga Lake, just west of Syracuse.
This spacious and lush urban area contains miles of well-maintained paths, many of which border the lake. At the skatepark, you can rent a bike and explore the biking trails. This area is so scenic and beautiful it’s often referred to as the Central Park of Central New York!
Year-round events are also hosted here. Make sure to check their online calendar before visiting to see what’s going on when you’re in town! There are also picnic areas, restroom facilities, playgrounds, and ample parking space.
Food is an integral part of any holiday getaway. While you’re visiting Syracuse there are a couple of places we highly recommend checking out!
The Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is a landmark in Syracuse, and arguably the city’s most popular restaurant. This barbecue chain serves Southern-style meats in a retro setting. It’s been featured on Good Morning America, the Food Network, and the Travel Channel!
Stella’s Diner is another great place to experience the city’s food culture. They serve comfort food in a vintage diner, decked out in Betty Boop memorabilia. For hefty helpings, and a family-friendly atmosphere, make sure to swing by when you visit Syracuse.
The Carrier Dome is the city’s sports dome and the best place to immerse yourself in the local sports culture of Syracuse. It’s a large capacity stadium with seating for 49,250-spectators.
The dome is located on the campus of Syracuse University and is the home of the Syracuse Orange football, basketball, and lacrosse teams. Root on the local team and immerse yourself in the electric energy that only game day can produce!
The stands inside the venue offer food and drinks, including beer. As well as local sporting events, the venue also hosts concerts, non-college sporting events, and Monster Jam.
Unusual Things to Do in Syracuse
Are you looking for a few unique attractions to add to your itinerary? If so, here are the most fun and unusual Syracuse NY tourist attractions we recommend checking out!
While you’re visiting Syracuse there are two unique attractions you don’t want to leave the city without seeing.
The first is the Tree of 40 Fruits. This Frankenstein-like tree was created using the technique of grafting. Not only do the tree’s branches blossom in different colors, but the tree also produces forty different types of stone fruit!
The second site is Syracuse’s up-side-down traffic signal, also called the Tipperary Hill Traffic Light. Unlike every other traffic light in the U.S, one traffic light in Syracuse displays green above red. So why the strange reversal?
Well, legend has it that the local Irish wouldn’t stand for British red sitting on top of Irish green. They repeatedly vandalized the light and eventually, the city council gave in and fixed the light to show green on top of the red.
If you’re looking for unique museums in Syracuse NY, the Salt Museum will make for quite an interesting experience. During most of the 19th century, Syracuse supplied the majority of the salt used in the entire United States. Syracuse even has the nickname of the “Salt City”.
This small museum is filled with exhibits and artifacts from the salt industry. There are also museum guides dressed in period clothing. Learn about the city’s tie to salt, and the history and impact this had on the region.
The museum is located in Liverpool, New York, five miles from downtown Syracuse.
The Erie Canal Museum is a local museum about the Erie Canal. It highlights one of the most brilliant engineering and civic projects undertaken in the US; a project that generated new business and put the state of New York on the path toward greater prosperity.
Visit the museum and learn about the pain and strain that went into building the canal. Discover the huge role the canal played in the United States’ expansion to the west.
The exhibits are informative and thoughtfully organized. If discovering new facts is something you enjoy, this Syracuse museum is for you. Admission to the museum is free, although donations are encouraged.
Safety in Syracuse
Syracuse is generally considered a safe place to visit. The city actually consistently ranks as one of the best places to live in the US. However, just like any other bigger city, it’s recommended that tourists take a few precautions when visiting.
One important thing to note is that, while Onondaga Lake is beautiful, it is very polluted and therefore swimming is not recommended.
Another important thing to note is that Syracuse experiences very cold winters. Be very cautious when driving in Syracuse during snowy conditions, especially if you are not used to driving in such weather.
Read our tips for traveling safely before you fly and always get travel insurance. Check out our roundup of the best travel insurance.
Things to Do in Syracuse at Night
Trying to decide what to do in Syracuse after the sun goes down? Here are two great options for an entertaining night out.
10. Visit an Iconic Landmark for a Classy Night Out
The Landmark Theater is a historic theater from the era of lavish movie palaces. It first opened in 1928 – a time when ladies wore gowns and gloves to the theater and men wore tuxedos.
The venue’s beautiful murals and architecture will remind you of a time gone by. It’s a treasure of Syracuse that has been well preserved. The theater hosts live performances, concerts, comedy acts, kids events, and more!
For some live entertainment in Syracuse NY and a fun night on the town, head to the Landmark Theater.
This city has a pretty impressive craft beer scene. Cap off your night by visiting one of these fun Syracuse breweries.
Now & Later is one of the most popular breweries in town. This chilled, rustic-style bar has an impressively large selection of craft beer on tap, as well as a bottle shop. No matter what style of beer you like, they’ll have something for you.
The Buried Acorn Brewing Company is another great local brewery. If you’re looking for things to do in Syracuse, NY at night with kids, this brewery is kid-friendly. There are lots of games and legos to keep kids entertained while their parents enjoy a social drink.
Where to Stay in Syracuse
Looking for a specific place to stay? These are our highest recommendations for places to stay in Syracuse.
Best Airbnb in Syracuse – Room in a Mansion Near Downtown
At this Syracuse Airbnb, you’ll stay in a private room in a historic 1886 mansion. The room includes a microwave, a fridge, and a coffee maker. Small breakfast items are provided, such as yogurt, fruit, muffins, and coffee.
The room is on the first floor, and the shared bathroom is on the second floor. You’ll be in a great location and within easy walking distance of downtown.View on Airbnb
Best Hotel in Syracuse – Quality Inn & Suites Downtown
This Syracuse hotel offers loads of great perks and is great value for money. It’s conveniently located close to many Syracuse attractions as well as restaurants and bars.
Guests will enjoy free breakfast, free coffee, and free parking. Each room is spacious and includes a flat-screen TV, refrigerator, microwave, and safes.View on Booking.com View on Agoda
Romantic Things to Do in Syracuse
Are you looking to rouse up some romance on your vacation? If so, here are some great places to visit in Syracuse for couples.
12. Get a Taste of Some Local Treats & Delicacies
Since 1942, The Central New York Regional Market in Syracuse has been the city’s premier farmers market. It’s a popular place with a wide array of vendors selling just about anything you can think of.
You’ll find a whole heap of local items, including fresh produce, meats, cheeses, baked goods, bread and more. Most of these products come straight from the nearby farms and shops.
There are also vendors selling handmade crafts, plants, local wines, and more. Do some local shopping in Syracuse NY at this lively market.
The Syracuse Stage is a performing arts venue. It’s one of the best places to go in the city for wholesome entertainment. Enjoy a show and experience New York’s local performing arts culture. The theater is intimate and comfortable – there isn’t a bad seat in the house!
The ticket prices are also very reasonable. But most importantly, the quality of the performances are top-notch. If you’re looking for Syracuse activities all ages will enjoy, you can’t go wrong seeing an exciting show at this local theater.
Do You Need Travel Insurance
Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favorite travel insurance provider.
Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!
Best Free Things to Do in Syracuse
Are you traveling on a budget? If so, here are some free things to do in Syracuse NY.
14. Visit the City’s Charming Historic Square
Clinton Square is located in downtown. It’s characterized by stunning buildings that beautifully display the historic architecture of the city. This charming square offers many local Syracuse attractions. You’ll find a great selection of local bars, cafes, shops, and eateries.
The square also contains several important monuments. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument was created in 1910 to honor the Civil War veterans from the area. The Jerry Rescue Monument commemorates the rescue of a fugitive slave by citizens in 1851.
In winter, there’s a large ice rink set up in the middle of the square. During summer, the city’s buzzing farmer market takes center stage. There are also plenty of local festivals that are held throughout the year in Clinton Square.
Destiny USA is one of the city’s most exciting areas. It’s the sixth-largest shopping complex in the United States and truly has something for everyone.
For a local experience, make sure to visit the Central New York Welcome Center. This area features a Wall of Fame showcasing famous Central New Yorkers. There’s also a state-of-the-art Central New York Virtual Reality experience.
At the NY Food Market, you can shop locally-made food and gifts. There’s also a large projector showing popular NY attractions, as well as space where visitors can design a trip itinerary.
Other popular attractions include a movie theater, an indoor rope-climbing course, a bowling alley, and an escape room. You’ll find just about every shop you can think of and an endless array of dining options.
Syracuse Packing List
1. Travel Water Bottle: Always travel with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. AR bottle are tough, lightweight and maintain the temperature of your beverage – so you can enjoy a cold red bull, or a hot coffee, no matter where you are. For every AR bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an initiative to reduce plastic in our oceans!
2. Microfibre Towel: It’s always worth packing a proper towel. Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.
3. Security Belt with Hidden Pocket: I never hit the road without my security belt. This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off. This is hands down the best way to hide your cash.
4. Camera or Cell Phone Camera Accessories: One thing’s for sure – Syracuse is a picturesque destination! Get perfect shots from your phone using clip-on-lenses with wide-angle, close-up and optical zoom. With the ability to turn travel pictures from basic to professional, this universal lens sits neatly over any phone camera and comes with a durable, travel-friendly case!
5. International Adapter: Syracuse outlets accommodate typical US two-pronged plugs, but for electronics that have three prongs or if your plugs are of a different variety, you’ll need an adapter. Save yourself the hassle of trying to track down an adapter at your destination and paying twice as much than planning ahead by buying one online.
More must-haves: Take look through the complete New York Packing List for more items you’ll want while you’re there!
Books to Read in Syracuse
The Backpacker Bible – Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building an online income.
The Great Gatsby – The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book stands as the supreme achievement of his career. First published in 1925, this quintessential novel of the Jazz Age in NYC. A true classic with plenty of relevance today.
Catcher in the Rye – The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days.
The Town and the City – In this compelling first novel, Kerouac draws on his New England mill-town boyhood to create the world of George and Marguerite Martin and their eight children, each endowed with an energy and a vision of life. Not all of this book is set in NYC, but I find it still relevant.
Things to Do with Kids in Syracuse
If you’re traveling with children and looking for some family-fun activities, here are the best things to do with kids in Syracuse.
The Beaver Lake Nature Center is just a 15-minute drive from downtown Syracuse. Spanning 661 acres, this outdoor oasis offers a slew of activities for kids of all ages.
The nature trails in the park are peaceful and expose visitors to the beauty of the area. During the summer months, take advantage of the park’s aquatic activities by renting a canoe or kayak and cruising on the lake. During winter, you can go skiing or snowshoeing.
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Syracuse outside the city, this is the place for you!
NBT Bank Stadium is the home of the Syracuse Mets, which are the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets. New Yorkers are known for being passionate baseball fans. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy the energy the stadium produces when a home match is on.
The stadium runs frequent specials at their concessions, including USD $1.00 hotdogs and USD $2.00 draft beers. TIckets are also very reasonably priced.
If you’re looking for fun stuff to do in Syracuse that’s affordable, a trip to this ballpark is sure to make for an experience the whole family will enjoy.
Day Trips From Syracuse
If you’re planning more than a three-day itinerary in Syracuse, a day trip is a great way to explore more of this beautiful eastern state. Here is our pick of the top two things to do near Syracuse NY.
Located just 2.5 hours from Syracuse, Niagra Fall is a great place to enjoy an exciting day trip. This iconic group of three waterfalls sits between the border of Ontario, Canadia and the State of New York.
The best way to experience the falls waterfall is by taking a boat ride. You’ll get an up-close and personal and see the true power of nature. The Niagra Falls State Park is located on the brink of the falls and is the oldest state park in the United States. It’s filled with miles of hiking trails, an observation deck, a trolley ride service, and more!
This day trip will be fun for the whole family and you can visit the falls at any time of year.
Learn a Very Important Aspect of U.S. History
Seneca Falls is one of the most significant locations in the United States for anyone interested in women’s civil rights. This small hamlet hosted the first Woman’s Rights Convention, where the social, civil, and religious rights of women were debated and fought for.
You’ll find various museums and points of interest relating to the nation’s steps towards gender equality. At the home of suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, you’ll learn about the life and work of this prominent 19th-century women’s activist. At the Women’s Rights National Historical Park you’ll uncover the history of the women’s rights movement through exhibits and artifacts.
Seneca Falls is located just 50 minutes (48 miles) from Syracuse, making it a very convenient place to take a day trip.
3 Day Itinerary in Syracuse
Now that we’ve covered the top things to do in Syracuse, here is a suggested itinerary that details the best way to explore the city.
Day 1: Visit a Market, Museum, and Monument
You’ll have two great options to start off your first day in Syracuse. If you’re visiting the city on Thursday, Saturday or Sunday, start your morning at The Central New York Regional Market. Grab a cup of coffee and a freshly made pastry from a local vendor and enjoy a morning stroll through this buzzing market.
If you’re visiting on a day when the market is not open, start your morning in downtown Syracuse. Visit a cozy local cafe for breakfast and make sure to check out Clinton Square while you’re in the area. It’s about a ten-minute drive (3 miles) from the market to downtown Syracuse.
Spend the afternoon walking around downtown and popping into a few local stores. Make sure to stop at the Erie Canal Museum (located in downtown Syracuse) to learn the local history.
You’ll also want to see the Niagara Mohawk Building while you’re in the area. This iconic Art Deco building is an eight-minute walk from the Erie Canal Museum. Snap a picture of this impressive building and marvel at the unique angles, curves, colors.
For dinner, head to the famous Dinosaur Bar-B-Que restaurant and indulge in some local barbeque.
Day 2: Soak in the Syracuse Culture
Start your day at the gorgeous Onondaga Lake Park. Hike along a trail next to the lake and take in the fresh open air outside of the busy city center.
The Salt Museum is right next to the park. Make sure to check out the local history of Syracuse while in the area and discover an important part of the city’s history. When you’re finished, drive about seven minutes (3 miles) to Destiny USA. Make sure to visit the Central New York Welcome Center and discover more about the popular attractions in the area.
This is a great place to do some shopping on your trip. If you’re traveling with kids, they can burn off some energy in one of the mall’s child-friendly entertainment areas.
When you’re done at the mall, drive less than a mile to The Buried Acorn Brewing Company. End your night with a few social drinks and mingle with the locals!
Day 3: Discover Some Iconic and Unusual Attractions
Start your third day in Syracuse at the Tree of 40 Fruits. This unique tree is a must-see, especially when it’s in bloom! The tree is housed on the campus of Syracuse University, right next to the Carrier Dome. You’ll be in the prime spot to catch a game and root on the Syracuse Orange college teams. If your trip coincides with game day, experience the electric energy that only game day can produce!
Next, drive about five minutes (1.5 miles) to the Landmark Theater. See a show and admire the marvelous architecture of this circa 1920s movie palace.
When you’re done, drive eight minutes (2.5 miles) to the Now & Later Brewing Company and end your night with a few craft beers. The up-side-down traffic signal is on the way to the bar, make a quick stop to check out this very unique traffic light.
We hope you enjoyed our list of the top things to do in Syracuse. As you can tell, there are plenty of activities that all ages, interests, and budgets can enjoy. Explore Lake Onondaga, learn the local history, have a pint at a local brewery, and visit a national-known restaurant.
Whether you’re visiting Syracuse for vacation, or en route to New York City or Canada, you’ll fall in love with the city’s beautiful scenery and small-town appeal. No matter the time of year, Syracuse offers a great list of attractions that can be enjoyed regardless of the season.
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Ralph is a former manager in the hospitality industry turned wild child. With a desire to experience all things unconventional, Ralph enjoys visiting the lesser-known landscapes of the world and has ended up in some pretty strange and wonderful places. Recently, he spent eight months travelling around Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, spending as much time as possible in the wilderness and doing everything to avoid the crowds.