Our research is editorially independent but we
may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Syracuse sits more centrally in the state, away from the crowded streets and impressive skyscrapers. But it’s still an exciting well-equipped city in New York, where travelers can get a taste of upstate landscape, while still enjoying tons of food options, intricate historic buildings, theater and sporting events. You can take a scenic train ride to Syracuse, which is particularly colorful during the fall or spring. So all aboard, let’s explore the best things to do in Syracuse, New York.
Clinton Square houses much of the incredible age-old architecture of Syracuse. Many festivals and cultural events choose this iconic spot to host their happenings. During the winter, when the city sees lots—and we mean lots— of snow, it’s particularly breathtaking. During November and December, a large Christmas tree is erected, and families can enjoy ice skating amongst the lights and buildings.
About half an hour outside Syracuse, Highland Forest is best explored at any time really. In the summer, trails and paths welcome runners and wanderers, and in the winter, cross country skiing and traditional hill sledding are major draws. But we’d have to say, the coolest thing to do here is take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow—jingle bells included.
The Palace Theatre, along with the ornate Landmark Theatre, screens films, while Syracuse Stage and Redhouse Arts Center offer live plays and performances. The theater scene in the city is exciting and captivating, and certainly worth exploring, whether you are intrigued by the architecture of some venues, or the local talent.
Everyone wants to dive into the local flavors when visiting an area, and you can do that at the Central New York Regional Market. Largely, foragers will find an abundance of fresh, fragrant flowers, and lots of local produce. But be prepared to have generous will power when passing by the occasional donut or fried bread vendor—or don’t, because what could be a better indulgence? Yum.
Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology, Everson Museum of Art—Syracuse is no stranger to a great museum. Whether you are into history, science, or the slightly obscure, there’s a museum to check out.
Let’s dig in a bit into the food, because Syracuse is beloved for its wide assortment of international eats. Dig into Pacific Rim and Thai cuisine at Lemon Grass, or fill up with Italian fusion food at Pastabilities, a local institution that has been serving locals for over 35 years. Afterward, you can indulge in over-the-top milkshakes at Modern Malt downtown.
Rosamond Gifford Zoo goes the extra mile to focus on animal welfare, conservation and endangered species, defying the current stigma in which many zoos fall into these days. Outdoor exhibits with elephants and pandas are met with indoor exploration opportunities, for a break from either the cold or hot weather. Multiple exhibits help educate while keeping young one’s interests peaked.
The Erie Canal was a massive undertaking to connect boats from major points in the area to the Atlantic Ocean, making it highly significant to the economy. The Weighlock Building used to be where barge boats were weighed, of course, and is now not only a registered historic place, but the museum itself. Pretty cool. Kids and adults can enjoy the free (donation suggested) excursion, as displays are interactive and often explained via audio. Artifacts, boat replica toys, and being in the 1820s building make the experience immersive and fun.
Nearly everyone who’s ever been to Glazed and Confused agrees that this is one special bakery, with darn good coffee, too. There are the basics like chocolate, caramel apple, then the millennial favorites like maple bacon and fruity pebbles, then the out of box flavors like French toast stuffed with vanilla cream cheese and coated with maple-y goodness. On top of it all, the establishment itself is just precious.
The Great New York State Fair may only happen once a year, but it’s two weeks of pure old fashioned magic. While the rides, animals, enormous variation of eats, and free samples more than meet expectations of a phenomenal fair, this particular one is the oldest in the nation. Have a wine slushie for us!