Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Potsdam, NY

  • Published 2022/10/08

Potsdam is a town in St. Lawrence County, New York, that beams with fascinating arts, rich history, and vibrant culture.

Located in the middle of the county on the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, the town includes the Villages of Potsdam and Norwood.

With exceptional university campuses, State University of New York at Potsdam and Clarkson University close by, Potsdam has a high student population.

Established in 1806, the town gets its name from a city in Germany; it’s also one of the first original towns in the county.

The town is also famous for the red-orange Potsdam sandstone, with a sample slab at the Smithsonian Institution.

From museums to unique local shops, outdoor attractions to local celebrations, you’ll have much to enjoy in this town.

Here are the best things you can do in Potsdam, New York:

See Interesting Artifacts at Potsdam Public Museum

Exterior of Potsdam Public Museum

Wangkun Jia /

The Potsdam Public Museum, on 2 Park Street, has served the town for over 80 years.

You’ll find fascinating antique collections like English and Continental pottery, porcelain, and ceramics like an 1830 Alcock Parian Ware molded jug and an 18th-century Dutch Delft Ware Dish.

Take a glimpse of old American Furniture like an 1841 Pianoforte and a Badlam Pianoforte made by Edward Badlam, Jr.

Find clothing and apparel, Civil War documents, old quilts, paintings by Annie Lenney, clothing and apparel, Civil War images and artifacts, and Potsdam Fire Department historic photographs.

You’ll also see displays of musical Instruments made by music professor Charles Lanphere-Normal, classic wedding photographs, WWI memorabilia, and Chinese Collections.

View over 5,000 digitized images in the Photographic archives.

Drop by the library and check out the extensive books and resources about Potsdam and St. Lawrence County.

YYou’llhave much to see at Potsdam Public Museum.

Let Kids Learn and Play at the North Country Children’s Museum

North Country Children’s Museum on The Red Barn at Raymond Street is a great place to bring your little ones for fun learning activities.

They offer sensory and interactive play to encourage kids’ imagination and creativity.

Get them to enjoy the exhibits like the Maple Tree, where they can create a digital maple leaf, send it on the tree, and watch it change colors with the seasons.

Kids will enjoy role play at the Kids Co-Op and Bakery and use the scales to measure and weigh realistic goods and produce.

The Playspace area is designed for little ones aged four and under and offers a place for fun sensory, motor, and imaginative play activities.

Spend some learning time with your kids at the STEAM Power exhibit, where you can discover more about Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math.

Visit the Adirondack Water Play exhibit and learn facts about river-based ecosystems and hydropower dam structures in the North Country area.

Let your kids try tools and materials and participate in a construction project with their plumbing and electrical designs at the Construction Zone.

Bring your little ones to the North Country Children’s Museum!

Check Out the Works at the St. Lawrence County Arts Council

You’ll find unique local arts featured at St. Lawrence County Arts Council.

This non-profit organization promotes art appreciation and inspires creative expression through various mediums.

It was initially incorporated as the Arts and Humanities Council of the St. Lawrence Valley in 1972.

You’ll catch scheduled exhibits all year with exciting themes and subjects.

They also offer arts and creative programs like Teen Summer Arts Camp, SLC Arts Writers’ Workshop, Accessible Arts, and Regional Arts Roundtable.

The council also hosts and runs the annual North Country Arts Festival.

You can also visit the St. Lawrence County Arts Council online shop or drop by onsite at 2 Park Street.

Celebrate the Arts at the North Country Arts Festival

The North Country Arts Festival celebrates St. Lawrence County’s arts scene annually in September.

The county-wide festival showcases month-long events that highlight the unique North Country identity.

PorchFest occurs every Labor Day weekend, where everyone can watch impressive musical performances on local porches in Potsdam.

You can also catch a series of concerts at Ives Park and visit the Art Market, which presents works by different artists and organizations.

See more artworks at the Remington Arts Festival Art Show and Sale held at Village Green in Canton, where Frederic Remington was born.

Part of the festival is the Artists’Studio Tour, where artists open their studios for viewing, offer demonstrations, and sell their art pieces.

Whether you’re an art lover or just want to discover more of the arts, you’ll surely enjoy the North Country Arts Festival.

Bring the Pets to Potsdam Community Dog Park

Your fur buddy can also have fun in town atPotsdam Community Dog Park.

Located at Madrid Avenue, the dog park was made possible through the Potsdam Humane Society (PHS) efforts.

The park promotes and maintains a safe, off-leash, and smoke-free area for dogs and their owners.

Your four-legged buddies will enjoy this welcoming space to run, fetch, and meet other pooches.

Have a relaxing walk with your pet on the woodland trails and wide green space.

You’ll also have an opportunity to learn about animal care and the Humane SSociety’sservices and programs.

Enjoy playing with your pets at Potsdam Community Dog Park.

Enjoy Tasty Food and Beer at 1/2 Ton’s Bar & Grill

For homemade specials and drinks, go to1/2 Tons Bar & Grilland fill your hungry palate.

This local bar and grill is at 1/2 Market Street and offers you a selection of bourbons, whiskeys, and tap beers.

You can have choices of tasty sandwiches on the menu like a beef tenderloin sandwich, ½ roast beef sandwich, ½ turkey sandwich, and a chicken cordon bleu sandwich.

Have a serving of goulash with sausage, meatball, and garlic toast, or try the grilled cajun haddock served with fries and coleslaw.

Take a bite of delicious tuna wrap or pulled pork pizza for sharing, and order filling soups like tomato bisque or gumbo.

They also serve homemade desserts like carrot cake, blueberry pie, raspberry ganache, and Reese’s peanut butter cake.

1/2 Ton’s Bar & Grill offers Football Sunday specials with discounts on beef tenderloin sandwiches, wing platters, and beer buckets.

Have an Outdoor Adventure at Crary Mills State Forest

YYou’llenjoy nature tripping at Crary Mills State ForestonLeary Road.

The 587-acre forest area consists of three land parcels purchased between 1962 and 1963.

The area was acquired for reforestation and wildlife management programs, timber production, watershed preservation, and recreation.

You can access the park on Leary Road or Parmenter Road and visit for free any time of the year.

Hike along the two short trails or walk through the forest area with views of tall northern hardwoods, white pine forests, and hemlocks.

The area is also open for hunting, trapping, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing during winter.

Pitch a tent and enjoy overnight primitive camping with the family.

There are no designated campsites, but you have to set up at least 150 feet from the nearest trail, body of water, or road area.

Likewise, inform the Forest Ranger if you’re staying beyond three nights or if you have a group of more than ten people.

Have a fantastic nature camp at Crary Mills State Forest.

Visit the Art Museum at SUNY Potsdam

TheArt Museum at SUNY Potsdam offers art enthusiasts an opportunity to appreciate visual arts.

The museum was formerly known as the Roland Gibson Gallery and is located at Pierrepont Avenue.

It presents modern artworks from the 20th and 21st centuries.

Those interested in art or planning to attend art school will find this gallery worthwhile.

You can view exhibitions by regional and national artists with esteemed reputations, permanent art collections, and works by university students.

The museum’s permanent collection features over 1,900 objects ranging from early and post-war American and European art to contemporary art and ethnographic themes.

You’ll also appreciate the Japanese and Italian collections donated by Dr. Gibson himself, which are the only collections of their kind.

See unique pieces at the Art Museum at SUNY Potsdam.

Discover Your Next Favorite Book at the Potsdam Public Library

Exterior of Potsdam Public Library

Wangkun Jia /

ThePotsdam Public Libraryis at2 Park Street in downtown Potsdam.

Aside from the library’s array of books in the catalog, they also offer ESL and Adult Literacy programs and featured collections and resources.

You’ll find a used bookstore below the library in the Civic Center basement operated by the Friends of the Potsdam Public Library.

Catch the annual Summer Book Sale held every July, and you might find an interesting read to take home.

You can also drop by on the second Wednesday of the month and join the book club, which meets at noon.

Visit the Potsdam Public Library.

Get Good Prices on Crops at Goodwin’s Orchard

Goodwin’s Orchard at Needham Road is a family-run business where you can stop by for quality crops and produce.

In 1990, Alan and Anne Goodwin opened the orchard on their six-acre land, which started with twelve apple varieties and now grew to several crops.

Take your family for apple picking and enjoy the juicy Cortland and other apple varieties.

If you’re looking for fall decorations, the orchard has plenty of Indian corn you can buy and take home.

Take your pick and get some of the best prices for pumpkins, squash, and gourds.

Don’t forget to take a picture of your family with their old trusty truck.

Shop for fresh produce at Goodwin’s Orchard.

Get Your Caffeine Fix at Old Market Coffee

Old Market Coffee on 1/2 Main Street is a great stop for snacks, coffee, and more.

The coffee shop offers a nice place to relax while sipping your favorite espresso drinks, hot or cold, and enjoying your servings of sweet crepes.

Try out their pair of pumpkin spice latte and creamy pumpkin crepe.

They have a wide selection of coffee brews like Americano, cafe latte, cappuccino macchiato, and more.

You can also order some loose-leaf tea flavors like Assam Melody, citrus mint green, and Earl Grey moonlight.

For fruity flavors, you can choose apple and eve juices of fruit smoothies on the menu.

Aside from an assortment of tasty and savory crepes like bacon avocado, classic, and banana, you can also try building your own crepe with syrups, fruits, and add-ons to make it extra special.

Enjoy your sweet snacks and caffeinated drinks at Old Market Coffee.

Find Unique Maple Products at Maple Run Emporium

If you’re looking for all things maple, from food items to tokens, you better head off toMaple Run EmporiumonMarket Street.

They have the classic maple-sweetened spread, pumpkin butter, and maple applesauce which can be your kitchen buddies for assorted recipes.

You’ll find some New York maple syrup, Bourbon-aged syrups, fruit and flower syrups, infused maple syrups, and artisanal syrup for coffee or tea.

For something unique, you can try the maple coffee flavors like maple pecan and recess ground or the different maple tea flavors like maple blueberry and maple cream tea.

They have maple-flavored snacks you can choose from, like maple cookies, maple jerky, maple roasted nuts and seeds, maple candy, and maple shortbread.

Try the deliciously made maple caramel dark chocolate leaves for a different take on the sweet confection.

Aside from food products, the store also sells tote bags and household items like butter candles, household items like towels, carving boards, and serving boards.

You’ll also find books on maple sugaring, cookbooks, children’s books, and chef’s references.

Maple Run Emporium also sells stained glass maple leaves you can get for your fall decor.

Enjoy Hiking Munter Trail

Munter Trailoffersa sandy trail along the Raquette River banks with spots for nature viewing and picnic.

The 1.4-mile trail is close to downtown Potsdam and provides an easy to moderate level hike.

You can choose between two trails, a northmost trailhead starting on Maple Street and the other behind Clarkson University Walker Arena and Hantz Field areas.

It’s part of the Clarkson University trail system, where you can find several picnic spots, boardwalks for fishing, and a glimpse of Fall Island.

Enjoy the views and outdoor activities at Munter Trail.

Other Things To Do Nearby

Go on an Outdoor Family Adventure at Hannawa Falls

Are you looking for a nature hideaway near Potsdam?

Hannawa Falls, just south on NY 56, is a beautiful place just seven minutes from central Potsdam.

This off-the-beaten-path location is a charming hamlet with plenty of things you can do.

Hike on the beach trails or try the Red Sandstone Trail, enjoy Geocaching, have a family picnic while little tots play on the slides and swings, or enjoy volleyball and basketball at the courts.

Take a relaxing swim, enjoy the waters on a kayak, or fish on the Raquette River.

If you’re hungry, you can check out Chip’sPlace for snacks or dine at Jake’s on the Water for a brunch meal.

Hannawa Falls is an excellent spot to unwind and enjoy nature.

Discover Folk Culture at Traditional Arts in Upstate New York

Traditional Arts in Upstate New York is located on Main Street, Canton, New York, just 17 minutes from Potsdam.

It’s an organization in North Country in New York that highlights the region’s local folk culture and traditions.

Visit and experience diverse customs like music, crafts, storytelling, foodways, and folk arts uniquely identifying the North Country character.

Our North Country is the 14-county region north of the Mohawk River, from Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to Lake Champlain, including the Adirondack Mountains.

Drop by the Folkstore, a significant outlet for authentic products made by the region’s artists and producers.

Catch concerts, workshops, and demonstrations by talented traditional artists, musicians, and artisans.

You can also view temporary exhibits in the gallery representing different folklore topics.

Discover folk culture at Traditional Arts in Upstate New York.

Final Thoughts

Potsdam is a town known for its identity with art and culture seen mostly with hosts of museums and local celebrations.

The budding student community from two exceptional universities makes this town a lively area.

You’ll see plenty of attractions for fun and learning that your family can enjoy.

Try the best things to do in Potsdam, New York!

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