20 Best Things to Do in Syracuse, NY

 Syracuse, NY
littlenySTOCK / shutterstock.com

Syracuse may not seem glamorous as New York City, but it still packs a punch for curious visitors.

The city has theatres, museums, art houses, fairs and music festivals, wildlife parks, nature trails, water sports, wellness centers, wineries, breweries, eateries, and so much more.

Yes, Syracuse offers all these coveted sightseeing attractions at more enticing prices than its famous neighboring cities!

It also provides for a heady combination of urban excitement and rural adventure.

In fact, it's important you take time to savor this unique experience, so you do not end up with tourist whiplash!

Without further ado, here are the 20 things to do in Syracuse.

The Great New York State Fair

If you are fortunate to visit in August and want to begin your trip with a bang, what better way than to crash America’s largest annual fair!

Hosted on the sprawling 375-acre NYS Fairgrounds, this end-of-summer event runs for 18 days and ends on Labor Day.

It also boasts a kaleidoscopic list of fun attractions.

This includes spectacular agriculture displays, musical concerts featuring the top bands in the country, thrilling amusement rides, stupefying sand and butter sculptures, a petting zoo, celebrity chef demonstrations, and an enjoyable assortment of gastronomic delights!

If there’s only one place you can visit in Syracuse in August, let this be the glorious space you see.

Rosamond Gifford Zoo

‌                                      

If you are traveling with children, the Rosamond Gifford Zoo offers compelling visuals with 700+ animals.

Housed on 43 acres, this century-old zoo has several engaging attractions, including the mighty Asian elephants, the majestic Amur tigers, the pristine snow leopards, the amusing Humboldt penguins, and several more.  ‌                          

The zoo’s major sights can be covered in half a day, culminating with delicious local grub at the in-house Jungle Café.

For committed animal lovers, the zoo also offers an adopt-an-animal program with as little as $50.

Onondaga Lake Park                                   ‌

Onondaga Lake Park
Mahmoud Masad / Shutterstock.com

If you feel inspired and wish to extend your connection with nature, Onondaga Lake Park is an attractive spot.

This is Central New York’s version of Central Park and stretches across 7.5 scenic miles.

It also offers 4 trails with enough room for runners, cyclists, skaters, and fishers.

Its waterfront areas form the perfect picnic spot for weekend family gatherings.

Youth often head to the in-house Griffin Visitor Center for a rousing game of volleyball.

The park is conveniently located close to several popular eateries, including Santangelo’s Restaurant, Stella’s Diner, and Eva's European Sweets.

Beaver Lake Nature Center                      

If you are craving more of nature, this walking trail is all you need as it circles through 661 acres of wooded land.

There is also an opportunity for canoeing and kayaking for all those addicted to water.

The Beaver Lake Nature Center also gets its fair share of community support, hosting 400+ annual programs and events.

The park also includes a 200-acre glacial lake and invites over 200 species of birds from all over the country.

Yes, this is a naturalist’s paradise in several enjoyable ways!

Green Lakes State Park

The Green Lakes State Park winds around two lakes, the Green Lake and the Round Lake, with strikingly blue-green appearances.

Water babies are attracted to this lake park for its sandy beach and cheerful day of boating.

This park is also famous for its refined 18-hole golf course, multiple walking trails, and an assortment of winter sports attractions (including skiing).

Destiny USA

 Destiny USA Shopping complex
Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com

‌How can a trip to New York State ever be complete without an excursion in shopping?

Fortunately, Destiny USA has you covered with its 250+ stores nested among 6 full floors.

Spread across 2.4 million square feet, it is also the largest mall in New York.

In fact, you can spend your whole day at this mall and still be left with plenty of stores to discover.          

This mall is unlike any other in the United States, as it offers a plethora of adventures like car racing, navigating a mirror maze, and scaling through a ropes challenge.

Destiny USA is also regarded as the second most visited mall in the country, attracting 26 million visitors every year!

Upstate Eats Trail

You’ve heard of walking trails, cycling trails, skiing trails, and skating trails.

But when you visit New York State, you have to partake in one of its Upstate Eats trails.

This features 20 eateries and is spread across travel between 3 cities – Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse.

Each city has its own iconic foods and features at least 5 eateries leading up to the trail.

Syracuse, in particular, is famous for its salt potatoes and thus has its own Eats trail.

This features a delicious mix of diners, restaurants, Irish pubs, taverns, and cafes.

There is also the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, famous for being featured on Good Morning America for its ultra delicious fare.

Other popular eateries include Apizza Regionale and Eva's European Sweets.

Both eateries provide scenic, outdoor-dining options that are a hit to tourists.

The Carrier Dome

‌    

Syracuse has something to offer for every kind of world traveler.

For architecture buffs, the Carrier Dome is a massive structure of engineering wonder.

It is also the largest domed stadium in the North-East region of the United States of America.

Housing almost 50,000 seats, this domed sports stadium has been known to host ice skating events during the Olympics.

‌It is located within Syracuse University, drawing thousands of visitors to the campus for college football.

The stadium has also occasionally hosted basketball tournaments, lacrosse championships, boxing championships, and musical concerts.

This makes it a must-visit tourist spot, especially for sports lovers.

Niagara Mohawk Building

This historical landmark is yet another Art deco masterpiece, influenced by the graceful ripples of Niagara falls.

It also looks amusing, like a real Mohawk hairdo, and hence its campy name.

It is currently home to the National Grid Company and is famous for being lit up in various colors on major festival dates.

Onondaga Historical Association Museum

If you fancy a tryst with Syracuse history, this museum stands tall and welcomes you with its diverse exhibits.

The museum showcases the growth and progression of the local Onondaga county.

It also captures the Chinese immigration period in surprising detail!

While it is a hit with locals due to its heritage, tourists are lured through fun activities like the Syracuse scavenger hunt.

The Salt Museum

Salt Museum
Smerdis, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

History lovers will also love to take a stroll within the Salt Museum, the only one of its kind in all of America.

It traces Syracuse's history of being the top salt supplier in the early 20th century.

The building itself is a fitting ode to Syracuse history and uses timber collected from Syracuse salt warehouses.

It is also conveniently located right on the outskirts of Onondaga Lake – another popular tourist spot.

Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology (MOST)

Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology
Richard Frazier / Shutterstock.com

The Milton J. Rubenstein Museum, playfully christened as MOST, is a popular tourist spot in the Syracuse downtown area.

But this is no stuffy museum.

Its highlights include a domed IMAX theatre – the only one of its kind in all of New York State, a popular planetarium with all ages have MOST also had an in-house Science Shop that is sure to catch the fascination of all forms of geeks and nerds.

In fact, the MOST are mighty popular with the local crowd and boasts of a busy events calendar for a significant part of the year.

Landmark Theater            

New York State is famous for being a huge patron of arts and theatre.

Hence, you should find a “Landmark Theater” in Syracuse, one of its major cities!

This million-dollar building is almost 100 years old.

It flourished as a cultural hub in the early 20th century, showcasing silent movies and western flicks until the late 1960s.                

It was also partly demolished when theatre declined the following decade.

But the tide turned when it was registered as a historic building in the late 1970s.

It has since been restored to its former glory through persistent efforts by volunteers and theatre aficionados.

The Westcott Theater, a newer addition, is giving it fine company and is famous for hosting America’s finest musical talent in recent times.

Both theatres line the Syracuse sky with their rich sense of cultural history.

Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame

Throughout the year, Syracuse loves to celebrate its athletes through summer sports, winter sports, and even water sports.

Hence, it is no surprise that Syracuse has its own Sports Hall of Fame, revering famous locals who've played for the state or the country.

Currently housed in an Athletic Club, the Syracuse Hall of Fame has memorabilia from residents and includes collectibles like the first NBA 24-second clock.

If you love sport, this can be an exciting place to visit.

Everson Museum of Art

The Everson Museum of Art is a major cultural hub dedicated to showcasing various forms of American Art.

The building is a thing of beauty, with clean lines that are surprising for such a historic building.

It also houses a notable collection of ceramics, drawings, paintings, graphics, and sculptures, totaling 11,000 enviable art pieces.

The Museum also thrives with community involvement and frequently hosts in-house art classes, tours, outreach programs, skating events, art exhibitions, and more.

If you are into art in any form or shape, the Everson Museum of Art is sure to have something meaningful for you.

Salt City Market

This recent addition to Syracuse city began as a humble food mall and public market in January 2021.

It now has 12 eateries to cater to diverse taste buds.

It has also quickly become a popular community gathering center, hosting local community events, art workshops, farmers' markets, and more.

If you crave some coffee and cake in a fuss-free environment, head to Salt City Market for Syracuse’s finest.

Upside-down traffic light

‌                                    

Green is up, and red is down, or so proclaims Syracuse city's famous upside-down traffic light.

This quirky tourist spot showcases the whimsical side of Syracuse and is believed to have been installed in the early 1920s.

It was also a major source of dispute between the British and the Irish.

Today, it is the only traffic light in all countries where the green signal lights above the red signal.

SOS Beverage Trail

Before you press the alarm, you should know that Syracuse has a sizable contribution to the beverage industry, with 4 wineries, 1 cidery, 2 distilleries, and 18 breweries.

Together, they form the Syracuse (SOS) Beverage Trail.

Anyela's Vineyards is particularly known for hosting wine-tasting events with an a la carte menu.

There are also organized full-day tours for committed wine connoisseurs.

NBT Bank Stadium

‌                                  

The people of Syracuse city love to celebrate their minor league baseball team – the Syracuse Mets.

And they do it with great fanfare at the NBT Bank Stadium.

With a seating capacity of almost 11,000, this recently remodeled stadium is a popular hub with both locals and tourists.

In addition to being home to the Syracuse Mets, this stadium has also sparingly hosted soccer teams (Syracuse Salty Dogs), musical concerts (Dave Matthews Band, The Allman Brothers Band), and other outdoor activities.

If you want to understand the inner workings of a minor league stadium, NBT Bank Stadium is the right tourist spot for you.

Check out Erie Canal Museum

Erie Canal Museum
Sgerbic, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Here's another gem for science and architecture nerds, as it traces the history and mechanics of the Erie Canal in Syracuse.

When you understand that this canal also has a hefty impact on the neighboring towns of Rochester and Utica, the significance of this museum becomes apparent.

The museum crew also organize a fun Gingerbread-house competition and exhibition every year, turning this historic building into a cultural community hub during Christmas.

In closing, Syracuse is a fun city with a little something for almost everybody.

To get the best out of your trip, plan and confirm your reservations before you land.

Get at least 15% off your stay with the latest getaway deals on Booking.com
Save at least 15% on short breaks, longer trips or anything in between.
As an Booking.com affiliate, I earn a small a commission when you book through this link

See the Best Deals on Airbnb®
Find unique places to stay with local hosts in 191 countries. Belong anywhere with Airbnb.
As an Airbnb Associate, I earn a small commission when you book through this link