Blake Walsh

25 Best Things to Do in Syracuse, NY

  • Published 2023/03/18

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 more.

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

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

Interested to know more about this place?

Here are the 25 best things to do in Syracuse, New York:

Go Shopping at Destiny USA

 Destiny USA Shopping complex

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Spread across 2.4 million square feet, Destiny USA is the largest mall in New York.

You can spend your whole day at this mall and still be left with plenty of stores to discover.

Yankee Candle storefront in Destiny USA

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

This mall is unlike any other in the United States, as it offers many 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 annually!

Interior of Destiny USA

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Take a Scenic Breather at Elmwood Park

Bridge over the waters of Elmwood Park

Lvklock, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Elmwood Park is one of Syracuse’s most famous city parks, which is easy to access as it’s right along Glenwood Avenue.

The park’s most notable feature is that the Furnace Brook runs through it, giving this a serene ambiance because of the water and surrounding botany.

The park also has several artificial waterfalls, accentuating its aesthetic even more.

While you can relax at Elmwood Park, it also has amenities such as those intended for sports.

With many amenities, scenic walking trails, and picnic grounds, this is an excellent addition to any itinerary in Syracuse.

Roam around Syracuse University

Carnegie library at Syracuse University

debra millet /

Syracuse University is a renowned private research university in the United States, so you’d be hard-pressed to miss out on checking out its campus.

Offering student-led and self-guided tours, Syracuse University welcomes guests to check out its sprawling facilities.

Established in the 19th Century, you’ll immerse yourself in fine architecture as you roam the campus.

A building at Syracuse University

debra millet /

It’s also an excellent way to immerse yourself in the lifestyle of the youth in this part of New York.

Other modern facilities like their domes and museums make this an all-day activity.

You can access the school along Irving Avenue.

Students at Syracuse University

Khairil Azhar Junos /

Have a Meaty Meal at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Exterior of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Joe Shlabotnik, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is a can’t-miss culinary destination in Syracuse, especially if you’re all about barbecued meats.

A staple in New York, this restaurant is one if not the most visited dining establishment in Syracuse, and the reviews from locals and visitors are top-notch.

While they have tender and delicious barbecues, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is famous for its sides and appetizers.

Some of the most mentioned in online reviews are its fried green tomatoes, deviled eggs, and mashed potatoes.

Found along West Willow Street, don’t miss out on this iconic barbecue chain in New York.

Relax at Inner Harbor

View of the waters from Inner Harbor

Mahmoud Suhail /

Inner Harbor is another relaxing place to have some respite amidst the hustle and bustle of New York.

Found along Solar Street, Inner Harbor got its name because it’s right by an inlet of water called Onondaga Creek.

One of its best features is its creek walk, allowing you to appreciate both the natural scenery along with the quaint neighborhood that surrounds it.

There are also some cafes and restaurants near the area, making this a family-oriented destination.

This is an excellent stopover for any itinerary, a beautiful place to enjoy the clear skies and relaxing waters of Syracuse.

Go Skating at John Dunn Ice Rink

Along West Seneca Turnpike inside Meachem Park lies John Dunn Ice Rink, Syracuse’s go-to ice skating and hockey facility for the public.

Spacious and modern, John Dunn Ice Rink is an excellent addition to your plans if you want to spend some time on ice.

The staff here is highly rated, and the facility is excellent for adults and young children.

Other facilities, like their lockers and bleachers, are also neat, making the atmosphere welcoming.

Hence, this is a great way to add spice to your plans if you have kids.

Check Out the Great New York State Fair

Sky ride at Great New York State Fair

Tommy Liggett /

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

Great New York State also boasts a list of fun attractions, including 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 a lovely 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.

Giant slide at Great New York State Fair

Tommy Liggett /

Enjoy a Day at theRosamond Gifford Zoo

Exterior of Rosamond Gifford Zoo

Mahmoud Suhail /

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

This century-old zoo has several exciting attractions, including the mighty Asian elephants, the majestic Amur tigers, the pristine snow leopards, the amusing Humboldt penguins, and several more. ‌

Flamingos at Rosamond Gifford Zoo

Kuehner /

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

The zoo also offers an adopt-an-animal program for committed animal lovers for as little as $50.

Aquarium in Rosamond Gifford Zoo

Mahmoud Suhail /

See the Amazing Architecture of the Carrier Dome

Aerial view of the Carrier Dome

Jimhoward03, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Interior of the Carrier Dome

MattCC716, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

‌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.

Marvel at the Historic Niagara Mohawk Building

Exterior of the Niagara Mohawk Building

Philip Mowbray /

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

It looks amusing, like a natural Mohawk hairdo, hence its campy name.

Front view of the Niagara Mohawk Building

Philip Mowbray /

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

Details of the Niagara Mohawk Building

Jean-Paul RICHARD, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pay a Visit to Onondaga Historical Association

If you fancy a fling with Syracuse’s history, Onondaga Historical Association 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.

See the Planetarium at Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology

Exterior of Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology

Richard Frazier /

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 New York State, and a popular planetarium for all ages.

MOST also had an in-house Science Shop that would catch the fascination of all 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.

Watch Musical Performances at the Landmark Theater

Exterior of the Landmark Theater

debra millet /

New York State is famous for being a massive 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.

Lobby of the Landmark Theater

Eddie891, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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 good 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.

Interior of the Landmark Theater

Eddie891, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Learn Sports History at the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame

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

Hence, it is no surprise that Syracuse has its own Greater Syracuse 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 sports, this can be an exciting place to visit.

Appreciate Art at the Everson Museum of Art

Exterior of the Everson Museum of Art

debra millet /

The Everson Museum of Art is a central cultural hub showcasing various American art forms.

The building is beautiful, 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 desirable 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 will have something meaningful for you.

Explore Salt City Market

Interior of Salt City Market

Andre Carrotflower, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Salt City Market 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 famous community gathering center, hosting local community events, art workshops, farmers’ markets, and more.

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

Visit the Upside-Down Traffic Light

Daytime view of the Upside-Down Traffic Light

debra millet /

Green is up, 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 significant 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.

Have Fun at NBT Bank Stadium

Exterior of NBT Bank Stadium

debra millet /

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 locals and tourists.

In addition to being home to the Syracuse Mets, this stadium has 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.

The field of NBT Bank Stadium

DASonnenfeld, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Check Out Erie Canal Museum

Interior of the 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 Museum in Syracuse.

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

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

Exterior of the Erie Canal Museum

Alizada Studios /

Other Things to Do Nearby

Take a Stroll aroundOnondaga Lake Park

The waters of Onondaga Lake Park

Mahmoud Masad /

Onondaga Lake Park is a stunning place where you can connect with nature.

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

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

The grounds of Onondaga Lake Park

debra millet /

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 volleyball game.

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

Bench overlooking the waters of Onondaga Lake Park

debra millet /

Explore the Beaver Lake Nature Center

Boardwalk at Beaver Lake Nature Center

Jeffrey M. Frank /

If you crave 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!

The pond of Beaver Lake Nature Center

MollieGPhoto /

Revisit the City’s History at Salt Museum

Exterior of the Salt Museum

Smerdis, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

History lovers will also love to stroll within the Salt Museum, the only one in America.

It traces Liverpool’s history as the top salt supplier in the early 20th century.

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

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

Wander around Green Lakes State Park

Scenic view of Green Lakes State Park

Ethan Rossman /

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 sunny day of boating.

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

Golf course of Green Lakes State Park

Easchiff, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dine at Upstate Eats Trail

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

But when you visit New York State, you must 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 iconic foods and features at least five 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.

Final Thoughts

Syracuse is an underrated destination in New York, sprawling with plenty of attractions for you to see.

Whether it’s the numerous museums, historical landmarks, or the surrounding nature, this is a great way to add to your New York plans.

They also have many events and blossoming food culture in the area, adding more excitement to your visit.

Use this list of the best things to do in Syracuse, New York, to get a good feel of the city.

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