Utica is a charming city nestled in the Mohawk Valley, at the base of the Adirondack and Catskill mountain ranges. In Utica, you can enjoy nature’s astounding beauty without being completely cut-off from the city life. It is known for its rich culture and abundant natural resources. Scenic train journeys, picturesque river, towering mountains, spectacular Broadway, historic museums, outstanding art centres, Utica has it all. Here’s a list of the best things to do while visiting this city.
Encounter Exotic Animals at Utica Zoo
The zoo is one of Utica’s prime tourist attractions. It has close to a hundred species of exotic wildlife including the Arctic Fox, Burmese Python, Brazilian Rainbow Boa, Hyacinth Macaw, Bearded Dragon, California Sea Lion, Red Panda, Leopard Tortoise, Mexican Wolves, Bactrian Camel, Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, and plenty more. The zoo is also home to several endangered and threatened animals that it aims to conserve, such as Mexican Spider Monkeys, Jamaican Boas, Chinese Alligators, Golden Lion Tamarins, Striped Hyenas, African Lions. Numerous events are organised at the zoo throughout the year, like Wine in the Wilderness, animal encounters, Winter in the Wild, Spooktacular Harvest Festival, Noon Year’s Eve Celebration, Party for the Planet, and more. It is open from 10 am to 4 pm every day of the week and the admission fee ranges from USD 5 to USD 8 depending on your age.
Train Journey on Adirondack Scenic Railroad
Hop on a train from Utica and go on a scenic adventure through the Adirondack mountain range. The journey features verdant forests, pristine rivers, towering peaks, and charming streams. It lets you discover a different and lesser-known side of New York. The longest journey is a 9 hours round-trip from Utica to Big Moose station. Other shorter journeys include Utica to Old Forge, Holland Patent, and Remsen. Trains ply through all four seasons and include themed rides, such as Polar Express, Beer and Wine Train, Easter Bunny Express, and Family Halloween Train.
Saranac Brewery Tour
FX Matt Brewing Company dates back to 1888 and is renowned for its award-winning Saranac 1888 beer. This beer was named after the Saranac rail route which extends from Utica to Saranac Lake Union Station. Take a tour of the brewery to watch the entire process of brewing, bottling, and packaging, learn about the company’s history from the tour guides, try out samples, and enjoy a free beer at the end of the tour. Apart from Saranac, their Utica Club beer is also very popular.
Watch a Game at Utica Memorial Auditorium
Utica Memorial Auditorium, also known as AUD, is home to the Utica Comets hockey team and Utica City FC indoor soccer team. This auditorium hosts several events consistently throughout the year. Apart from sporting events, they also organise musical concerts, circuses, monster truck shows, and other entertaining performances. It has a seating capacity of close to 4000 and can accommodate nearly 6000 people during concerts. Book your tickets and enjoy a match at this iconic venue.
Watch a Performance at Stanley Theatre
Founded in 1928, this historic theatre was originally meant only for playing cinemas. It was under the ownership of the Warner Brothers for over 4 decades till 1974. After its acquisition by the Community Arts Council of Central New York, live performances were also presented at this theatre along with movies. Currently, Stanley Theatre hosts only live events, majorly by Broadway Utica, Utica Symphony orchestra, Mohawk Valley Ballet, and MWPAI. This is a perfect place for a wonderful evening’s entertainment.
Explore Art at Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute (MWPAI)
This renowned art institute has three divisions. The art museum division features a permanent display and a rotating exhibition. The permanent display includes exhibits from the 15th century and beyond. The Institute’s Performing Arts division organises several plays, concerts, and events featuring both well-established as well as upcoming artists. The Art School division provides educational programs for all ages. Numerous events are organised by the institute all-round the year, such as contemporary art exhibitions, yoga sessions, film screenings, piano performances, antique cars and motorcycles shows, annual art festivals, and plenty more. A large number of these events are free to the public. Stop by to enjoy a performance or look at some stunning pieces of art.
Visit Utica Children’s Museum
This historic museum dates back to 1963 and is the only children’s museum in Central New York. It aims to educate its patrons of the region’s history, natural science, culture, and space science, through hands-on and interactive activities. It features dinosaur models, various themed activity centres, real-life trains, live animal displays, a defunct fire truck, a model airplane, multimedia displays of local history, an original railroad switching station, and plenty more. Various educational programs are offered by the museum as well. This is an ideal place to visit if you’re traveling with kids.
Watch artists at work at Sculpture Space
Sculpture Space selects 20 sculptors each year who are provided with free residency and access to professional sculpting studios for 2 months. They work on their sculptures during that period and later exhibit their work at the institute’s events or donate them for sale at the institute’s charity auctions. Sculpture Space provides studio tours to the public to look at and appreciate the works-in-progress.
View Wildlife at Utica Marsh Wildlife Management Area
Reaching the site of this wetland involves a 1 to 1.5 miles hike along the picturesque New York State Canal System (previously known as Barge Canal). The hiking trail can be accessed from the parking lot next to North Genesee Street. This area offers plenty opportunities for viewing diverse wildlife. You can view white-tailed deer, muskrats, Canada geese, foxes, racoons, great blue herons, American goldfinches, mallards, snakes, turtles, sparrows, bald eagles, and several others. The marshland being located between the Mohawk river and the canal, makes this an ideal place to fish.
Outdoor Recreation at Roscoe Conkling Park
Established in 1909, this 625 acres park encompasses the Utica zoo, a ski centre, a golf course, several tennis courts, 2 basketball courts, a gym, the South Woods hiking trails, picnic areas, and plenty more. The Val Bialas ski centre is named after an Olympic ice skater from Utica. It is popular for winter adventures, such as skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing, tubing, and sledding.
Enjoy a game of tennis at one of the 18 John Mott Tennis Courts or check out the Utica Sports Hall of Fame at the Edward A. Hanna recreation centre.
The 2.2 miles South Woods hiking trail features dense forests and the Mohawk valley’s diverse flora and fauna.
Explore Spring Farm CARES
Encompassing over 250 acres of verdant lands, this sanctuary is home to more than 200 animals including, donkeys, rabbits, horses, chicken, and many more. It was founded in 1820 as a dairy farm and later became an animal shelter in 1991. Spring Farm’s unique feature is that it treats and cares for its animals using complementary and alternative medicine, such as homeopathy, therapeutic touch, etc. Take a tour of this sanctuary, pet the animals, and hike along the trails that traverse the area.
Tour Union Station
This historic railway station dates back to 1914 and is well-known for its grand architecture. Amtrack trains towards Niagara Falls, Toronto, Chicago, New York city, and Boston frequent this station. Additionally, the Adirondack scenic railroad connects Utica to Old Forge, Holland Patent, Big Moose station, and Remsen. The Utica Station includes a barber shop, restaurant, farmer’s market, and more. This station is also a bus terminal. Visit this beautiful railway station and admire its aesthetically pleasing and artistic architectural designs.
Travel Back in Time at Oneida County History Centre
Founded in 1876, this centre focuses on the history of Oneida County and Mohawk River Valley. It has a permanent collection as well as rotating displays. It includes more than 250,000 historical documents and several thousands of ancient paintings, drawings, and artifacts. Lectures and events are organised by the museum throughout the year which feature reputed historians and authors. Entry is a suggested donation of USD 3.
Dine at The Tailor and the Cook
This is one of the most-loved restaurants in Utica and it specialises in local and American cuisines. The restaurant focuses on sourcing majority of its ingredients from local farms and aims to support the regional farmers and producers. The cheesecake is a must-try here. The place is open from Wednesdays to Saturdays from 5 pm to 9.30 pm.
Other popular restaurants are Zeina’s Café and Catering, Delmonico’s Italian Steakhouse, Ancora!, Trattoria Calabria, Gerber’s 1933 Tavern, and Ocean Blue Restaurant & Oyster Bar.
Take a Stroll in F.T. Proctor Park
This park features beautiful green lawns, a butterfly garden, a pond with lilies, a charming creek, gorgeous colourful flower plants, and a broad array of trees. Swimming is popular in the Starch Factory creek during warmer months. The various trees in the park include, a variety of maple trees, hawthorn, hemlock, black cherry, witch hazel, and plenty more.
Visit St. Joseph and St. Patrick Church
This historic church dates back to 1871. It is known for its German Romanesque architecture and heavenly interiors ornate with kaleidoscopic stained glasses and aesthetically pleasing historic wall paintings. Stop by this church and spend some peaceful moments here.
Utica Summer Fest
The first Utica Summer Fest took place in the year 2018. It is an annual event that includes musical concerts, entertaining activities, competitions, awards, cash prizes, live street performances, lots of beer, and mouth-watering food stalls. All the live performances take place on the historic Genesee Street in downtown Utica. Myriads of people flock to the streets to have a great time and be a part of this new tradition.
Run at Boilermaker Road Race
This event has grown from its humble beginnings with just 800 runners in 1978, to currently being one of the biggest events in Utica with over 17000 participants from across the globe. Boilermaker Weekend includes a health and fitness expo, 15K road race, 5K road race, wheelchair race, kids’ race, Corporate Cup, Youth Olympics, Police and Firefighter competition, school competition, an after-party, and more. This annual event takes place every July and aims to promote physical well-being. Its 15K race was the biggest in the nation for a decade till 2006. Participate in this invigorating run and meet new people.
Shop at Farmer’s Market
Oneida County Public Market is Utica’s most popular farmer’s market. It offers a wide variety of goods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, jams, jellies, syrups, cheese, milk, poultry products, pickles, creams, truffles, jewellery, teas, body care, honey, bakery products, and plenty more. All the products available in the market are from local farms and local vendors. It is open on every Saturday from 9am to 1pm at the Union Station.
Run for a Cause at America’s Greatest Heart Run and Walk
Thousands of people in Utica participate in this run for a cause event in March every year. The aim of this event is to raise USD 1 million to fund research projects relating to heart diseases and to create awareness for such diseases. It includes walks and runs of varying distances. The event is preceded by a health expo.