Blake Walsh

30 Best Things to Do in Utica, NY

  • Published 2022/11/09

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 city life.

It is known for its rich culture and abundant natural resources.

From scenic train journeys, picturesque rivers, and towering mountains to spectacular Broadway shows, historical museums, and outstanding art centers, Utica has it all.

Here’s a list of the best things to do in Utica, New York:

Encounter Exotic Animals at Utica Zoo

Telescope at Utica Zoo

Mahmoud Masad /

The zoo is one of Utica’s prime tourist attractions.

It has close to a hundred exotic wildlife species, 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.

Welcome sign of Utica zoo

Megan Miller, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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.

The zoo organizes numerous events 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.

Journey on a Train along Adirondack Scenic Railroad

Adirondack Scenic Railroad

valiant.skies /

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.

A train passing through the Adirondack Scenic Railroad

Wangkun Jia /

The longest journey is a nine-hour 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.

Railroad crossing at Adirondack Scenic Railroad

Wangkun Jia /

Try Out Various Types of Beer at the Saranac Brewery

Brown buildings of Saranac Brewery Tour

Mahmoud Masad /

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.

Bottle cap with the logo of Saranac Brewery

Atomazul /

You’ll also be able to learn about the company’s history, 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

Far exterior view of Utica Memorial Auditorium

Mahmoud Masad /

The 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.

Interior of the Utica Memorial Auditorium

Doug Kerr, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Apart from sporting events, they also organize musical concerts, circuses, monster truck shows, and other entertaining performances.

It has a seating capacity of close to 4,000 and can accommodate nearly 6,000 people during concerts.

Book your tickets and enjoy a match at this iconic venue.

Watch a Performance at The Stanley Theatre

Exterior view of Stanley Theatre

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Founded in 1928, this historic theater was initially made only for film viewing.

It was under the ownership of the Warner Brothers for over four decades until 1974.

Lit up sign board of The Stanley Theatre

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After the Community Arts Council of Central New York acquired the theater, it also started hosting live performances.

It now exclusively hosts live events, most of which are organized by Broadway Utica, Utica Symphony orchestra, Mohawk Valley Ballet, and MWPAI.

The Stanley Theatre is a perfect place for a wonderful evening’s entertainment.

Closeup view of The Stanley Theatre

Wangkun Jia /

Admire Art at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute (MWPAI)

Majestic black building of Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute (MWPAI)

Mahmoud Masad /

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.

Front view of Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute

Mahmoud Suhail /

The Institute’s Performing Arts division organizes 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 organized by the institute all year round, such as contemporary art exhibitions, yoga sessions, film screenings, piano performances, antique car and motorcycle shows, annual art festivals, and plenty more.

Side view of Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute during night

Mahmoud Suhail /

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.

Watch Artists at Work at Sculpture Space

Every year, Sculpture Space selects 20 sculptors and provides them with free residency and access to professional sculpting studios for two 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.

Witness Wildlife at Utica Marsh Wildlife Management Area

Canal at Utica Marsh Wildlife Management Area

Mahmoud Masad /

Reaching this wetland involves a 1-to-1.5-mile hike along the picturesque New York State Canal System (previously known as Barge Canal).

You can access the hiking trail from the parking lot next to North Genesee Street.

This area offers plenty of opportunities for viewing diverse wildlife.

Utica Marsh Wildlife Management Area during snow

Mahmoud Suhail /

You can view white-tailed deer, muskrats, Canada geese, foxes, raccoons, 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.

Calm water flowing at Utica Marsh Wildlife Management Area

Mahmoud Suhail /

Enjoy Outdoor Recreation at Roscoe Conkling Park

Beautiful green lawn at Roscoe Conkling Park

Mahmoud Masad /

Established in 1909, this 625-acre park encompasses the Utica Zoo, a ski center, a golf course, several tennis courts, two basketball courts, a gym, the South Woods hiking trails, picnic areas, and plenty more.

The Val Bialas ski center is named after an Olympic ice skater from Utica.

It’s 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 center.

The 2.2-mile South Woods hiking trail features dense forests and the Mohawk Valley’s diverse flora and fauna.

Tour Union Station

Breathtaking interiors at Union Station Utica

Mahmoud Masad /

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.

Union Station during sunset

Mahmoud Suhail /

The Utica Station includes a barbershop, 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.

Railroad at Union Station

Mahmoud Suhail /

Travel Back in Time at Oneida County History Centre

Exterior of the Oneida County History Centre Doug Kerr] from Upstate New York, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Founded in 1876, this center 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.

Throughout the year, the museum organizes a number of lectures and events featuring reputed historians and authors.

Dine at The Tailor and the Cook

This is one of the most-loved restaurants in Utica, and it specializes in local and American cuisines.

The restaurant focuses on sourcing the majority of its ingredients from local farms and aims to support the regional farmers and producers.

The cheesecake here is a must-try.

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 colorful 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

St. Joseph and St. Patrick Church

Mahmoud Masad /

This historic church dates back to 1871.

It is known for its German Romanesque architecture, as well as its stunning stained glass windows and historic wall paintings.

Stop by this church and spend some peaceful moments here.

Tower of St. Joseph and St. Patrick Church

Mahmoud Suhail /

Take Part in the 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

People participating for Boilermaker Road Race

Brian Hughey, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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 17,000 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 until 2006.

Participate in this invigorating run and meet new people.

Shop at Utica’s Famous Farmer’s Market

Located at Union Station, Oneida County Public Market is Utica’s most renowned 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, jewelry, teas, body care, honey, bakery products, and plenty more.

All the products available in the market are from local farms and local vendors.

Run for a Cause at America’s Greatest Heart Run and Walk

Every March, thousands of people in Utica participate in this run for a cause event.

This event aims to raise USD 1 million to fund research projects relating to heart diseases and to create awareness for such.

It includes walks and runs of varying distances.

The event is preceded by a health expo.

Have a Drink at Bagg’s Square Brewing Company

Bagg’s Square Brewing Company is located inside Utica’s Bagg’s Square district.

You can find it inside the Doyle Hardware building.

The Doyle Building is actually a former warehouse factory and stands at 330 River Street, retaining its authentic charm in spite of being very old.

They have beers like Elder Speech Stout, Ziege Pale Ale, Yuletide Winter Warmer, and more.

They also have Raphael, Fox Run, Wölffer, and Tug Hill wines.

To add to that, they have two kinds of cider: Seasonal Hard Cider and Wolffer Hard Red Cider.

If you’re a fan of drinks, you have to try their specialty: the Heller Stern Spritzer.

It’s made of Elderflower Syrup combined with Fever-Tree Tonic Water, Abner Doubleday’s Double Play Vodka, and Tug Hill Bubbly Blush Carbonated Wine, with a lemon twist for garnish.

As for food, they offer Bavarian pretzels and fried Brussels sprouts with fried egg, golden raisins, crispy bacon, and honey mustard dipping sauce.

Bagg’s Square Brewing Company also holds events like Tacos & Turntables + College Night, Karaoke & Open Mic, and Live Music: Beth & Fritz.

Cycle the Trail along the New York State Canal System

The venerable and iconic New York State Canal System originally went by the name New York State Barge Canal.

Four canals, namely the Oswego Canal, the Erie Canal, the Champlain Canal, and the Cayuga–Seneca Canal, make up the system.

Together, they stretch a total of 525 miles (845 kilometers!).

The New York State Canal System was listed among other historical landmarks on the National Register Of Historic Places in 2014.

Then, in 2016, it achieved a National Historic Landmark status on the National Register of Historic Places in its entirety.

Any bike rider knows that the New York State Canal is one of the most preeminent places to get some exercise.

It’s a 36-mile (58-km, one-way) journey.

Just make sure you’ve saved enough energy in case you decide that you’d like to continue your journey.

Browse the Utica Public Library

Exterior of Utica Public Library

Doug Kerr from Upstate New York, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located in Utica in Oneida County, New York, the Utica Public Library is a historical library dating back to the early 1900s.

Despite its long history, it has managed to carry itself through the years with its continuing tradition of being a sacred space for learning and education.

It’s five stories tall and has a neoclassical style that features Corinthian columns.

Arthur C. Jackson of Carrère and Hastings designed the building in 1903.

In 1982, the Utica Public Library finally made it to the National Register of Historic Places.

People come here from all around to get books from their stacks, look for answers to their questions in the information center, or simply take a much-needed break from life’s daily pressures.

This library has everything you could possibly ask for in terms of local historical documentation and community services.

The Utica Public Library is a fine place open to everyone.

Stroll through Utica Marina

Exterior of Utica Marina

Mahmoud Suhail /

Along the banks of the Erie Canal is a historic structure known as the Utica Marina.

Although it serves as a multi-use development, visiting this historic building is still an essential element of any itinerary for Utica.

There are also plenty of charming cafés and restaurants to relax and people-watch.

Pathway at Utica Marina

Mahmoud Suhail /

Suppose you’re looking for something to do this evening.

Why not try out Aqua-Vino, located on the building’s bottom level?

Seating is available on the patio, and the menu is outstanding and screams luxury, so make a reservation to enjoy the delicious food and breathtaking scenery.

Bicycles at Utica Marina

Mahmoud Suhail /

Catch Spectacular Performances at Players of Utica

Opened in 1913, Players of Utica is the oldest community theater in New York State.

The Amusement Club Theater, as it was formerly known, is one of the five earliest community theaters in the United States.

It opened adjacent to New Hartford and continued to stage productions until 1999.

Due to a fire, the theater chain relocated to Utica.

In 2003, it opened a new theater complex at Mandeville and State Streets intersection.

The theater now features a year-round schedule of productions that spans the gamut from concerts to children’s theater to Broadway musicals and tragedies.

Favorite titles, including Oklahoma!, Death of a Salesman, and South Pacific, have been featured in past productions.

Have a Friendly Game at AMF Pin-O-Rama Lanes

You may have a great time with your friends and family at AMF Pin-O-Rama Lanes.

It features 48 bowling lanes, a video game arcade, and pool tables.

Visitors will have plenty of opportunities to stop by the venue on Genesee Street near the city’s Memorial Parkway.

If you want to make an evening of it, there’s even a sports bar.

And if you’re a true bowling fanatic, the center’s pro store has everything you need, from shoes to t-shirts to mementos.

Tour and Sample the Spirits of Adirondack Distilling Company

Utica’s Adirondack Distilling Company also makes a variety of high-quality whiskeys, gins, and vodkas in small batches.

The address is 601 Varick Street, in the heart of Utica, New York’s historic district.

The building, constructed as a bank in 1920, is now used as a distillery.

The history of the building transports us back to an era when genuine artisan artisans produced high-quality goods by hand like we do today.

Adirondack Distilling Company combines locally sourced, gluten-free ingredients and an energy-efficient, carbon-neutral distillation process made possible by cutting-edge technology and a hand-crafted copper still imported from Germany.

In addition, by appointment, you may have a 30-minute tour of the facilities and receive a free pair of engraved commemorative glasses as a remembrance.

Pamper Yourself at Lava Spa

Why not treat yourself to a relaxing massage or spa treatment for some much-needed downtime?

At Lava Spa, you may get everything from a relaxing couple’s massage to a revitalizing facial.

Waxing and nail care are two more options.

The spa offers various relaxing treatments, such as mud baths for sore feet and massages with warm oils for the head, shoulders, and neck.

Even if you are traveling for business, a day at the spa might be just what you need to help you relax after a long day of meetings and negotiations.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Explore Spring Farm CARES

Encompassing over 250 acres of verdant lands, this sanctuary is home to more than 200 animals including, donkeys, rabbits, horses, chickens, 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.

Final Thoughts

With lots of exciting activities to enjoy and interesting places to explore, Utica is a city well worth visiting.

Whether you’re traveling alone or with your family, there’s something in this city to promise an unforgettable trip.

To enjoy a truly fun experience while you’re visiting the beautiful state of New York, be sure to include these activities in your itinerary.

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