Blake Walsh

25 Best Things to Do in Watertown, NY

  • Published 2023/03/08

Located in New York state, Watertown is one of the most prosperous cities in the United States.

As its name suggests, Watertown has a lot of water bodies, especially waterfalls that stream from the Black River.

A perfect summer destination, the city presents tourists with many opportunities for water sports activities like kayaking and whitewater rafting.

It also boasts beautiful works of architecture, historical attractions, and refreshing green spaces.

Interested in finding out what else you can enjoy here?

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

Visit the Public Square

A water fountain at Public Square

Wangkun Jia /

The Public Square is an open-air mall situated right in the city’s heart.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it comprises 58 buildings.

Old buildings along Public Square

Wangkun Jia /

The square is beautifully constructed in a rectangular shape, with buildings lining its sides and an oval Park situated in its center.

The buildings house various establishments such as shops, restaurants, churches, houses, and more.

The road of Public Square

Wangkun Jia /

Go Hiking at the Historic Thompson Park

Scenic view from Thompson Park

dodsan8664 /

Thompson Park is one of the most beautiful urban parks in Watertown.

It was designed by the famous architect John Charles Olmstead and was established in 1899 by John C. Thompson, who then gifted it to the city.

What makes it famous are the various lovely wooded trails where you can go hiking.

There is also a monument dedicated to the soldiers who lost their lives.

The playground is also lovely, and kids love prancing around there.

The splash pad is another unique feature of this park.

Meet Animals at the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park

Exterior of New York State Zoo's visitor center

Kurt Thomas Hunt, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The New York State Zoo at Thompson Park is a great family-friendly attraction.

While it may be small, the animal species housed here are magnificent.

The exhibits are placed at long distances and make for a great walking exercise.

Some of the species you can find here include bears, lions, and otters.

The tours are well-guided, and information is provided on each animal kept here.

Most of them were rescued from the wild and are now nurtured here in safe and habitable living conditions.

Enjoy Adventurous Activities on the Black River

Winter view of Black River

Tino Ashaw /

Whitewater rafting on the Black River is one of the most joyous and exciting things you should experience in Watertown.

The Black River is one of the many mighty tributaries of the large Lake Ontario and makes for a place to enjoy adventures and water sports activities.

Whitewater rafting and kayaking and very popular on many stretches of the river.

The waters of Black River

Figuresforfun /

You can try these out, especially if you’re visiting in the summer.

The river provides a very hospitable environment for various species like trout, salmon, and bass, making fishing a gratifying activity here.

The Black River also obtains its name from the natural tannic acid deposits present in the river, or so it is believed.

It makes for a mysterious backdrop for pictures and is an excellent spot for photography.

Have Some Apple Cider at the Burrville Cider Mill

If you want to try some authentic cider, the Burrville Cider Mill is the place you need to visit.

Apple lovers swear by this mill and its apple juice, apple butter, and more.

Apple season is the best time to visit the Burrville Cider Mill.

They have fresh, delicious, and pressed apple cider, along with apple cider donuts that are a rare specialty.

These are a must-try.

Most of those who visit say that they serve some of the best apple cider they’ve ever tasted.

You can buy some to take back home with you.

There is also honey and pumpkin butter available for purchase.

Shop for Local Goods at the Watertown Farm and Craft Market

Watertown Farm and Craft Market is one of the top places in Watertown among locals.

This is where you can get fresh and organic produce at wallet-friendly prices.

Corn, carrots, and other veggies are handpicked by farmers and sold here.

To create a quaint and hospitable atmosphere, there is live music played at the venue.

Some of the other vendors that set up stalls here sell honey, jams, cookies, cupcakes, handmade crafts, and more.

Food trucks are also quite popular at this farmers’ market.

Exercise Your Minds at The Escape Works

The Escape Works is a popular escape room center in Watertown.

The rooms are all great and very well-made.

You will have a lot of fun if you visit with a large group of friends or up to three families as you solve clues and try to win against time.

The hints are subtle but quite challenging to understand, so make sure to put your thinking caps on.

Overall, it’s a great and fun experience and a great way to bond with friends and peers or with family.

Plan a Day of Fun with Whitewater Challengers

If you want to make the most of your day on the Black River, Whitewater Challengers will ensure that you have the best day all planned out.

Really great trips are organized over a day and include all the fun activities you can do on the river, including rafting, kayaking, and more.

You can also swim next to their boat for a little while.

They also take pictures for you as you have fun with your friends and family, which you can purchase at affordable rates.

The package includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner, complete with vegetarian and vegan options.

See a Movie at Black River Drive-In Theatre

Watching movies is always fun, and if you add a drive-in theater to the mix, you’re all set for a great movie night.

The Black River Drive-In Theatre restaurants are pretty affordable and provide great menu options for you to enjoy during your movie, such as pizzas and chicken tenders.

It’s a great way to relax at the end of a long day.

The facility is also very well-maintained, with safety and cleanliness as their top priorities.

Take Your Kids to the Fun on the Run Arcade

The Fun on the Run Arcade is one of Watertown’s most popular kid-friendly spots.

The game room is small but neatly organized, with various arcade games available.

There are also dartboards and pool tables for adults and parents visiting with their kids.

College students run the place, and there’s a laid-back atmosphere here.

Shop for Souvenirs at Salmon Run Mall

People eating at Salmon Run Mall's foodcourt

Lallint, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

What makes this mall special is that it has a lot of local stores and boutiques along with the typical high-end stores.

It’s an ideal place for light shopping and looking for souvenirs to take home.

The perpetuball motion machine in Salmon Run Mall

Lallint, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Salmon Run Mall is also where you can enjoy beauty-related services like haircuts, eyebrow threading, manicures, and pedicures.

There are also restaurants and food stalls where you can have a quick bite while taking a break from shopping.

The mall also has a quaint little theater where you can watch a movie.

Interior of Salmon Run Mall

Lallint, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dine at Maggie’s on the River

The perfect mix of a hospitable staff and incredibly delicious food is what defines Maggie’s on the River.

This place makes for the perfect dinner location after a long and tiring day.

Apart from their classic American offerings like cheesesteaks, burgers, and fries, what makes the menu special is that the dishes are all prepared by great chefs.

Pair your choice of food with some red wine or a beer, and you’re in for a great night ahead.

Some of the must-try dishes are the appetizers, such as the Philly egg rolls and the chicken parm sandwiches.

Visit the Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library

Exterior of Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library

Stephen Schweitzer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Built in 1904, the incredible Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library is set in a Grecian theme.

Though primarily a library, its architecture is so beautiful that it gives you a feel of a museum due to its antique style.

Interior of Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library

The Weekly Stash, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There is a sprawling garden located all around alongside Roman-style statues.

The murals are stunning and intricate.

There is also a large rotunda located on the grounds.

The library in Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library

Alan P. Goldstein, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Go Bowling at Pla-Mor Lanes

Bowling is a fun sport and bonding activity, and Pla-More Lanes in Watertown is a great place to enjoy it.

With as many as 16 lanes, this center is the perfect spot for fun with the whole family.

It also provides an excellent opportunity to polish your bowling skills.

Various locals host small parties here, like birthdays and other events.

There is also a snack bar where you can buy some food and drinks to go along with your games.

Pay Respects to the Country’s Heroes at the Soldiers and Sailors Civil War Monument

The rear of Soldiers and Sailors Civil War Monument

Oaktree b, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Watertown’s Public Square is home to the Soldiers and Sailors Civil War Monument.

North Country people who served during the Civil War were honored in 1891 when it was completed.

Built of granite, the monument reaches a height of fifty stories.

An “allegorical figure of Victory” adorns the column’s crown.

A bronze sailor and soldier may be seen on the south and north sides of the monument, respectively, and memorial bronze plaques on the west and east elevations.

In 2012, it underwent restoration, stabilization, and cleaning.

Enjoy Winter Activities at Dry Hill Ski Area

Dry Hill Ski Area is usually closed to visitors during the summer months.

Nonetheless, it is a great place to go skiing during winter.

If you have never skied before or are a total novice, don’t worry.

Each participant receives a complete set of skis and snowboards to get them started on the slopes.

The area is really kid-friendly, so there’s no reason not to bring the small ones along if you’re in Watertown.

Unleash Your Inner Geek at Sci-Tech Museum

Sci-Tech Museum is a treasure trove of information and awe-inspiring artifacts.

The Sci-Tech Museum has over 40 spectacular and interactive exhibits within a 3,600-foot building.

Regardless of your age, the museum will spark your curiosity and imagination.

Because Sci-Tech is the only hands-on science facility in the whole Northern New York region, you know you’re getting a unique experience when you visit.

You may also schedule group tours and even science-themed birthday parties here.

Grab a Can of Beer at Boots Brewing Company

It is a common misconception that only large brewers can produce high-quality beer.

Check out Boots Brewing Company, a microbrewery, and taproom in Upstate New York.

With each pint they pour, Boots Brewing Company in the historic Lincoln Building in downtown Watertown tells a tale.

In addition, the brewmasters here are steadfast in their devotion to craft brewing, giving each batch the care it deserves.

With 12 beers on tap and six on deck, Boots Brewing Company can have a beer to suit your taste buds.

Ready Your Game Face on at Zero Latency VR – New York

If you’re a gamer, don’t miss the chance to experience a whole new level of gaming in Watertown.

Playing games at Zero Latency is so immersive that you think you’ve been transported to another planet.

Visitors to Zero Latency may expect to be given a virtual reality headset, a powerful VR computer in a backpack, and a pick-up controller that allows them to interact with the virtual worlds of their favorite games in a precise manner.

Far Cry, Sol Raiders, Undead Arena, Mission Maybee, and Zombie Survival are just a few of the games offered to visitors.

Avoid disappointment by scheduling an appointment in advance.

Relax at Mint Julep Spa and Salon

Long day?

Loosen those tightened knots and relax for an hour or two at Mint Julep Spa and Salon.

The spa offers calming and therapeutic massage services, including Shiatsu, Swedish, Reflexology, Hot Stone, Prenatal Massage, Medical, and Sports Massage.

It’s the best spot for you to relax after a long day getting around Watertown.

The spa also offers haircare services, waxing, facials, body treatments, lash extensions, nail care, and laser hair removal, among others.

And all these are rendered by experienced and licensed professionals, giving you an assurance that you’re in safe hands!

Mint Julep Spa and Salon is located at 165 Mechanic Street behind Burger King.

Buy Antiques at Paddock Art & Antiques

If you’re an antique lover, you can find yourself browsing through the collections at Paddock Art & Antiques.

This little quaint shop is loaded with treasures from antique and vintage home decor, furnishings, crates, kitchenware, tableware, paintings, and many more.

If you love the nautical side of things, the store has antique buoys, anchors, water casks, as well as Native American tools and equipment.

Business owners and homeowners love this spot as it offers a bit of everything!

Paddock Art & Antiques is located in the oldest continuously running mall in America; the Paddock Arcade.

Play Golf at the Watertown Golf Club

Golfing with spectacular views comes in handy in the city with Watertown Golf Club.

The 18-hole golf course caters to all skill levels; may it be a beginner or an advanced player.

It features beautiful rolling fairways, lots of sets of tees, and strategically-placed bunkers, which are all great for both players who want a challenge or a relaxed tee time.

The Watertown Golf Club also hosts tournaments, weddings, fundraisers, and banquets.

It’s located in historic Thompson Park.

Have Fun Throwing Axes at Kiss My Axe

Keep your pulses intact, aim at your target, and throw your axe like a pro at Kiss My Axe.

The amusement center features an axe-throwing facility, where friends and families gather together for a fun-filled activity in Watertown.

If it’s your first time throwing axes, think about dart-throwing!

Also, you’ll have a guide to assist you the entire time you’re throwing axes with your friends and loved ones.

Kiss My Axe also offers delicious wings, pizza, wine, beer, and other snacks and beverages to enjoy from.

You can find it at the Center Court of Salmon Run Mall.

Get Your Coffee Fix at The Brew HaHa

Serving delicious coffee and warm smiles, The Brew HaHa is the go-to spot for coffee lovers.

The coffeehouse is popular for using Black Rifle Coffee as a support to war veterans, especially because it’s a veteran-owned small business.

Try its delicious breakfast eats with a great coffee seletion, including New York-style bagels, sandwiches, and gourmet breakfast with sausage or bacon to your liking.

If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you can opt for non-dairy milk to use for your favorite cup of coffee.

The Brew HaHa is located off Coffeen Street.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Explore Watertown’s Neighboring Islands with Clayton Island Tours

A Clayton Island Tours boat on the water

Dan OConnell Photography /

Clayton Island Tours is one of the only tour companies that allow you to visit Watertown’s neighboring islands and explore them.

They plan meticulous and fun tours to the T, and there are various options available as per your interests.

Some of the options available are the Rock Island tour, the Clayton Island tour, and the Boldt Castle tour.

The boats are all glass-bottomed and make for a fun and beautiful experience as you can look at the waters underneath.

The guides are all well-informed and give you significant bits of information.

It is one of the perfect companies to tour islands located on the St. Lawrence River.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of your age or interests, you’ll find something to suit your tastes in this town.

Whether you visit Watertown in the summer or the winter, travel alone, with a loved one, or with your whole family, you will have a blast.

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