Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do With Kids in Utica, NY

  • Published 2022/11/01

Utica is a bustling city in Oneida County, New York State.

With a population of over 65,000 per the United States 2020 census, it is the tenth most populous city in the state.

It may sound modest by today’s standards.

In 1845, Utica was the 29th largest city in the U.S., beating the likes of Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit.

Several Native American tribes, most notably the Mohawk, Onondaga, and Oneida nations, lived there before the establishment of Old Fort Schuyler in 1758.

Today, Utica is a highly-livable and dynamic city rich in culture and history.

Moreover, it is also replete with many attractions offering recreational and educational experiences for the whole family.

Here are the best things to do in Utica, New York, with kids:

See Fascinating Art at Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute

Exterior view of Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute

Mahmoud Suhail /

Located at Genesee Street, Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute is a premier art museum in Utica and the entire Oneida County.

With its distinct, modern-design building, the art institute is the perfect way to introduce the kids to the colorful world of art.

The art institute houses hundreds of priceless art pieces, including its collection of American historical and 19th-century decorative arts.

Exterior view of Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute

Mahmoud Suhail /

It also features Modern and Contemporary American Art examples, along with European Modernism.

Moreover, the art institute also holds an extensive collection of drawings and graphic arts.

Additionally, it also hosts special events like film showings and art workshops.

Thanks to its massive collection of art representing different genres and periods, Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute allows children to appreciate art.

Exterior view of Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute

Mahmoud Suhail /

Learn about the Region’s Past at Oneida County History Center

Housed in a grand classical-style building complete with towering columns, Oneida County History Center is one of the most striking landmarks in Utica.

Founded in 1876, the museum tells the story of Oneida County and the upper Mohawk River Valley, from its Native American heritage to its modern-day milestones.

You can find various exhibits containing fascinating artifacts from the region’s history within the museum’s 5,000-square-foot gallery.

Its collections include household items, personal memorabilia, and photographs across different periods.

The museum also highlights the pivotal role of Utica as a station for the Underground Railroad.

The city enabled the safe passage of more than 650 slaves toward freedom in the 1850s.

Moreover, the museum’s research library contains over 250,000 books and documents.

Along with rotating exhibits, the museum also hosts special programs, events, and other interactive activities for adults and children all year long.

Oneida County History Center’s exciting exhibits are an excellent way for kids to learn and appreciate the past.

Explore and Play at F.T. Proctor Park

As one of Utica’s major recreation areas, F.T. Proctor Park is a beautiful 62-acre patch of nature in the city’s eastern part.

Kids will have a fantastic time exploring the park’s lily pond and butterfly garden with its clean surroundings.

During spring and summer, the park also becomes a popular swimming spot for the kids thanks to the clean, shallow waters of Starch Factory Creek.

As a play area, the park contains basketball courts and vast playing fields where children can run around to their hearts’ content.

Moreover, kids will also enjoy biking along the park’s well-paved pathways.

F.T. Proctor Park provides a fun and relaxing experience for you and your kids.

Observe Nature at Utica Marsh Wildlife Management Area

Scenic view of Utica Marsh Wildlife Management Area

Mahmoud Suhail /

Utica Marsh Wildlife Management Area is a pristine piece of nature in the northern part of the city.

Spanning 213 acres, its landscape comprises primarily of wetlands along with a few developments, which allow for easy access for visitors.

As a popular spot for wildlife-watching, the area serves as a home to various species of birds.

Scenic view of Utica Marsh Wildlife Management Area

Mahmoud Suhail /

Along with two observation towers, it also has boardwalks built over marshlands, allowing closer and unobstructed views of the environment.

You can also take the kids for a fun boating and fishing experience at Mohawk River.

Moreover, children can enjoy biking on well-paved sections of the trails while enjoying the scenic views of the river and the marshlands.

Thanks to its natural beauty and accessibility, Utica Marsh Wildlife Management Area is the perfect spot to take the kids for a fun and memorable nature-watching.

Scenic view of Utica Marsh Wildlife Management Area

Mahmoud Suhail /

Go Bowling at AMF Pin-O-Rama Lanes

Located at Genesee Street, AMF Pin-O-Rama Lanes is Utica’s go-to place for a fun round of bowling action for the whole family.

With its 48 bowling lanes, there’s plenty to play around in this bowling alley.

Their bowling balls also come in various sizes, including smaller ones that children can comfortably grip.

On the other hand, they also have several pool tables which you can play between bowling matches.

Moreover, they have several arcade machines with new and classic games.

You won’t have to worry about going hungry in this bowling alley as they also serve tasty meals and snacks like burgers and oven-fired pizzas.

Playing bowling is always a fun family bonding experience.

AMF Pin-O-Rama Lanes promises you and your kids will enjoy every bit of it when you play in their alley.

Check Out the Super Cool Exhibits at N.Y. Energy Zone

One of the most excellent places in Utica is the N.Y. Energy Zone, located within the city’s Roscoe Conkling Park.

The center aims to educate everyone, especially the kids, on the fascinating facts about energy in New York State, from its history to its future and beyond.

It also features fantastic interactive exhibits for an immersive and memorable experience like no other.

As such, kids will learn how to build light bulbs, power grids, wind, and solar installations, besides learning how these engineering marvels work.

Kids and adults alike will also experience what it feels like to be a control room operator and simulate flying a drone over power lines.

With the immersive 3D movie experience, kids will also have a fantastic time exploring the “Future of the Grid.”

Thanks to all these remarkable features, N.Y. Energy Zone provides you and your kids with a unique and memorable experience in Utica.

Go Swimming at Addison Miller Park

This Utica City public swimming pool is within its premises.

Addison Miller Park stands out among all the recreation areas in the city.

The sizeable clean pool has a shallow section, perfect for kids to swim and play safely.

On the other hand, the park’s playground features with play structures such as a jungle gym, swings, and see-saws.

Moreover, the park houses a basketball court and baseball fields where Little League matches usually occur.

The park’s well-maintained open field is also perfect for playing and running.

Whether going for a quick swim to cool off or looking for an excellent play area, your kids can enjoy Addison Miller Park.

Go Skating at Lincoln Playground

Located at the heart of Utica, Lincoln Playground is the city’s go-to place for skating.

The skate park contains challenging and beginner-friendly features, making it accessible to everyone.

The playground features other fun play structures like a jungle gym and swings.

There’s also a baseball field and basketball court for those who want to play sports.

Moreover, the playground has wide open play areas for little children to bike or run around.

Lincoln Playground is a must-visit for kids who want to hone their skating skills.

See Amazing Animals at Utica Zoo

Sign at Utica Zoo

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

The 35-acre Utica Zoo, located within Roscoe Conkling Park, is one of the most famous attractions in the city.

Starting with three fallow deer in 1914, the zoo’s total inhabitants have grown to over 200 animals from nearly a hundred species.

Its mammalian residents include the mighty lions, elusive red panda, and Visayan warty pigs, among others.

View of Utica Zoo

Mahmoud Suhail /

The zoo also houses many reptiles, such as pythons, lizards, and several species of turtles.

Moreover, you can find birds like towering ostriches, majestic bald eagles, and cute bantam chickens.

The zoo is open for field trips, both self-guided and guided tours.

It also has programs that allow anyone to encounter animals closely, particularly the Bactrian camels and Nigerian Dwarf Goats.

The zoo also hosts summer camps for kids and teens and special events like Bright Nights at the Zoo, where the zoo turns into a colorful light show.

On the other hand, onsite food concession will ensure you and your kids can quickly grab a meal within the zoo.

Utica Zoo is the best place to take the kids for them to learn about the fantastic animals and appreciate the environment.

Go Skiing at Val Bialas Ski Center

Every winter, Van Bialas Ski Center attracts people of all ages wanting to enjoy skiing down the snow-capped slopes.

The center gets its name from Valentine Bialas, a three-time Olympian speed skater, and Utica native.

Its amenities include a rope tow, a chair lift, and an ice rink.

Along with a separate sledding hill, the center also features five trails, each different offering levels of change.

Nevertheless, you and your kids will already have tons of fun playing in the snow around you.

There’s also a chalet with a snack bar, perfect for grabbing a quick bit after a tiring skiing round.

Whether skiing or playing in the snow, Van Bialas Ski Center is a winter wonderland everyone should visit.

Play Pool at Utica Billiards on the Boulevard

Located along Oriskany Street, Utica Billiards on the Boulevard is a family-friendly billiards hall with a few neat features.

The billiards hall contains over a dozen pool tables of various sizes, including a seven-foot bar box pocket billiard tables, which are perfect for smaller players.

Moreover, the billiards hall has other playing facilities that everyone can enjoy like ping-pong and foosball tables.

They also have an arcade and puzzle and board games to keep the kids busy for hours.

Completing the experience is their menu of tasty comfort food like chicken tenders, burgers, and sandwiches served hot and fresh.

With lots of play options, great food, and a friendly environment, Utica Billiards on the Boulevard always has something for everyone to enjoy.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Learn about the American Revolution at Oriskany Battlefield State Historic Site

View of Oriskany Battlefield State Historic Site

M Colangelo Sr, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visiting the Oriskany Battlefield State Historic Site is a great way to introduce the kids to the American Revolution.

Its place in American history was the scene of the Battle of Oriskany on August 06, 1777.

It is one of the bloodiest skirmishes in the American Revolution.

Nearly 400 patriots died during the single-day battle, including Brigadier General Nicholas Herkimer.

Over a hundred years after the battle, the historic site was established in 1884 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1962.

View of Oriskany Battlefield State Historic Site

Jacob Ravinski, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Today, the historic site contains an obelisk memorializing the battle and a museum housing many war-time relics and memorabilia.

The historic site also hosts special events, particularly re-enactments of the battle.

On the other hand, the historic site also contains picnic areas where families can relax and let kids play around.

With its significant historical significance and refreshing environment, Oriskany Battlefield State Historic Site is a great place to visit for history buffs and everyone.

You can find this site in Oriskany, New York, 15 minutes from Utica.

Hit the Greens at Beacon Golf Center

Beacon Golf Center is a driving range in Marcy, New York, seven minutes from Utica.

This course is a great way to introduce the kids to the fun sport.

It features well-maintained greens, just like a full-fledged golf course.

They also offer complimentary use of their golf clubs which come in various sizes, so there’s no need to bring your own.

Depending on weather conditions, they also are open until the evening, allowing you to enjoy some nighttime playing.

Moreover, they also have a vending machine where you can grab your favorite refreshing soda.

With its perfect location, pleasant atmosphere, and valuable features, Beacon Golf Center offers hours of pure golfing fun for the whole family.

Enjoy the Family Fun Factory

A nine-minute drive southwest from Utica to New Hartford, New York, will lead you to The Family Fun Factory.

The amusement center has many fun features both children and adults can enjoy.

Kids will have a wonderful time in their playground equipped with trampolines and slides, along with their inflatable obstacle course.

Everyone can also join laser tag matches and play in the arcade with new and exciting games.

The amusement center also has Teddy Mountain, where kids can buy cute stuffed toys, along with their unique clothes and accessories.

The experience will also not be complete without their delicious pizza and other tasty treats.

As an all-in-one place for family entertainment, the Family Fun Factory has more than enough features to keep everyone busy for hours.

Dig for Precious Crystals at Herkimer Diamond Mines KOA Resort

A 23-minute drive from downtown Utica to Herkimer, New York, will take you to Herkimer Diamond Mines KOA Resort.

This place offers a highly-unique and fun experience, especially for children.

It allows the guests and prospectors to dig around numerous locations for the sought-after Herkimer quartz.

Known for its beauty and strength rivaling genuine diamonds, Herkimer quartz was formed more than 500 million years ago.

It featured a similar geometrical shape to its fancier cousin, hence the name.

More importantly, the resort allows you to keep whatever you find.

Additionally, the resort features a Mining & Lapidary Station where you can take your precious finds and transform them into beautiful ornaments.

Moreover, the resort also offers fun educational programs and activities geared primarily toward teens, most notably its Rock, Gem, and STEAM Camp.

Along with its rental cabins, you can also stay overnight at the resort in camping tents and R.V.s.

Other neat facilities in the resort include a swimming pool and onsite dining options.

Herkimer Diamond Mines KOA Resort is the perfect place for a fun and memorable family adventure.

Final Thoughts

From its historical and industrial roots, Utica has become a lively city in the heart of New York State.

Moreover, the city’s family-friendly attractions blend perfectly with its inviting atmosphere and lively vibe.

Discover the best things to do in Utica, New York, with kids!

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