The 20 Best Things To Do In Syracuse, NY For First Timers

Tipperary Hill Traffic Light

Syracuse is the perfect destination if you want to visit New York but escape the hustle and bustle of the city. There is plenty to do all year round and so it doesn’t really matter when you visit. Twenty of the best things to do in Syracuse for first timers are listed below.

The Carrier Dome

20. The Carrier Dome

The Carrier Dome is the largest structure on the campus of Syracuse University and is the only stadium with a dome in the surrounding area. The stadium is predominantly used for sporting events featuring the university teams and tickets for these events are widely available. The official capacity of the stadium is over 30,000. It is also used as a performance venue and some of the artists that have appeared here include Taylor Swift, Elton John and Bruce Springsteen. The venue was first opened in 1980.

Tree of 40 Fruits

19. Tree of 40 Fruits

The tree of 40 fruits was created by Professor Sam Van Aken through the process of grafting. The professor teaches st Syracuse University and the tree is located on the campus where you are able to go and view it. The tree is still tended to by Professor Van Aken and there are several varieties of fruits such as peaches, cherries and plums. According to the Syracuse website he knows that trees such as this won’t solve world hunger but the idea could get people talking about the things that they can do.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

18. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

There are Dinosaur Bar-B-Que restaurants all over New York and there is also one branch in New Jersey. However, the one that is located in Syracuse was the first one to open back in 1988. Before that the owners had ran a mobile concession stand for five years. The building that it is housed in was first constructed in the 1920s and it has always been used for bars and restaurants. The restaurant is recognized as one of the best places to eat BBQ food and has been featured on Good Morning America and the Food Network.

Destiny USA

17. Destiny USA

Destiny USA is a shopping mall and entertainment complex that is the biggest venue of its kind in the United States. There are over 250 places to play, dine and shop here and these are located over six stories. It is possible to spend a whole day here and you will be spoiled for choice when it comes to finding something to eat. Many of the shops are outlet stores and so it is a great place to find a bargain. Other attractions at Destiny USA include WonderWorks, Lazer Tag and the Canyon Climb.

Tipperary Hill Traffic Light

16. Tipperary Hill Traffic Light

Gizmodo points out that the story of the upside down traffic light on Tipperary Hill is more of an urban legend than actual history. The traffic light is the only one in the United States where the green appears at the top and the red at the bottom. The story goes that the Irish were not happy that the red of Britain appeared above the green of Ireland. Local youths repeatedly kept smashing the red light until town officials relented and turned the traffic light upside down.

Stickley Museum

15. Stickley Museum

The Stickley Museum is located about twenty minutes away from downtown Syracuse. It is on the site of the original L and JG Stickley factory. The museum is located on the second floor of the factory but it is fully accessible. The factory is free to enter and contains examples of furniture that has been made by the company throughout its one hundred year history. Stickley Furniture has always been very popular throughout the United States because of its sturdiness and quality. The history of the company can be explored at the museum.

Ska-nonh Great Law of Peace Center

14. Ska-nonh Great Law of Peace Center

Ska-nonh is a traditional greeting in the Onondaga Nation that means peace and wellness but it is also a state of being. The Ska-nonh Great Law of Peace Center is located on the shores of Onondaga lake and is a heritage center that tell the story of the native people of central New York state. The Onondaga Nation was one of five nations that made up the Haudenosaunee people. The Center is full of stories about the history of these people and how they still apply the Haudenosaunee principles to their daily lives today.

Beaver Lake Nature Center

13. Beaver Lake Nature Center

The Beaver Lake Nature Center is located just fifteen minutes away from downtown Syracuse. There are over 200 species of wildlife that live in the park. There are nine miles of trails to be explored here and these can be enjoyed all year round. The trails are designed for walking and are good for people of all fitness levels as they only have gradual inclines. Over 400 programs are ran at the center on an annual basis, and so there is sure to be something happening whenever you visit.

Syracuse Hall of Fame

12. Syracuse Hall of Fame

Crazy Tourist reports that the Hall of Fame can be found at a temporary location at the moment, although the search is ongoing for a new premises. The Hall of Fame was established in 1986 and celebrates the achievements of athletes and sports stars that have risen to the top of their game. There have been over 200 people added to the Hall of Fame so far and memorabilia that has been donated by them and their families can be seen on display.

Harriet May Mills House

11. Harriet May Mills House

Harriet May Mills was a woman’s rights activist who was heavily involved in the suffragette movement in the United States. She was the first female to run for statewide office when she ran for New York’s Secretary of State in 1920. Her parents were both abolitionists and the house where Harriet was raised was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. The house was built around 1857 and today it can be found on the National Women’s Rights History Trail. The house is open to visitors but only at limited times and you will need to phone ahead for an appointment.

The Salt Museum

10. The Salt Museum

Salt is the industry that the city of Syracuse grew up around. The salt that was produced here was used to supply the whole country. The Salt Museum lets visitors explore the role that salt had to play in the history of Syracuse. The museum is located on the site of an original boiling block where brine was turned into salt. It is open seven days a week between May and October. Admission to the museum is free and there is a gift shop where you can purchase a memento of your day and support the educational work of the museum.

Onondaga Historical Association Museum

9. Onondaga Historical Association Museum

The Onondaga Historical Association Museum is located in downtown Syracuse and is the best place to discover the history of Onondaga County. Entry to the museum is free and it is open five days a week from Wednesday to Sunday. The museum has permanent exhibits which can be viewed alongside temporary exhibits which are only present for a limited time. Current exhibits can be found on the museum website. One of the most popular permanent exhibits is Journey to Freedom which explores the role that Syracuse played in the Underground Railroad. Events are held at the museum throughout the year to celebrate specific events.

Everson Museum of Art

8. Everson Museum of Art

The Everson is known as the museum of firsts. It was the first museum in the United States that dedicated itself to the collection of American art. It also commissioned the architect I.M. Pei to design the building the museum is housed in when he was still relatively unknown. It was also the first museum to establish a permanent collection of ceramics, and it is this collection for which the museum is best known. In total, there over 11,000 exhibits at the museum and docent led tours are available on a daily basis.

Museum of Science and Technology

7. Museum of Science and Technology

The Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology is commonly referred to as MoST. The museum is set over 35,000 square feet and has thousands of exhibits as well as an immersive IMAX theater. The museum is also home to the Silverman Planetarium and there are three shows held here everyday at the weekend and during the school holidays. The Dino Zone is particularly popular with children and has examples of dinosaur skin and eggs that can be touched.

Niagara Mohawk Building

6. Niagara Mohawk Building

The Niagara Mohawk Building is one of the most of the most recognizable landmarks in Syracuse. According to Atlas Obscura, it is a finer example of art deco architecture than you will find anywhere in Manhattan. The building was completed in 1932 as the Niagara Hudson Building and served as the headquarters of the Niagara Hudson Electrical Company. It was designed to be a cathedral of light and so it is covered with light features that make the building illuminated at night. There is no public access to the building, but it is well worth walking past at night to see how it looks when it is all lit up.

Onondaga Lake Park

5. Onondaga Lake Park

Onondaga Lake Park is described as the ‘Central Park of Central New York’. The park stretches for seven and a half miles along the shore of Onondaga Lake. There are four walking trails around the park which give great views of the lake and the surrounding parkland. If you want to explore the park by bicycle, then these can be rented from the Griffin Visitor Center. There are plenty of shaded picnic areas located around the park where you can stop and enjoy your lunch. Other activities that are available at the park include archery, bocce and fishing.

Museum of Intrigue

4. Museum of Intrigue

The Museum of Intrigue is nothing like a normal museum. There are exhibits for you to discover, but the whole experience is completely immersive and very theatrical. You can choose a story that will take you on a journey through the museum with a mystery to solve. There are clues to follow, riddles to solve and actors who will guide you on your way. No matter which story you choose, you will still get to explore the entire museum. The museum is great fun for people of all ages.

Erie Canal Museum

3. Erie Canal Museum

The Erie Canal Museum is located in the only weightlock building that remains in the whole country. Vacation Idea lists this as the top attraction to visit in Syracuse. The canal was completed in 1825 and stretched 363 miles from Albany to Buffalo. The canal was paved over in Syracuse in the 1920s but had a vital role to play in the history of the town and this story is told at the museum. There is also a full size replica canal boat that you can explore. Docent led tours are held at the museum but it is recommended that you call ahead to check times for the day you want to visit.

Rosamond Gifford Zoo

2. Rosamond Gifford Zoo

The zoo is set over 43 acres and is home to more than 700 animals. It was founded in 1914 and today is ranked in the top ten percent of zoos in the United States. You can explore the zoo at your own pace, or guided tours are available which need to be booked in advance. Just over half of the exhibits at the zoo are indoors, and only animals that can live comfortably in cold weather are kept outside. Highlights at the zoo include the Asian Elephant Preserve where a herd of eight elephants live, and the Domestic Animal Barn where you will have the chance to pet alpacas, goats and other barnyard animals.

Clinton Square

1. Clinton Square

Clinton Square was the original center of the city of Syracuse. It was the point where the roads from the north and south convened and it dates back to the early 19th Century. There are always events that are being held in the square and it is a place that is popular with locals as well as tourists. The square is surrounded by some of the oldest buildings in the city, and it is a great place to sit and enjoy the beautiful architecture of some of these buildings.


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