Syracuse Clinton Square fountain cover

Explore Syracuse

A day trip to Syracuse should include walking through its unique state parks, spending time at one or more renowned museums, and indulging in delicious local food. Located an hour and a half east of Rochester, one of the city’s main attractions is its picturesque downtown area, which is home to a variety of shops, restaurants, museums, and the stunning architecture of historic buildings, including Syracuse City Hall, the Byrne Square building, and the magnificent Art Deco Niagara Mohawk Building.

Clinton Square Syracuse

Visit Clinton Square at Erie Boulevard, and you’ll find a reflecting pool with fountains where the canal once ran through the heart of Syracuse. It’s the perfect spot to appreciate the city’s early history and begin a self-guided walking tour following a Downtown Syracuse guide.

Best of Rochester - Day Trips Around Rochester book

Day Trips Around Rochester, New York

Best of Rochester Award-Winning Book for Best Published Literary Work of 2023.

Plan Your Day Trip to Syracuse

Breakfast

Driving through Syracuse, consider stopping at one of the city’s classic diners, such as B’Ville Diner, The Gem Diner, Stella’s Diner, Mother’s Cupboard, The Market Diner, or Nestico’s Too. If you want something sweet, don’t miss out on Glazed & Confused, a popular spot for handmade doughnuts, or the innovative Rise N Shine Diner, where they transform pancakes into delicious desserts.

Green Lakes State Park Green Lake bench
Green Lakes

Morning

Consider starting your adventure at Chittenango Falls State Park, 30 minutes southeast of Syracuse in Cazenovia. This park is a favorite among waterfall enthusiasts and offers views of the falls from an observation point or a moderately challenging hike to the base. Afterward, head to Green Lakes State Park in Fayetteville, 15 minutes east of Syracuse, known for its turquoise-colored glacial lakes and old-growth forest. Privately owned boats are not allowed on the lakes because of their sensitive nature, but rentals are available, including clear-bottom tandem kayaks. The park offers walking trails, a swimming beach on Green Lake, and an all-terrain wheelchair to assist with beach and trail access.

Colemans Syracuse telephone box
Colemans shepherds pie Syracuse
Colemans Syracuse
Colemans Syracuse

Lunch

Some popular options in or near downtown include Oh My Darling, Modern Malt, XO Taco, and Darwin On Clinton. For a vegan option, check out Strong Hearts, known for its delicious milkshakes. If you’re in the Tipperary Hill neighborhood, be sure to visit Coleman’s Authentic Irish Pub, which offers a special entrance and other amenities just for leprechauns.

Everson Museum Syracuse interior
everson
Everson stairwell Syracuse
Everson ceramics Syracuse
Everson collection Syracuse
Everson Trees of 40 Fruit Syracuse cover
Everson Trees of 40 Fruit

Afternoon

As architect I. M. Pei’s premier museum design, the magnificent Everson Museum of Art building is itself a work of art. Follow the spiral staircase to explore two floors containing nearly 10,000 pieces of American art, including 6,000 objects in their internationally renowned ceramics collection. A concrete plaza along State Street features a sunken reflecting pool on the museum grounds, and a Tree of 40 Fruit collection faces Harrison Street. The museum’s featureless façade makes an ideal screen for moving-picture installations.

Erie Canal Museum Syracuse weighlock
Erie Canal Museum
Erie Canal Museum tavern Syracuse
Erie Canal Museum mural Syracuse
Erie Canal Museum

If you’re interested in local history, check out the Erie Canal Museum and the Onondaga Historical Museum, both of which are free to visit. The Erie Canal Museum features the only surviving weighlock of the seven that once operated on the canal. You’ll find a replica canal boat, tavern, general store, and weighmaster’s office.

Onondaga Historical Museum
Onondaga Historical Museum
Onondaga County Historical Association Syracuse China

The Onondaga Historical Museum offers a variety of permanent and temporary exhibits that cover everything from the area’s role as part of the Underground Railroad to Syracuse China.

MOST Syracuse Museums of Science and Technology

For an interactive science experience, visit the Museum of Science & Technology in Armory Square. The MOST features the Lockheed Martin Flight & Space exhibit, a permanent life-sized dinosaur exhibit, a climbing maze in the science playhouse, and a planetarium with IMAX-style seating.

Rosamond Gifford Zoo Syracuse
Rosamond Gifford Zoo
Rosamond Gifford Zoo entrance Syracuse
Rosamond Gifford Zoo elephant Syracuse

Afterward, spend an hour or so at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, home to twin elephants born at the zoo in 2022.

Colemans green-on-top light Syracuse
Colemans
Syracuse Tipperary Hill red light
Syracuse Tipperary Hill green light

On your way to dinner, drive through the intersection of Tompkins and Milton to see the unique traffic light with the green light at the top, a symbol of Irish pride and resilience.

Syracuse Armory Square cover
Funk n Waffles Syracuse
Kitty Hoynes Syracuse
Lemongrass restaurant Syracuse

Dinner

For a great dining experience that you’ll want to make a reservation for, some of my top picks include Pastabilities, Francesca’s Cucina, Lemon Grass Restaurant, Apizza Regionale, Eden, Spaghetti Warehouse, Funk ’n Waffles, Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub, and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

Check out Heid’s of Liverpool and Limp Lizard BBQ for something more casual if you’re in the Liverpool area.

Landmark Theatre Syracuse
Landmark Theatre

Evening

Consider stopping by Eva’s European Sweets to pick out a delicious dessert to enjoy at home. If you’re visiting during the holiday season, take advantage of the ice-skating at Clinton Square, and the drive-through Christmas lights display at Onondaga Lake Park. Alternatively, you can plan your day trip around a performance at the Landmark Theatre or a Syracuse Orange sports event.

Signature Events

Salt City Market Syracuse
Salt City Market

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

early March

Celebrate Irish-American culture with a parade of dancers and musicians, which begins at Clinton Square, travels down South Salina Street, and ends near Salt City Market.

Taste of Syracuse

early June

The free two-day food festival includes over two dozen musical performances on three stages, and more than 70 innovative food vendors offering tastings for a fee.

New York State Blues Festival

mid-June

One of the region’s most significant free blues events, this annual three-day festival celebrates the blues and its rich cultural history. The lineup features a variety of local and national artists.

The Great New York State Fair

late August

The New York State Fair, established in 1841 and moved to its current location in Syracuse in 1890, is the oldest state fair in the United States. It is also one of the largest, with around one million visitors every year, and some days attracting over 100,000 people. The fair runs annually, starting on the 3rd or 4th Wednesday of August and ending on Labor Day.

Lights on the Lake cover

Lights on the Lake

late November through December

The drive-through holiday light show at Onondaga Lake Park features a two-mile route lined with towering displays, a fantasy forest, vibrant arches, and a magical fairy-tale ending.

Extraordinary Architecture

Niagara Mohawk Building Syracuse
Syracuse
Syracuse
Syracuse
Syracuse
Syracuse architecture Verizon
Syracuse
Syracuse
Syracuse
Syracuse
Syracuse
Syracuse
Jerry Rescue monument Syracuse Clinton Square

Look up, look down, look all around!

Syracuse City Hall
Syracuse City Hall tower
Syracuse City Hall geodetic survey marker
Syracuse City Hall fossils
Syracuse City Hall fossils

Be sure to take a close look at Syracuse City Hall. There are fossils embedded in the facade!

Syracuse mural State and Genesee

Google Map of Locations

View the map separately here.

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Your insights and experiences are valuable. Please share them in the comments.

Debi Bower, Day Trips Around Rochester NY

Debi Bower is the founder and creative director of daytrippingroc.com and author of the award-winning book Day Trips Around Rochester, New York.

People often ask me if I get free access to places while exploring. The answer is no unless I’m invited to previews or granted behind-the-scenes access as part of my media role. Generally, I don’t mention my project, Day Trips Around Rochester, NY, because I want the same experience you would have. I create and share content simply because it brings me joy. I would appreciate your support—a cup of coffee or two to help fuel future field trips—if you have found valuable information here that has helped you explore the Rochester area.

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