Upstate New York is packed with a plethora of towns and cities that make it a veritable warm weather wonderland for those looking to combine epic natural surroundings with hip, cool spots that are eclectic and fun to visit. Think Big Apple vibes but with fresh air; historic hamlets and buildings rather than steel skyscrapers; and elevated experiences tinged with small town charm.
And one of the best spots in New York state to experience big city cred laced with nature at its finest, is the gateway to the Finger Lakes: the stunning city of Syracuse. Situated snugly between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, Syracuse is famed for its snowy weather and uber cool winter recreation. However, when the weather heats up, the city also becomes a bastion of fun festivals and cool events that adds to the bustling charm of its hip downtown area. And don’t forget about Mother Nature—in summer, the nearby parks and lakes transform into natural retreats that are breathtakingly beautiful, with outdoor recreation that rivals the area’s famed winter wonders. Below is a three-day itinerary perfect for any traveler looking to visit Syracuse—packed with both downtown destinations a-plenty and natural attractions that give the area its reputation as an unforgettable lakeside getaway.
Day One: Get To Know Syracuse
The best way to start any trip to Syracuse is by exploring the downtown area—packed with plenty of character and neighborhood charm, it’s super easy to find a plethora of fun things to do. And because Syracuse is both pedestrian and bike friendly, visitors can explore a variety of its diverse districts all in one day by following the multi-use Onondaga Creekwalk, or by simply meandering through the city’s easy to navigate streets—the perfect intro to an epic three days in the city.
- Stroll through downtown and see some of the city’s most iconic sights such as the Landmark Theater, then grab lunch at one of the city’s most famous delis, Darwin on Clinton, home to delish gourmet sandwiches and epic buffalo mac & cheese
- Head to the heart of downtown Syracuse, Clinton Square. Home to a number of fun outdoor events throughout the year, including the famous Salt City Summerfest (July 24-September 11) and the Downtown Farmer’s Market, there are also a number of great spots to hang out and soak up the Syracuse vibes, including Talking Cursive Brewing Company
- Columbus Circle is full of history and culture— highlights include the Everson Museum of Art and Firefighter’s Memorial Park
- Syracuse is home to an eclectic food scene known for its hip, casual eateries. Cap off an epic day one with a bite at one of the best, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, then head for a nightcap at The York in Armor Square
Where To Stay In Syracuse
The good news is, there’s no bad place to set up camp in Syracuse—with easy access to any number of fun attractions, no matter where vacationers choose to stay, they will always be just a short walk (or bike ride!) away from all the action.
- Jefferson Clinton Suites 416 S Clinton St. Located in the city’s happening Armory Square neighborhood, this hip historic hotel is smack dab in the heart of some of Syracuse’s coolest restaurants and shops. Rates $134 and up/night
- Marriott Syracuse Downtown 100 E Onondaga St. Originally called the Hotel Syracuse, this historic beauty has recently undergone updates—making it the perfect combo of modern meets classic accommodations. Rates $185 and up/night
- Hotel Skyler Syracuse 601 S Crouse Ave. For a unique Syracuse stay, nothing beats Hotel Skyler—built in a former temple, this hotel is located in the city’s University Hill neighborhood, bustling with culture, history, and chill university vibes. Rates $260 and up/night
Day Two: Dig The Great Outdoors
In Syracuse, you’re never more than a hop, skip, and a jump away from some of the most beautiful lakes in New York. However, there’s more to the city than its famous nearby waterways—rife with stunning natural surroundings, the area is also home to a number of parks, orchards, and a number of opportunities for year-round outdoor recreation.
- Grab breakfast at the famous Syracuse landmark, The Gem Diner, then hit the road for some outdoor adventure! With scenic trails and a 137-foot waterfall, Pratt’s Falls is just a short 25-minute drive from Syracuse—and the perfect place to spend the early afternoon
- Visitors can get their lake(s) on at the nearby Green Lakes State Park, home to hiking and biking trails; swimming; a golf course; and two stunning turquoise blue lakes, Green Lake and Round Lake
- A visit to Syracuse wouldn’t be complete without a walk (or bike ride) along the Erie Canal, and Camillus Erie Canal Park is a great place to do it. Located just 15 minutes from Syracuse, this area is also packed with history: hit the canal on a historic cruise, or walk to Sims’ Museum or the Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct
- Those who love off the beaten track spots will dig the unique Labrador Hollow, home to a number of year-round recreational activities; and a famous 2,000-foot long boardwalk perfect for exploring the area’s distinctive wetland scenery and wildlife. There’s also a trail that leads to Tinker Falls
Day Three: Choose Your Own Adventure
Day three is a mixed bag of epic Syracuse sights—perfect for those looking for an itinerary that’s both flexible and customizable. Check out a new neighborhood. Explore a downtown museum or gallery. Have a late brunch or an early dinner. No matter the chosen path, travelers will be sure to have an unforgettable final day in Syracuse.
- Packed with local history and lore, The Erie Canal Museum showcases the best of Syracuse and the history of the famous Erie Canal. Want more history? Then Head to Hanover Square, home to no less than 17 historic landmark buildings
- Spend the day in Armory Square, known as the hub of Syracuse’s downtown—and with good reason. There’s plenty to see and do here, from eclectic shops like Sound Garden, cool eats at Pastabilities and Three Lives Bar, and bars and hangout spots like Wunderbar, this hip district is the place to be
- Syracuse is a great place to grab a brew—and the OG Syracuse Suds Factory is one of the best. Fancy a cider instead? Then head to Beak and Skiff Apple Orchards, a famed cidery and distillery in nearby LaFayette that's also a concert venue
Though Syracuse’s lakeside location makes it an epic winter weather destination—but there’s more to this New York town than its snowy winters. In the summer, the city blossoms into a haven for natural wonders both in and outside the city; while its epic downtown and diverse districts are packed with eclectic eats, historical hubs, cultural attractions, and a personality that blends the best of upstate charm with trendy New York vibes, making it the perfect place to spend a long summer weekend.