Located in upstate New York, Syracuse is more than just one of the country’s coldest places. There are plenty of free things to do in Syracuse, NY, including visiting Onondaga Lake Park and wandering around its historic downtown district. If you’re more interested in romantic things to do in Syracuse, NY, pick up picnic supplies from the CNY Regional Market, see a show at Landmark Theatre, or ride the Ferris wheel at The Great New York State Fair.
Otherwise, there are also many rainy day activities in Syracuse, NY, which also just happen to be good things to do in Syracuse, NY, in December when it’s too cold. Head to indoor attractions like the Museum of Science and Technology, Destiny USA Shopping Center, and Erie Canal Museum. Here are more things to do in Syracuse, NY, in winter and summer.
1. Rosamond Gifford Zoo
Rosamond Gifford Zoo promises to provide guests with the best day ever. There are over 700 animals found across its 43-acre complex. Check out the Diversity of Birds and Outdoor Birds aviaries, meerkats and lemurs in the Social Animals exhibit, Penguin Coast, and the Domestic Animal Barn. The half-mile Wildlife Trail also takes you past Amur tigers, red wolves, snow leopards, and red pandas. Rosamond Gifford Zoo is open year-round, as 60% of exhibits are indoors.
2. Onondaga Lake Park
Called the “Central Park of Central New York,” Onondaga Lake Park is a lakefront recreational area that has something for everyone. This includes Wegmans Playground (central New York’s largest play space); a skatepark that’s open to skateboarders, inline skaters, and BMX bikers; four walking and biking trails; an award-winning dog park; The Salt Museum; and summer tram rides. Head to the park’s Griffin Visitor Center and Equipment Rental Shop to hire bikes and skates too.
3. Museum of Science & Technology
The Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology is located in the former Syracuse Armory. Alongside several science and technology exhibits, you’ll find a planetarium, New York State’s only dome IMAX Theater, and the Science Shop. Its interesting and hands-on exhibits include Toothpick World, Techno Zone, Flight and Space, Amazon Adventure, and Dino Zone. A visit to the Museum of Science and Technology is one of the most family-friendly things to do in Syracuse, NY.
4. Clark Reservation State Park
Clark Reservation State Park includes a variety of landscapes. There are rugged limestone cliffs, wetlands and woodlands, and the United States’ largest population of American hart’s tongue (an endangered plant). Its Glacier Lake is a rare meromictic lake, which means its deep waters don’t mix with the surface water. Clark Reservation State Park is also home to five hiking trails, birdwatching and fishing opportunities, and the seasonal Nature Center, which offers guided nature walks on weekends.
5. CNY Regional Market
The Central New York Regional Farmers Market is the area’s longest-running farmers market. Open on Saturday year-round, it transforms into an amazing flea market on Sundays. No matter the time of year, you will find local stalls selling fruit and vegetables, meat and seafood, eggs, and dairy products. There are also stalls selling handmade products like clothing, soap, candles, and wooden furniture. Locals recommend heading to the adjacent Market Diner for breakfast or lunch too.
6. Destiny USA
Located across the road from CNY Regional Farmers Market is Destiny USA, New York State’s largest shopping center. With 26 million annual visitors, it’s home to 250 shopping, dining, and entertainment options. The six-story complex’s anchor stores are J.C. Penney, Macy’s, and Lord and Taylor. Destiny USA is also home to Get Air trampoline park, Glow Golf mini-golf course, the renowned Funny Bone Comedy Club and Restaurant, and WonderWorks, an exciting indoor amusement park.
7. Erie Canal Museum
Housed in the 19th-century Syracuse Weighlock Building, the Erie Canal Museum was founded in 1962 to save the building from demolition. It’s a historical museum with exhibits detailing the Erie Canal and the Weighlock Building’s history, including a weigh chamber, a re-creation of canal town life, several indoor and outdoor murals, and the Locktender’s Garden. In total, the Erie Canal Museum’s collection includes 1400 artifacts, 39,000 photographs and negatives, and 950 sketches and drawings.
8. The Great New York State Fair
Held at the New York State Fairgrounds, the Great New York State Fair is an 18-day agriculture, entertainment, education, and technology extravaganza. With over one million annual visitors, it’s New York’s largest yearly event and a popular end-of-summer tradition. Attractions at The Great New York State Fair include the rides at Wade Shows Midway, open-air concerts at Chevy Court, 14,000 animals exhibited in the agriculture section, and the food stalls inside the International Building.
9. NBT Bank Stadium
Established in 1997, NBT Bank Stadium is the city’s 11,000-seat minor baseball stadium. It is home to the Syracuse Mets, which are a Triple-A International League baseball team affiliated with the prestigious New York Mets. NBT Bank Stadium is also used for concerts and other sporting events. So if you’re looking for things to do in Syracuse, NY, this summer, enjoy America’s favorite pastime and see a Syracuse Mets game at NBT Bank Stadium.
10. Webster Pond
Locally known as Nature’s Best Kept Secret, Webster Pond is a large pond and historic area managed by the Anglers Association. Open year-round, people are welcome to visit and fish (membership required), join a fishing program and feed the hundreds of resident ducks and geese. However, the Anglers Associations asks that you only feed them corn, which you can purchase from onsite volunteers for a small donation. Webster Pond is also home to walking trails.
11. Clinton Square
Established in 1800 and conveniently located in the city’s downtown area, Clinton Square was the original town center. Today, the square is surrounded by prominent historic buildings and is filled with various important monuments. It also hosts regular events, like benefit walks, fun local festivals, and the Clinton Square Ice Rink. Opening in 2001, the open-air ice skating rink attracts more than 20,000 skaters every season, which is usually from late November to mid-March.
12. New York State Fairgrounds
The New York State Fairgrounds is predominantly known for hosting the aforementioned Great New York State Fair. One of the country’s best-attended state fairs, it’s definitely one of the most highly-anticipated things to do in Syracuse, NY every year. The New York State Fairgrounds features 11 permanent buildings and over 300,000 square feet of exhibition space. It can basically host any event, such as trade shows, agriculture programs, sporting events, festivals, and music concerts.
13. Landmark Theatre
Located downtown, the Landmark Theatre is a historic theater built in 1928. Its luxe interior includes a chandelier built for Cornelius Vanderbilt’s mansion, several murals, and rich red and gold accents. The 3000-seat performing arts venue hosts a variety of events, like live performances by the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, family-friendly programs, touring Broadway shows, and renowned musicians like Josh Groban and Ray LaMontagne. Visit their website to see what events are scheduled during your visit.
14. Downtown Syracuse
Downtown Syracuse is home to 20 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s where you will find popular attractions like the Landmark Theatre, Everson Museum of Art, the Museum of Science and Technology, and the Erie Canal Museum. Don’t miss checking out some of its most distinct districts, which include Armory Square, Columbus Circle, Hanover Square, and Clinton Square. The city’s downtown area is also home to plenty of dining, shopping, and entertainment options.
15. Syracuse Pedal Tours
One of the most fun things to do in Syracuse, NY, with a group of friends is to enjoy the city on a green pedal-powered party bus with Syracuse Pedal Tours. The company has multiple bikes and tour types available, so your group can choose to either take an architectural tour or enjoy a progressive dinner or private bar crawl experience. Guests are welcome to bring food and drinks on board to get the party started.
16. Syracuse Stage
Like Landmark Theatre, Syracuse Stage is another one of the city’s performing arts venues. Founded in 1974, the theater is a member of The League of Resident Theatres – the country’s largest professional theater association. It’s produced over 300 plays since its inception and performs to around 65,000 people annually. Upcoming performances include a retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical, and a musical developed by a Syracuse University alumna.