Five Things Not to Miss in Syracuse, NY

6 Sep

I work at a small university in Rhode Island where students are back to school this week. At this time of year, I can’t help but be reminded of my own first days on campus at Syracuse University.

Central New York is probably not on the bucket lists of many travelers, but over the six years I logged in Syracuse, NY–first as a student, then working at my first job, and later as a new mom–I discovered some gems.

Here are a few of my favorites:

M Street (Marshall Street) 

Introducing the next generation to The Varsity.

This is the college hotspot, where students go to buy something orange, grab some food, and, especially, drink. Order pizza and Labatt’s at The Varsity–an M Street institution for slices and pies. Pop into Faegan’s for a pint or stop by Chuck’s (Hungry Charlie’s) for a pitcher. Tearfully walk by the spot where 44’s once stood. And don’t forget to get yourself a “Go Orange!” foam finger at Manny’s before heading up the hill to campus.

The Carrier Dome 

The “Dome” is one of the largest and coolest college sports stadiums in the country. Try to score a ticket to an Orange football, basketball, or lacrosse game. If you can’t, stop by when the box office is open and you can usually talk your way inside for a look around. You may even be able to sneak onto the field to try out your end-zone dance. On the outside of the dome, jump in between the columns to hear an echo that sounds like it came straight from the Star Wars editing room. (Yes, you’ll look silly, but you won’t be the only one.)

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Oh yeah, that's right.This serious rib joint, with a string of Harleys in front and a line out the door, is what I miss most about Syracuse. Yes, you can buy their hot sauce at many markets around the U.S. And yes, you could visit the Dino outpost in New York City. But there’s something about this downtown Syracuse spot, with its cluttered dining room and dinged up wooden bar, that just feels genuine. The ribs, the brisket, the mac salad, the bbq chicken, and the cornbread–it’s all incomparable, with an atmosphere to match.

Armory Square

After pigging out at Dinosaur, or if the wait time is too patience-testing, walk past the art deco Niagara Mohawk building down to Armory Square. The Museum of Science and Technology (my first paid gig out of college) is housed in an old armory that anchors three blocks of shops, dining, and nightlife. The Blue Tusk has an eclectic beer list and is always packed. Empire Brewing Company and Syracuse Suds Factory are also great places to drink. Lemon Grass and Pastabilities (known to locals as Pasta’s) have maintained a solid foodie following over the years. And Provisions Bakery has huge delectable brownies. The shopping is great too, with Eureka Crafts as my favorite.

A bit of culture at the Everson Museum and Syracuse Stage

The Everson, designed by I.M. Pei.

The Everson museum is a sculptural work of art in itself. You’ll find changing exhibits inside, but the Everson is best known for its vast collection of pottery and ceramic arts. If you are in Syracuse during the holidays, visit the museum for the annual Festival of Trees–a popular event that features uniquely decorated trees donated by local organizations and businesses. If you prefer the theater to art museums, Syracuse Stage, the professional theater-in-residence at SU, produces six shows every year. I saw Angels in America here, among other plays, and was always impressed by the acting and the production.

Whether you are just passing through, or in town for some college hoops, give Syracuse a good look. After you shovel out your car, I promise you’ll find something you like.


2 Responses to “Five Things Not to Miss in Syracuse, NY”

  1. Scott Walmsley September 7, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    Nice post! Made me think of some of the things I miss from up there. Like Coleman’s Irish Pub up on Tipp Hill, Tully’s, Heid’s, Green Lakes State Park (best human chain of all time), even a nice jog or roller blade around Onandaga Lake- the most polluted lake in the country (just don’t go swimming to cool off!).

    • travellustblog September 7, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

      Totally forgot about Coleman’s–good Guiness. The human chain is still the most bizzare thing I’ve ever witnessed.

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