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)
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 “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.)
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.
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.
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.