Syracuse: Recreation


Those interested in architecture are advised to take a stroll through downtown Syracuse for an opportunity to see the imposing Hotel Syracuse as well as fine old churches and other structures. Columbus Circle contains a statue of the explorer. Syracuse Urban Cultural Park downtown highlights the city's past as a transportation center through interpretive signs. The Parke Avery House, a mid-nineteenth century residence built by the salt baron whose name it bears, hosts various events and exhibits throughout the year. The old Syracuse Savings Bank building was designed by prominent architect Joseph L. Silsbee in Gothic Revival style; other structures of note express Art Deco, Queen Anne and Neoclassical motifs. Hanover Square was the site of the original village well and the city's first commercial district; today it is a National Historic District featuring a variety of nineteenth century buildings.

Hiawatha Lake and gazebo in Upper Onondaga Park.
Hiawatha Lake and gazebo in Upper Onondaga Park.

The Rosamond Gifford Zoo is open year-round and very popular with visitors to Syracuse. The zoo displays about one thousand domestic and exotic animals in simulations of their natural settings, including the $3.7 million "Penguin Coast" exhibit which opened in June 2005 and features a breeding group of endangered Humboldt penguins. Special exhibits trace animal history through the ages.

Onondaga Park, an historic landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmsted to incorporate landscape and architecture, features a gazebo and a Fire House. Boat tours down the Erie Canal and tram trips along the shore of Onondaga Lake are also available.

The Bristol Omnitheater at the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology (MOST) is the only IMAX Domed Theater in New York State; MOST is central New York's largest hands-on science center. Museum-goers can navigate through a human cell, discover the underlying faults of earthquakes, learn about the rhythms of the human body, and visit the Space Gallery.

Arts and Culture

The performing arts are very much alive in Syracuse, which boasts Broadway-quality entertainment at a fraction of the price. The focal point of this activity is the John H. Mulroy Civic Center, said to be the first building complex in the western hemisphere to combine a performing arts center with a government complex. The center houses three theaters and is home to the Syracuse Opera Company, which stages three productions a year as well as community out-reach and education programs, and to the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, whose ambitious 39-week season encompasses classics and pops, dance performances, a family series, and a concert series featuring works by minority composers and artists. The Syracuse Area Landmark Theatre, opened in 1928 and described as an "Indo-Persian fantasy palace," was saved from demolition and refurbished in 1975; it hosts performances by popular entertainers and Broadway touring companies. The Regent Theatre Complex, which contains an infrared lighting system for the hearing impaired, is home to Syracuse Stage, Central New York's only professional theatre group. Syracuse Stage shows seven plays and one children's touring production each year; actors, designers, directors, and technicians from Broadway and other professional theaters across the country are recruited to work on the performances. The Regent Theatre Complex is also home to the Syracuse University Drama Department. The forty thousand-seat Carrier Dome at Syracuse University showcases internationally known musical performers, as does the smaller War Memorial. Salt City Center for the Performing Arts presents a year-round season of musicals, drama, and comedies, as well as adult and children's classes.

Syracuse is home to a number of distinctive art and historical museums. The Everson Museum of Art, designed by I. M. Pei, houses American nineteenth and twentieth century paintings, sculptures and prints, and one of the nation's finest collections of ceramic art. Syracuse University's Lowe Art Gallery features a large permanent collection of modern art. LeMoyne College's Wilson Art Gallery, located at the college library, offers various exhibits throughout the year. The Erie Canal Museum, located in the country's only remaining weighlock building, features interactive exhibits as well as a 65-foot canal boat. Open Hand Theater's International Mask and Puppet Museum is housed in an 1890 castle. Onondaga Lake Parkway contains the Salt Museum, including a reconstructed 1856 boiling block, and Sainte Marie among the Iroquois, a recreation of the original French Jesuit settlement, now a living-history museum. The Onondaga Historical Association provides local and regional history through a series of changing exhibits. In all there are more than forty museums and galleries in the Syracuse area.

Festivals and Holidays

Syracuse is home to the New York State Fair, the oldest state fair in the country. Featuring agriculture and livestock competitions, an International Horse Show, business and industrial exhibits, and tractor pulls, this 10-day event attracts more than a million people from across the Northeast each year. It takes place at the end of August.

The Syracuse Polish Festival takes place in June, as well as the Taste of Syracuse Festival, a two-day event featuring dollar samples from Syracuse's finest restaurants and continuous entertainment on three stages. Juneteenth honors the end of slavery in the United States. Other cultural festivals in Syracuse include the Jewish Music and Cultural Festival, the Bavarian Festival, the Irish Festival, La Festa Italiana and Oktoberfest.

Musical events in Syracuse include the M & T Jazz Fest in June, the NYS Rhythm and Blues Festival in July, and the CNYBA Apple Valley Bluegrass Festival in July.

Sports for the Spectator

Spectator sports in Syracuse center around the Carrier Dome, a $27 million domed complex completed in 1980 where the Syracuse University Orangemen play lacrosse, football and basketball. The dome is also the scene of the Empire State Games and other amateur sports competitions. LeMoyne College supports 16 NCAA varsity sports teams, while Onondaga Community College hosts NJCAA athletic events.

The Syracuse Sky Chiefs, a minor league affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team, compete at the 12,000-seat P & C Stadium from April to mid-September. The Syracuse Crunch Hockey Team, an American Hockey League affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets, plays in the War Memorial arena. Baseball fans in Syracuse may enjoy side trips to Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

South of Syracuse, auto racing fans are entertained at the Watkins Glen International. Onondaga Lake is the scene of various rowing competitions.

Sports for the Participant

Lakes, rivers, and sporting clubs in the Syracuse area offer abundant opportunities for fishing, boating, rafting, camping, swimming, and hunting. More than 50 parks and nature areas are located in Syracuse, providing facilities for baseball, tennis, swimming, skating, and golf. Several ski facilities and at least 40 golf courses are located in the region.

Shopping and Dining

Syracuse's newest mall is the Carousel Center overlooking Onandaga Lake. It features 170 shops, 13 eateries, five sit-down restaurants and a 12-screen cinema. It also has a fully restored 1909 antique carousel that gives the mall its name and invokes the days when the area was famed for the fine quality and craftsmanship of its carousels. The centerpiece project of downtown Syracuse's revitalization, the Galleries of Syracuse, houses approximately 80 high quality stores. The Armory Square Historic District, a few blocks away, is also a popular place to browse with a variety of shops, galleries and pubs. The Shoppingtown Mall, with 140 stores, and the Great Northern Mall, with 125 stores, are also major shopping destinations. The Downtown Farmers' Market, open Tuesdays from June to mid-October, features fresh produce from growers and dealers. There are more than 400 restaurants in the Syracuse area, including 20 fine dining establishments.

Visitor Information: Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau, 572 South Salina Street, Syracuse, NY 13202-3320; telephone (315)470-1910; toll-free (800)234-4797