How to Spend a Weekend in Syracuse, New York

On your weekend break, make sure to visit Clinton Square in historic downtown Syracuse, New York
On your weekend break, make sure to visit Clinton Square in historic downtown Syracuse, New York | © Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo
Siobhan Grogan

With outstanding museums, local breweries, picturesque parks and an enormous shopping mall, the fifth-largest city in New York state is ideal for a diverse and delightful weekend break.

Nearly 200mi (322km) north of New York City, Syracuse was once the state’s industrial heart thanks to its important position on the Erie Canal. Now better known for its large university and easy access to the idyllic Finger Lakes region, this vibrant city is packed with independent restaurants, grand 19th-century buildings, sprawling parks, sports venues and a fantastic selection of museums.

Where to stay

1. Tru by Hilton Syracuse-Camillus

Budget Hotel, Hotel

Tru by Hilton
Courtesy of Tru by Hilton / Expedia

It’s impossible not to have a good time at this brilliantly bright hotel, situated within walking distance of the restaurants, outdoor concerts and shopping at Township 5 in Syracuse. If the canary-yellow entrance and cornflower-blue feature walls in the bedrooms don’t get you smiling, the roomy sun terrace, lobby table-football and indoor sports court stocked with every ball and net imaginable certainly should.

2. Hotel Skyler Syracuse Tapestry Collection by Hilton

Eco Hotel, Hotel

Hotel Skyler
Courtesy of Hotel Skyler / Expedia

There’s no need to leave your conscience at home when you check into the Hotel Skyler, where everything from the bedding to the bathroom products have eco-friendly credentials. The hotel is even heated with an innovative geothermal pump for serious sustainability brownie points. Up the feel-good factor by booking the two-story Treehouse suite; a percentage of all the revenue generated by these rooms is donated to the nearby Golisano Children’s Hospital.

3. Aloft Syracuse Inner Harbor

Hotel, Luxury

Aloft Syracuse
Courtesy of Aloft Syracuse / Expedia

Dedicated urbanites will love this industrial-chic property on the banks of Onondaga Creek. There’s a sleek patio space for relaxing outdoors, a stylish bar for unwinding over cocktails and even a gourmet self-service dining space where you can grab snacks and make your own cappuccinos. If you still want to head out, the sprawling Destiny USA mall is on the doorstep and there’s a free shuttle to Syracuse Hancock International Airport for no-hassle transfers.

What to do

4. Epic Syracuse Scavenger Hunt

Tours

If walking tours aren’t exciting enough, sign up for a scavenger hunt around the streets of Syracuse instead. Work alongside a group of friends or battle against them to see who can complete the trail in the fastest time – solving riddles, answering questions and attempting challenges as you go. Along the way, you’ll criss-cross the city and discover its history, art and landmarks including the Erie Canal Museum, Everson Museum of Art and Clinton Square.

5. Oneida Community Mansion House Tour

Tours

Join an extraordinary guided tour of Oneida Community Mansion House to learn more about the inner workings of America’s most successful experimental community. This 93,000 sqft (8,640 sqm) house surrounded by 33 acres (13ha) of immaculate gardens is now a National Historic Landmark, full of preserved rooms and exhibits offering an insight into this 19th-century commune of 300 people. Their radical social experiment saw them live together as one family and advocate progressive ideas of family and gender still relevant today.

6. Shop and Play Destiny USA package

Activities

Shopaholics will be in paradise with this exclusive package of treats available from the mammoth Destiny USA mall. A 2.4m sqft (222,967 sqm) complex of upscale boutiques, bargain factory outlet stores, restaurants, big name shops and entertainment venues, Destiny USA is one of the most visited shopping centers in the country. Shoppers signing up for the Shop and Play package will receive extensive discounts, a free drink and snack, a branded water bottle and tote bag, and even a complimentary ride on the mall’s popular vintage carousel.

Where to eat

7. Oh My Darling

Cafe, Contemporary

Serving American comfort food all day long, Oh My Darling is in the heart of Downtown Syracuse and bases its mouth-watering menu on ingredients sourced from local farmers. Tuck into burgers, flatbreads and salads whilst you sit at a stripped pine table in this whitewashed industrial space. At the weekend, book for their unmissable brunch which features lemon ricotta pancakes and banana bread French toast washed down with an Aperol spritz or two.

8. Francesca's Cucina

Restaurant, Italian

Handmade gnocchi
© Nils Schirmer / Unsplash

Italian food doesn’t get more authentic than at Francesca’s, a family-owned restaurant in the heart of Little Italy serving recipes handed down through generations. As well as traditional Italian favorites, such as homemade gnocchi and veal parmesan, the menu includes renowned Italian-American regional specialities that you will only find in Syracuse. Try the famous chicken riggies served with peppers, onions and rigatoni in a spicy pink sauce or the Utica greens, sautéed with prosciutto and smothered in cheese.

9. Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub

Pub, Pub Grub

Syracuse, New York, USA. August 10, 2020. View of Kitty Hoynes, Irish Pub and Restaurant, a local landmark , in Armory Square, downtown Syracuse
© debra millet / Alamy Stock Photo

Named after the current owner’s mother, this atmospheric Irish pub offers a warm welcome, an extensive Irish whiskey collection and the best pint of Guinness in town. Alongside burgers, soups and lobster mac and cheese, the menu is full of nostalgic Irish classics including bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie and a huge traditional breakfast complete with black and white pudding and Irish soda bread.

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