WHAT TO DO IN SYRACUSE (my favorite spots & hidden gems)

Ah, good ol’ Syracuse. I didn’t know too much about the area when I started college in 2016, but since graduating I feel as though I have a few notches in my belt I didn’t have when I arrived.

For most of these places, you’ll need some mode of transportation- hopefully you or a friend has a car, but if not, ride-shares or busses will do the job (although if using the latter, factor in an extra hour to your plan). I left off the on-campus options as I’m sure students have discovered these already via a walk down Marshall St.

If I’m missing any (which I know I am), leave a comment below with your favorite local spots!

Food Spots:

Breakfast/ Brunch:

  • Coffee & Tea:
    • Recess Coffee– I ended up going here a lot when I came back to Syracuse in the summer… they have great coffees, but don’t sleep on their smoothies (love Berry Park) and croissant sandwiches.
    • Oh My Darling– This is also a good brunch spot but they have a little coffee shop on the left side of the restaurant where you can grab a quick drink. Usually my stop if I’m downtown and craving a coffee.
    • Peaks Coffee– I never got to go here but I have coffee-aficionado friends who rave about it. It’s in the lower level of the apartment complex “The 505” and has limited indoor/ outdoor seating.
    • Cafe Kubal- I was sad to see this leave campus post-Covid but Kubal has a few locations remaining downtown. Full disclosure: their coffee is strong but great if you need to bang out a lot of work.
    • Roji Tea Lounge– another spot I didn’t get to go to myself but was always on my list. The store is Temporarily Closed due to Covid-19 butmy fingers are crossed that they will soon re-open!
  • Brunch:
    • The Evergreen- Heavy/ greasy-ish food but you’ll get your money’s worth for bottomless brunch…
    • Water Street Bagels- The new go-to in town for a good bagel. My favorite is the Western (no meat) with a healthy amount of Frank’s.
    • Mom’s- This is my favorite diner in Cuse. It’s just the right amount of grease and the long wait time is somehow a little charming. I always get the Jersey with spinach and avo instead of bacon.
    • Eleven Waters- I was never the biggest fan of this spot since the menu is pretty limited, but Eleven Waters is in the lower floor of the downtown Marriott and has a nice setting. Good for birthday brunches or breakfasts with the family.

Lunch:

  • Mello Velo– hidden little cafe in a bike shop with amazing food. Great spot for vegans or meat eaters- you’ll find something for everyone (and it’s very filling). Also a great brunch spot.
  • Thanos– Unbelievable sandwiches made with Pastabilities stretch bread- my go-to order is The Green with roasted red pepper.
  • Strong Hearts on the Hill– Anyone who goes to SU will know about this one, but it’s an all-vegan restaurant serving salads, sandwiches, milk shakes, and everything in between. My favorites from here are the Buffalo Kale salad and the Immunity Boost smoothie.

Dinner:

  • The York- This is a Syracuse staple and usually the go-to for birthday dinners. The food is great, as are the cocktails. Enjoy the cool dark ambiance with a few appetizers to snack on and a delicious entree.
  • A Mano– A bit of a nicer restaurant in downtown and a great place to go with your parents. The food is incredible, as are the cocktails!
  • Thai Love NY– I went here/ ordered in a few times and it never failed to impress. Delicious thai food & casual dining.
  • Pastabilities– A Syracuse classic. Pretty good, but expect to wait at least an hour and a half for a table.
  • Otro Cinco– Great Mexican food & drink. If they are full, visit their sister restaurant, Alto Cinco (also in Cuse)
  • Mitsuba- This was my friend group’s go-to so I ended going here about once a month. They have amazing sushi but it’s also a fun hibachi spot (not sure if they’re still doing this with Covid, however).
  • Apizza- If you’re craving a good pizza, this is your spot. My favorite is the potato rosemary pizza, but I’d recommend splitting a few pizzas with friends so you can get a little bit of everything!
  • Defi Syracuse– WOW. A hidden gem in the middle of downtown. Enjoy a set 5-course farm to table meal (menu changes every week and isn’t released until after) that the chefs will walk you through. The tables are placed around the kitchen so you can see the meals being made throughout the night. During dessert, my boyfriend and I got to speak to the co-founders about their path to Defi and they are SO interesting and talented. They are taking Covid very seriously with socially distanced meals and mask requirements when you are not seated. It is a set price of ~ $60 and worth every. penny.

Sweets:

  • Gannon’s Ice Cream- Another ‘Cuse staple. Expect to get overwhelmed by the menu, but I promise you can’t go wrong.
  • Funk’ N Waffle- I don’t even think I ended up going here (aside for interviewing a Syracuse rapper for a school project… but we will save that story for another day), but they are known for their semi-outrageous waffle+food combos and occasionally have concerts downtown. Could be a fun alternative to a bar night.
  • Tous Les Jous– another one I never got to but was always on my list. My roommates would always bring home gorgeous baked goods from here and always spoke highly of it!

Things To Do:

Hikes/ Walks:

  • Green Lakes State Park
  • Pratts Falls Park- Enjoyed a little walk there
  • Water Tower at Thornden Park- Head to the Water Tower for sunset- its a big hill (easy to social distance) and perfect for a little picnic!

Activities:

  • Biking Beer Tour– I never did one of these but always saw the “party bikes” going around town and stopping at spots like Wolfe’s Beer Garden & Saltine Warrior.
  • Westcott Theatre– Not something I would recommend during Covid, but something to keep in the back of your mind. They’ve had some pretty epic bands come through and I’ve only heard good things!

Towns/ Cities Outside of Syracuse

  • Skaneateles– this is a cute town on the water with a little town that’s fun to walk around in!
    • To eat:
      • Blue Water Grill is the go-to, it’s on the water and has tons of seating (including outdoor deck seating).
      • Elephant & Dove is a new Mexican-inspired eatery with beautiful decors and amazing food.
    • To do:
      • Walk around the town– it’s quaint (aka a 10 minute stroll) but cute!
      • Sit by the lake– there’s  a little park you can relax on or walk out on the long boardwalk that jets into the water.
      • Rent a boat– if someone in your group has a boating license, rent a boat for the day for a little escape.
  • Ithaca– home to Ithaca College and Cornell, Ithaca is a beautiful town in upstate with tons to do.
    • To eat:
      • Agava– Agava is a Mexican dinner spot with amazing food and drinks. Don’t sleep on the black bean burger & frozen margs!
      • Coltivare– A farm to table restaurant, this is a great dinner spot. (Shoutout to my amazing waitress Flora!! )
      • Ithaca Commons – This is a downtown section with a handfull of great stores and restaurants. Go here if you’re in the mood for dinner and want to look around.
    • To do:
      • Hike! Ithaca has beautiful outdoor space, google Hikes when you are in the area because there are countless options.
      • Visit a vineyard– Ithaca is home to a number of wine vineyards- it can be fun for a day trip or evening.
      • Go swimming in the Gorges or a lake
      • Ithaca Farmer’s Market – such a sweet market with local farmers and artisans. Great for an afternoon by the water.
      • See: Ithaca Commons (above).
  • Geneva– Home to Hobartt
    • To do:
      • Sitting on one of the finger lakes, Geneva makes a beautiful spot to enjoy the water. It’s a small town but a nice getaway for some boat days in the lake.
    • To eat:
      • Kindred Fare- Oh my god. I’d come back to Geneva just for Kindred Fare. Incredible food, beautiful cocktails, and amazing service.
      • Bagel & Cake- A yummy breakfast spot with great bagels & sandwiches. I also heard that the hash browns are amazing, unfortunately a bit too late.

For a guide to London, check out this blog post.

Let me know if this post inspires any mini-trips and if you’d want something similar for other cities!

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