After exploring the city of Syracuse, head in any direction and you'll find even more to explore. The city of Syracuse is where all major roads meet, making it easy to find your way north, south, east or west of the city, with scenic byways such as historic Route 20 spanning from Albany to Buffalo, and Route 81 covering all distances from Alexandria Bay to Binghamton. Head north for water front taverns and restaurants on Oneida Lake. Drive south for scenic valleys, lush landscape and all the apples. East of the city are waterfalls, lakes, boutique towns and fine dining. And west is where wine country and the Finger Lakes invite you to savor the Central New York life no matter the season.
North of Syracuse are parks on the beach, lakefront dining options, fishing and more. You don't have to go far to discover the hidden gems tucked away alongside Oneida Lake and our neighboring counties. Check out hundreds of acres of lush state forests, boating excursions, shoreline dining and much more.
Morning: Grab a quick bite for the road at a northeast favorite, Bruegger's Bagels. Pop in for a fresh cup of coffee and a wide variety of fresh, warm bagels at the local franchise in North Syracuse. Hit the road with your morning fuel and head toward the shores of Oneida Lake where the family will love a sun and sand filled morning at Oneida Shores County Park. This park offers a sandy shallow beach with a full playground, picnic grounds, volleyball courts, boat launch and fantastic views of New York's largest inland lake.
Afternoon: Swing by nearby Borio's Restaurant, a scenic, family-run American mainstay offering fantastic views of Oneida Lake and a tasty menu of clams, salads, burgers, apps and much more. Or grab a cheeseburger in paradise at the favorite Waterfront Tavern in Brewerton, just a short drive from the county park. Dock the boat or drive up to the tiki-themed deck at this popular summer spot, featuring live music and boat-side bites.
Midday: Oneida Lake is 20.51 miles long with a surface area of nearly 80 square miles, which means there's plenty of land (and sea) to explore in a day. Cruise over to Three Mile Bay Wildlife Management Area on the northwestern shore of Oneida Lake and the entire family can enjoy an afternoon outside with hiking, fishing, hunting or boating. Continue heading east along the lake if you're interested in scoping out the shores of Sylvan Beach, a small lakeside town with an amusement park, bars, cafes, gift shops and more. Or continue your way north if exploring state forests is what you're looking for. Stone Hill State Forest and Klondike State Forest are both close by, with ample hiking trails, fishing, hunting and trapping, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing and wildlife observation for a fun-filled outdoor adventure. Both are free and open year-round.
Evening: Make your way back toward the city and hit up Mariachi Mexican Restaurant for some cervezas and queso right by the Oneida River on Route 11 in Brewerton. Or if you're heading back into town via Route 81, make a pit stop at Jake's Grub & Grog for cold beer and pub fare. Or stop in to 916 Riverside — located on the shores of Oneida Lake, this restaurant has a gorgeous outdoor patio and bar with a full menu of sandwiches, wings, wraps, burgers, fish tacos, quesadillas and more. And what lakeside day would be complete without a stop at a local ice cream shop? Score some soft serve at Arctic King in Brewerton, or satisfy your sweet tooth at the much loved Scoops Ice Cream Shoppe in Cicero.
Start your excursion down Route 81 South to take in the area's infamous rolling hills, valleys and breathtaking views. Explore unique natural areas and parks, off-the-beaten-path dining and fun craft breweries and cideries.
Morning: As you're heading out of the city, make a pit stop at the classic American diner, Old Tymes Cafe in Lafayette. Order up some coffee alongside your classic breakfast favorites — frittatas, breakfast sandwiches, eggs, toast, and more. Burn off breakfast by heading a little farther south to Labrador Hollow Unique Area. This 1,474-acre conservation area is great for explorers of all ages, complete with pristine Labrador Pond, handicap accessible elevated boardwalk, fishing pier, and nature trails fit for discovering the area's wildlife along an easy hiking excursion.
Afternoon: Take the back roads of Route 91 from Labrador Hollow and hit the slopes at Labrador Mountain Ski Resort, or during the warmer months, enjoy the beautiful mountain views of this off-the-beaten-path area. Head toward Homer to enjoy the best kept secret BBQ at Bob's Barbecue, where you can grab some low and slow cooked chicken, a Carolina brisket sandwich and ribs to boot.
Midday: Swing by Fellows Falls near Tully, NY to take in the beautiful waterfalls along the .7 mile back trail. Experience pristine hiking, nature trips, and bird watching fit for all skill levels. And scope out Tully's Onco Fermentations for tasty cream ales, IPAs, stouts, hard seltzers and more. Head back toward Syracuse and get ready to take in Central New York's prized apple country. Drive along miles of gorgeous, tree-lined road and you'll find yourself at Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards, voted the country's #1 apple orchard by USA Today readers.
Evening: Stay on the Beak & Skiff campus and swing over to their 1911 Tasting Room & Tavern, where adult ciders, spirits and wines can be enjoyed all while taking in some of the best views of Syracuse's southern hills and valleys.
Head east and check out some of Central New York's most prized parks, eclectic dining options, off-the-beaten-path adventures and family-friendly activities. Take the roads less traveled and find yourself among the area's most prized waterfalls, creeks and lakes, with cozy eateries sprinkled throughout the small towns you encounter.
Morning: Starting east, begin your day with an orange blossom latte and quiche sandwich at Soleil Cafe in Fayetteville, then enjoy the morning sun with a hike or swim right down the street at Green Lakes State Park. This beautiful park is home to nearly 2,000 acres of lush old growth forest and two striking meromictic lakes.
Afternoon: Continuing east, take the back roads to The Wild Animal Park in North Chittenango, where the kids can enjoy a 14-acre zoo fit with a variety of exotic and domestic animals from all over the world. Make a pit stop at Dad's Ice Cream right down the street, then cruise through main street in Chittenango for a quick bite at DeMario's Eatery, where the sandwiches are worth the stop.
Midday: Taking the scenic and winding Falls Boulevard (Route 13) toward Cazenovia, Chittenango Falls State Park is a must-see with a 167-foot waterfall cascading over roughly 400-million-year-old bedrock. A natural wonder, this park is a great spot to post up for a picnic or to stretch your legs while making your way to the bottom of the falls. Making your way toward the charming lake village of Cazenovia, grab an afternoon round at the authentic McCarthy's Irish Pub, or a slice and a sip at Caz Pizza — main street here is loaded with fantastic boutiques and restaurants with the right amount of bustle. Also right outside of the village off of Route 20 is the Stone Quarry Hill Art Park, a beautiful landscape decorated with permanent and rotating art exhibits to be explored among the great outdoors.
Evening: End the day with a stroll through Caz's Lakeland Park where the kids can take in the shoreline sights from the pier, or pack the paddleboards, canoe or kayaks for a fun sunset sail along Cazenovia Lake from Gypsy Bay Park. Then grab dinner at the renowned Brewster Inn or charming Scottish spot, the Brae Loch Inn. Both offer exceptional fine dining and equally exquisite outdoor seating. Enjoy the drive back to Syracuse by taking scenic Route 20 or Route 92, both offering great sunset views between the valleys.
West of Syracuse is where daytrippers will find the beautiful Finger Lakes, including Otisco Lake and the enchanting village of Skaneateles. To get there, we recommend hopping on Route 20 (just south of the city), as this roadway is simply stunning.
Morning: Heading west, start the day with an outdoor excursion at Baltimore Woods Nature Center in Marcellus. With nine trails open to the public every day, this 182-acre property is an ideal place for the entire family to experience the flora and fauna of the area. Heading toward the Finger Lakes and Skaneateles, stop off for a bite at The Willow Glen, a small town diner serving up omelettes, French toast and all kinds of American breakfast faves. Or wait until you get into town to indulge at Skaneateles Bakery, where coffee, breakfasts and sweets reign supreme.
Afternoon: There is a ton to do in Skaneateles, so making a day of this charming village is as easy as pie (which you can grab an assortment of at the charming Patisserie, right behind the Sherwood Inn). Make a stop at Clift Park, located in the center of town on the main street. This scenic park is the gateway to Skaneateles Lake and offers swimming to both residents and non-residents (for a $5 fee) from June through August. Grab some lunch at the Bluewater Grill, where you can savor everything from sushi to sandwiches, complete with a lakefront view. Enjoy everything the lake has to offer, including its fish, with a walk down the Skaneateles Pier. Here the entire family can take in the beautiful sights of Skaneateles from a different angle, while practicing your angling game.
Midday: If wine tasting is your thing, you've come to the right place. The Finger Lakes region is home to over 100 wineries, and a stand out in the Skaneateles area is Anyela's Vineyards on the lake's west side. With beautiful views and year-round events and tastings, Anyela's is the ideal place to savor the taste of the Finger Lakes Wine Region. And why stop the indulging there? Shop the quaint, small town streets of the village with its many boutiques and unique offerings such as home goods, fashions for women, men and baby, gifts and much more. Grab a midday snack and shake at Johnny Angel's Heavenly Burgers, the place to go for gourmet burgers and fried haddock on Fridays.
Evening: Watch the lake light up at night while you take a stroll through Shotwell Memorial Park. Just a short walk from there you'll find The Krebs — a circa-1899 upscale dining venue offering farm-to-fork dishes and a generous wine selection. More dinner options can be found at The Sherwood Inn, a historic lakeside inn with fireside fine dining and a casual tavern; Gilda's Skaneateles, a contemporary spot for artisanal pizza, craft beers and wine; Elephant and The Dove, a dreamy and modern dining fixture featuring authentic Mexican fare and signature cocktails; the LakeHouse Pub for laid-back American eats, draft beer, music and trivia. And if you'd like to check another lake off of your list for the day, head toward the shores of neighboring Otisco Lake for outdoor dining at Lakeside Vista Restaurant. Enjoy a panoramic view of the lake while sampling dozens of Finger Lakes wineries in one location.