Syracuse is a city stuffed with history. Known as ‘The Salt City’ thanks not only to our famous salt potatoes, but the Irish salt miners who struck salty gold along the coastline of Onondaga Lake, there are even more lesser known gems lining the streets of Syracuse, impressive for both hardcore history buffs or novices looking to learn more. Take in the lush landscape, beautiful architecture and confluent communities that make Central New York and the Finger Lakes regions' cultural impacts so unique.
NEIGHBORHOOD : Downtown Syracuse
The beauty of bustling city streets is in large part thanks to hundreds of years of significant cultural and historical events, creating a unique, ever-evolving epicenter of its own. Walk the streets of downtown and immerse yourself in our Underground Railroad history, the area’s stake in the great Women’s Rights and Women's Suffrage Movements, the profound impacts of our area’s Native American roots, the innovative feats of invention and engineering such as the Erie Canal, and so many more impressive footprints throughout history, all meeting at the crossroads of Downtown Syracuse.
Walk alongside the bubbling fountain covering centrally located Clinton Square to learn more about the remarkable Jerry Rescue — a coming together of locals and an in-town anti-slavery convention crowd proceeding to jailbreak, free Jerry, and help him escape to Canada. Here you’ll also walk the city park and streets where the most impressive man-made engineering feat of its time once ran — the Erie Canal. Explore neighboring Hanover Square Historic District, bustling with a backdrop of 17 National Register of Historic Places buildings, each more stunning and impressive than the last. Meander down Salina Street, where, at its peak in the 1950s & 1960s, drew in thousands daily for its department stores, shops, entertainment & Christmastime decor. Walk through historic Armory Square and stop by The Museum of Science & Technology (The MOST), once the city’s actual armory. Scope out the nearby Shot Clock Monument, paying homage to a 24-second shot clock which was invented right here in Syracuse, NY and was crucial to the successful development of basketball as a major sport. Witness the lasting impact of local innovation happenings throughout the entire city as you take in the growing public street art covering dozens of buildings downtown.
NEIGHBORHOOD : Franklin Square
Charming and picturesque on its own, this neighborhood was once a manufacturing hub full of factories as a result of the salt industry. After the decline of the salt industry, Franklin Square was home to several notable and novel manufacturing outfits including those for automobiles, baseball bats (used by the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and many others), typewriters, metalworks, clothing, food and drink and more. Now visitors can relax in the quaint but stunning park in the district’s center, grab a bite or coffee at a neighborhood eatery or café, or continue your walk along the Inner Harbor portion of the Creek Walk.
Must-Stop Historical Museums Franklin Square : The Lofts at Franklin Square (525 Plum Street Syracuse, NY 13204 [private facility, call Sutton Company ahead @ 315.424.1111]), The Bradley Forging Hammer @ The Bonadio Group (432 N Franklin St #60, Syracuse, NY 13204 [private facility, call Bonadio Group ahead @ 315.476.4004])
NEIGHBORHOOD : University Hill + Westcott
Worth a walk for its impressive buildings alone, the University Hill neighborhood is home to Syracuse University as well as Upstate Medical University and SUNY ESF. A major educational and medical district of Syracuse, SU boasts dozens of impressive, nationally-registered revival buildings to feast your eyes on: The Hall of Languages, Crouse College, Hendricks Chapel, Carnegie Library, Holden Observatory and more. Bordering the university lies Thornden Park, a sprawling 76-acre greenspace listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Home to the E.M. Mills Memorial Rose Garden, this sanctuary comes to life every June thanks to the Syracuse Rose Society’s maintenance, hosting over 365 different varieties of roses. Equally impressive is the Thornden Park Amphitheater — built in-ground in 1933, this open-air theatre is aesthetically pleasing with concentric stone rings made to seat 6,000 people. Every summer in June and August, the Syracuse Shakespeare Festival presents its free Shakespeare-in-the-Park performance for the public to enjoy at the amphitheater. Adjacent to Thornden is the Westcott Neighborhood, a quick walk from the University area and swelling with a diverse community of students, shops, restaurants and bars. Here walkers can appreciate the quirky feels of this district while appreciating distinctive homes lining neighborhood streets, some of which were designed by Ward Wellington Ward, whose architectural designs can be found throughout the entire Syracuse area.
NEIGHBORHOOD : Tipperary Hill
If you know Syracuse, you know Tipp Hill. During the construction of the Erie Canal, Irish immigrants were the chief laborers behind the waterway’s construction and following its completion, settled on the hill overlooking the central hub of the canal that is Syracuse. A charming and fun nook of a neighborhood to explore in Syracuse, Tipp Hill is home to Burnet Park (the largest city park in Syracuse, complete with a public 18-hole golf course and neighboring Rosamond Gifford Zoo at Burnet Park) and more old school Irish pubs sprinkled throughout the residential area than one can count! A historic must-see when excursing through this west side cultural pocket of Syracuse is the “Green On Top” traffic light. When the city first began installing traffic lights in the 1920s, a group of Irish youths resented the fact that the “British” red was above the “Irish” green and proceeded to smash the light, even after multiple replacements. After a few rounds of this, the city appeased the neighborhood defiance and the light still remains as the only upside-down traffic signal in the world. And a brand-new stop to add to your Tipp Hill route? Make some time to scope out the Emerald Cocktail Kitchen — opened in 2023, this is Syracuse’s only rooftop bar and offers incredible cocktails, bites, brews and views of this notable neighborhood, as well as the notorious Syracuse skyline.
Must-Stop Historical Spots Tipp Hill : Coleman's Authentic Irish Pub (part of the Upstate Eats Trail), Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Burnet Park, Rosamond Gifford Zoo @ Burnet Park, James Pass Arboretum
NEIGHBORHOOD : Onondaga Lake
Adjacent to the city’s revitalized Inner Harbor neighborhood, Onondaga Lake has an incredible history dating back centuries. Generations of the region’s Indigenous people once relied on Onondaga Lake for its abundant fishing, and it was also the site where nearly one thousand years ago, the people of the Haudenosaunee (referred to as Iroquois by French colonists) Confederacy say that their prophet, known as the Peacemaker, brought the first five nations of the confederacy — the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca — to this very lake, to set forth principles for their people to live by, including nonviolence, fundamental elements of democracy, and the stewardship and preservation of natural bounties to support all life for generations to come. Today, visitors can now enjoy the beauty of this sacred lake and surrounding areas by trekking the Loop the Lake Trail, which encircles the perimeter of the lake (~9 miles, 12 upon completion). Known for superb birdwatching, including amazing views of Bald Eagles, also surrounding the lake are St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater at Lakeview (an incredible outdoor concert venue located directly on the southern shore of Onondaga Lake and welcoming extensive annual line-ups of national recording artists), Onondaga Lake Park (also known as “The Central Park of Central New York,” touts miles of trails, playgrounds, skate and dog parks, boat launches, picnic areas, and even the Salt Museum & Pier, where visitors can learn more about Syracuse’s impact on the salt industry), Long Branch Park, and many other inviting recreational grounds.