Syracuse & Oneida Lake, New York
Published: Wednesday, July 1, 2020
Nestled within the heart of New York State lives Syracuse, NY, a place where the community’s relationship to waterways runs deep. Located within Onondaga County, this destination combines the modern amenities of a vibrant city with rich outdoor culture. Rolling hills and greenery surround lakes, rivers, and canals that touch upon welcoming neighborhoods to explore.
The history of Syracuse has deep roots within the waterways of the region. The city was established as a frontier town on the Erie Canal, which served as a transport waterway between Buffalo and Albany, bridging the connection between the Great Lakes and Atlantic Ocean. Although the Erie Canal originally bypassed Oneida Lake, in 1916 it became an essential piece of the Erie-Barge Canal.
The first people to discover and embrace Oneida Lake were the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. The Oneida Nation embraced the abundance of the lake and built fishing villages along its perimeter. They called the lake “Tsioqui,” which meant “white water” due to its waves.
Nowadays, Oneida Lake is a picturesque retreat for many boaters, anglers, and visitors alike. Oneida Lake is the largest lake held entirely in New York State and is the host of watersheds for over five counties. It is known for its relatively shallow waters and fishery.
Choose to travel inland and you’ll find attractions bursting with local flare from museums and architecture to dining experiences. The region offers a welcoming community with plenty of opportunities for on and offshore recreation and relaxation.
Oneida Lake and Onondaga County have been a tournament stop for many professional fishing organizations, including Bassmaster. Oneida Lake is also known for its walleye and yellow perch fishery. Fishing is a huge draw to the region with a variety of public spots to cast your line from shore and an array of marinas and boat launches to do so by watercraft.
There are many spots on the water to grab a bite. For lakeside dining with live music and proximity to marinas, checkout Borio’s Restaurant. Don’t leave the region without trying Syracuse Salt Potatoes, a local favorite stemming from the prominence of the 19th century salt industry in the region. Salt Potatoes are a staple side at a large variety of restaurants near and dear to the region. Want something heartier but still uniquely ‘Cuse? Get a bite of a Gianelli Italian Sausage or visit the original Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.
There is an abundance of waterfall trails to be found within the region. Enjoy a series of gorgeous overlooks and cascading falls. Many of these falls are just a short hike away from parking lots and include public picnic areas. Check out Pratt’s Falls or Chittenango Falls for easy hikes with great views.
Oneida Shores County Park
Looking to camp out with access to a boat launch? Oneida Shores County Park is a great option for recreation and overnight accommodations close to the shore. The park is also home to athletic fields, designated fishing and swimming areas, playgrounds, and covered picnic areas. Have a special event? Arrowhead Lodge is available onsite for rentals including award ceremonies, family gatherings, and even weddings.
Brews & Views
The rich agricultural scene of the region has contributed to a renaissance of farm breweries open to the public. The land has also created some of the most scenic natural wonders. Paddle across turquoise waters on a glass canoe at Green Lakes State Park, then drive across beautiful rolling hills to enjoy a craft beverage at Heritage Hill Brewery.
Have kids in tow and looking to go inland? There are many options for family fun from, learning about Asian elephants at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo to discovering dinosaurs at the Milton J Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology. Rainy day options include the indoor amusements at Destiny USA including go-karts, bowling, escape rooms and more.
Museums & More
Learn the history of the region, from famous inventions to its hand in the abolitionist movement, at the Onondaga Historical Association. See the famous ceramics collection at the Everson Museum of Art or learn about local Native American history at the Skä•noñh Great Law of Peace Center. Visit a replica weighlock building at the Erie Canal Museum or take a historic canal boat cruise at the Camillus Erie Canal Park.
While in the area, travel west of Oneida Lake to Skaneateles Lake. Nicknamed the “gem of the Finger Lakes,” Skaneateles Lake is home to the quaint village of Skaneateles. Boutique shops and a charming main street run along crystal clear waters in this picturesque town. Characteristic of the village is the hosting of an annual Antique and Classic Boat Show along with live music at venues like lake pavilions or the amphitheater tucked into Anyela’s Vineyards. Visitors can buy admission to ride along a mail route on an old-fashioned mailboat or take a sightseeing cruise with Midlakes Navigation. Enjoy the village’s public boat launch and make sure to bring along lunch from the famous Doug’s Fish Fry, where fresh seafood is delivered daily.
Although most of these events have been canceled in 2020, they’ll be back in 2021!
Taste of Syracuse
Jamesville Balloon Festival
Held in mid-June, the festival features nearly two dozen hot air balloons, live music, and other entertainment.
New York State Bluesfest
A three-day musical celebration showcasing a collection of regional and national artists from multiple genres arranged in a continuous river of music. Usually held in late June.
Syracuse Arts & Crafts Festival
In July, a three-day showcase of the country's most talented artists, craftspeople, and entertainers and offers a wide variety of music, multicultural performances, summer refreshments, and participatory activities.
The Great New York State Fair
Beginning near the end of August, the New York State Fairgrounds showcases agriculture, entertainment, education and technology for more than two weeks (18 days).
This article first appeared in the Summer Issue (Jul/Aug) 2020 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.