Staycation Ideas for Central New York

Published on May 19, 2014 By Lauren

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  • The times of HUGE luxurious vacations are slowly disappearing, and many Americans are starting to save their money and instead have a StayCation.  What is a Staycation?  It’s a time that you vacation in your own city, seeing it through the eyes of a tourist.  You can choose to stay at home and Staycation (which is the less expensive option), or you can save on transportation costs and still have a great vacation by staying in a hotel or bed and breakfast.

    Syracuse and the outside cities in Central New York are filled with fantastic activities that can be visited during your Staycation – in this post I will list some of my favorite StayCation ideas for you and your family!  All of these ideas are either free or inexpensive and family friendly.


    Syracuse Jazz Fest

    This FREE family event is early July and is an all-day festival with many groups performing.   The Syracuse Jazz fest is one of the most popular summer activities, you can purchase food for an additional fee, but admission and music is free for the entire day!


    Rosamond Gifford Zoo –

    Located on the outskirts of Syracuse, this zoo is an easy one day trip.  With more than 700 animals, you can easily walk around this zoo in a couple of hours, see all the animals up close, and have some down time to relax at the Jungle Cafe.  They also conduct summer zoo camps for children just entering kindergarden up through 9th grade.  You can find more information via their website here.


    Thunder Island Water Park –

    Thunder Island is the perfect place to go if you have children of any age!  Complete with water slides, go karts, mini golf, and a game room, this place has it all!  Tickets start at just $14.95, which is an inexpensive day out that will please the entire family.

    Lake Ontario

    Lake Ontario is the most beautiful great lake in my opinion, and is only a quick 40 minute drive from Syracuse.  There are many places to rent boats, jet ski’s, and canoes right around on the river – you can see a list of all of these places here.  My favorite park on Lake Ontario is Breitbeck Park, located in Oswego NY.  Bring a frisbee and a picnic lunch and spend the day at the lake relaxing in the park.

    Seabreeze Amusement Park

    Located about an hour outside of Syracuse in Rochester New York, Seabreeze Amusement Park is a great park that has more than 65 exciting attractions…roller coasters, thrilling adult & family rides and great kiddie rides, too.  This is the perfect day trip – and make sure that you stop by Bill Gray’s Burger place on your way home to get the full Rochester experience.

    Syracuse Balloon Fest

    This Syracuse summer kick off event welcomed over 20,000 visitors last year.  It is typically held the last weekend of June, and features Nationally recognized entertainment, Amusement rides, balloon rides, and the very popular two dozen special shape and hot air balloons.  For more details on this years even you can check out there website here.

    Oswego Harborfest

    Harborfest is located in Oswego, NY which is a short 40 minute drive outside of Syracuse. This port city’s FREE festival features hundreds of vendors, concerts, a children’s park, Amusement rides, and a National ranked fireworks show on Saturday night.  The festival is traditionally held the last weekend of July and runs Friday thru Sunday night.  For more details on the events going on this year – check out their website here.

    Syracuse Regional market

    The Syracuse Regional market is open year round and features the best local cuisine, crafters, and restaurants all in one place!  A fantastic place to walk around to get the true meaning of living in Central New York.  Free entrance and local entertainment almost every weekend!

    MOST Museum – 

    The MOST (Museum of Science & Technology) is located right in downtown Syracuse and is a great day trip for people of any age.   The museum has dozens of interactive displays, a Planetarium, and many special exhibits.  The museum is open 10 am to 5pm Wednesdays – Sundays and closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.  There is an IMAX theatre that is located inside the MOST museum that features all the newest IMAX movies for an additional charge.  For special exhibits and IMAX movies you can check out all the details here.


    Wonderworks – 

    Wonderworks is an indoor amusement park located on the 3rd floor of Destiny USA, the largest Syracuse Mall.  There are over 100 interactive exhibits for people of any ages.  Some exibits include the Canyon Crossing,  Inversion Tunnel, Hurricane Shack, and Lazer Tag.  You could easily spend all day here – so make sure that you plan ahead and bring some extra cash to visit Destiny USA’s great shops and restauraunts.


    Billy Beez

    Billy Beez rainforest adventure park is filled with colorful murals, three dimensional thematic elements and giant play structures built around a maze of dizzyingly high and wildly twisting slides.

    Onondaga Lake Park

    This FREE park is considered the ‘Central Park of Central New York’ – With over 1 million visitors annually, Onondaga Lake Park, is the most popular park in Central New York.  If you are visiting CNY during the winter months – make sure you check out the parks Lights on the Lake exhibit which is a yearly family traditional for us.  There are beautifully paved walkways right along the lake perfect for walking, running, or riding bikes. There is also a fantastic state of the art children’s playground, which is very popular during the summer months.

    Beaver Lake Nature Center

    Located 15 minutes outside of the heart of Syracuse, Beaver Lake Nature Center is located in Baldwinsville, NY.  This Nature center has over 9 miles of trails, and features hundreds of yearly programs. Make a picnic lunch, pack the kids in the car, and spend a couple of hours hiking through the luscious trails.


    New York State Fair –

    The state fair is a 12 day long fair that brings together the best food, music, rides, games, exhibits, animals, agriculture and so much more of all the things that make New York State special!  You can see popular nationally recognized musical performances on Chevy Stage, see a world famous butter sculpture, and much much more!  This fair is typically held the last weekend in August through the first weekend in September – for all this years details you can go to their website here.

    Local Sports Teams

    There are many local Sports teams in Syracuse so no matter what time of year you take your Syracuse Staycation you are sure to find something to enjoy.  Here are some of my top choices of local sports teams.




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