15 Best Day Trips From Syracuse NY

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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The fifth most populated city in New York State is a hotbed of urban activity that is irresistible to the passing traveller, as well as being a crucial gateway to the incredible natural beauty of the upstate region.

While Syracuse itself is home to the attractive Erie Canal, a plethora of world-class restaurants, and the largest mall in the state, the real treats are scattered around nearby.

From forts and castles to the breath-taking lakes and mountainscapes of the Adirondacks, there are countless day trips to be taken where you can discover the charms of the American east.

Let’s have a look at the best day trips from Syracuse, NY.

1. Howe Caverns

Howe CavernsSource: Donald Mallalieu / shutterstock
Howe Caverns

Rivalling the legendary Niagara Falls in their popularity, the eerily beautiful Howe Caverns are as vast as they are impressive.

This subterranean phenomenon was formed over millions of years and is particularly accessible to the public, as they don’t require specialist equipment to be able to explore.

You’ll have the chance to venture in on foot, by boat, or both, as you head further and further underground surrounded by bizarre and fascinating geological formations.

The trip is best concluded with a visit to the enormous subterranean lake situated deep within the caverns.

2. Buttermilk Falls State Park

Buttermilk Falls State ParkSource: Alexander Sviridov / shutterstock
Buttermilk Falls State Park

The ideal day out for both families and outdoor enthusiasts because of its accessibility and mild environment, Buttermilk Falls State Park is a wonderful escape from the urban landscape of Syracuse.

The falls themselves get their name from the foaming water cascading down the valley from Buttermilk Creek.

Aside from the gorgeous falls, the park is also home to Cayuga Lake, as well as a less impressive smaller lake in the upper park.

Surrounded by hiking trails, natural pools, playing fields and extensive wetland areas, Buttermilk Falls State Park has enough to keep nature lovers busy for the entire day.

3. Finger Lakes

Finger Lakes, New YorkSource: xiaolin zhang / shutterstock
Finger Lakes, New York

Renowned both nationwide and worldwide for the quality of its produce, Finger Lakes is home to not only the largest number, but also some of the finest wineries in the east.

With over 100 companies, ranging from wineries to breweries, the gorgeous region centers around Seneca, Cayuga and Keuka lakes, meaning that as well as delicious wine tasting days, visitors also have an abundance of beautiful hiking routes at their fingertips.

For a breath-taking escape from the city and mouth-watering food and wine events – which are held regularly – the Finger Lakes are an unmissable and novel day trip from Syracuse.

4. Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park, New York StateSource: Jim Vallee / shutterstock
Letchworth State Park

Situated along the shores of the glittering Genesee River, Letchworth State Park is an indescribably beautiful expanse covering more than 14,000 acres.

It houses three enormous waterfalls, a series of thousand-year-old cliffs, and thriving woodland on all sides.

The dramatic cliffs have gained the park the title of the “Grand Canyon of the East”, and at almost 600-feet in height, it’s easy to see why.

Of course, the hiking opportunities in the area are unrivalled by any others in the region, and visitors can stretch their legs on over 60-miles of these pristine routes.

Also on offer is adrenaline-pumping kayaking, exciting white water rafting, and surreal hot-air-balloon rides for those in search of a spectacular view.

5. Boldt Castle

Boldt Castle, NYSource: Felix Lipov / shutterstock
Boldt Castle

Standing proudly upon Heart Island, near the Thousand Islands archipelago, is the century-old Boldt Castle.

This gorgeous construction was originally designed to be a dream summer home, and, while now vacant, does in fact offer tours to the public.

Surrounded by beautiful wooded gardens and its own Yacht House, the castle comprises of stately rooms, priceless furniture and antique art, all in the breath-taking water-locked settings of Alexandria Bay in Upstate New York.

If you simply want a passing glance at the castle, you can also enjoy it from afar on a cruise down the St Lawrence River, as well as catching sight of other stately homes built on similar islands nearby.

6. Niagara Falls

Niagara FallsSource: TRphotos / shutterstock
Niagara Falls

The ever-popular and always breath taking Niagara Falls are visible from the New York side and the Canadian side, and take between 2-3 hours to reach from Syracuse, depending on which view you go for.

The most popular view is from the Canadian side, due to the sweeping panoramas visible, though be sure to take your passport and assign extra travel time for the occasionally lengthy border crossings.

If you don’t decide to embark on the Maid of the Mist cruise, then you can use your time to explore the Niagara Gorge Trail or the exhilarating Whirlpool State Park.

7. Cooperstown

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, CooperstownSource: JonathanCollins / shutterstock
National Baseball Hall Of Fame And Museum, Cooperstown

A town that is irrefutably and affectionately associated with baseball, Cooperstown is a destination for sports fanatics, curious travellers and nature lovers, thanks to its location on the picturesque Otsego Lake.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame is the center of town, and sees hundreds of people a day pass through its doors to peruse iconic moments and faces from one of the nation’s most beloved sports.

Cooperstown itself evokes an idyllic small town image of American life, filled with quaint, charming, family-owned stores, and back dropped by the beautiful lake and forested hills.

8. Lake Placid

Lake Placid, NYSource: Felix Lipov / shutterstock
Lake Placid

The long-time favourite getaway for locals from all over Upstate New York, as well as visitors in search of gorgeous views, Lake Placid is reachable in just under three hours from Syracuse.

It has everything on offer, including relaxing, water sports and hiking.

Popular in the winter because of the heavy snowfall and consequent sledding and skiing opportunities on Whiteface Mountain, Lake Placid is a year-round destination.

In the summer, people flock to the lake to cool off and frolic while taking in the colorful wildflower displays visible in the fields around the water’s edge.

9. Fort Ticonderoga

Fort Ticonderoga, NYSource: Jeffrey M. Frank / shutterstock
Fort Ticonderoga

The impressive Fort Ticonderoga is over two centuries old and is positively steeped in Revolutionary history – all which occurred around the picturesque region of Lake Champlain in the 1750’s.

The old French fort, aside from being a pivotal location for American soldiers over the course of many battles, also served as a source of inspiration for writers and artists, who visited the beautiful peninsula during the 19th Century.

The restored ruins are now open to the public and host a variety of fascinating events and exhibitions.

10. Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State ParkSource: mandritoiu / shutterstock
Watkins Glen State Park

Another fantastic hiking destination, with access to some truly wonderful and unique views, Watkins Glen State Park is home to the dreamlike Cavern Cascade.

The infinity shower-like falls tumble down through the ceiling of a covered gorge that people can hike through, and are a favourite among landscape photographers looking to capture the surreal phenomenon.

You can also hike on the numerous rim trails above the gorge for a different and equally beautiful perspective.

11. Ausable Chasm

Ausable ChasmSource: ujjwalstha / shutterstock
Ausable Chasm

Fed by the picturesque Rainbow Falls and running into the vast Lake Champlain, Ausable Chasm is a stunning gorge made of sandstone and nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks” due to its size and majesty.

As well as appreciating the aesthetic beauty of the gorge, visitors can enjoy countless activities in the area.

Embark on a range of various difficultly-level hikes, climb the rock faces of the chasm itself, or plunge into the river on a white-water rafting adventure.

12. Thousand Islands

Thousand Islands, New York StateSource: Victoria Lipov / shutterstock
Thousand Islands, New York State

Consisting of an incredible 1864 islands, the islets of the Thousand Islands archipelago wildly differ in size, ranging from many square miles to only large enough for a single resident – giving the area an unpredictable and intriguing feel.

Never far from the water’s edge, day trips to these islands are full of water sports, sunshine and nature.

You’ll also find various points of interest like the stately Boldt Castle, occupying its own island.

Though if you simply want to detach from city life, head to one of the unpopulated alternatives and enjoy the government regulated parks and their gorgeous flora and fauna.

13. Buffalo

Buffalo, New YorkSource: Sopotnicki / shutterstock
Buffalo, New York

Not far from Niagara Falls, on the shores of Lake Erie, lies the iconic city of Buffalo.

Famed for its atmosphere embodying the typical American Rust Belt city, Buffalo is an excellent day trip for those looking for an iconic American foodie experience.

It goes without question that visitors should try the aptly named, world-famous Buffalo wings that are enjoyed internationally, with some truly unbelievable varieties of wing and hot sauce originating here.

14. Rochester

Rochester, New YorkSource: TarnPisessith / shutterstock
Rochester, New York

Another iconic American city found on the shores of Lake Ontario and within easy reach of the Finger Lakes region, Rochester is a welcome breath of fresh air from Syracuse.

It has a diverse range of attractions on offer, ranging from the natural and the culinary to the cultural.

Art enthusiasts won’t want to miss the Memorial Art Gallery on University Avenue, where works from Monet and Rembrandt are on constant display.

Rochester’s answer to the nearby Buffalo’s culinary success can also be found here, in the form of the “garbage plate”, a mixture of meat sauce, macaroni salad and fries.

15. Seneca Falls

Seneca FallsSource: debra millet / shutterstock
Seneca Falls

One of the most significant locations in the United States for those with an interest or curiosity in women’s or civil rights, Seneca Falls was the host of the first Women’s Rights Convention, as well as the home of The Women’s Rights National Historic Park.

The various museums and points of interest concerning the nation’s steps towards liberty over a century ago attract activists and curious travellers alike, keen to learn about this aspect of the nation’s history.

15 Best Day Trips From Syracuse NY:

  • Howe Caverns
  • Buttermilk Falls State Park
  • Finger Lakes
  • Letchworth State Park
  • Boldt Castle
  • Niagara Falls
  • Cooperstown
  • Lake Placid
  • Fort Ticonderoga
  • Watkins Glen State Park
  • Ausable Chasm
  • Thousand Islands
  • Buffalo
  • Rochester
  • Seneca Falls