44 reasons you'll love Central New York

The number 44 was worn by our athletic superstars and reminds us that CNY is a region of superlatives. Come along to see 44 pictures showing why we love living in CNY. You'll love CNY, too, when you see what your money can buy, our entertainment and outdoor recreation, and our quality of life. This is a place where we create anew, get things done, and celebrate successes.

1) You can buy the house of your dreams

Housing in Syracuse, NYHousing is affordable here. Zillow reports the median home price in Syracuse is $87,900. In Onondaga County, it’s $139,700.

We don’t sacrifice preference to price – whether it’s a downtown condo, village bungalow, suburban colonial, or waterfront cottage. The National Association of Home Builders says we have the nation’s second most affordable major housing market. You can build new, buy move-in ready, or find a fixer-upper. It's easy to find affordable homes for any taste and stage in life.

2) Easy commuting

Traffic in Syracuse, NYWe’re known as the 20-minute city. Work and play are always close by.  U.S. News & World Report says such convenience is a great perk of living in Syracuse. We don’t waste time in traffic jams on the way to work in the morning – or heading home at night.

Popular suburbs are 20 minutes or less from the center of the city. It’s seldom more than a 20-minute drive to rivers and lakes, ski slopes and hiking trails, or rural solitude. In CNY, we like to make things fun: Watch this commuter competition to Syracuse City Hall by bike, bus, Lyft, and on foot.

 

3) We bleed Orange

Syracuse Basketball gameThe Syracuse University men and women compete at the highest level of collegiate basketball and take our hearts and hopes to the Final Four. These teams turn the town Orange and fill our season with joy.

The Carrier Dome is the largest basketball arena in the United States. We’ve seated more than 30,000 fans for the big games, especially with rivals like Duke, Georgetown, Villanova, and Connecticut. We bleed Orange and call ourselves #OrangeNation.

4) Four amazing seasons

Green Lakes State ParkEach season enriches our lives. We season  changes what we eat and drink, what we do, and how we dress. Spring and Summer bloom warm and green, Winter is for exhilarating outdoor play and a time to snuggle and be cozy inside, and Autumn explodes in colorful glory with the smell of apples and pumpkin in the air.

Does it snow in winter? You bet. But we know what to do to keep our roads clear and easy to drive, and as snow melts, we know our rivers and lakes will be ready for boating, fishing, swimming, and sailing.

5) Downtown Syracuse

The Blue Tusk Armory Square started downtown’s resurgence as a living and entertainment destination  in the 1980s. Since then, downtown has boomed with apartments, condos, restaurants, and nightlife. The energy brought digital companies, engineering firms, startups, and entrepreneurs, enticed by urban excitement and the culture to satisfy diverse tastes.

Our downtown theaters put on grand productions and spin off creative musicians and artists. Chefs cook up their magic with the region's bounty. Outdoor spaces at the Everson Museum plaza, Columbus Circle, Hanover Square, and Clinton Square fill with music for lunch and evening and weekend festivals. We love our fountains, architecture that inspires, and easy lunchtime walks along Onondaga Creek.

6) Concerts, concerts, and more concerts

Concert in Central New YorkThere's music for everyone - concerts of any genre, big or little, intimate indoor settings, or outdoors along the water.  St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater at Lakeview on the shore of Onondaga Lake is a perfect place for an outdoor concert with its stunning sunset and starlit views.

We love our outdoor venues: Chevy Court at the State Fairgrounds, the Bud Lite Amphitheater at Paper Mill Island in Baldwinsville, the lawn at Beak & Skiff Apple Orchard and stages at the outdoor festivals, especially in Clinton Square.

We do smaller things too - legendary musicians have come to the Landmark Theatre, Jabberwocky, the theaters at the Civic Center, the Westcott Theater, the Turning Stone Resort & Casino, and the campuses at Syracuse, Cornell, Oswego, and Cortland. When the Carrier Dome rocks with a big name, we know it will be a night to remember.

7) Top place to raise a family

Family friendly parkForbes Magazine rated our area as one of the top 10 places to raise a family. That’s because of the affordable housing, highly ranked schools, and quick commutes that preserve family time.

U.S. News & World Report ranks Syracuse as one of the best places to live in the nation, thanks to quality of life, affordability, and lower crime rates than similarly sized metro areas. It all adds up to this declaration from the state's iconic I Love New York: “Syracuse is an incredible kid-friendly city.”

8) Taste Finger Lakes wine country

The website Bustle named CNY “The 10 Best Places for Wine Tours in America.” Bustle wrote: The Finger Lakes region of New York is a nature lover’s paradise, with its waterfalls, steep peaks, hiking, and camping. It’s also a mecca for wine."

We love the scenery, the enchanting vineyards, the lake views, the charming villages. We’re not alone.

U.S. News & World Report picked Tuscany for its No. 1, but it put the Finger Lakes on the list. The Thrillist website assembled a panel of sommeliers from around the U.S. Their pick for best wine tour in America? The Finger Lakes, ahead of Sonoma and Napa.

Taste for yourself.

9) So much outdoor fun

Outdoor activities in Central New YorkEvery-season offers something different to do outside.

Spring, Summer and early Fall mean boating, kayaking, canoeing, swimming,  white-water rafting. Winter is skiing, snowshoeing, skating, snowmobiling and sledding.

Hikes through breathtaking beauty any time of year. Competitive races from early spring to late autumn. Rock climbing, fossil hunting, snow-shoeing. World-class salmon and trout fishing. Ice fishing, deer hunting, birding.

Whatever you want, you'll find outdoors in CNY.

 

10) College town  = excitment 

A college town plusColleges with tens of thousands of students gives Central New York a great vibe. We love it when students from around the world flood back every autumn, bringing energy and optimism. We love that many stay to start businesses and careers or remember our quality of life and come back to put down roots. We love how young entrepreneurs enrich our work with innovation, insight, and invention.

Our seven CNY counties have more than two dozen private and public colleges and universities. They give us one of the largest concentrations of students in America. It means we have an equally large concentration of professors, researchers, authors, artists, scientists, engineers, and guest speakers enriching our lives. In CNY, it's convenient to earn an advanced degree.

11) Shop - and play -til you drop

Destiny USA

Destiny USA has more than 250 places to eat, shop and play, making it the sixth biggest mall in the U.S. – so big it needs its own ZIP Code.

Restaurants and shops spread over six stories and 2.4  million square feet. Pop in for a quick shop or take the kids for an afternoon. Shop, eat, drink, drive a racecar, climb the world’s largest indoor ropes course, navigate a mirror maze, bowl, golf, go to a museum or watch a movie.

It's all there.

12) It's a natural beauty 

The natural beauty of Central New YorkMarc Randolph, co-founder of Netflix, studied geology Upstate and loves our region’s rock climbing and hiking. He calls our scenery spectacular, plunked down in “one of the most geologically diverse areas in the world.” Shhh, don’t tell Marc, but it's why we like to turn off our screens and go outside.

CNY is a place of rivers, lakes, lush hillsides, meadows, and vistas bring us joy. Part of the reason our rivers and streams and waterfalls lure us outdoors is their power to inspire. Frame them with a sunrise or sunset, autumn foliage, or glistening snow, and you have a vision you won't find in most places.

13) We love us an outdoor festival

Festivals in downtown SyracuseBalloonfest. Oktoberfest. Film festival. Arts & Crafts Festival. Taste of Syracuse. Blues Festival. Fashion Week. Ozfest. Dozens of festivals spread from downtown to Jamesville, Baldwinsville, and beyond. A Crawfish Festival at Clinton Square, so far from New Orleans, proves we have the moxie to put together any kind of festival.

If we have a signature season, it might be summer and fall festival season. We’ll find a way to celebrate anything with food, music, and fun. How much do we love our festivals? Smack in the middle of winter, we have Winterfest with outdoor competitions for the best chili and best chowder, steaming hot in Hanover Square.

 

14) Onondaga Lake Park

Onondaga Lake ParkWe love this 7.5-mile greenway along Onondaga Lake, with expansive trails for walking, jogging, and biking. On a summer day, thousands of people enjoy relaxing views of the water. The park has the Syracuse Yacht Club, boat launches, ballfields, playgrounds, picnic sites, a huge concrete skateboard center, our Butterfly Garden, and a boathouse and rowing center with crew and kayak launches.

The park's events attract thousands. The JPMorgan Corporate Challenge starts and finishes here. The Onondaga Cup Regatta and LakeFest takes place at the park and on the sparkling waters. The regatta is free, and so is the Salt Museum, celebrating the age when Syracuse supplied salt to a growing nation. A century ago, grand resorts lined the lake. Earlier, in the 1800s, the salt industry got its start. Centuries before that, Hiawatha and the Peacemaker met here for the founding of the Haudenosaunee, the confederacy of the Onondaga, Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Tuscarora, and Seneca Nations. Benjamin Franklin and the Founding Fathers studied their model to shape American democracy.

15) Salt potatoes

Salt potatoesA few years ago, Syracuse.com ran a poll to identify the food that defines our region the way deep-dish pizza defines Chicago, gumbo defines New Orleans, or cheese steak defines Philadelphia. Any Central New Yorker could have predicted the winner: Salt potatoes.

Sure, we have Italian sausage, German sauerbraten, chicken riggies, and Utica greens, and just down the road Binghamton has spiedies, Buffalo has wings, and the Thousand Islands has its native salad dressing. But salt potatoes have a deeper, richer history. Waves of Irish immigrants began arriving here in the 1840s. They worked in salt yards along Onondaga Lake, boiling natural brine to produce salt at a time when Syracuse supplied the nation’s salt. These workers often brought bags of small, unpeeled potatoes to boil in the brine and eat at mealtime. We still make them that way, creamy and delicious, a staple of picnics, clambakes and backyard cookouts.

16) A beautiful swan pond

Manlius Swan PondThe Swan Pond in the center of Manlius, just outside Syracuse, has been one of our favorite places for generations. We like to buy an ice cream at nearby Sno Top and walk hand in hand to the pond to watch the swans and the water fountain. Parents bring children to feed the ducks and swans, people perch on park benches to read or eat lunch, and visitors walk around the ponds to the sound of cheers from the neighboring ballfields.

On the Fourth of July, when Manlius hosts its day-long Independence Day celebration, all the action takes place near the picturesque Swan Pond. That’s why it’s one of our all-American sweet spots, perfect for families, a setting for romance, a beloved landmark.

17) Ice skating

Skating in Clinton SquareWe love ice skating in Central New York, and we have dozens of outdoor and indoor ice rinks to choose from. For charm, romance, and history, our hearts go to Clinton Square. This square has always been a beloved and historic gathering place. In summer, the square has pulsating fountains, and in winter, it has the outdoor rink, both right where the Erie Canal ran through Syracuse.

In winter, it can get crowded at lunchtime as downtown workers take a spin on the ice. At night, it rings with the laughter of youngsters and couples. The backdrop is the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, a towering Civil War memorial. After Thanksgiving, the Square has the city’s main Christmas tree. Other places have rinks, but can they match this one for its history and romance?

18) So much fun on the water

A cruiseboat on Skaneateles Lake

We can't overstate how much we love the water in Central New York. We go out on water skis, sailboats, kayaks. We dive and explore wrecks on the bottom of Lake Ontario. We sun on sandy beaches and cool off with lakeside breezes. We fish for salmon, trout, bass and every other kind of freshwater fish. We welcome the competitors who come here for our regattas, fishing tournaments, and races. If there's a way to enjoy the water, we've embraced it. Sometimes, when we just want to relax on the water, we go on a dinner cruise, like the one on the Judge Ben Wiles at Skaneateles Lake - perhaps the cleanest body of water in America. There, we can ooh and aah at multi-million-dollar mansions along the shore. Skaneateles may showcase homes for America's wealthy, but CNY has so many lakes and rivers almost anyone can afford a waterfront home or a seasonal cottage.

19) Wegmans

WegmansWhen people come to visit, we have a long list of places to take them. High up is Wegmans, the amazing supermarket chain based in nearby Rochester. As Wegmans expands in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, others have come to love this awesome store. You might be thinking: A supermarket? What’s so special about that?

Central New Yorker Carol Baldwin summed up our attitude when her famous son, actor Alec Baldwin, suggested she relocate to California. Her response: “And leave Wegmans?”

Our DeWitt Wegmans has more than 70,000 products displayed over 152,273 feet. It's a great place to shop and see others -- chances are you’ll end up in conversation with a neighbor or friend. Consumer Reports and surveys by industry associations rank Wegmans as the number one grocery store in America, both for customers and employees.

20) Art and artists

Everson MuseumRemember all those universities and colleges? They nurture artists and art that enrich CNY life. Our crown jewel for art is the Everson Museum of Art. I.M. Pei designed the building to be a work of art for works of art. The building opened in 1968 and is credited with launching Pei’s career as well as putting our museum at the forefront of contemporary architecture. When you see his later designs, like the National Gallery of Art in Washington, you’ll notice inspiration from Syracuse.

Beyond the Everson are campus galleries, neighborhood galleries, and rejuvenated warehouses where artists find room and camaraderie. Two specialized galleries are noteworthy: ArtRage Gallery, 505 Hawley Ave., focuses on social-justice issues in a neighborhood known for its LGBT community, and the Community Folk Art Center, 805 E. Genesee St., showcases African Diaspora artists.

21) White Christmas

A white ChristmasIn Central New York, we don't have to dream about a white Christmas. What are the odds we’ll have a beautiful blanket of white on Christmas Day? Scientists say it’s 66 percent.

What if it snows a lot? Even on a holiday, our public works departments quickly clean streets and highways. These pros let us shrug off snowfall that would paralyze other places.

22) Affordable SUNY

SUNY graduationIf you didn’t grow up here, “SUNY” may be unfamiliar. Just to be clear, it’s not a misspelling of sunny. SUNY stands for State University of New York, and it’s pronounced SOO-nee.

The sprawling SUNY system has 64 campuses – the nation’s largest system of universities, colleges, and community colleges. Our seven-county home has eight graduate or baccalaureate SUNY colleges and five community colleges. Tuition for residents carrying a full credit load is $6,870 a year at baccalaureate-degree campuses. At colleges granting associate degrees, it is $4,680.

SUNY has special arrangements with a number of private universities. For instance, our Ivy League Cornell University has state statutory schools – colleges established to provide study in special fields like veterinary medicine or human nutrition or life sciences. Cornell students in those fields pay a reduced rate. SUNY's Environmental Science and Forestry campus borders Syracuse University. ESF students can take SU classes at SUNY rates. We love the inexpensive ease we can work toward advanced degrees in our careers.

23) Farmers markets

Farmers MarketLong before chefs began crowing about locally sourced food, Central New Yorkers found it at roadside stands and local farmers markets. We still do. It’s only minutes to the countryside, so we know our farmers markets' produce is fresh.

The Ithaca Farmer’s Market operates from Steamboat Landing on Cayuga Lake. Downtown Syracuse has a seasonal farmers market; so do many suburban villages. The biggest and oldest market is our favorite. The Central New York Regional Market is open year round on Saturday and also on Thursdays from May to November. Sometimes we stay a while to meet with farmers, grab a meal and gab with friends. If not, it’s an easy in-and-out for farm-fresh produce, meats, and cheeses.

24) Syracuse Crunch AHL hockey

Syracuse Crunch players celebrateOur Syracuse Crunch, affiliated with the Tampa Bay Lightning, gives us memorably big events. One was the first outdoor game in AHL history in 2010 at the New York State Fairgrounds. In 2014, the Crunch set a professional hockey attendance record, playing in front of 30,715 fans at the Carrier Dome. Normally, the team plays in the War Memorial Arena before sellout crowds of nearly 6,000 fans.

A place that celebrates winter as we do enjoys ice hockey. The SU women’s varsity hockey team plays at the Tennity Ice Pavilion. Our high schools have varsity teams. Youngsters who like the sport can grow up on skates. If they want to dream big, they can head up to the Lake Placid Olympic Center to relive the 1980 Miracle on Ice.

25) St. Patrick's Parade

St Patricks Day paradeIn our region, immigrant and ethnic neighborhoods maintain, celebrate, and share their character with festivals and food and culture. The biggest celebration of all is the annual St. Patrick’s Parade in downtown. Rain or shine, tens of thousands line Salina Street each March on the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day. If it’s a warm Saturday, 100,000 spectators turn out. The parade is a day to celebrate everything Irish, who have a long history in Syracuse.

Need a tell-tale sign of our Irish affinity? The only upside-down stop light in the world, with Irish green on top, is at Tompkins Street and Milton Avenue in the heart of Syracuse’s Tipperary Hill neighborhood.

26) Great health care

Great healthcareSyracuse has six great hospitals: Crouse Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center, Syracuse V.A. Medical Center, University Hospital Community Campus, Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, and Upstate University Hospital. The last three are branches of the SUNY Upstate Medical University. University Hospital is the region’s Level 1 Trauma Center.

This concentration of medical care didn’t spring up overnight – these hospitals grew with long and sustained community support to ensure that our quality of life continues even when we’re sick. Our healthy lifestyle requires more than great hospitals and a wealth of health-care professionals. That’s why we so value our clean water, our fresh air, and so many parks beckoning us to exercise.

27) No scary weather

A dog playing in the snowHurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes? They happen elsewhere. Our biggest worry? A lake-effect snowstorm that, if they’re lucky, gives the kids a snow day.

Drought is something we read about in other places. Before everyone else valued plentiful, cheap and clean water, Central New Yorkers were awash in it for recreation, industry and beauty.

28) Half Moon cookies

Half moon cookiesHalf Moon cookies originated in Central New York, so it makes sense that we have strong opinions. First, call them Half Moons. They are not Black and Whites. They are not a Half and Half. Hemstrought’s Bakeries created the cookie in the 1920s, called them Half Moons, and still does. That tips the scale for us.

We cut everyone some slack on the second issue. Is the chocolate side or the vanilla side better? We like to eat both sides as we figure out which one wins.

Finally, we all have our favorite Half Moon baker. In a 2018 poll, the public chose Harrison Bakery in Syracuse, but culinary judges chose Dunn’s Bakery in Canastota. There were more than 400 Half Moon bakers to choose from, so this took plenty of research. Jerry Seinfeld said this cookie could solve the world’s problems. Was he right? Probably not, because the cookie debate goes on. But, hey, we’d settle for a world where all our disagreements were this delicious.

29) We embrace the snow

Snow tubingSyracusans like to complain about snow. It gives us a little swagger as we head out to ski, ride a snowmobile, or brush off a lake to drill an ice-fishing hole. But we’ll let you in on our own little secret: Snow in Syracuse, the nation’s snowiest metropolitan region averaging 114.6 inches every winter, is not a big deal.

First, everyone thinks the official snowfall measured at Syracuse Hancock International Airport is deeper because the airport sits smack in a regular snow band off Lake Ontario.

Our airport, by the way, really knows how to deal with snow. It annually wins the award for the nation's best snow removal. When our airport closes, it’s because airports in other places can’t handle snow and get planes off the ground.

30) Great Italian restaurants

Italian restaurant in downtown SyracuseWho has the best Italian food in Central New York? That’s a tough question because we have so many great Italian restaurants. Every few years, Syracuse.com conducts a poll on a pared-down list of finalists. The arguing that follows about the list and its omissions shows our passion for Italian. Inevitably, we can count on somebody to say: The best Italian food was at my grandmother’s house every Sunday.

Which explains why we have so many great Italian restaurants. Starting in the 1880s, Syracuse and Utica attracted a flood of Italian immigrants. Many settled on Syracuse's North Side, replacing earlier German immigrants and establishing Little Italy, a neighborhood centered on churches like Our Lady of Pompei and grocers like Lombardi’s Fruits & Imports and Thanos Import Market. Eventually, our Italian population moved far and wide, starting restaurants all around. We won’t take sides in this delicious debate, but here’s a tip anyone will savor: Don’t overlook the Biscotti Cafe pastry shop in Little Italy.

31) Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Dinosaur Bar-B-QueThis barbecue place with attitude opened in 1988. Before long, it won national acclaim, became a tourist destination, and turned into one of the most recognized food enterprises in the Northeast. Co-founder John Stage didn’t train to be a culinary genius or a maestro of tourism. He just wanted to make good barbecue. Stage was in his 20s when he and his Harley-Davidson-riding friends began making a little money pulling a smoker-on-wheels to motorcycle events up and down the East Coast. They got pretty good at the “low and slow” style.

John's food is fantastic and we admire his story for its Syracuse grit. His success says a lot about life here. Like John, Syracuse is cool, underestimated, and authentic. The Dinosaur, like Syracuse, builds on attitude, inspiration, and an inventive spirit.

32) Triple-A professional baseball

Syracuse Chiefs baseball stadiumWe’ve had a professional baseball team in Syracuse for all but four years since 1877. Now, it’s the Syracuse Mets, a Triple-A team that plays in the International League. It’s affordable family fun in a beautiful ballpark, NBT Bank Stadium, where there are post-game fireworks a couple dozen times during the season and special promotions all season long.

While we brag about our baseball, it’s worth mentioning our proximity to Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. For many Americans, it's a once in a lifetime pilgrimage. For us, it's a 75-minute drive away.

33) Rich in history

History StatuesOur quality of life includes knowing that we've been part of something big, something monumental. We’re proud that the Haudenosaunee were models for American democracy. We’re proud that many early settlers were Revolutionary War soldiers. We’re proud the Erie Canal came through here, launched our prosperity, helped us to open up the West, and made us a crossroads of opportunity.

We’re proud of the role our region played in the Underground Railroad, in women’s rights, in the rise of America’s industrial might. We’re proud that our universities welcomed women long before others did. We’re proud that people like Gustav Stickley changed American design. Our long tradition of innovation and invention made CNY a land of opportunity. Our history embodies the American dream and the expansion of liberty.

34) Proud of our heritage

Erie Canalway CorridorEarly on, Syracuse became the crossroads of New York and that meant we’ve had a long tradition of welcoming immigrants. They shaped our heritage with inventiveness, great cuisines, and a lasting entrepreneurial spirit.

Now, we feast on festivals celebrating our ancestries: Irish, Greek, Italian, Latino, German, Polish, Scottish and Celts, Nepali, Jewish, Haudenosaunee, Middle Eastern, Macedonian, Somali Bantu, Ukrainian, and Egyptian. The list of festivals is long and grows as immigrants build neighborhoods and share their foods and culture.

Our heritage is celebrated in museums like the Ska-nonh Great Law of Peace Center along Onondaga Lake where the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) was founded centuries ago. Ska-nonh, pronounced skah-known, is an Onondaga language word of greeting. Many of our ancestors arrived here on the Erie Canal. The Erie Canal Museum in downtown Syracuse preserves their story in the only weighlock left in the U.S. It shows our heritage is based on people, exploration, and fearless innovation.

35) Best apple picking on the East Coast

Apple pickingThe hills and valleys in LaFayette south of Syracuse are loaded with orchards, and apples are the main attraction. Twice, USA Today voters have named Beak & Skiff as the nation’s best apple orchard. The family-owned business started in 1911, when onion farmer George Skiff and dairy farmer Andrew Beak planted an apple orchard. Now, it has more than 350,000 apple trees and welcomes us to pick our own. Every October, LaFayette celebrates with an enormous Apple Fest.

Our climate, our soil, and our topography have us flush with fresh fruit – apples, grapes, stone fruits, and berries. Part of the credit can go to the scientists at Cornell University in Ithaca. They do research that makes our region a bountiful and delicious place to live.

36) A marvelous rose garden

A beautiful rose gardenThe E.M. Mills Rose Garden has been delighting visitors since 1925. Is it the fragrance? The color? The careful design for more than 3,000 rose bushes spread over the acres? Probably all of the above.

Volunteers maintain this gorgeous garden in Thornden Park near the SU campus, and it speaks volumes about our devotion to civic works. In Central New York, we don’t sit back, we get involved. Study after study show the personal rewards of civic participation. Not everybody cares about learning to grow roses, but whatever we want to cultivate in our life, Syracuse finds a way to help us do it.

37) Columbus bakery bread

Columbus Bakery BreadSomeday, when websites have scratch and sniff, you’ll know why we love Columbus bakery. The 116-year-old bakery at 502 Pearl St. in Syracuse’s Little Italy sells 1,000 loaves of its simple Italian bread each day.

When PBS produced a documentary on great American bakeries, it started with Columbus Baking Co.

38) Rosamond Gifford Zoo

Penguins at Syracuse ZooThere can’t be a schoolkid in our region that hasn’t gone on a field trip to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo to learn about nature, conservation, and how life adapts. It's a great family outing, and events like Brew at the Zoo make it a great date destination, too. A roundtrip starts in a submarine cave with fish, reptiles, and octopus. It moves to an aviary and Penguin Coast. Visitors head out on walking trails to see wildlife in their habitat, including an elephant preserve.

This county park is inexpensive and family friendly. It shows how our community values hands-on learning at places like the zoo, the Museum of Science and Technology, and Beaver Lake Nature Center.

39) New York State Fair

Normally, Central New Yorkers don’t have to push through crowds or put up with long lines. For 13 days ending on Labor Day, we don’t mind. That’s because we host the New York State Fair, a razzmatazz showcase of agriculture, concerts, carnivals, and foods. It’s the nation’s oldest state fair, and more than 1.2 million people come for our boisterous end-of-summer celebration.

Farmers show crops and livestock. Artists and artisans compete for prizes. Teenagers head to the Midway. We don’t skip the butter sculpture, sand sculpture, drone show, circuses, Iroquois Indian Village, Pan-African Village, fireworks, horse shows … we can’t list everything we love about our fair. Oh, heck, one more thing: The best and greasiest deep-fried treats that keep us salivating all year long.

40) The character of villages and their happenings

People dressed up walking in a paradeOur region is dotted with charming villages, unique in history, character, and architecture. In Skaneateles, the rich and famous compete to buy homes on the lake and locals shrug at celebrity sightings. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the village celebrates “Dickens Christmas” with 50 of Charles Dickens’ characters strolling the streets and caroling.

The Seneca River and Erie Canal run through Baldwinsville making it another of our destinations for waterfront living and dining. Chittenango honors L. Frank Baum, author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” with a Yellow Brick Road. Upscale shops cluster in Fayetteville along with historical sites, like the house museum of Matilda Joslyn Gage, a pioneer in women’s rights. Cazenovia, founded in 1793, is another lakeside retreat with gorgeous architecture, an exclusive feel, and fine dining. There are more, but we can’t stop without mentioning one that draws us every summer for fun: On the east shore of Oneida Lake lies Sylvan Beach, a waterfront resort with fun restaurants and an all-American amusement park that harkens back to the 1950s.

41) Lights on the Lake

Every year around the holidays, we like to drive out to Onondaga Lake Park and ride through Lights on the Lake, a holiday feast for the eyes. It’s a great family-friendly tradition where kids will ooh and aah at the holiday lights and decorations.

42) Green Lakes State Park

Green Lakes State ParkWe have a wealth of beautiful parks - more than 100 in Onondaga County alone. Our crown jewel is Green Lakes State Park. It’s the most visited state park in Central New York. The park opened in 1928 and the signature attractions of its 1,955 acres are two glacial lakes, Green Lake and Round Lake, filled with stunning blue-green water. Walking, jogging, running trails surround them. Green Lake's beach is popular for sunbathing and swimming all summer.  The two lakes are unusual meromictic lakes, meaning that the layers of water do not mix. The park is also famous for its 18-hole golf course, a masterpiece designed in 1935 by the celebrated Robert Trent Jones.

43) Veterans

Veteran paradeOur region has always welcomed veterans, starting with Revolutionary War land grants. We treasure our veterans and the maturity and service they provide. One of the greatest testaments came after World War II, when Syracuse University became the pre-eminent G.I. Bill university. In fact, SU Chancellor William Tolley was instrumental in drafting the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 - the G.I. Bill.

SU and Central New York have stayed committed to be a superb place for veterans. Military Times annually ranks SU as the No. 1 private school in the publication’s Best for Vets listings. In recent years, Vice Chancellor Michael Haynie expanded on the vision, making Syracuse the nation’s leader and creating programs that are now emulated across America. It's an attitude that permeates our population.

44) The legend of 44

Syracuse football player Jim BrownJim Brown, arguably the greatest player ever, wore number 44 at Syracuse University. It became a legend, worn by SU players like Ernie Davis, the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. The number became so embedded in Syracuse culture that SU’s ZIP code uses it. So does the SU telephone exchange. The number is proudly worn on jerseys all around the region. The number 44 reminds us we are a region of superlatives.

It’s why we made a list of 44, a few of our favorite things that make our home a unique place. You won’t find this combination of qualities anywhere else. Central New Yorkers know this, and even if they leave for a while to explore the world at college or in the Army, in Boston, Brooklyn, or overseas, they often come back. They’ve learned how all these qualities are so affordable. As author Hart Seely wrote a decade ago in The New York Times: “Just think of the 'Cuse as your past and future, waiting to be rediscovered.”