Get to Know Central New York

Get to Know Central New York blog post

Whether you’re new to the Central New York area, considering a move, or just want to get to know us better, here’s a little primer on CNY. Get to know us a little better through our food and drink, attractions, history, sights and more – from A to Z.

A – New York State is the second-largest grower of apples in the United States. Central New York and the Finger Lakes are famous for several types of apples, such as the Cortland, McIntosh and Empire. The LaFayette Apple Festival in Onondaga County attracts well over 100,000 visitors each October and apple picking is a seasonal tradition. Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards, also in LaFayette, has been repeatedly named the Number 1 Apple Orchard in the country by USA Today’s, though you can’t go wrong at any of our orchards.

International Boxing Hall of Fame

B – There is no known geographic origin for boxing. But after two Canastota residents reached the top levels of the sport in the 1950s and 1970s respectively, residents of the town were inspired to establish boxing’s first hall of fame and museum. The Hall of Fame inductions and celebration are held in June. The inaugural class in 1990 included Muhammed Ali, Basilio, Joe Frazier, Jake Lamotta, Rocky Marciano, Jack Dempsey and “Sugar” Ray Robinson. This is one of several Halls of Fame in Upstate/Central New York.

C – New York’s craft brew scene continues to grow, inspiring enthusiasts and home brewers to expand their palates and knowledge of beer making. After Prohibition was repealed, the very first brewery in the nation to receive a license to sell beer was in Central New York: Utica Club became the first beer licensed for sale in the nation on April 7, 1933. Breweries continue to pop up at a quick pace, and many use local ingredients in their recipes. Find your next favorite here.

Ernie Davis statue at Syracuse University

D – The community always rallies around our local athletes, from high school to the pros. One of the most famous is Ernie Davis, known as “The Elmira Express.” Davis became the first African-American to win football’s Heisman Trophy Award in 1961, capping off a stellar career at Syracuse University. His NFL career was cut short by leukemia and he died just two years later at the age of only 23. A movie was made in 2008 about his life. A statue of Davis stands near the steps of Hendricks Chapel and the Quad where pre-game pep rallies are held and the field at the Dome, where Syracuse Football plays, is named ‘Ernie Davis Legends Field’.

E – When the Erie Canal was completed it was the second-largest canal in the world, only behind China’s Grand Canal. The canal connected Albany to Buffalo, making it possible to connect the Great Lakes to the Hudson River and then to the Atlantic Ocean. When it was completed in 1825, it was hailed as one of the greatest engineering marvels of its time. Now used primarily for recreation, the canal is a pleasant stretch of water which carries its history along at a placid pace. The Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse and several parks along the way celebrate the history of this incredible achievement.

F – Outdoorsmen and women will appreciate the clear waters of Central New York and the many opportunities for excellent fishing. Oneida Lake has hosted Bassmaster and Fishing League Worldwide tournaments and thousands of happy anglers. The lake is best known for its walleye and yellow perch harvests. Throughout CNY, guided fly-fishing trips, fishing charters, tournaments and family-friendly derbies are available. Come winter, try ice fishing.

G – If you know someone who’s from or been to the Ithaca area, you may have seen them sporting an “Ithaca is Gorges” shirt. That’s because the Ithaca area is home to impressive waterfalls, and yes, picturesque gorges. Hike the Cascadilla Gorge Trail, a historic set of stone trails and staircases ascending over 400 feet and past six waterfalls. Don’t miss nearby Taughannock Falls, which go over the biggest single waterfall drop east of the Rockies.

Heid's of Liverpool hot dog stand

H – The retro-styled Heid’s of Liverpool hot dog stand serves up Hofmann franks, Coneys, shakes and memories. A popular spot for tourists and locals alike, Heid’s first opened over 100 years ago. In warmer weather, stop by for live concerts and soft serve ice cream and other special frozen treats.

I – Speaking of ice cream, Ithaca is purported to be the place where the ice cream sundae was invented. Stop by Purity Ice Cream parlor there for one of the best. They have been making epic sundaes for over 80 years in small batches with the original recipes.

J – There aren’t too many places where you can witness jousting as it was in the mid-1500s, but the Sterling Renaissance Festival in Cayuga County gives you the chance. Spread across 35 acres of forest and stone or grass-covered areas, the Ren Faire, as it’s sometimes called, is a dramatic recreation of an Elizabethan town at festival time. It is a Renaissance-style theme park, with staged and impromptu performances, an arts and crafts fair, a food festival and tavern. Grab a turkey leg and have a good time.

K – One of the top reasons for returning to CNY, given by those who grew up in the area, left and moved back, is that Central New York is a great place to raise a family. The diversity of our people and places, competitive schools, plethora of activities (indoors and out) and safe, clean communities make it a kid-friendly region. Like a woolier type of kid? We have goat yoga, too.

relaxing by Skaneateles Lake

L – If you find being by the water soothing, don’t think that our land-locked area is lacking: Central NY and the Finger Lakes region boasts nearly 50 lakes for beauty and recreation. State and county parks provide access for beaches, fishing and boating.

M – The CNY Maple Festival in Marathon, NY, celebrates its 50th year in 2020. The festival is a sure sign that spring is coming to the area. The tapping of maple trees, some as old as the area itself, has been a tradition in Cortland County since the days of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Indian) culture.  The April weekend event includes carnival rides, a pancake eating contest, live music, maple products and munchies and more.

N – Admire thousands of classic cars and hot rods each summer at Syracuse Nationals, the largest car show in the Northeast. Enthusiasts and owners from across the country descend on Syracuse for the three-day event that also features live music, airbrush and pinstriping artists creating work that is sold at auction for charity, automotive tech seminars, a pin-up girl contest, vintage race cars, and unique, luxury autos.

Wizard of Oz celebration in Chittenango

O – What began as a small-town festival to acknowledge the village of Chittenango as the birthplace of Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum, has become a huge celebration of all the versions of the tale (the books, the film, the WIZ, Wicked, etc.). Every June, thousands attend the Oz-Stravaganza: enjoy special guests, including actors from the original movie, costume contests, a parade, Oz-themed exhibits, a museum and more.

Arnold Palmer at Turning Stone Resort | Casino for a skins game

P – Sprawling, challenging golf courses abound in CNY, some even designed by the renowned Robert Trent Jones (Sr. and Jr.) and Jack Nicklaus. For PGA-level play, head to the links at Turning Stone Resort | Casino in Oneida County, which has been the host of the PGA Professional National Championship in the past. In addition to the Shenendoah and Atunyote courses, Turning Stone has three other highly rated courses for players of all skill levels.

Q – Quaint villages: Cazenovia, Skaneateles, Hamilton, Clinton, Aurora…the list goes on and on.  Charming main streets with restaurants and independent shops; abundant arts, history and culture; small, close-knit communities and beautiful settings make these spots lovely places to live and excellent for day-trip visits.

R – At many CNY restaurants you might find Riggies, often called Chicken riggies or Utica riggies, on the menu. Native to the Utica/Rome area, this Italian, spicy pasta dish is flavored with a mixture of hot or sweet peppers and a creamy sauce. There is also an annual Riggie Fest where restaurants and individuals compete for the Riggie Cup and bragging rights.

S – Salt potatoes, which are another regional specialty, don’t seem like they’d be much different from any other potato you might eat. But, the small potatoes boiled in heavily salted water and doused in melted butter – while delicious – are connected to the origins of Syracuse.

Harriet Tubman's house in Auburn

T – Harriet Tubman, the most famous of all the conductors along the Underground Railroad, lived for many years in Auburn and is buried there in famous Fort Hill Cemetery.  Auburn had an active abolitionist group and Senator William Seward was a strong supporter. He sold Tubman his property so it could be used to shelter escaped slaves. Tubman escaped slavery to return 19 times and guide 300 people to freedom in the North.  She also served as a scout and spy for the North during the Civil War.

U – Another unique Italian dish that originated in the Utica/Rome area is Utica Greens. The dish, made with escarole, peppers, cheese and prosciutto, started as comfort food cooked in home kitchens. In the 1980s, it was put on the menu at the now closed Chesterfield Restaurant in Utica. Now many restaurants have added the dish to their menus.

Dr Frank vineyard

V – The vineyards of the Finger Lakes have been named the best wine region in the United States in a national poll conducted by USA Today and its travel site, The Finger Lakes are home to 100+ wineries, pristine lakes, rolling hills and a thriving food scene, and beat out finalists from California and five other states. One of those wineries, Dr. Konstantin Frank, was named one of the Top 100 Wineries in the world for 2019 by Wine & Spirits Magazine.

W – True Central New Yorkers pride themselves on embrace winter and we have several winter carnivals and festivals celebrating the season. The winter fests around the area range from polar bear plunges in the lake to chili and chowder cook-offs.

cross-country skiing

X – Layer up and get into cross-country skiing for a peaceful but challenging open-air workout. XC-skiers enjoy trails throughout the seven counties of CNY (and beyond) to explore. Take it to the next level with races or a biathlon.

Y – Nationally recognized brands are manufactured right here in Central New York, including Chobani yogurt, Anheuser-Busch beverages and Liberty Tabletop flatware – the only flatware still made in the USA.

Z – Wildlife lovers will be happy to know that Central New York has several popular and well-known municipal zoos and wildlife areas. The Rosamond Gifford Zoo (Syracuse) and the Utica Zoo, both AZA-accredited, are among the best. The New York State Zoo in Watertown (north of CNY) is the only zoo to house a long list of indigenous New York State animals. Fort Rickey Discovery Zoo in Rome and The Wild Animal Park are also great for families. More than 107 different bird species have been identified within Labrador Hollow Unique Area. Cayuga Nature Center exhibits feature live animals, fossil specimens, hands-on interactive activities and citizen science stations.