Park's the place

Our quality of life includes hundreds of parks, operated by the state, by counties, and by local municipalities. The region is so rich in parks it almost guarantees an easy walk to one in your neighborhood.

Team up for a game, cook out with friends, relax in the sun

New York's state parks in CNY are superb, each one a scenic beauty. To get you going, here are a dozen of the state parks in the region with links to all the details: Buttermilk Falls State Park, near Ithaca; Chimney Bluffs State Park, featuring dramatic landscape along Lake Ontario; Chittenango Falls State Park, a 167-foot waterfall near Cazenovia; Clark Reservation State Park, a botanist's paradise just 15 minutes from downtown Syracuse; Fillmore Glen State Park, forested gorges between Auburn and Ithaca; Green Lakes State Park, glacial lakes surrounded by forest and a spectacular 18-hole golf course less 20 minutes from downtown Syracuse; Old Erie Canal State Park, a 36-mile stretch between Syracuse and Rome, part of the original 363-mile Erie Canal ; Robert H. Treman State Park, wild beauty and rugged gorges near Ithaca; Sandy Island Beach State Park, beaches and dunes along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario; Selkirk Shores State Park, spectacular sunsets over Lake Ontario; Taughannock Falls State Park, an Ithaca-area beauty with a 200-foot plunge past rocky cliffs towering nearly 400 feet above the gorge; and Verona Beach State Park, a picnicker's and camper's delight on the eastern shore of Oneida Lake. These parks are an easy drive from anywhere in CNY.

Here's a day-trip tip: Less than two hours west of Syracuse is Letchworth State Park, renowned as the "Grand Canyon of the East" and one of the most majestic areas in the eastern U.S. with gorges, cliffs, and waterfalls.

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The 13 parks run by Onondaga County draw visitors from the whole region. Try these eight to start your fun: Beaver Lake Nature Center, a glacial lake with miles of trails and 400 family-friendly programs; Highland Forest, rugged and forested terrain with 20 miles of trails perfect for hiking or Nordic skiing; Hopkins Road Softball Park, a six-diamond complex; Jamesville Beach Park, sunbathing, kayaking, and hot-air balloon launches; Oneida Shores, beautiful Arrowhead Lodge with a sandy beach along New York's largest inland lake; Onondaga Lake Park, the "Central Park of Central New York" running along a 7.5 mile greenway; Otisco Lake Park, great views and fishing in the eastern-most Finger Lake; and Pratt's Falls Park, scenic trails and a 137-foot waterfall.

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The region is rich with municipal parks, almost guaranteeing an easy walk to one in your neighborhood. The City of Syracuse alone maintains 52 parks. Here are a few worth exploring: Burnet Park has a swimming pool, a public golf course, the Rosamond Gifford Zoo and views overlooking downtown. Expansive Thornden Park has vistas high above Syracuse University and thousands of roses and trellises, making it a favorite for wedding photography. Onondaga Park has charming views, including the Hiawatha Lake gazebo reached by footbridge. The Onondaga Creekwalk is an urban pedestrian and bicycle trail along Onondaga Creek between Armory Square and Onondaga Lake, a perfect 2.6-mile lunchtime stroll. DeWitt's 16 parks are typical of the neighborhood parks lacing the region. Check out Ryder Park for a butterfly garden, canoe launches in Butternut Creek, trails linking to the Erie Canal, and DeWitt's regular summertime concerts. In Manlius, Mill Run Park features 39 acres of trails, ballfields, an old mill dam, and a picnic pavilion, all along Limestone Creek. At Marcellus Park you'll find skateboarding, beach volleyball, horseshoes, and baseball. Baldwinsville's Paper Mill Island holds an amphitheater with a full slate of summertime concerts, walkways and views of the Seneca River and Erie Canal lock operations.

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The federal government has preserved places in Central New York to mark natural beauty and American history. Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, 35 miles west of Syracuse, covers 15 square miles and was established in 1938 as a refuge and nesting ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. The Oriskany Battlefield National Historic Landmark, site of one of the bloodiest Revolutionary War battles, and the Fort Stanwix National Monument, both at Rome, show the early role that Central New York played in America's history. The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park is fittingly located in Central New York, a center for abolition and women's suffrage. A few miles west, in Seneca Falls, is the Women’s Rights National Historical Park.