Those Summer Nights

Summer is pretty special in Central New York. Maybe it’s because we know how fleeting it feels, or maybe it’s because of the things we can enjoy during the warmer months all within a short drive. Unwind with any of these ideas for some quintessential CNY summer nights.

picture of a drive-in movie sign announcing showings for Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Drive-in movies

Existing and pop-up drive-in movie theaters saw a boost in popularity during the pandemic. This nostalgic activity returns screen time to the large scale, letting you indulge in summer blockbusters and snacks from the comfort of your car. Many theaters offer double- and triple-features on weekends all summer long.

Head to the Finger Lakes Drive-In in Auburn, New York state’s oldest operating drive-in movie theater or the Midway Drive-in located in Minetto.

close up of colored mini golf balls

Hit a hole-in-one

For nearly eight decades, Fairmount Glen Fairmount Glen Miniature Golf has been a summer destination. The 18-hole course features a babbling creek and twinkling lights and stays open until midnight throughout the summer for the late-night crowd.

At Big Don’s Wild River Mini Golf, additional activities include laser tag and gem mining. Other spots to try: Hickory Hill in Baldwinsville, Shipwreck Golf Amusement Center in Cortland, Lakeview Lanes in Fulton, Gold Rush Adventure Golf in Westmoreland.

image of Judge Ben Wiles Boat in the water

Sail away on a sunset cruise

The Finger Lakes are the perfect places to soak in the beauty of Central New York. Mid-Lakes Navigation takes you out on the turquoise waters of Skaneateles Lake for dinner, cocktails, or even a full-moon voyage. Discover Cayuga Lake offers public cruises, private charters and special event trips, such as a meteor shower cruise. BYOB some local wine to Bianconi Tours’ Sunset celebration tour.

a baseball player leaving the dugout

A ball game is a home run

Spend an evening at the ballpark watching Central New York’s minor league baseball team, the Syracuse Mets. Stay for the fireworks after weekend home games, and don’t miss fun promotional nights during the week like Bark in the Park, Juneteenth, Marvel comics, jersey giveaways and more. Check out the full schedule for the season.

an old-fashioned ice cream stand

We all scream for ice cream

Top off a hot summer day with a frozen treat from one of Central New York’s ice cream stands and shops. Some of the best known are Purity Ice Cream, Cornell Dairy Bar and Sweet Melissa’s Ice Cream Shop in Ithaca; Gannon’s, Arctic Island, The Ice Cream Stand, Peter’s Polar Parlor, Big Dip, Sno Top and Dad’s Ice Cream in and around Syracuse; Six Scoops and Bev’s Dairy Treats in Oswego; Coneheads Ice Cream in Oneida; Maxwell’s in Hamilton; or explore the Finger Lakes Ice Cream Trail. Several of the shops have vegan options.

audience in lawn chairs watching actors perform a shakespeare play

Shakespeare in the park

Each summer, the company at Syracuse Shakespeare-in-the-Park performs two outdoor shows in the Thornden Park Amphitheater. These high-quality productions feature period costumes and shows are free to attend.  This year’s schedule features “Macbeth” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” running the first two weekends of June and August, respectively. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs and snacks.

close up of a steering wheel of a classic car

Car cruise nights

Auto enthusiasts across Upstate New York plan weekly “cruise nights” to share their vehicles with the community. Local group Central New York Car Show & Cruise-In Scene keeps a detailed list of roughly three dozen weekly cruise-ins all throughout the region, including Monday nights at Sno-Top in Manlius, Tuesdays at Dave’s Diner in Schuyler, Wednesdays at Heid’s in Liverpool, Thursdays at Classic Cones in Auburn, Fridays at Dairyland in Sharon Springs, and Saturdays at Heritage Hill Brewhouse in Pompey. Check their Facebook page for the full list.

a crowd watching chamber musicians play at sunset outside

Orchestra nights lakeside

For more than 40 years, the Skaneateles Festival has brought chamber music to the shores of Skaneateles Lake. The celebration of classical music is held each summer, with 12 performances, KidsFest interactive concerts, and educational courses from late July to late August. Weekday performances are indoor and Saturday evening concerts are at the pavilion at Anyela’s Vineyards.

a black man receiving a beer sample from a white man behind a table
Brew at the Zoo

Party animals will have a wild time at the annual Brew at the Zoo at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo. The popular event features regional beer and beverages, live entertainment, food trucks, a silent auction and animals on evening exhibit after the zoo closes to the public. This year it takes place on August 5, 2022.

people waiting in lines at food trucks parked next to each other

Food truck rodeos

A diverse collection of food trucks create a veritable buffet for Central New York foodies. Sample local flavors at weekly Food Truck Takeovers in the Syracuse area at Shoppingtown Mall in DeWitt on Tuesdays and Great Northern Mall in Clay on Wednesdays. During the lunch “hour” on Fridays, look for a smaller group of vendors slinging dishes at the plaza at Everson Museum of Art, and enjoy live music.

bistro at a winery with glasses of wine on the table

Summer nights in wine country

After a day enjoying the natural wonders the Finger Lakes has to offer, head to area wineries and brewhouses for some late-night live music and special dinners. Treleaven Wines kicks off the season with a Memorial Day weekend event, and hosts comedy nights. Villa Verona Vinyeard in Verona features live music each Friday and Saturday evening.  Pub Nights on the Brew Deck overlooking Seneca Lake at Wagner Valley Brewing Co. and Wagner Vineyards Estate Winery bring beautiful sunset views and live music every Friday night from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. For extra chill – try a cold wine slushie.

vibrant sunset at the edge of a lake

Outdoor dining with a sunset view

Lakes and bucolic farmland provide the backdrop for dining al fresco in Central New York. Pack a picnic to dine by the water at Southwick Beach or take in the scenery at Rudy’s Lakeside Drive-in on the shores of Lake Ontario in Oswego. The Brewster Inn overlooking Cazenovia Lake and Elderberry Pond on a 36-acre organic farm in Auburn are two other choice spots.

a glamping tent with a bed and dresser

Camping or glamping

Pack your tents, sleeping bags and s’mores ingredients and spend the night surrounded by Mother Nature. Public campgrounds at New York state parks offer plenty of amenities from public restrooms and swimming areas to RV hookups and private cabins. Not ready to fully rough it? Consider “glamping” — a resort-like experience which offers the grandeur of the great outdoors paired with the amenities of luxury lodging. Book a glamping experience at places like Scottland Yard GlampingFirelight Camps in Ithaca, or a lakeside spot.

a boy looking into a large telescope with the moon behind him

Star gazing

Drive away from the city lights to find yourself under breathtaking star-filled skies. The Darling Hill Observatory in Tully is open for public stargazing on a Friday night once a month. A nine-foot-long telescope helps you get a close-up look at the constellations and planets.