If winter in Central New York can be punishing at times, summers here are surely the sweet reward for sticking it out. Located smack in the center of New York state, Madison and Oneida counties offer all the best upstate has to serve in summer. From sparkling lakes and pristine parks to small-town traditions and big-time casinos, there’s a lot of fun to be had right in Syracuse’s own back yard.
One of the most satisfying ways to enjoy the bucolic beauty of Madison and Oneida counties is to just start driving or biking. Ribbons of open roadway unspool throughout the countryside and wind through villages and towns with timeless appeal.
Traveling east from Onondaga County, take Route 5 along the northern perimeter to trace the Old Erie Canal. Or start out to the south along scenic U.S. Route 20. In either direction, you won’t be far from a farmers market or roadside farm stand, which offers a chance to stop, stretch your legs and explore a little. Long before “farm to table” became a dining trend, farmers here have been writing their chapter in the history of upstate agriculture.
Madison County showcases its agri-tourism efforts during Open Farm Day, Saturday, July 28, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (684-3001, Ext. 125; madisoncountyagriculture.com) as dozens of farms and farmers markets put their best food forward by opening their doors to the public. Visitors can follow a map of participating sites to take tours, check out locally made products and ask questions of staff.
Or just pick a sunny Saturday and head east. Route 20 meanders the hills along the southern edge of Madison County and offers a slice of upstate life. The village of Cazenovia, for example, hosts its Farmers Market Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., right in the heart of town at Memorial Park along Albany Street. Visitors will find an impressive array of local produce, beef, cheese and flowers as well as vendors selling everything from soap to pasta to hula hoops.
The market is a manageable size and visitors will find they have plenty of time to explore the lakeside village or take in another attraction. Perhaps pick your own blueberries at Critz Farms, 3232 Rippleton Road (critzfarms.com). Call ahead ((800) 442-3225) to get the Berry Report, starting date and field conditions. Fields are open in July and August from dawn until dusk for self-serve picking. In August, pick up fresh-cut sunflowers and gladiolus. The farm’s Kiddie Corral Playgound, complete with slides built into a hill that young ones love to climb, is open all summer and has access to the farm’s animals.
The Lorenzo State Historic Site, 17 Rippleton Road (655-3200; lorenzony.org), offers a glimpse into life on a 19th-century estate. Learn more about the formal gardens and elegant architecture during guided tours of the mansion, Wednesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission costs $5 for adults, $4 for students, free for ages 12 and younger. Or take in one of Lorenzo’s many free summer events; see Calendar of Events, page 37, for details.
Hop back on Route 20 and head just east of the village to Stone Quarry Hill Art Park (655-3196; stonequarryhillartpark.org), a true treasure and well worth a visit. Founded in 1991 by Dorothy and Robert Riester, this 104-acre park capitalizes on nature’s beauty to showcase 100 outdoor sculptures. Visitors can meander trails through the park or head inside to visit the art gallery. The park is open every day, dawn to dusk, while the gallery is open Thursdays to Sundays, noon to 5 p.m., during exhibitions only. Put one of the park’s events on your calendar: Saturday, July 21, Caz Counterpoint Family Arts Day; Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 18 and 19, Syracuse Ceramic Guild Pottery Fair. Suggested donation is $5 per car.
Keep cruising on Route 20 to Bouckville-Madison. While best known as a destination for those seeking a piece from the past, the site of the annual Madison-Bouckville Outdoor Antiques Show writes a new chapter this year with the debut of the New York Country Jam (nycountryjam.com), Friday and Saturday, July 13 and 14. The lineup July 13 includes Lyndsey Highlander, Steel Magnolia and headliner Gretchen Wilson; July 14 features Bo Bice, David Lee Murphy, Darryl Worley, Tracy Lawrence and headliner Big & Rich.
Of course, antiques enthusiasts will still want to make a day of it at the Madison-Bouckville Outdoor Antiques Show (bouckvilleantiqueshows.com), which runs Aug. 13 to 19 with all fields open by Aug. 16. More than 2,000 dealers assemble on the grounds along with numerous roadside setups and shops. It’s a fun day for families, too, as children can find their own tiny treasures and perhaps find inspiration to start their collection of anything from milk bottles to buttons. Food and drink are available at stands as well as sit-down restaurants along Route 20. Admission is $7 for adults; free for ages 11 and younger; and $8 for a weekend pass for two days.
Clear your mind and work your body while hiking or biking some or all of seven miles of picturesque and historic Chenango Canal Towpath Trail from downtown Bouckville to Hamilton, or stroll alongside the spring-fed canal trail in Bouckville.
Add picturesque Hamilton, home to Colgate University and just a short detour south off Route 20, to your list of easy day trips. Visit the extensive farmers market (Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.) on the Village Green, Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Then stroll the downtown area and discover little shops and restaurants in this quaint village. If you see a distinguished gent wearing an ascot, be sure to say “Howdy!”
The university’s Picker Art Gallery in Dana Arts Center (228-7634; pickerartgallery.org) has evolved since opening in 1969 from temporary display space to now holding a permanent collection of more than 10,000 objects from a broad range of media and historic periods. It is free and open to the public.
If quaffing rather than culture is more your taste, Madison County’s first commercial brewery just opened in January. Good Nature Brewing, 37 Milford St., Hamilton (824-1560. goodnaturebrewing.com) opens its tasting room Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 7 p.m.
Madison County was once rich with hop production and Foothills Farm, 5024 Route 46, Munnsville (495-2451; foothillhops.com) is dedicated to preserving the hop-growing heritage of the area. Stop in the Hop Shop and ask for a tour, then check out the hop fields and meet the farm’s animals: reindeer, pygmy goats, miniature horses, alpacas, a mini-donkey and a miniature zebu cow.
South of Hamilton, the multi-arts venue known as the Earlville Opera House (691-3550; earlvilleopearhouse.com) pays homage to a truly American art form with exhibits featuring regional and national quilt artists that will hang July 7 through 28. Of course, there’s opera on the calendar, too, with Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience Aug. 10 through 12 as well as a commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War with The Civil War: A Musical Journey June 8.
Heading back north and picking up Route 46, a must-stop while still in Madison County includes the Oneida Community Mansion House, 170 Kenwood Ave., Oneida (361-3671; oneidacommunity.org). Once
home to the religious utopian community led by John Humphrey Noyes,
which eventually evolved into Oneida Ltd., it is open for tours of the
movement’s museum and historic grounds. Guided tours are conducted
Wednesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and Sundays, 2 p.m.
Self-guided tours may be taken at any time. Admission costs $5 for
adults but is free for ages 11 and younger.
The Madison County Historical Society’s Cottage Lawn Museum, 435 Main St., Oneida (363-4136 to schedule a tour) features Victorian-era furnishings and an exhibit on hop culture in the barn during summer months. Open Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed all major holidays. Tours are $5 per person; children 12 and younger are free.
See, touch and use many of the tools from the early days of farming at the Juravich Farm-Ye Olde Red Barn, 3601 Kotary Road, Oneida (697-9235). After careful restoration, the barn now stands as it did 180 years ago, when it was a threshing and hop-drying operation. Bring a picnic lunch; no admission is charged but donations are accepted. Open Mondays and Wednesdays, 1 to 3 p.m., with wagon rides on Saturdays, 1 to 3 p.m.
Crossing into Oneida County, leave the dirt-based farming past behind and get a look at the future with a tour of Aqua Vita Farms, 104 E. Seneca St., Sherrill (941-3535; aquavitafarms.com). Get a glimpse inside an operation that has found farming success, and international attention, with aquaponics, a growing method that combines fish farming and hydroponic farming to use less water, energy, space, soil and labor but provide crops all year long. Meet the fish, see the plants and learn about this next wave in sustainable agriculture. Tours take place the fourth Saturday of every month (June 23, July 28, Aug. 25) at 11 a.m.; additional tours may be scheduled for the second Saturday of every month; check aquavitafarms.com for dates. Tours cost $5 and reservations are requested.
When in Rome, get an eyeful at Fort Stanwix National Monument, 112 E. Park St. (338-7730). Take a ranger-led walking tour of the resconstructed Revolutionary War-era fort and learn about the area’s significance through the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. Admission is free.
For a full day of Americana, take note of Rome’s Honor America Days event (337-1700; romechamber.com), Saturday, July 28, that includes a parade along North James Street at 10 a.m. with floats, marching bands, drum corps, antique cars and patriotic groups. Bring a blanket or lawn chair to enjoy a free performance at 8 p.m. by Symphony Syracuse on the lawn at Fort Stanwix. A fireworks display concludes the concert with the “1812 Overture” and “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Also in Rome, the Capitol Theatre, 220 W. Dominick St. (337-6453; romecapitol.com), opened in 1928 as a movie house but now operated as a civic center, offers a range of entertainment all summer. The 10th annual Capitolfest film festival Friday, Aug. 10 to Sunday, Aug. 12 screens early sound flicks as well as silent films complete with live organ accompaniment played on the restored Moller grand organ. Single day and weekend passes available.
Fort Rickey Children’s Discovery Zoo, 5135 Rome-New London Road, Rome (336-1930; fortrickey.com), is a seasonal operation offering a different take on the zoo experience with a petting zoo and pony rides. Check out animals from around the world as well as domestic species such as Fort Rickey’s well-known gray wolves. Visit the zoo’s website to print out a coupon for free children’s admission with paid adult admission of $9.50; children younger than 2 are free.
Farther afield but offering another walk on the wild side, the Utica Zoo in Roscoe Conkling Park, 99 Steele Hill Road (738-0472; uticazoo.org), fills 35 acres and houses more than 200 animals, including Siberian tigers, red pandas and bald eagles, from around the world. Keep an eye out for the daily sea lion shows and children’s zoo. Admission is $7.75 for adults and $4.75 for children ages 4 to 11.
For culture rather than critters, stop at Utica’s Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, 310 Genesee St., Utica (797-8260; mwpai.org). Housed in two connected buildings—the landmark 1960s Philip Johnson building and historic Fountain Elms—the institute’s collection spans the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. An exhibit that might be especially up kids’ alley, Shadow of the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt and Its Influence, presenting tomb relics, ancient hieroglyphs, jewelry, gilded mummy masks and much more, opens June 16.
Saranac Brewery Shop and Tour Center, 830 Varick St., Utica ((800) 765-6288) is a stop that can be made with or without the kiddos. Guides walk visitors through the brewing process, as well as explain Saranac’s history, with a tour that ends in the 1888 Tavern. Sample different brews and Saranac soft drinks. Tours run about one hour and are available Mondays through Saturdays, 1 and 3 p.m., during the summer months but call ahead as construction at the site may change the schedule. Admission costs $5 per person, free for children 12 and younger.
After all that family fun, it might be time for the grown-ups to grab a little R&R to themselves. Rev it up or relax at Turning Stone Resort and Casino, 5218 Patrick Road, Verona ((800) 771-7711; turningstone.com), which is a top-notch destination in itself, with three golf courses, spa, restaurants, nightclub and, yes, gaming.
Vernon Downs, 4229 Stuhlman Road, Vernon ((877) 88-VERNON; vernondowns.com) made big headlines this spring for booking Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band for Aug. 29 but this harness track, casino and hotel, too, offers a night on the town through November.
Or loop back east and head north along Route 13 to Sylvan Beach (sylvanbeach.org), which offers a little something for everyone, with rides, restaurants, fishing and swimming all in one area. Consider a trip during free fishing weekend, June 23 and 24, when anyone can fish in New York state waters with no license required. It’s the perfect opportunity to take a beginning angler. Celebrate Canal Fest 2012 at Sylvan Beach on Aug. 11 and 12 with free entertainment throughout the weekend in the bandstand. You’ll also see crafters, vendors and classic cars in the Village Park.
Winding south from Sylvan Beach, Route 13 continues back into Erie Canal territory. Canastota may seem an unlikely site for anything international but this Madison County village carries some serious credibility in its claim as Title Town. Boxing champs Carmen Basilio and Billy Backus were both hometown boys and their success inspired residents to open the International Boxing Hall of Fame, 360 N. Peterboro St. (697-7095; ibhof.com). More than 20 classes of honorees have been inducted over the years, and this year’s induction weekend, June 7 to 10, honors six more. In addition to the annual four-day festival, the museum is open weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Pugilism is a big part of Canastota’s recent history but the Erie Canal jumpstarted the area’s development during the early 19th century. A portion of the Erie Canal still runs right through the village, in front of the Canal Town Museum, 122 Canal St. (697-5002; canastota.com). The National Park Service offers a rich perspective on the days of the Old Erie Canal. The museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays: in June, noon to 3 p.m.; in July and August, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission costs $3 for adults, free for ages 12 and younger.
Just north, pack a picnic and head outdoors to Madison County’s only nature center, the Great Swamp Conservancy, 8375 N. Main St. (697-2950; gscincny.org). A 900-foot boardwalk spans a flooded forest, and a 60-acre restored wetland is a major resting stop for thousands of migratory birds. Don’t forget the bug spray!
Set on the historic site of an Oneida Indian Village and recognized as the site of the 1615 Champlain-Oneida Battleground, the Nichols Pond County Park, 5797 Nichols Park Road, Fenner (366-2376) has 45 acres of nature trails for hiking, an observation deck overlooking a wetland habitat, and a picnic site with grills. You can also observe the Fenner Wind Power Project from the park, located on Nichols Pond Road.
Oxbow Falls County Park (366-2376) sits on 125 acres of woodland, streams and rugged terrain with a beautiful 100-foot waterfall. Located on Oxbow Road, which you can access at its intersection with Route 5 in Canastota, the park sits on the northern edge of the Helderberg Escarpment, offering panoramic views stretching across Oneida Lake to Lake Ontario. Enjoy the ball field, hiking trails and an 18-hole disc golf course.
The reward for all this outdoor activity is a sweet stop at Zem’s Ice Cream, Hickory and Main streets, Canastota (697-8510). The 19-hole mini golf course has a game room and serves hard and soft custard ice cream.
Drive south to Peterboro/Smithfield to learn how several Central New Yorkers, including abolitionist Gerrit Smith, took a stand in the 19th century on the issue of abolishing slavery. The National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, on the second floor of the Smithfield Community Center (abolitionhof.org) presents banners and displays on the works and legacies of those who toiled toward abolition. Open June through September, Saturdays and Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m., and by appointment.
Located in the former schoolhouse of the Home for Destitute Children of Madison County, the Peterboro Area Museum, 4608 Peterboro Road (sca-peterboro.org) features memorabilia about Peterboro and the Smith family’s colorful history related to abolition, the Underground Railroad, women’s rights, soccer and Holstein-Friesian cows. Open Sundays 2 to 4 p.m., or by appointment.
Spend a whole day (or weekend) at the 20th annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend, Saturday and Sunday, June 9 and 10 (684-9022; sca-peterboro.org). Wander through Confederate and Union camps and listen to stories of the men and women, then watch them drill for battle. Each afternoon, hear the sound of cannons booming and muskets cracking as North and South skirmish at 2 p.m. both days. Admission costs $7 for adults, $5 for ages 6 to 12.
Just east of the Madison/Onondaga county line, the quiet village of Chittenango continues its yearlong bicentennial. Of course, Chittenango’s annual traditions also continue, most notably the convergence of legions of Wizard of Oz fans here at the birthplace of author L. Frank Baum. This year’s celebration, including a parade with grand marshal and Wicked author Gregory Maguire, already took place June 1 to 3.
But Chittenango offers plenty of other ways to celebrate the original Emerald City this summer. A new exhibit, All Things Oz, opened last summer in a Chittenango storefront dubbed Baum’s Bazaar, 211 Genesee St. (333-2286). The collection features more than 1,000 items related to the author’s personal and professional history. It is open Fridays, 5 to 8 p.m., and Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Admission costs $2.
Stop by the Chittenango Free Library, 101 Falls Blvd., to browse their collection of L. Frank Baum books, memorabilia from the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie and Oz collectibles.
Chittenango, too, played its role in the history of the ambitious Erie Canal system and the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum, 7010 Lakeport Road (687-3801; clcbm.org), tells of the construction of canal boats, the workings of restored dry docks and the social history of the canal era. Across the street, access the Erie Canal Trail and enjoy a serene stretch of pathway to walk, jog or bike. Check out the museum’s annual Canal Fest, scheduled this year for June 17, or plan a visit to the museum, which has a new executive director at the helm. Open Saturdays and Sundays in June, 1 to 4 p.m.; daily in July and August, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission costs $5 for adults, free for children 12 and younger.
Crossing the Onondaga County line following Route 173, keep an eye
out for the views to the north, where Oneida Lake glimmers in the
Calendar of Events
June 7-10. International Boxing Hall of Fame Induction Weekend. Weekend of tribute to the sport and its champions. 360 N. Peterboro St., Canastota. 697-7095; ibhof.com.
June 9-10. Peterboro Civil War Weekend. Fundraiser for preservation of Peterboro’s historic buildings features encampments, skirmishes, period music and demonstrations, children’s games and authentic general store. Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. $7/adults, $3/ages 6-12. 684-9022; sca-peterboro.org.
June 17. Canal Fest 2012. With chicken barbecue starting at noon. Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum, 7010 Lakeport Road, Chittenango. $5/adults; free/ages 12 and younger. 687-3801; clcbm.org.
June 17. EuroCar 2012 and Garden Art Show. Lorenzo State Historic Site, 17 Rippleton Road, Cazenovia. Free. 655-3200; lorenzony.org.
June 21. Shakespeare on the Lawn. Pack a picnic and lawn chairs for presentation of The Tempest on the front lawn; presented by the Redhouse Arts Center. This event is weather dependent. Lorenzo State Historic Site, 17 Rippleton Road, Cazenovia. Free. 425-0405.
June 23. Yellow Brick Road 8K Run/5K Walk. $20/advance, $25/day of race, free/fun run ages 15 and younger. Chittenango. 687-7114.
June 29-July 4. Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Festival. 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Live music, sidewalk art, mural painting, antique autos and more. 310 Genesee St., Utica. 797-8260.
July 7-8. CAVAC Arts and Crafts Show. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Featuring more than 100 artisans. Lorenzo State Historic Site, 17 Rippleton Road, Cazenovia. Free. 655-9798.
July 20-22. Bavarian Festival. Music, food and more. Utica Maennerchor, 5535 Flanagan Road, Marcy. $5; free/ages 11 and younger. 736-0018; uticamaennerchor.com.
July 21-22. Lorenzo Driving Competition. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Tests of horse and carriage skill, timing and style.
Lorenzo State Historic Site, 17 Rippleton Road, Cazenovia. Free. 655-3200; www.lorenzony.org.
July 23-29. Boonville Oneida County Fair. Old-fashioned county fair, with rides, games of chance, a truck pull, demolition derby, and a world of agriculture and exhibits. Boonville. 942-2251; boonvillefair.com.
July 27-29. Great American Irish Festival. Irish music, 5K run, Pipe Band competition, games and activities for kids, Irish history and culture as well as food and beverages. Herkimer County Fairgrounds, Route 5S, Frankfort. $10-$12/day; $25/advance; free/ages 12 and younger.
July 27-28. Stockbridge Valley Community Fair. Music, food, crafters and vendors. Route 46, Munnsville. 366-0225.
July 28. Madison County Open Farm Day. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Participating farms and markets open their doors to visitors for tours, showcase of farm products and animals, and more. Look for trail maps distributed in area grocery stores and newspapers. 684-3001, Ext. 125.
Aug. 3-5. Rome Canalfest. Bellamy Harbor Park, Mill Street at the canal, Rome. www.romenewyork.com.
Aug. 4-11. Franklin Trek. Franklin Car Club rolls into Cazenovia with parade on Aug. 5. 655-9243.
Aug. 10-12. Capitolfest 10. Summer film festival features lineup from the silent and early talkie era complete with live organ accompaniment. Capitol Theatre, 220 W. Dominick St., Rome. Single-session and weekend passes available: $14/per session, $26/per day, $55/weekend. 337-6453; romecapitol.com.
Aug. 13-19. Madison Bouckville Antique Week. More than 2,000 vendors along a scenic stretch of Route 20, between Madison and Bouckville. 893-1762.
Aug. 18-19. Syracuse Ceramic Guild Pottery Fair. Stone Quarry Hill Art Park, 3883 Stone Quarry Road (off Route 20), Cazenovia. 655-3196; stonequarryhillartpark.org.