Situated just miles from the bank of Lake Erie (not to mention the shores of lakes Onondaga and Ontario and the nearby Finger Lakes), Syracuse is a picturesque city of hills, valleys, lakes and streams, albeit with big-city amenities and a small-town feel.
Originally settled by the Iroquois Indians, Syracuse was once a major trading crossroads with both the Erie Canal and a network of railways snaking through the city. Yet, if you were traveling through Central New York two centuries ago it is unlikely that you would have spent much time in, or paid much attention to, the swamp land that is now downtown Syracuse. But under that swamp was salt, which at that time, was almost as good as gold, giving Syracuse a solid economic base and its nickname “The Salt City.” By the mid-1840s the city was the nation’s leading producer of salt with salt-condensing “boiling blocks” that turned saline spring water to salt being built all over the city.
Today, this Rust Belt city is seeing a resurgence both as an educational epicenter of the Northeast (Syracuse is home to Syracuse University, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and Le Moyne College) as well as a hotbed for culture, food and retail. Home to the Salt Museum, the Erie Canal Museum, the Museum of Science and Technology, the I. M. Pei-designed Everson Museum of Art and the nation’s largest regional history museum, the Onondaga Historical Society, the ‘Cuse offers myriad cultural opportunities. And with about 100 inches of snowfall each year, Syracuse is a godsend for skiers, snowboarders and sledding aficionados.