The Getaway
15 Things to Do in Utica, NY

Nestled in the heart of Upstate New York, Utica stands as a testament to the resilience and rebirth of American cities. With a history that stretches back to the early 19th century, this city has transformed from a bustling industrial hub to a vibrant cultural and recreational destination. Utica's charm isn't just in its past; it's in the way the city has woven its rich history into the fabric of modern life, offering visitors a unique blend of experiences. From the serene beauty of the Adirondack Mountains at its doorstep to the bustling streets lined with historic buildings, Utica invites exploration and discovery. Whether you're an art enthusiast, a nature lover, or a history buff, you'll find something in Utica that speaks to you. The city's resurgence as a community proud of its heritage and optimistic about its future makes it a compelling destination for anyone looking for an authentic slice of Upstate New York.

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01 Explore the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute

The Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute (MWPAI) is a regional fine arts center founded in 1919, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010, lo Mahmoud Suhail / Shutterstock.com

The Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute serves as a beacon of culture in Utica. This architectural marvel isn't just a feast for the eyes; it houses an impressive collection that spans two centuries of art history. Visitors are treated to works by American and European masters, housed within a building as historic as the pieces it contains. The institute isn't just about viewing art; it's about experiencing it through workshops, lectures, and temporary exhibitions that bring art to life. The diverse range of art styles and periods represented ensures that every visitor will find something that resonates.

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02 Ride the Adirondack Scenic Railroad

Vintage diesel locomotive engine pulls a passenger train consist at the Adirondack scenic railroad. JackSpot / Shutterstock.com

A journey on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad isn't just a trip; it's a step back in time. As the train chugs along the tracks, winding through the picturesque landscapes that border Utica, passengers are treated to views that are as breathtaking as they are serene. Seasonal rides, like the fall foliage tour, offer a unique way to experience the natural beauty of the region, making it a must-do for anyone visiting Utica. This experience connects passengers not only with the stunning scenery but also with the rich history of the region.

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03 Discover Bagg’s Square

Bagg’s Square, the historic heart of Utica, is a testament to the city's ability to blend the old with the new. This revitalized district is home to an array of shops, cafes, and breweries, each adding a modern twist to the area's industrial past. The square isn't just a place to shop and dine; it's a place to experience the soul of the city. Walking through Bagg’s Square, visitors can feel the pulse of Utica’s past and present merging together.

04 Visit the Utica Zoo

The Utica Zoo isn't just a place to see animals; it's a place to learn about and engage with wildlife from around the world. With a focus on conservation and education, the zoo offers visitors the chance to see rare and exotic animals up close, making it a perfect destination for families and animal lovers alike. The zoo's commitment to providing educational programs and interactive experiences enhances the visit, making it both fun and informative.

05 Attend a show at the Stanley Theater

Utica, New York - Close-up Night View of The Stanley Theatre. It is a Baroque-style theater built in 1928 owned by Warner Brothers and was Listed as a National Historic Register Place in 1976. Mahmoud Suhail / Shutterstock.com

The Stanley Theater's opulent interior and rich history make it a jewel in Utica's cultural crown. This venue isn't just for watching performances; it's for experiencing the grandeur of a bygone era. From Broadway shows to concerts, the Stanley Theater offers a diverse lineup of entertainment in a setting that's as memorable as the performances themselves. The theater's dedication to preserving its historical integrity while providing modern entertainment makes it a unique cultural venue.

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06 Learn at the Oneida County History Center

The Oneida County History Center isn't just a museum; it's a gateway to the past. With exhibits that cover the region's history from its earliest days to the present, the center offers visitors a chance to dive deep into the stories that have shaped Utica and its surroundings. It's an essential stop for anyone looking to understand the roots of this unique area. The center's extensive archives and knowledgeable staff make it a treasure trove for historians and curious visitors alike.

07 Enjoy Utica’s green spaces

Utica's parks and green spaces offer a breath of fresh air to residents and visitors alike. Whether you're exploring the trails at Roscoe Conkling Park or bird watching at the Utica Marsh Wildlife Management Area, the city's natural beauty is always on display. These spaces aren't just for relaxation; they're for reconnecting with nature in the heart of the city. The variety of outdoor activities available ensures that everyone can find a way to enjoy Utica's natural landscapes.

08 Sample local brews

Utica's brewing history is rich and flavorful, and there's no better way to experience it than by visiting local breweries like Saranac Brewery. These establishments aren't just about tasting beer; they're about understanding the craft and tradition behind each pint. A tour and tasting offer a glimpse into the process that turns simple ingredients into complex brews. The friendly atmosphere and passion for brewing evident in these local breweries make them a highlight of any visit to Utica.

09 Dine in Historic Bagg’s Square

Dining in Bagg’s Square isn't just about the food; it's about the experience. The area's restaurants serve up a diverse array of cuisines, each with its own story to tell. From farm-to-table eateries to historic cafes, dining in this part of Utica is a culinary adventure that shouldn't be missed. The blend of historical ambiance and innovative cuisine creates a dining experience that is uniquely Utican.

10 Stay at a historic hotel

Staying in one of Utica's historic hotels isn't just about finding a place to sleep; it's about immersing yourself in the city's past. These hotels offer a glimpse into Utica's grandeur, with each room and hallway echoing the stories of those who've walked their corridors before. It's an experience that's as unique as the city itself. The charm and character of these historic accommodations add an extra layer of depth to any visit to Utica.

11 Shop at Utica’s Farmer's Market

The Utica Farmer's Market isn't just a place to buy fresh produce; it's a place to connect with the community. Local farmers and artisans gather here to sell their goods, offering a taste of the region's bounty. It's a vibrant, colorful market that reflects the spirit of Utica and its people. The market serves as a lively gathering place, fostering a sense of community and local pride.

12 Walk the Erie Canal Trail

The Erie Canal Trail offers more than just a path for walking or biking; it offers a journey through history. This trail follows the route of the historic Erie Canal, offering scenic views and a tangible connection to the past. It's a peaceful retreat that's as educational as it is beautiful. The trail is a reminder of the pivotal role the Erie Canal played in shaping the economic and cultural landscape of New York State.

13 Experience the Boilermaker Road Race

The Boilermaker Road Race isn't just an event; it's a tradition. This annual race draws runners and spectators from around the world, turning the streets of Utica into a celebration of fitness, community, and perseverance. Whether you're running or cheering, the Boilermaker is an experience that embodies the spirit of Utica. The sense of camaraderie and community pride that fills the air during the race is palpable, making it a highlight of the year for many.

14 Visit the Children’s Museum of Utica

The Children's Museum of Utica, NY Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

The Children's Museum of Utica isn't just a place for kids to play; it's a place for them to learn and grow. With interactive exhibits that cover a range of topics, the museum offers a fun, engaging way for children to explore the world around them. It's a must-visit for families looking for an educational adventure. The museum's dedication to sparking curiosity and imagination in young minds makes it a valuable resource for the community.

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15 Admire Utica’s architecture

Utica Union Station was firstly opened in 1914 and is located on Boehlert Transportation Center, 321 Main St, Utica, NY, USA Mahmoud Suhail / Shutterstock.com

Taking a walk through Utica's streets offers more than just exercise; it offers a visual feast of architectural styles. From historic churches to grand public buildings, the city's architecture tells the story of its past and present. It's a reminder of the beauty that can be found in the built environment. The diversity of architectural styles reflects the city's rich cultural heritage and ongoing evolution.

Utica's blend of history, culture, and natural beauty makes it a destination that's both diverse and deeply compelling. Whether you're exploring its museums, enjoying its green spaces, or sampling its culinary delights, you'll find that Utica offers a unique experience at every turn. It's a city that's proud of its heritage and eager to share it with visitors, promising an unforgettable journey through the heart of Upstate New York.

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