Syracuse got its name from the town of Siracuse on the island of Sicily, and the Italian-American link is still very evident in this city in central New York, for you'll find several Italian restaurants here and an annual Festa Italiana.
The Irish Connection
You'll also find a rich Irish heritage, evident in the section of the city known as Tipperary Hill (so named for the natives of County Tipperary, Ireland who immigrated here in the 19th century). You'll find several Irish pubs in this neighborhood, including Coleman's Authentic Irish Pub (that has a clock giving you the time in Syracuse, NY - and another clock giving you the time in Dublin, Ireland). And Tipperary Hill's most famous and unusual attraction is an inverted traffic light - with the green color on top and the red on the bottom (for on Tipperary Hill, even the traffic light wears its green with pride and distinction!).
The Iroquois Connection
But no discussion of Syracuse's beginnings would be complete without mentioning the Iroquois, the Native Americans who first inhabited this area. Many of their descendants now reside south of the city, on the Onondaga Indian Reserve (which is the seat of the Iroquois Confederacy). For a history of the Iroquois' contributions to the area, visit Syracuse's Saint Marie Among the Iroquois Living History Museum. And one Iroquois tradition that still thrives in Syracuse is the sport of lacrosse (it's one of the area's most popular activities).
Salt and Water
The city of Syracuse owes its existence to two important items: salt and water. Salt mining was once its major industry, and it's still known as "The Salt City"; there's even a Salt Museum here, which tells of Syracuse's humble beginnings as a mining town. And the downtown Erie Canal Museum illustrates the importance of water here, for Syracuse became increasingly important as a canal stop for barges after the Erie Canal was built in the 19th century (this museum is housed in the National Register Landmark Weighlock Building, which was originally used as a canal boat weighing station).
Syracuse's geographic location, right in the center of the state, has helped the city to thrive, for it stands at the crossroads of two major interstate highways (I-81, running north-south, from Canada to Knoxville, and I-90, running east-west, from Seattle to Boston); it also has other connecting interstates (I-690 and I-481). The city has, indeed, functioned as a major crossroads for more than two centuries: first, between the Erie Canal and its branch canals; then for the railway network (Syracuse still lies on Amtrak's Empire Service, Lake Shore Limited, and Maple Leaf lines).
Other Points of Interest
One of the city's major attractions is DestiNY USA, a gigantic shopping and entertainment complex on Syracuse's north side. One of Syracuse's most popular restaurants is the Dinosaur Bar-B-Q (featuring great barbequed ribs), which is usually packed and lined up with such a variety of clients as leather-clad bikers (with a plethora of bikes parked outside) and businessmen in their three-piece suits. And the city hosts the longest running State Fair in the entire nation (dating back to 1841). Other interesting places to visit include Syracuse University (home of the Carrier Dome, the only domed stadium in the Northeast), the Landmark Theatre (the last remaining depression-era movie palace in central New York), the Museum of Science & Technology (with its domed IMAX theatre), the Everson Museum of Art (containing the nation's most comprehensive display of American ceramics), the Onondaga Historical Association Museum (where the first Franklin car, manufactured in Syracuse in 1902, is on display), and historic Armory Square (with its unique shops, restaurants, and night clubs).
For More Information:
Syracuse Convention & Visitors Bureau, 572 S. Salina St., Syracuse, NY 13292-3320; phone: 1-800-234-4797; web site: www.VisitSyracuse.org