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On Being a Tourist in My Own Town

Please welcome Michele McIntyre, a freelance writer who covers spas, travel, fitness, wellness and healthy living/eating.

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24 hours in family-friendly Syracuse

Recently my husband mentioned that I should find more things I like to do close to home. He may have a point: I’ve spent 45 nights away from home this year. But I’ve lived in the Syracuse area my entire life – that’s 40+ years of the same roadways, shops, restaurants and attractions. For me, travel is the counterpoint to the familiar, but I wondered if my husband was right.

Am I missing out on what’s right in my own backyard?

Staying in family-friendly Syracuse

super-comfy Hotel SkylerThe weekend before Thanksgiving, I set out to explore the family-friendly side of Syracuse with my husband, our 11-year old son and his friend. We drove 15 minutes from our home to our home for the night, Hotel Skyler. Guests love that the hotel has a rich history and has been repurposed not one but twice – the building formerly housed a temple and a theater.

  • What I like about Hotel Skyler – It offers super-comfortable beds, free parking and upscale atmosphere, it’s immaculately clean and independently owned.
  • What the kids like about Hotel Skyler – They have these awesome pillows that are great for pillow fights. We liked sleeping there.
If you’d like to learn more about Hotel Skyler, visit them online at HotelSkyler.com, Facebook or Twitter and read what other travelers have to say about them on TripAdvisor.com.

Day 1: Playing & eating at Destiny USA

We spend Day 1 at Destiny USA, the 6th largest shopping destination in the country, where a day can unfold in dozens of ways.  We’re exploring the entertainment and dining options and saving the shopping for another visit – when we’re kid-free. We began with a scrumptious lunch of fish and chips with homemade tartar sauce at Gordon Biersch.

  • burgers at Gordon Biersh Restaurant, SyracuseWhat the adults say about Gordon Biersch – Guests can watch the brewmaster create German-style beer through glass windows. We loved the beer flights because it meant we could sample all 6 varieties of the in-house brewed beer.
  • What the kids say about Gordon Biersch – It’s pretty cool that they make their own beer.
If you’d like to learn more about Gordon Biersch, visit them online at GordonBiersch.com, Facebook or Twitter and read what other travelers have to say about them on TripAdvisor.com.

We moved onto indoor golf and discovered the walls have ears at OptiGolf. Well, not exactly. There are 4 microphones under the floor that “listen” and a high-speed camera mounted overhead to watch your every swing.

  • What adults say about OptiGolf – We relax in a private room sipping a cold beer while the kids play the Pebble Beach course on the golf simulator; there are over 100 courses to choose from.
  • Kids say about OptiGolf –  It’s frustrating at times because I’m not very good; it’s very realistic.
If you’d like to learn more about OptiGolf, visit them online at optigolfcenters.com, Facebook or Twitter and read what other travelers have to say about them on TripAdvisor.com.

Next it was the Amazing Mirror Maze. We slipped on disposable plastic gloves and walked with our hands in front of us, zombie-like fashion, through a series of archways painted in fluorescent colors, as we hunted for the exit.

  • fun at the Mirror MazeWhat the adults say about Amazing Mirror Maze – The maze was a blast! We laughed a lot as we chased the kids around. Every time we thought we found them, they evaded us.
  • What the kids say about Amazing Mirror Maze – It was very challenging and fun trying to run away from the adults.

Onto the Pole Position Raceway. These indoor electric go karts cater to those who enjoy the occasional surge of adrenaline. Riders are separated by age and while adult cars reach speeds up to 45mph, junior racers clock speeds around 25mph.

  • What the kids say about Pole Position Raceway – One kid was a little wary at first. The other is a speed demon at heart. In the end, both thought the experience was “thrilling and fast!” They’d both do it again in a heartbeat.
If you’d like to learn more about Pole Position Raceway, visit them online at PolePositionRaceway.com, Facebook or Twitter and read what other travelers have to say about them on TripAdvisor.com.

I scaled a 33-foot rock-climbing wall in the Arizona desert despite my fear of heights and was determined to add Wonderworks Canyon Climb to my climbing resume. But after harnessing up, attending the safety briefing and crossing the bridge to the 70 feet tall course, I turned back. My husband, on the other hand, was right at home among the suspension bridges, swinging steps and lily pads.

  • What the kids say about WonderWorks Canyon Climb – The speed demon in our group isn’t too keen on heights. The climber, who isn’t keen on speed, thought it was a rush!

Our last stop was Dave & Busters for dinner and arcade play.

  • What the adults say about Dave & Busters – I got the impression of being in a Las Vegas sports bar, minus the gambling of course. Don’t miss the Hot Sugared Donut Holes – warm sugarcoated donut holes with dipping sauces – which are great for sharing.
  • What the kids say about Dave & Busters – Chicken fingers, root beer, arcade games and machines that spew out tickets for prizes?  LOVE!
If you’d like to learn more about Destiny USA, visit them online at destinyusa.com, Facebook or Twitter and read what other travelers have to say about them on TripAdvisor.com.

Day 2: Playing and eating in downtown Syracuse

WonderWorks Canyon climb The next morning we head downtown to the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology (MOST) where kids of all ages run from one interactive exhibit to another. The traveler in me is drawn to the Earth Science Discovery Cave where I learn about glaciers and how our nearby Finger Lakes were formed.

  • What the adults say about MOST – Syracuse is blessed to have such a cool and engaging science museum that offers excellent programming in a clean, safe and educational environment.
  • What the kids say about MOST – There are lots of new experiments and experiences but the Science Playhouse is still our favorite.
If you’d like to learn more about the Milton J. Rubenstein of Science and Technology, visit them online at Most.org, Facebook  and read what other travelers have to say about them on TripAdvisor.com.

We had one final stop to make on our tour of Syracuse:  Blues Brunch at Empire Brewing Company.

  • Blues Brunch at the Empire Brewing CompanyWhat the adults say about Empire Brewing Company: Even if you think you don’t like Bloody Mary cocktails, you have to try the Cajun Bloody Mary at Empire Brewing Company. It’s garnished with pickled green beans and the rim is dipped in Cajun spices for an extra bit of heat. My dish, the Creole huevos rancheros, blurred culinary borders but it was the dish to my right that made me take notice. The brunch fajitas was a tricked out flavor combination of molasses & brown sugar marinated andouille sausage and scrambled eggs with traditional fajita fixings. Who knew this much fun happens in Syracuse every Sunday?
  • What the kids say about Empire Brewing Company:  “Do you think people get more credit when they make their own beer?”, my son asked. Why yes, I do.
If you’d like to learn more about Empire Brewing Company, visit them online at empirebrew.com, Facebook or Twitter and read what other travelers have to say about them on TripAdvisor.com.

Driving home we reflect on our favorite dish, favorite activity and what challenged us the most. We felt a new appreciation for what Syracuse can offer its visitors and residents. Will I travel less in 2014?  Probably not. But I’ve bought myself a little time before I have the urge to jump on a plane again. And when the urge strikes? I just may be satisfied being a tourist in my own town.

Have you ever been a tourist in your hometown? Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook – and let’s continue the conversation!

To comply with the long list of regulating bodies, possibly even Geneva Conventions and in the interest of transparency, Michele’s trip was sponsored. Commentary and perspectives are those of Michele McIntyre.

About Michele McIntyre

Michele McIntyre ~ @cnyspagirlMichele McIntyre is a freelance writer who covers spas, travel, fitness, wellness and healthy living/eating. She is happiest when lying face up on the treatment table, writing about her spa and travel experiences or testing new products to share with her readers. She lives near Syracuse, NY with her husband and son. Michele is a regular travel contributor to LivingBetterat50+ and has written for Today’s Central New York Woman Magazine and online at Tripology, TripAtlas, and Splash Magazines Worldwide. When she isn’t writing about or visiting spas, Michele loves traveling, hiking, skiing, camping, yoga and reading. If any of these pursuits can be combined with a visit to the spa, even better! Catch up with Michele online on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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