Located in the center of New York State, Utica is (and has always been) a meeting ground for different cultures. First came the Oneida, Mohawk, Onondage, Seneca and Cayuga tribes, which converged to create the Iroquois Nation. Then came the European settlers, with immigrants from various corners of the world pouring into Utica to build the Erie Canal. Today, Utica bustles with the same cultural goulash, a recipe that produces fabulous shopping, delicious ethnic fare and good family fun.
Shopping in Utica actually begins just 20 miles outside Utica at the Oneida Outlet Store in Sherrill. Here, the legendary flatware created by the utopian Oneida community delights both chefs and well-equipped foodies alike. In the market for delicious take-home fare? Tourists shopping in Utica stock up at Rintrona’s Bakery, where fried dough, meatballs and tomato pie have been specialties since 1908.
Those visiting Utica discover a charming, quaint town tucked in the Mohawk Valley. A focal point of the historic community is Union Station on Main Street. Built in 1914, the station is an architectural dream, from the terrazzo floors to the grand marble pillars that support a 47-foot ceiling. Tourists can hop aboard an Adirondack Scenic Railroad train tour from the station and embark on an exploration of the surrounding wilderness.
Visitors traveling with kids head for the Utica Zoo. The zoo is home to over 200 animals, including sea lions, Siberian tigers and Alaskan grizzly bears. Kids love interacting with animals at the petting zoo and during live animal shows.
Interactive fun is also available at the Children’s Museum of History, Natural History, Science and Technology on Main Street. In this imaginative space, kids of all ages discover dinosaur fossils, work with Doppler radar and play house in a model of an Iroquois home.
Adults visiting Utica can taste a selection of Saranac brews during a tour of the Matt Brewing Company on Varick Street or spend the afternoon strolling the Munson-Williams-Proctor Museum of Art. Housed in two buildings, one an 1850 Italianate mansion and the other a contemporary granite structure, the museum boasts over 25,000 pieces in its permanent collection. Art lovers are particularly interested in Thomas Cole’s “The Voyage of Life” and the museum’s display of works by the Hudson River School of 19th-century painters.
For dinner in Utica, there is no place better that Dominique’s Chesterfield Restaurant on Bleeker Street. Here, tourists dine on traditional Italian fare like pasta fagiola, homemade gnocchi and local favorites like chicken riggies in spicy marinara sauce.
After dinner, those visiting Utica can watch Broadway productions or hear the symphony at the Stanley Center for the Arts. A beautiful Mexican-Baroque theater, the Stanley Center features ornate wall decoration and the world’s largest free-hanging chandelier, which is suspended from the star-covered ceiling.
For a taste of Utica’s nightlife, Griffin’s Pub on Genesee Street is a town legend. Tourists seeking a more chic, trendy atmosphere sip at Space 26, where the drinks are hand-crafted and the scene is just as unique.