New York : Safety by City
- Fair Haven
- Greenport Village
- Lake George
- Lake Placid
- Long Island
- Mt Vernon
- New Paltz
- New Rochelle
- New York City
- Niagara Falls
- Saranac Lake
- Saratoga Springs
- Seneca Falls
- Shelter Island
- Sleepy Hollow
- Watkins Glen
- White Plains
Syracuse is a central New York town with a love of orange (the color), snow, and its unique food offerings.
This city has a lot of oddities, like an upside-down traffic light that is a sign of Irish pride.
There’s also the popular white hot dog and salt potatoes that come standard with every dinner served.
While the orange wave here is due to fans of Syracuse University, a sports powerhouse, this is so much more than a college town with nearly 150,000 thousand people.
There’s really no way to brace you for the winters here.
This is the snowiest city in America, with more than 10 feet falling each winter on average.
Despite that, you can count the number of snow days at SU with one hand.
That means even when a winter storm bears down, the city keeps operating.
Nearby Onondaga Lake is a popular spot throughout all seasons, and you haven’t seen fall foliage until you’ve seen it in Central New York (CNY).
CNY is an abbreviation for a broad region of the state that includes Syracuse, but some people will use the names interchangeably.
Whatever you do, don’t call it Upstate New York.
Warnings & Dangers in Syracuse
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
Syracuse has a medium risk with a violent crime rate that's twice the national average. While crime is focused mostly in some neighborhoods, there's a poverty problem here, with 30% of people surviving off a non-liveable wage and 3,700 families living off less than $10,000 a year. While that's not something a tourist will necessarily worry about, poverty can lead to desperation and more crime.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Centro is the public transportation system in Syracuse and throughout CNY. You can go as far north as Oswego, on the shore of Lake Ontario, or as far east as Utica. Taxis and rideshares are readily available, but having your own car is a plus. There are some neighborhoods where you definitely don't want to wait for a bus.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
The overall theft rate here is about average, but the Syracuse Police Department (SPD) doesn't give specific pickpocket statistics. If you're attending a sporting event, you'll be in a packed house and crowds going in and out, so that's where you should use the most caution.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
The biggest risk here will always be snow and ice. Especially if you aren't used to this level of snowfall, it can be quite intimidating, especially when everyone around you acts like it's not a big deal. Bitter cold is another concern, so you'll need to have the right winter accessories. Thunderstorms can get severe in the summer, and there's always a risk of minor flooding. Those pale in comparison to 10 feet of snow a year.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
Treat this with a medium risk as the rate is twice the national average. Also, SPD doesn't give us good information about how many of those robberies were of businesses, people, or homes, so we'll always err on the side of caution when we don't have exact data.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here, but the Emergency Management division of Onondaga County has a great list of resources and a link to the latest terrorism bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
An updated list of seven scams made the media rounds in early 2022, but they were all focused on locals. The best advice is to hang up or walk away from someone who says, "There's a warrant for your arrest," when you know you're squeaky clean or someone who demands payment in gift cards.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
You can find some pretty exciting nightlife here with the college crowd, so you'll want to have all your spidey senses on if you're out partying. The sexual assault rate is actually slightly lower than the national average. Follow basic safety rules like not walking alone on dark streets looking at your brand new iPhone 14, and you should face minimal threats.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The Syracuse water utility might have the most in-depth Water Quality Report for 2021 I've ever seen. The document does show one violation in turbidity at the end of 2021. All other categories met or exceeded standards, and the violation was reported immediately and resolved.
Safest Places to Visit in Syracuse
VisitSyracuse.com is the official tourism website for the city.
VisitCentralNewYork.com is another official website for the CNY region.
When visiting places in New York, you want to look for the “I ❤️New York” branding at the bottom of the page.
This is a sign it’s part of the greater statewide tourism initiative.
The Erie Canal Museum is one of the biggest tourist draws here.
It’s housed in the Weighlock Building, built in 1850 and still standing.
This building was used to weigh boats and cargo, much like you see at truck stops on American highways.
Inside you’ll learn about the Erie Canals system’s humble beginnings and growth that spread to major cities in New York.
You can also take a boat tour of the Erie Canal or the nearby lakes.
Mid-Lakes Navigation Co. offers different tour options, so review the choices and pick the one that suits your needs.
You can’t come to Salt City without finding out how it got that nickname.
Can you believe that salt was once considered a luxury item?
Syracuse helped put salt on the map – and many of the foods that we eat.
The Salt Museum is a perfect stop to learn the history of turning salt water into a table staple.
The museum is at Onondaga Lake Park, the premiere outdoor area in Syracuse.
The city refers to this park as “The Central Park of Central New York.”
It has typical park amenities like picnic areas, playgrounds, a skate park, and walking trails.
You can rent bikes at the visitor’s center to explore the eight miles of paths near the lake.
Destiny USA is a shopping and entertainment district built to lure in tourists for shopping, dining, and fun.
This is more than a mall – it includes carnival rides, a mirror maze, a comedy club, and a bustling nightlife scene.
There’s a hotel located at Destiny too, which might make a good place to stay close to great amenities.
Rosamond Gifford Zoo is an expansive area housing more than 700 animals, including the rare elephant twins born in 2022.
Here’s something I just learned about elephants and babies – ultrasounds have to be performed through an elephant’s rectum, so you don’t get the great views you do with human ultrasounds.
The second elephant baby came as a surprise.
I apologize to all the other animals who just got upstaged by that fun fact.
The zoo is open year-round.
Tipperary Hill is an Irish neighborhood and home to a huge St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
This is also where you’ll find a stoplight upside down, and don’t even try to complain to the city about it.
The battle has been fought and won to keep one stoplight upside down.
However, green still means go, and red still means stop.
Why is it upside down?
I really don’t want to ruin a story that a local Irish person could tell much better than I.
But definitely ask about it.
Normally, I don’t get into restaurant specifics unless a place really stands out in a community, but you have to try Dinosaur Barbeque.
You might not think CNY can make as good of barbecue as Southerners, but just try it, and you’ll see why it’s one of the best joints in the country.
Armory Square is another neighborhood where you might want to book a hotel.
This historic district brings charm and modern amenities like an IMAX theatre.
This is also where the MOST Museum is, which is the Museum of Science and Technology.
I’m told this is one of the best parts of the whole city.
Places to Avoid in Syracuse
It’s interesting to read reviews from other travelers, mixed with social media posts from locals, and then add in the most recent crime data in Syracuse.
When you lump them all together, you’d think there wasn’t a single safe neighborhood in Syracuse!
SPD does release monthly crime reports for the city and the different patrol districts.
Looking at those numbers from 2021, the north side of the city (you can see the map when you review the report) is by and large the most dangerous, with crime numbers rising compared to previous years.
The Near Eastside and Near Westside are two communities you should avoid if you don’t have a reason to be there.
When visiting Syracuse, you can tell quickly if you’re in an underserved community since the poverty rate is so high.
You don’t want to drive through one of these neighborhoods just to “see how bad it is.”
Poverty isn’t a tourist attraction.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Syracuse
- As of this publication, the city and public safety systems are going through a website transition. This leads to the search engine algorithm making it very hard to find the right information. You might end up on websites for the city of Syracuse, Utah, which is 2,000 miles away. The new city website is syr.gov so that you don’t get confused (as I did).
- Look for the section on SPD’s website called “COMPSTAT.” That’s another way to say Crime Statistics. You can review the weekly or yearly crime rates by district or citywide.
- SPD posts an annual report to discuss the challenges and successes of the previous year, but it also details new safety measures to address growing crime rates. This is a great review of the entire city by law enforcement instead of relying on social media comments.
- SPD has a Public Safety Alert option if you want to sign up for notifications to your email or mobile device. With the onslaught of violent crime in America, you shouldn’t take any risks regarding random crimes. Notifications can be annoying but can also be life-saving.
- Onondaga County has great resources for visitors to help in case of a weather emergency, terror attack, or natural disaster of another kind. You can sign up for emergency weather notifications, alerts throughout New York State, and the Preparedness App List through the emergency management website, so you have all you need in an emergency.
- Don’t park on the street in winter if you can avoid it. Not only will the parking restrictions change depending on the storm’s severity, but there’s also a good chance a snow plow will bury your car in the snow anyway. Look at the “Parking in Winter” section of the city’s website for specific rules and regulations.
- You don’t have to lug outdoor winter equipment during your trip because plenty of accessories are available for rent. Sunnycrest Park is one of the top locations for winter activities like cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Rentals are available in adult and kid sizes.
- For more winter safety advice, you’ll need to find the “Winter in Syracuse” section of the city’s website. This is a great resource for all things winter, but it also has a way to subscribe to snow safety alerts. While storms often happen, each storm’s weight, amount, and length are different, so specific information about an approaching storm is very valuable.
- Download the SYRCityline for a direct line of contact to the city. You can report issues, like potholes or snow blocking a road, or ask any question you have during your visit. Feel free to call (315)448-2489 if you prefer to talk to someone in person.
- Anglers need to get a fishing license from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. Please review all the rules, especially if you want to fish in the shared waters at the border with Canada. You can expect to spend anywhere from $10 to $30 on a license.
So... How Safe Is Syracuse Really?
The United States is facing a surge of violent crime in many of its cities, but each one has its own obstacles and solutions.
I bring that up because the information that is true today could change by the time you visit, which is why it’s important to review those COMPSTAT reports.
As of November 2022, crime was up citywide in the following categories:
- Rape: Up 2% year-to-date but down 36% over the past five years.
- Robbery: Up 15% year-to-date and up 5% over the past five years.
- Theft: Up 8% year-to-date but down 13% over the past five years.
The northern district continues to see the greatest crime increases, followed by the southwest.
The north district is up 44% across the board as of November 2022 compared to the same time in 2021.
Visiting Syracuse should be treated like you’re visiting a big city.
Use common sense, situational awareness, and trust your gut.
Don’t leave your car unlocked, and don’t keep any items in your car when it’s parked.
How Does Syracuse Compare?
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- Visas - You'll need a U.S. Visa whether you cross at the Canadian border or arrive at the airport. You might qualify for a Visa Waiver, but check the U.S. State Department website for all that information. This process can take several months, so don't wait until the last minute.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar is the only form of accepted currency here. You should avoid using ATMs for currency exchange and opt to go inside a bank where security cameras are rolling in a safe space. Carry only the cash you need and use a credit card for most purchases to get the best fraud protection.
- Weather - You need a lot of warm weather accessories here to make it through a winter trip. There will still be a lot going on outside, so don't skimp on packing because you don't think you'll be in the cold too long. You will see people wearing shorts when the temperature is above freezing, but don't think you have to follow that lead if you aren't used to this cold weather. Summers are pleasant, and you can wear shorts and t-shirts, but you'll also want a jacket or hoodie.
- Airports - Syracuse Hancock International Airport is just nine miles from downtown, which is your closest and best option.
- Travel Insurance - We always recommend travel insurance, especially in a place with such intense winter weather. If you rent a car, be sure you have extra insurance in case of an accident.
Syracuse Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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