Syracuse Gay Travel
wolfyy’s Syracuse gay travel guide to hotels, gay bars, things to do, restaurants & the local gay scene.
The Gay Travel Experience: Syracuse, New York
Gay life in Syracuse is truly diverse. While visiting the City of Syracuse, I discovered spaces where people of varying gender identities, sexual orientations, and ages melded together gracefully.
It might normally be difficult to find gays, lesbians, and those with fluid/non-binary genders in one space, but not here in Syracuse!
A feeling of “no judgment” is how I would describe it. Everyone was simply interested in having a good time at the gay clubs and queer bars. Being yourself was paramount. To say the least, it was refreshing.
From my perspective, gay guys in Syracuse seem to have a relaxed attitude and they certainly aren’t shy. Maybe Syracuse gay travel should be higher on your list!
I naturally have a fondness for this manufacturing-era city, having attended Syracuse University. I decided to visit for a long weekend a few years after graduation with my best friend Taylor and my boyfriend Michael.
Fun restaurants and establishments with a ton of history make Syracuse unique and surely worth visiting for the gay traveler. Syracuse is a fantastic destination in so many aspects from local breweries to gay clubs.
Gay Syracuse: Hotels & Where to Stay
Where is the best place to stay while visiting Syracuse? Well, this depends on whether your activities will be near the Syracuse University campus or if your agenda will be primarily based on events or attractions in Downtown Syracuse.
Below, I’ll mention the best hotels near the Syracuse University campus, the best location to stay in downtown Syracuse and provide a few more tips on Syracuse accommodations.
Where to Stay Close to Syracuse University
The Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel & Conference Center is the closest hotel to Syracuse University. The building is conveniently located on University Avenue, only a minute away from the storybook-like architecture of SU.
The Sheraton is a solid choice, a standard hotel with all the basics. It is also close to the famous Marshall Street, a strip of local restaurants held dearly to the hearts of students.
Syracuse Hotel Skyler is a charming boutique hotel, perfect for those who enjoy a little history. The building used to be a synagogue! Hotel Skyler is a LEED Platinum-rated building, meaning it operates at the highest level of environmental sustainability.
Hotel Skyler is a specialty Hilton property, so those with Hilton reward status can enjoy their benefits. It doesn’t come as robust of amenities as the larger Syracuse hotels, but it surely is a beautiful place to lay your head for a few days!
The Crowne Plaza Hotel is a third option, located a bit farther away from the university. The Syracuse Crowne Plaza offers stunning views of the city on its upper floors.
The building is cylindrical in shape, iconic to the Syracuse skyline. I stayed at the Syracuse Crowne Plaza a few years ago and absolutely loved it.
Where to Stay in Downtown Syracuse
Downtown Syracuse is full of art, unforgettable restaurants, and tons of nightlife. If you want to stay in Downtown Syracuse, look for accommodations close to Armory Square. This is where the nights come alive!
Marriott tends to dominate the rest of the Syracuse hotel market. There is not too much variety in terms of local hotels, so I suggest staying in the Armory Square Residence Inn by Marriott.
The downtown location is superb. The SU campus is a short drive away and you will have access to the Syracuse gay bars and best restaurants in the city.
Where is the Syracuse Student Neighborhood?
If students are not living in university-owned dorms, then they tend to cluster into an area just east of the main campus. This area is completely residential.
The large majority of off-campus housing in Syracuse is bound by four streets. They are Clarendon Street to the north, Westcott Street to the east, Berkeley Drive to the south, and Comstock Avenue to the west. This is the main Syracuse student neighborhood.
Many students, especially some at the graduate level can be found residing in the Westcott neighborhood. Westcott is full of artsy-type individuals and fun local restaurants.
There are also several newly built apartment complexes in different areas surrounding the campus that many students opt for if they prefer more modern accommodations.
If you have a friend that is a student and are able to stay in this area, I highly recommend it. It would be a blast to live in the shoes of a student and get a feel for the true SU college life.
Syracuse Gay Travel Experiences
The nicest part of Downtown Syracuse is the charming Armory Square area. Armory Square is beautifully quaint and historical. Many of the best Syracuse restaurants and breweries are located in Armory Square.
Take a stroll around Armory Square in the evening, grab a beer at a local pub and then head to dinner! Make sure to read the restaurant recommendations below.
Relax at Recess Coffee near the trendy Westcott Street area. Recess has delicious baked goods, stellar coffee, and a sort of “hipster” vibe. I would always escape the frigid winter temperatures here sipping on a sweet hot chocolate.
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Things to Do in Syracuse: Explore the SU Campus
My top recommendation is a Syracuse University campus tour! The ominous building from “The Adam’s Family” is based on the iconic Hall of Languages. Crouse College is the memorable “Hogwarts”-looking building, where the music school is located.
Syracuse has a huge presence of Greek life. You’ll see the large Greek letters on the facades of each house.
It is possible to arrange a guided tour of the SU campus. Many tours are focused on prospective students, so they may not be best suited for tourists. I would give the university a call and inquire if there is a special tour you can take.
Personally, I think it’s best to wander the campus and read a bit of history on your phone for the beautiful buildings you like the most.
Breakfast at Funk ‘n Waffles is an absolute must. Funk ‘n Waffles is a jazz lounge restaurant with live music shows. They serve both savory and sweet waffle dishes all day long.
You can visit for any meal of the day. Anyone who has enjoyed a meal at Funk ‘n Waffles will say you can’t leave Syracuse without a visit!
I love Kitty Hoyne’s Irish Pub both for a quick beer or a hearty Irish dinner. Kitty Hoyne’s has been open since 1999 but brings true Irish heritage from a much earlier time. The restaurant is a mainstay of downtown Syracuse.
In this Irish pub and restaurant, you certainly won’t find any low-quality bar snacks. Every dish is thoughtful, original and authentically Irish!
Dinner at Lemongrass Restaurant will surely please everyone. Their specialty is Thai food, but they also prepare dishes from other cuisines. Their menu includes curry dishes, classic Thai, American grill favorites as well as vegetarian options. Make sure to book a reservation with them.
Pastabilities is a favorite Italian restaurant in Syracuse. They serve and sell their own proprietary spicy sauce, which is unbelievably tasty. I used to buy jars of this stuff all the time. Definitely make a reservation for Pastabilities to avoid long lines, especially on weekends. The restaurant is very popular.
Food delivery with Grubhub is always another option if you don’t have time to eat out (or you just don’t want to). There are tons of restaurants to choose from on the Grubhub App!
Restaurants Near SU Campus
If you want a typical, hearty, all-American breakfast, then you have to pay a visit to Mom’s Diner. They are located on Westcott Street very close to the SU student neighborhood. Mom’s Diner has everything a typical diner would have, including all that delicious soul food.
Alto Cinco is right across the street on Westcott, perfect for some mouth-watering Mexican food. Grab a midday margarita or have some brunch!
I’ve eaten many times at Blue Monkey on Marshall Street, a mainstay sushi restaurant near the SU campus. The interior may not be the prettiest you’ve ever seen, but they definitely know their sushi.
Faegan's Cafe & Pub
Faegan’s Café & Pub is great to grab a few beers near the Syracuse campus. Every Wednesday is “Flip Night” at Faegan’s, starting at 9 PM. For every beer you order, the bartender will flip a coin. You call heads or tails, and if you are correct, you get a free beer.
Flip Night at Faegan’s is a load of fun. It’s definitely a bit of a thrill! If you’re a huge beer fan, check out the Faegan’s World Beer Tour. They have an awesome hall of fame section on the restaurant’s back wall.
Syracuse Gay Bars
Syracuse has several gay bars, both new and traditional! They all have a slightly different vibe but are equally as fun.
The best thing about Syracuse gay bars is that there’s a true mix of all types of LGBT+ people. You’ll find more than a bunch of gay dudes; there are queer people, lesbians, and allies to befriend.
Rain Lounge* was my favorite Syracuse gay bar. It has a ton of space to dance, an outdoor area, and fun drag queens. In the summertime, they open up a beach-sand volleyball court in the rear yard.
*Recently, Rain Lounge mentioned they will be not be re-opening after hardship caused by the covid-19 pandemic. While I’m still hopeful this may change, Rain may not be a gay bar option. Check their page for updates.
Trexx Nightclub is a straight club that has specific gay nights. Back when I was attending Syracuse University, gay nights at Trexx would be on Thursdays. This may change depending on the time of year or based on other factors, so be sure to check the Trexx Nightclub Facebook page.
Wunderbar: Syracuse’s Queer Bar
Wunderbar is one of the newest Syracuse gay bars. Wunderbar is paving the way for the next generation of LGBTQ nightclub spaces. It is all kinds of amazing!
The bar’s front room is an upscale lounge space with stunning décor and lighting. This is one of the best areas for solo gay travelers to meet locals. Everyone is very friendly. The crowd at Wunderbar tends to be on the younger side, however, I encountered people of all ages!
In the rear of the venue, there is a traditional club space where weekend dance parties are held. Be sure to check the event list on the Wunderbar Website! This is a spot any gay traveler will not want to miss!
Syracuse Gay-Friendly Bars
Al’s Wine & Whiskey Bar has unbeatable dim lounge vibes. It’s one of my favorite cocktail bars in Syracuse. Al’s Wine & Whiskey is a true whiskey bar that has an entire wall of available liquors, plus bar games and food to order.
Syracuse Gay Travel Tips
I recommend renting a car at Syracuse airport to get around more easily unless you plan to stay directly on the university campus. Having your own vehicle to get to places like Westcott Street or downtown will be much more convenient.
Toward the end of any night out, keep in mind that there are only so many Uber and Lyft drivers around. If you wait until after your favorite gay bar closes before ordering your ride, you may run into difficulty.
You may end up paying an inflated price or even waiting more than 15 minutes for a car to reach you. I suggest leaving 10 minutes before closing time and snagging the first available car.
Bring your best snow boots and a warm knit scarf if you’re headed to Syracuse between November and February. Syracuse is one of the snowiest cities in the United States. Lake-effect snow pummels Central New York until the late winter months when the lakes freeze over. Check the weather and plan accordingly.
Keep in mind that Syracuse is an event-driven city. The bustle of crowded restaurants and traffic happens when an event is taking place like a convention or a SU sports game. Remember this when booking a hotel in Syracuse.
If you choose to visit on a weekend when a huge basketball or football game is scheduled, prices may be higher than normal.
Is Syracuse Gay Travel Safe?
While I love the city of Syracuse and I highly recommend you visit, I will warn you that it is not always safe to wander streets alone after dark in areas too far from the university campus.
Crime is less frequent in areas directly around the SU campus. However, as you stray into dimly-lit residential areas away from the campus, things can be a bit dodgy. Always avoid walking through parks after dusk.
Both Marshall Street and Armory Square, as well as their immediate vicinities, are quite safe. Go with your gut and simply do not wander away from the groups of people. If you are alone, you may be a target for theft.
Be cautious, especially if you’ve been out late drinking at a pub. When in doubt, call a ride and always follow basic safety tips.
The Best Time to Visit Syracuse
Syracuse, along with the rest of Central New York, has frigid winters and hot summers. Frequent bouts of heavy snow in winter and spring can beautify the city’s landscape. It can certainly be treacherous to travel, though! If you’re traveling in the winter, try to make plans somewhat flexible.
Summers are equally as beautiful with weeks of constant sunshine. I lived in Syracuse between my junior and senior years at university. What’s not to like about enjoying the countryside in Central New York?
Even considering all this beauty, late autumn is definitely the best time to visit Syracuse in my opinion. Between the bustle of the fall semester, the high energy of the SU campus during football season, picturesque fall foliage, autumn is my pick!