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Syracuse Winterfest

Syracuse Winterfest IS BACK AGAIN at locations throughout downtown with games, activities, food and fun for the whole family!

Quick – what is Syracuse known for?

Well, the Franklin Auto. Air conditioners. The Erie Canal!

But let’s be honest, when you think about what Syracuse is best known for – winter is a leading contender. Long, often cold and dreary winters. But then again… in 1985, some enterprising people at the Updowntowners of Syracuse thought: instead of bemoaning winter, why not celebrate it? We all need a reason to get out and have fun when the holidays are over, the days are still short, the temperatures are still chilly (or freezing!), and the kids have a week off from school right in the middle of it. What could be more enticing than 11 days of games, races, family fun, music, meeting up with friends, fireworks – and a chance to try an incredible array of tasty food and drinks, and even vote on your favorites?

Syracuse Winterfest promises something for everyone – patrons, vendors, downtown establishments, and even out-of-town guests. Centered in the Syracuse Inner Harbor, and extending into the surrounding downtown Syracuse, you’ll find food tastings, craft beers, entertainment and activities, human dogsled racing and so much more! So, let’s take a quick peek so you can plan ahead and won’t miss a thing!

The Annual Treasure Hunt: sponsored by the Countryside Credit Union and presented by the Post-Standard, the contest begins with the opening of the festival, on Thursday, February 16. Somewhere in Onondaga County the planners have hidden a 1.5” plastic Treasure Hunt Medallion. To find it, you have to follow the clues. Check at:

• syracuse.com/treasure-hunt

• The Post-Standard and the ePost-Standard

• Twitter @syracusedotcom (look for #syrtreasurehunt)

• Facebook at facebook.com/syracuse

• Snapchat at syracusedotcom

Daily clues will be posted, and if you’re the lucky individual or team who locates the “treasure,” you’ll find instructions about claiming your prize: $2000!

Open Ice Skating will be offered at the NY State Fair Coliseum on both Fridays of the festival, February 17th and 24th, 6:30 – 8:30pm. Plan on bringing your own skates as rentals won’t be available.

And what better way to get the fun started on the first weekend of the festival than with Fireworks, on Friday evening, February 17th at 8:30pm at the Syracuse Inner Harbor Waterfront? 

Maybe you have a good Cornhole game? Bring it – the competition will be held Sunday, February 19th, 11am – 5pm on East Water Street adjacent to Hanover Square. Two persons per team, and there will be prizes awarded to the top three teams. Your $100 registration includes an open bar from Noon – 4. Find out more, including application forms and waivers on the Winterfest website.

And if you haven’t already started, hurry and make your plans for the Human Dogsled Race. Your team designs and builds a sled, pulls and pushes and “mushes” it to championship on Sunday, February 19th. 

Besides the popular Human Dogsled Race, COR Development, along with Helping Hounds Dog Rescue, Limp Lizard, Meier’s Creek Brewing Company at Iron Pier, C&S Companies, and Blueberries & Lace will present a full slate of family-friendly activities at the Inner Harbor on February 19th. The event will be held at the Iron Pier building (720 Van Rensselaer Street, Syracuse, NY 13204). Said Merissa Lynch, Marketing Manager for COR Development, “Every year COR’s Winterfest event at the Syracuse Inner Harbor has been a tremendous success. Proceeds from this event will support Helping Hounds Dog Rescue and its mission ‘to providing a compassionate approach to dog rescue by matching homeless dogs from overcrowded shelter systems with a loving home.’  We’d like to thank the public for their generosity, and our local partners for helping make this event such a success, and we welcome all to sign up and join the fun!”

But let’s get around to what is for many, the “main” event: the food and drinks! This is your chance to try out some of the best restaurants in town, and their best offerings. We’ve all got our favorites when it’s time to go out and meet for drinks or dinner. But it’s also fun to discover something new – and this is a great way to do it. And it’s just $5 (no increase in price!) per tasting event, for each of the food and drink events on the tasting menu over the course of the 2 weekends, with the one exception of the Wing Walk – more about that later! And once you’ve tried all the offerings in a given event, you get to vote on your favorite food or drink. 

The annual Beer Tasting will be held Sunday, February 19th from noon – 4pm. You try a 1-2 oz. sample of a variety of Syracuse and Onondaga County brewers’ best offerings. We promise, it won’t be easy. The voting that is, not the sampling!

But suppose you prefer mixed drinks? Why not sample and vote on your favorite Martinis, Sangria, Cosmopolitans, Margaritas, and of course, Bloody Marys? You can stroll around from venue to venue, try a taste of the featured offering, and then vote – and not just on the mix itself, but on the presentation, so prepare to be wowed. 

The many and varied restaurants in Syracuse are also excited to take part in the Winterfest’s annual Chili and Chowder Cook-offs, the Culinary Cruise, the Sandwich Stroll, and last but not least, Sunday, February 26th from noon – 5 you can wander the streets of downtown on the famous Wing Walk ($10 per ticket presale, $15 on the day of the event), and see if you can determine which is your favorite – not an easy task, Syracuse, but we know you’re up to it! And once again, you get to cast your vote on your favorite offering!

And don’t miss the Team Trivia Finals, held in the Grand Ballroom of the Marriott Downtown on Sunday, February 26th – the games begin at 3pm!

And on the 26th, why not stop by the lobby of the Marriott with your kids for Fun with Checkers the Inventor? Shows go on throughout the afternoon, so just drop in!

There is so much more, with events taking place in any number of schools, libraries, museums and other locations and Centro is donating a route through downtown for visitors who’d like a ride. And what’s any 11-day event without music? The Hammond Jammin’ Organ Concert is back this year, upstairs in Dinosaur Bar-B-Que on Sunday, February 17th, noon – 5. Five area bands will be jammin’ featuring their Hammond organs, while you relax, digest, and enjoy the music.

It sounds like a lot – but take a look at the lineup here, make your plans, get your tickets (and a handy map), and prepare for 11 days of fun, games, food, friends, and fest – Winterfest!

All weekend tickets are available at the Downtown Marriott street level entrance, and tickets are also available for presale at all participating locations (see the website for the details on presale!). 

Syracuse Winterfest 

February 16th-26th, 2023


Nancy Roberts