Utica Travel Guide

Discover the best attractions, activities, and food in Utica, NY with this comprehensive travel guide. Learn about the city's history and culture, where to stay, how to get around, and more.

Introduction to Utica

Utica, located in Central New York, is a charming city that is often overlooked by tourists heading to more famous destinations in the region like Niagara Falls and the Finger Lakes. However, those who take the time to visit Utica are rewarded with a rich cultural and natural landscape that provides an authentic experience of upstate New York. The city was founded in the 18th century and has a long history, which has influenced its architecture, art, and food. In this travel guide, we will explore the best that Utica has to offer, from its museums and scenic trails to its unique cuisine and cultural customs.

List of Places to Visit in Utica

To help you plan your visit, we have compiled a list of the top attractions in Utica:

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute: This museum and cultural center has an impressive collection of art and artifacts, including works by European and American masters like Monet, Picasso, and O’Keeffe.
  • Oneida County Historical Society: Learn about the history of the region through exhibits and educational programs.
  • Stanley Theater: This restored 1920s theater is a cultural landmark and still hosts performances and events.
  • National Distance Running Hall of Fame: Utica is known for its annual Boilermaker road race, and this museum honors the sport’s legends and pioneers.

Natural Attractions of Utica: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Utica Zoo: The zoo is home to over 200 animals from around the world, and visitors can also enjoy guided tours, educational programs, and special events.
  • Erie Canalway Trail: This trail follows the historic Erie Canal and offers scenic views of the Mohawk River and surrounding countryside.
  • Adirondack Scenic Railroad: Take a ride on a vintage train and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Adirondack Mountains.
  • Valentine Flats Wildlife Management Area: A popular spot for bird watchers, hikers, and anglers, this area boasts a diverse and picturesque landscape.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Utica

Utica has plenty of opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to explore the region on foot or by bike. Here are some popular routes:

  • Chenango Canal Towpath: This 3.5-mile trail follows the path of the former Chenango Canal and offers lovely views of the Mohawk Valley.
  • Black River Canal Trail: This 20-mile trail passes through several towns and historic sites as it follows the Black River Canal.
  • Erie Canalway Trail: This trail spans over 350 miles and passes through several cities and towns along the historic Erie Canal.
  • Trail Around Syracuse (TAS): Although not in Utica, this 14-mile trail offers stunning views of Syracuse’s reservoirs and woodland areas and is just a short drive away.

Best Things to Do in Utica: Activities and Tours

In addition to hiking and biking, Utica offers plenty of activities and tours to keep visitors entertained. Here are some of the best:

  • Boilermaker Road Race: This annual race draws thousands of runners from around the world and takes place in July. Visitors can also enjoy a post-race party with food and live music.
  • F.X. Matt Brewery Tours: Learn about the history and process of beer brewing on these popular tours, which end with a tasting session.
  • Haunted History Trail of New York State: This trail highlights the state’s most haunted sites, including the haunted Utica Insane Asylum.
  • Utica Food Tours: Sample the best of Utica’s unique cuisine on these guided walking tours, which visit local favorites like tomato pie and Utica Greens.

Week-Long Itinerary for Utica

Here’s a suggested itinerary for a week-long trip to Utica:

Day Activity
1 Visit Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute and Oneida County Historical Society
2 Hike or bike along the Chenango Canal Towpath, then tour the F.X. Matt Brewery
3 Take a train ride on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, then head to the Utica Zoo
4 Visit the National Distance Running Hall of Fame, then explore the Erie Canalway Trail
5 Tour the haunted Utica Insane Asylum, then enjoy a Utica food tour
6 Explore Valentine Flats Wildlife Management Area, then catch a show at the Stanley Theater
7 Visit nearby attractions like Rome, NY or Cooperstown, NY

Food and Drink Scene of Utica

Utica is famous for its unique cuisine, which offers a blend of Italian, Irish, and German influences. Here are some must-try dishes and local beverages:

Must-Try Dishes

  • Chicken Riggies: A pasta dish with chicken, rigatoni, hot peppers, and tomato sauce. This is a local specialty and can be found in many restaurants in Utica.
  • Tomato Pie: A savory pizza-like dish made with tomato sauce and a crust made of bread dough.
  • Utica Greens: A salad made with escarole, garlic, breadcrumbs, and pecorino cheese. It’s often served as a side dish in Italian restaurants.
  • Halfmoon Cookies: A cake-like cookie with half vanilla icing and half chocolate icing.

Local Beverages

  • Utica Club Beer: A pilsner beer that has been brewed in Utica since 1888.
  • Saranac Beers: A variety of craft beers brewed by the F.X. Matt Brewery in Utica.
  • Hoffman Hot Dogs: A local brand of hot dogs that are often served with mustard, onions, and meat sauce.

Where to Stay in Utica: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

Utica offers a variety of accommodations for all budgets and preferences. Here are some options:

  • The Hotel Utica: A historic hotel in downtown Utica that has been recently restored. It offers comfortable rooms and suites, a restaurant, and a rooftop bar.
  • Rosemont Inn Bed and Breakfast: A charming Victorian-era B&B located near Utica College.
  • Red Roof Inn Utica: A budget hotel with clean and comfortable rooms and free Wi-Fi.
  • Hostelling International Utica: A hostel with private and shared rooms, a communal kitchen, and outdoor seating areas.

What to Buy in Utica: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

Here are some souvenirs and local products to bring home from Utica:

  • Utica Club Beer and Saranac Beers: Take home some of the city’s famous beers as a reminder of your visit.
  • Halfmoon Cookies: These cookies make a great gift or snack for the trip home.
  • Adirondack Specialty Foods: Products like maple syrup, honey, and jam are produced in upstate New York and can be found in local stores and markets.
  • Oneida Indian Nation Crafts: The Oneida Nation of New York operates several artisan shops that sell traditional and contemporary crafts like baskets, jewelry, and pottery.

Local Culture and Customs of Utica

Utica has a rich cultural heritage that is reflected in its cuisine, architecture, and festivals. The city’s cultural diversity is celebrated through events like the Utica Italian Festival, the Hmong New Year Celebration, and the Utica St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Visitors should also be aware of the city’s history of manufacturing and labor unions, which have had a significant impact on its development.

Best Time to Visit Utica

The best time to visit Utica is from May to October, when the weather is warm and most outdoor attractions are open. The summer months also offer a wide range of festivals and events, including the famous Boilermaker Road Race and the Utica Italian Festival. However, visitors should be prepared for some crowds and higher prices during this time. The fall season, when trees turn brilliant colors and the air is crisp, is also a great time to visit.

Do’s and Don’ts of Utica

Here are some tips to help make the most of your visit to Utica:


  • Enjoy the unique cuisine, especially local specialties like Chicken Riggies and Tomato Pie.
  • Take advantage of the city’s outdoor opportunities, like hiking, biking, and wildlife watching.
  • Learn about the city’s history and cultural heritage, especially through visiting its museums and historic sites.


  • Underestimate the importance of the city’s manufacturing and labor history to its development.
  • Dismiss Utica as a mere stopping point on a trip to other upstate destinations. The city has plenty to offer visitors who take the time to explore it fully.

Safety and Health

Safety in Utica

Utica is a safe and welcoming city, but visitors should exercise the same caution they would in any unfamiliar place. This includes avoiding unfamiliar neighborhoods late at night, always locking car doors and securing valuables, and being aware of potential scams or pickpocketing.

Health in Utica

Visitors to Utica should have up-to-date routine vaccinations, as well as hepatitis A and B vaccines. Lyme disease is also a concern, especially for those who will be spending time outdoors. Visitors should check for ticks frequently and use insect repellent. If you are experiencing any health issues during your visit, there are several hospitals and urgent care facilities in the area.

Getting to Utica: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Utica

  • Syracuse Hancock International Airport: Located about 50 miles west of Utica, this airport offers flights from several major airlines.
  • Albany International Airport: Located about 90 miles east of Utica, this airport also offers flights from several major airlines.

Bus Stations Near Utica

  • Utica Bus Station: Serves several major bus lines with connections to New York City and other destinations.
  • Greyhound Bus Station (Rome, NY): Located about 15 miles northeast of Utica.

Other Options

  • Amtrak: Utica is served by Amtrak’s Adirondack and Maple Leaf trains, which offer connections to Montreal and New York City.
  • Car Rental: Several major car rental companies operate out of the airports and the city.

How to Get Around in Utica

To get around within Utica, visitors can use several transportation options:

  • Car Rental: Several major car rental companies operate in the city.
  • Public Transportation: Utica Transit Authority operates several bus routes within the city.
  • Biking: The city has several dedicated bike lanes and is bike-friendly.
  • Taxi and Rideshare Services: Several taxi companies and rideshare services operate in the city.

Where to Go Next from Utica: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

Here are some nearby destinations and excursions that visitors can take from Utica:

  • Cooperstown, NY: Located about an hour south of Utica, Cooperstown is famous for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and other attractions related to the sport.
  • Rome, NY: This historic city is located about 15 miles northeast of Utica and offers several museums and parks.
  • Adirondack Mountains: Located about an hour north of Utica, the Adirondack Mountains offer hiking, camping, and outdoor activities on a grand scale.


Utica may not be as well-known as other upstate New York destinations, but it’s a city full of surprises and hidden gems. From its unique cuisine to its cultural festivals and outdoor adventures, Utica offers something for everyone. We hope that this comprehensive travel guide has inspired you to explore this fascinating city and make the most of your visit.