Friday and Saturday evenings from sundown to 11:00 p.m., visitors can traverse the cursed trails of Swamp Road to encounter the spectral remains of its permanent residents. Paranormal sightings begin in the parking area and extend through a spirited outdoor romp down a wooded trail, guided by staffers that spook visitors by wearing skeleton costumes and spook each other by talking about their first day of middle school. Daring participants visit the twisted home of a doll maker constructing figurines from unidentified parts, and lumbering shadows of werewolves and swamp creatures lurk in one's peripheral vision. The disturbed ground of a cemetery houses the restless spirits of lost lumberjacks, and a homicidal clown endlessly searches for souls and size 31 shoes.
Not many establishments offer the chance to see a Steven Sondheim musical, catch a concert, take a theater workshop, and eat an organic salad in one place. But at Red House Arts Center, all of these things flourish. Founded and renovated by a group of local artists, the center beckons visitors to fully immerse themselves in the arts, whether they’re watching an experimental-theater performance, strolling the halls of the second-floor art gallery, or pouring a bucket of house paint on themselves in the lobby.
Enclosed by the dense circle of trees that surrounds Oneida Lake, Stone’s Marina Kayak Club seems so far removed from the bustling life of the city that one might never guess it’s just down the road from Syracuse. The marina’s staff equip kayakers of all levels with life vests and paddles before guiding them into the waters that lap gently at the lake’s shoreline. Before sending first-time paddlers off to explore the lake, they dole out lessons in steering and proper safety etiquette, such as keeping two hands on the paddle and never picking up hitchhiking crocodiles. In addition to their fleet of kayaks, the marina also furnishes visitors with pavilions, grills, and campsites for multiday excursions.
When he was still a college student, Kevin Kretschmer answered an ad in the local newspaper for a whitewater-rafting guide on the rivers around Syracuse. More than 30 years later, he now owns the company and operates his river tours with the mission of giving others a chance to see the area's scenic beauty. His diverse team of guides—some schoolteachers, some farmers, some factory workers, and some college students—helps paddlers navigate rapids on three rivers while hunkered into six-person inflatable rafts. Together they navigate the calmer Class I and Class II waters of Letchworth State Park, the raging Class II and Class III rapids of the Salmon River, and the passive-aggressive Class III and Class IV segments of Cattaraugus Creek. Guides commence each trip far upstream, allowing rafters to find a rhythm before surmounting the rapids.
Twenty-one runs streak across the Toggenburg Mountain Winter Sports Center trail map, furnishing skiers and snowboarders with ample real estate to perfect swerves and test nerves in the crisp high country air. Five lifts—two doubles, a triple, and a pair of beginner rope tows—hoist snowy revelers to the top of runs such as the black diamond Oh My Goat, the blue square Angora Alley, and the green circle Capricorn Caper, as well as two terrain parks. Here, a gantlet of rails, boxes, and tables not only give daredevils the chance to show off their aerial acrobatics, but also provide a rough idea of what it would be like to wear skis into a furniture store. First-timers and skiers in need of a refresher can sign up for snow school, where expert instructors illuminate proper technique during private, semiprivate, and group lessons.
Off the mountain, Chilly Choices ski shop keeps skiers and snowboarders warm on the outside with hats, gloves, goggles, and apparel. Meanwhile the Foggy Goggle and Toggenburg Cafeteria keep them warm them on the inside with toasty eats such as braised tenderloin tips and pizza.