Experience Oswego: A Traveler’s Guide to New York’s Scenic Lakeside Retreat

Credit: Andre Carrotflower

Located on the eastern shores of Lake Ontario, Oswego is known as “The Port City of Central New York.” A short thirty minute drive from Syracuse, there is lots of do in the lakeside city. Take a trip to one of the numerous museums or head out during the winter to see a hockey game at SUNY Oswego. 

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Best Time to Visit

Summer really brings this lakeside city to life with warm weather and sunny days, but there are a few weeks in the Fall that can also be quite nice when the humidity finally releases its jaws

Places to Go and See

Fort Ontario State Historic Site

Meandering In: Oswego, New York
Credit: Ad Meskens

Dating back to the early 1840s with 1863 to 1872 improvements, Fort Ontario has been a part of the French and Indian War, the War of 1812, and World War II as a refugee camp for Jewish victims. The fourth iteration of the fort is the one you will visit, but still holds the rich history that has been experienced on this stretch of land.

  • Hours: Closed Mon & Tues, Wed-Sat 10-4:30, Sun 12-4:30
  • Best Time: May through October, as this is when it is open
  • Price: $4

Breitbeck Park

Experience Oswego: A Traveler's Guide to New York's Scenic Lakeside Retreat
Credit: Alexandria Wyckoff

Featuring a bell tower, playground, picnic area, and 5.9 mile walking loop, this community park has a view of some of the best sunsets in the world. Take a day and have a picnic by the lake, or just drive over and watch the sun dip below the horizon and flood the water with vibrant color.

  • Hours: Dawn to dusk
  • Best Time: Warm sunny weather
  • Price: Free

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SUNY Oswego

Experience Oswego: A Traveler's Guide to New York's Scenic Lakeside Retreat
Credit: Alexandria Wyckoff

Sitting right on the coast of Lake Ontario, SUNY Oswego is a highly rated college in both SUNY and Northeastern universities. Offering numerous majors in four different areas of study, there is something for everyone at this medium-sized college. Either decide to become a Laker, or just take a day to visit the campus and watch a college sports game.

  • Hours: All year round
  • Best Time: All year round
  • Price: N/A

Oswego Speedway

Experience Oswego: A Traveler's Guide to New York's Scenic Lakeside Retreat
Credit: Glennjjj

Opened in August of 1951, this 5 ⁄ 8 mile asphalt track started off as the Wine Creek Horse Track, eventually shedding its dirt roots for a longer paved speedway. Known in racing circles as the Indy of the East, several competitors that race here have also competed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Take an afternoon and watch as these cars fly around the track, and enjoy food and refreshments as well.

  • Hours: Afternoons, also depends on the day of the race
  • Best Time: During the summer
  • Price: ~$20, depending on which race you attend

Richardson Bates House Museum

Built for Maxwell Richardson, a local attorney and two-term mayor of Oswego in 1867, the house reflects 19th century Victorian designs. Given to the historical society in 1946, it is now one of the most intact house museums in New York. Come visit to see the beautiful furnishings, or learn about Oswego’s history through several exhibits around the house.

  • Hours: Thurs, Fri, Sat 1-5
  • Best Time: Open April through December
  • Price: $8

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Washington Square Park

Right off of East Bridge Street, Washington Square Park is a place to relax and sit out in the sun, or laze in the shade under the numerous trees. Often a location for festivals, this park always has something for everyone to enjoy.

  • Hours: 24Hrs
  • Best Time: Warm sunny days
  • Price: Free

Hidden Gems

Ontario Orchards

Experience Oswego: A Traveler's Guide to New York's Scenic Lakeside Retreat
Credit: chris robert

Locally grown and sold, Ontario Orchards has a wide selection of produce, spices, pastries, and other items both edible and non-edible. Head over any time of the year to see what products they have, but especially make a trip during the fall and grab some of their delicious apples.

  • Hours: Mon-Sun 7-7
  • Best Time: Fall in order to get fresh apples and produce
  • Price: Varies on item that is bought

River’s End Bookstore

One of my favorite Indie bookstores, River’s End not only supports local college students but the community as well. From their various book readings/signings, open mics, and release parties for SUNY Oswego’s literary magazine, there are always avid readers in this establishment.

  • Hours: Closed Sun, Mon-Sat 10-6
  • Best Time: Any time of year
  • Price: Varies on the amount of books you buy

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Bev’s Dairy Treat

A huge favorite of college students and locals, there is always a large line stemming from the front of Bev’s Dairy Treat. Choose from several different flavors of hard and soft ice cream, and take a seat on one of their picnic tables right on the lakeshore.

  • Hours: Mon-Sun 12-8
  • Best Time: During the summer, as they are open seasonally
  • Price: Depends on what ice cream you get

Rice Creek Field Station

Part of SUNY Oswego a mile away from campus, Rice Creek is an informative building for visitors and a top-notch research facility for college students. Several labs are completed in this eco-friendly building, researching not only the wildlife on land but on water as well. 

  • Hours: Trails dawn to dusk; Building Mon-Fri 8-4:30, Sat 9-3
  • Best Time: Warmer months when all the trails are dry and open
  • Price: Free

Time & Again Books and Tea

Are you looking for unique items or lightly worn books? Come over to Time & Again, where you peruse their shelves for hours, or try some of their delicious tea options. Get lost in the walls of this building, and find souvenirs to bring home.

  • Hours: Closed Sun, Mon-Tue 12:30-6, Wed 4-6, Thurs-Fri 12:30-6, Sat 12-4
  • Best Time: Anytime; indoors
  • Price: Varies on how many books you purchase

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Safe Haven Museum

The Safe Haven museum highlights the only WWII refugee shelter in the United States, with the same name. From August 1944 to February 1946, 982 refugees were “guests” of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and stayed in Fort Ontario during that time. Take a step into the past and discover the lives of these scared refugees, and learn more about Oswego’s history.

  • Hours: Memorial Day-Labor Day Mon-Sun 11-4, Labor Day-Memorial Day Thurs-Sun 11-4
  • Best Time: Any time of year
  • Price: $5

Top Restaurants

The Press Box

Opened in 1984, this sports bar/restaurant has pub-themed food and tv’s scattered around the inside. During the summer, sit outdoors on the patio and enjoy the warm weather and sip on delicious seasonal beers and ciders. This is a hot spot for college students, especially when their families come up to see the campus.

  • Hours: Mon-Sun 11-9
  • Featured Food: Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken / Chicken Pesto Panini
  • Featured Drink: 10 types of Draft Beer, not including seasonals

Canale’s Restaurant

Delicious Italian cuisine since 1954, Canale’s is off the main road but should definitely be on your main list of things to do in Oswego. Complete with indoor and outdoor seating during the warmer months, you can have a nice meal with loved ones or just by yourself.

  • Hours: Sun-Tues 12-8, Wed-Thurs 12-9, Fri-Sat 12-10
  • Featured Food: Baked Ziti ala Romano / Black and Bleu Pasta

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LD’s on the Lake

Experience Oswego: A Traveler's Guide to New York's Scenic Lakeside Retreat
Credit: Joseph Castro

Near Bev’s Dairy Treat, LD’s on the Lake is a great place to have lunch or dinner while getting a front row seat to the shifting tides of Lake Ontario. Delicious food is paired with local beers on tap, and you have the option of sitting indoors or outside on their deck.

  • Hours: Mon-Sun 10-11
  • Featured Food: The Hot Chicken / Chicken Spiedie Salad

Wonzones Calzones

A huge favorite for the college campus community, Wonzones is a staple restaurant serving all types of calzones and other foods late into the night. Jason Shi, owner and past alumni has become a mascot at hockey games, and has even been through the Hot One’s gauntlet, a show hosted by Sean Evans with increasingly hotter wings combined with an interview.

  • Hours: Sun-Wed 4pm-2am, Thur 4pm-3am, Fri-Sat 4pm-4am
  • Featured Food: Tomcat Wonzone / Concussion Wonzone

Azteca Mexican Grill

One of the favorite restaurants for college students, Azteca serves delicious Mexican food for reasonable prices. Just a couple minutes away from SUNY Oswego’s campus, take a moment to head on over and have some enchiladas, or maybe just a churro.

  • Hours: Closed Sun, Mon-Sat 11:30-9
  • Featured Food: Enchiladas Rancheras / Pollo Loco Special

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Another Italian restaurant in Oswego is Vona’s, serving its customers for nearly eighty years. Embodying the statement “Our family is your family,” they provide great hospitality and great food at the same time.

  • Hours: Closed Mon, Tues-Thurs 4-8:30, Fri-Sat 4-9:30, Sun 4-8:30
  • Featured Food: Stuffed Peppers / Eggplant Parmesan

La Parilla on the Water

Serving Mediterranean-style food on the shores of the Oswego River, this fun restaurant is perfect to try new and tasty recipes. While you’re eating, enjoy local artists playing all kinds of music and the water flowing by right outside of the building.

  • Hours: Closed Mon, Tues-Thurs 4-9, Fri-Sat 12-10, Sun 12-9
  • Featured Food: Latin Waffle Fries / Cannelloni
  • Featured Drink: House-made Sangria


Credit: Dan Kells

Open seasonally since 1946, Rudy’s serves only the freshest and finest seafood from their lakeside restaurant. Becoming a regional favorite, make sure to stop at the restaurant located next to Bev’s and LD’s.

  • Hours: Mon-Sun 11-9
  • Featured Food: Shrimp & Crab Roll / Center Cut Haddock with Cheese Sandwich

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Top Hotels

All Seasons Inn

  • ~$80/night
  • Featured Amenities: Free WiFi, Air-conditioning, 24Hr Front Desk, Smoke Free Property
  • Hotel Information: Check in 4pm, Check out 10am, Free Parking

Clarion Hotel & Suites Riverfront

  • ~$120/night
  • Featured Amenities: Free WiFi, Free Breakfast, Indoor Pool, Fitness Center, Kitchen, Extra-charge Pet Friendly
  • Hotel Information: Check in 3pm, Check out 11am, Free Parking

Best Western Plus Oswego Hotel and Conference Center

  • ~$130/night
  • Featured Amenities: Free WiFi, Free Breakfast, Golf, Indoor Pool, Hot Tub, Fitness Center
  • Hotel Information: Check in 3pm, Check out 11am, Free Parking

Home2 Suites by Hilton Oswego

  • ~$150/night
  • Featured Amenities: Free WiFi, Free Breakfast, Indoor Pool, Fitness Center, Pet-Friendly, Air-conditioning
  • Hotel Information: Check in 3pm, Check out 11am, Free Parking

Full of history and lakeside charm, Oswego is a city to have a great balance between bustling streets and secluded wilderness. Each season has its own beauty, and that’s one of the reasons why so many college students and locals call this city their home.

Alexandria is a News Editor, writer, and reader of all things literature. She graduated from the State University of... More about Alexandria Wyckoff

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