Syracuse: Family Friendly Destination

When my family of five first decided to take a trip from New York City to a drivable destination, Syracuse, New York was not even on our list! However, after our 4hrdrive up and jam pack weekend in Syracuse, it will NOW remain at the top of our family friendly vacation’s list.

We started off our trip at the luxurious Embassy Suites by Hilton where we were greeted with a dried fruit and fudge platter (available for an additional cost) and our corner suite was perfect for a family needing downtime from all their activities. Mom and dad had a bedroom with doors for our quite nap times with the baby and the kids had a comfy couch in a separate room to watch TV and hang out during downtime. One important tip to keep in mind when traveling with kids is to book a hotel room with separate bedrooms or at the very least a bedroom with closable doors. This will help separate the kids if they misbehave or you can separate the parents if they are too tired to play. The hotel lobby at Embassy Suites was also equipped with two Wii video game consoles so the kids could play when we weren’t busy wolfing down the free breakfast buffet, with a custom omelet bar … or swimming in the hotel’s pool.


One of the best parts about the Embassy is that it is connected to Destiny USA. Destiny USA is a mall like no other. It’s more like the Disneyland of malls with 6 floors containing more than 250 places to shop, eat and play. You could literally spend an entire day there and not get bored. At this exciting one-stop shop we, of course, shopped our hearts out, but we also tried to find our way out of the maze of mirrors, balanced our way through a ropes course/obstacle course that was suspended several levels off the ground. However, the highlight for all of us was driving miniature race cars at RPM Raceway.



Even my 5 and 7-year-old daughters got to drive for the first time and I’m sure they will never forget it! Sadly, my 2-year-old son was left in tears when they didn’t let him drive… for some crazy reason. LOL It was for the best… and this mall was a great option for our rainy day.

Once the rain went away for another day, we visited Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards. USA Today voted it the BEST Apple Orchard in the Country, and now we see why. Not only did they have apples for days spanning their beautiful fields, but they also had delicious apple cider donuts and fried cinnamon apples.



There make for a cute souvenir and apple stores, as well as a restaurant and a huge bar. This is probably the first time, I’ve ever seen an apple orchard with a full-on jam-packed bar. Oh, and they even had some creative gourmet drinks that incorporated apple cider donuts that will make you salivate just looking at them.



Now that I’m totally hungry, I have to share our experience at Dinosaur BBQ. Talk about good food… we had it all chicken, salmon, onion rings, French fries, shrimp and much more. Although the restaurant was jam-packed the food came out fast, hot and fresh. The atmosphere was also pretty hot. It is laid back and eclectic with a comforting neighborhood feel. Even the bathrooms made you feel at ease enough to right on the stalls. They actually encourage it, providing chalk for their black board painted walls. At night the restaurant is definitely more for an adult crowd but either way your kids will get crayons and pictures to color. That kept ours busy till the food arrived and then they were silent as their lips smacked. Besides having great food and not just barbecue, Dinosaur BBQ has reasonable prices to feed the entire family… so, you know I was happy about that!



Our last stop on this world wind trip is another favorite. The Museum of Science & Technology or The MOST … and they were definitely doing the most!


The MOST were far from any museum most kids have been to. They used fun and exciting toys and activities to teach not just the kids but parents too. We learned about gravity, electricity, the stars, our health, and even dinosaurs. My kids were having so much fun they had no clue they were learning new things… they were just having fun learning. I wish schools taught using that same concept and maybe I would have stayed awake more! LOL



Overall our trip to Syracuse was amazing and we can’t wait to go back. It was way more than we could have imagined, especially since it’s so close to NYC. Who know they had so much to offer. We didn’t even make it to the other places we wanted to visit… like the Erie Canal Museum, Open Hand Theater, and various nature preserves. Of course, we could have always found something else to do at Destiny USA. We went there every day and still didn’t get enough of it.  Almost everything we did in Syracuse would have individually been worth a trip to this inconspicuous destination. Almost all the attractions could fill our day with fun. The seemingly hidden gem of New York has a lot to offer in good and bad weather, in the summer or winter, although experiencing their brilliantly beautiful picturesque fall colors is as magical as the memories your family will share when you visit Syracuse.

Shannon Lanier

A veteran television host, relationship expert, and author, Shannon LaNier has been keeping audiences tuned in his entire life.
Shannon currently co-hosts “Arise Entertainment 360,” a daily culture and entertainment series that airs on BET’s sister station, Centric, and cable providers globally. “Arise 360” is part of Arise News, a network seen in over 175 million homes in more than 50 countries throughout the world, including Europe, the Middle East and Africa. LaNier can also be seen as a correspondent on Black Enterprise Magazine’s nationally-syndicated shows: “Black Enterprise Business Report” & “Our World With Black Enterprise.”
As a teenager in Cincinnati, Shannon got his first television job on “Real Exchange,” an Emmy Award winning talk show focusing on issues important to young people. After graduating from Kent State University, he made his New York City debut as a segment producer for the CBS2 Morning Show. But he didn’t waste any time getting in front of the camera. His next job saw him take on the One-Man-Band role of journalist, writer, director, editor, videographer, and producer of News 12 Networks. Soon thereafter, he took a similarly comprehensive role at Fios1 News.
Shannon is also a writer, having co-authored the Random House Inc. book Jefferson’s Children: The Story of One American Family along with photojournalist Jane Feldman. The book follows his journey to uncover the history behind his heritage as a 9th generation direct descendent of Thomas Jefferson and slave Sally Hemings. Jefferson’s Children received a Best Books Award by the American Library Association.
Additionally, Shannon has inspired audiences across the globe with captivating speaking engagements that touch on everything from his presidential lineage to his career in media. Most recently, he participated in the White House’s National Entrepreneurship Tour, bringing his signature brand of motivational humor to packed live audiences around the country.
Gifted with undeniable charisma and an energy that electrifies the stage, Shannon truly comes alive in the spotlight. Whether he’s hosting a TV show, speaking to a packed auditorium, or emceeing an event—this is one Renaissance man who can’t help but draw a crowd. A former executive at CBS said it best: “Once Shannon’s “on,” the audience is glued. He’s born to be a star.”
Despite his full schedule, Shannon remains an active member of his church, the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., and the National Association of Black Journalists. He currently lives in NYC with his wife/college sweetheart Chandra and their two daughters.

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Syracuse: Family Friendly Destination

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