Summer Things to Do in Oneida County While You Still Can
One of the best parts about living in Upstate New York is the very defined seasons. Along with that, we get a wide variety of activities that change throughout the year. As we move into September and kids are going back to school, check out these things to do in Oneida County this summer before it’s too late.
Thank you to Oneida County Tourism for hosting me on my most recent weekend in Utica, Barneveld, Boonville, & Remsen.
See the Normal Rockwell Exhibit at the MWPAI
Surprisingly, I had never been to the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute until last month. Now I know what I was missing out on. The museum has beautiful works of art all year long in the permanent collection. Then they add in special limited-time exhibits throughout the year. This summer, the current exhibit is Norman Rockwell.
Having been to art museums around the world, I’m always intrigued to see how each museum chooses to display the works of art. I have to say- that MWPAI outdid themselves with this exhibit. Since Norman Rockwell was best known for his artwork on the covers of The Saturday Evening Post. Located on the second floor of the museum, the exhibit is bookended by two red-walled galleries. All 323 covers of the post are on display across the two rooms. I highly recommend taking the time to look through not only the artwork, but also the headlines. Since Rockwell illustrated from 1916 through 1963, he covered some of the most significant events in American history.
The middle of the exhibit showcases Rockwell’s other works, including portraits from around the world and a painting of Ruby Bridges. After viewing all of his work on display, spend some time in the interactive part of the exhibit. Design your own Saturday Evening Post cover. Recreate a famous scene from the magazine, and even flip through the pages of original copies of the post.
Pick Lavender & Play with Animals at Spring Creek Lavender Farm
If I had to pick one place in Oneida County to spend an entire day, it would undoubtedly be at Spring Creek Lavender Farm in Remsen. First of all, lavender is one of my absolute favorite things. The smell, the taste, the look… it’s amazing. We even threw lavender at our wedding! So I’m immediately hooked when I discover a lavender farm.
But Spring Creek is so much more than lavender. The family-run farm is owned by Kara & Kevin Keeley, PNW transplants who have a love of farming. In addition to the many varieties of lavender across multiple fields, there is so much more to do at see at the farm. After the lavender is done for the season, the cut flower season is upon us. Visitors can enter the gardens and cut their own bouquets to take home. (Much like at Withy Hollow Farm in Erieville.)
Then there are the animals – the very best part. Behind the flower gardens you’ll find the goat pen. In the summer, the pen is filled with the softest, cuddliest baby goats you’ll ever find. And yes, you can cuddle with them. They even host goat yoga right there.
Next to the goats is the butterfly garden, filled with flowers and monarch butterflies. Then you’ll find the donkeys, alpacas, chickens, dogs, and more throughout the property. When you visit, don’t forget to check out the farm store at the front of the property. There you will find farm-made products including lavender wreaths, soap, essential oils, bug spray, and so much more. (And that bug spray – it’s phenomenal.) You can even enjoy a freshly squeezed cup of lemonade while you explore.
Keep an eye on Spring Creek’s Facebook page for upcoming events. In addition to goat yoga, they have lavender wreath making classes and date nights on the farm.
Get Brunch at The Lifted Cup Café
If you love a cute café with great food owned by wonderful people, add The Lifted Cup Café to your list! The café is owned by US Navy veteran Tim Corelli and his family. After serving as a Mess Specialist on a Navy Submarine for several years, Tim finally made his way back home to Upstate New York. His mission now is to provide a comfortable place for people to come together over great food.
And that’s exactly what he’s done! The Lifted Cup Café has quickly become a local favorite, specializing in breakfast, brunch, and dinner. When you walk in, you are immediately welcomed with open arms and treated like one of the family. It’s what makes the café so wonderful. Grab yourself a paper menu – that doubles as your order form – and find a seat wherever you like. If you’re lucky, you might enjoy some live music while you wait for your food.
The menu features all of your breakfast and lunch favorites, prepared fresh when you order. Although the kitchen is small, it has a large window opening it up to the dining room, so the cooks can chat with their customers. Again, increasing that value of connectedness.
Hike the Trails at Potato Hill
Potato Hill Farm & Trails is truly a gem in Oneida County. The site opened to the public in 2019 as part of the Black River Environmental Improvement Association (BREIA). The privately funded organization’s purpose is to provide places for people to explore, learn about, and be apart of the natural environment.
At Potato Hill, there are miles of trails to explore. And not just that, but the large barn on the property has hundreds of bicycles, cross-country skis, and snowshoes to rent throughout the year. And it’s all FREE. It sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t!
A small staff helps runs the property along with volunteers throughout the year. In addition to providing access to the trails and equipment, Potato Hill also hosts school and scout groups of children. Again with the mission to educate them about the natural landscape.
Located on what was once a dairy farm, Potato Hill is still home to a variety of farm animals. Donkeys, sheep, horses, and alpacas roam about various paddocks throughout the property. And while most of them are shy, the donkeys would love to say hello to you!
So head over to Boonville and explore the 170 acres of land for yourself. Bring a picnic lunch and eat at the picnic tables in the pavilion.
A special thank you to Diane Hausserman for showing me around the Potato Hills property.
Need a place to stay in Oneida County while you’re visiting? There are some very cozy inns in the area! Check out The Inn at Blueberry Brook or The Golden Maple Tree Inn.
Drink Fresh Milk from Grassy Cow Dairy
Is there really anything better than enjoying fresh milk and cheese while visiting a farm? Especially when you get to meet the actual cows who provide the milk? At Grassy Cow Dairy in Remsen, NY, you can do exactly that.
As part of the CNY Cheese Trail, Grassy Cow is a fully operational family-run farm producing a variety of milk and cheese products. The cows are on a rotational grazing schedule, meaning they regularly move to different paddocks in order to maintain fresh grass. This provides some of the freshest – and creamiest – milk you can find in Central New York. Trust me on this one, it would be a crime not to try Grassy Cow’s chocolate milk.
The farm store is open 7 days a week, selling milk and cheese made fresh on the farm. Additionally, customers can purchase farm fresh eggs, beef, pork, and other locally produced goods.
Explore the Pathways at Root Glen
Oneida County is filled with so many beautiful trails to explore, it’s hard to list them all. But Root Glen has easily become one of my favorite places in Oneida County to visit, so it needs to be on the list. Located on the Hamilton College campus, the shale-lined trails meander through the forests surrounding the school. But you’ll feel like you’re a world away. A trickling stream winds among a wide variety of trees, flowers, and ferns. It feels so magical, I wouldn’t be surprised if fairies and nymphs appeared along the pathways.
Pick Sunflowers at Wagner Farms
The sunflower field is the main event at Wagner Farms in Rome. It is undeniably one of the most popular things to do in Oneida County in the summer. Wagner farms has sunflowers as far as the eye can see. And since they plant the crops in stages, different sections of the field are in bloom through the season. That means there is a longer season for you to visit and get your perfect sunflower selfies.
In addition to the flowers, there is a field of buckwheat with walking paths and a corn maze. At night in the fall, the maze becomes haunted. All of the fields and trails are ADA compliant. Access to all of the fields and walking trails is $10 per person, children 2 and under are free.
Wagner is an active farm, producing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. They claim to have the best sweet corn around – so make sure you get some to take home!
Visit the Animals at the Utica Zoo
It’s no secret that I love zoos. And craft beer. So when I had the opportunity to do the Utica Zoo Brewfest, I jumped at the chance. Although I wished the beer stations were more spread out throughout the zoo, I always love seeing the animals in the evening. They are usually more active, and there are less crowds.
The Utica Zoo is home to 99 different animal species, represented by over 200 animals. And it’s very budget-friendly to visit. At just $8 to enter ($7 for students, military, & seniors; $5 for children 2-12), it’s a great place to bring the family.
While the Brewfest is over for this year, check out the upcoming wildlife festival this weekend, the Halloween Spooktacular next month, and Bright Nights in December!