Nestled in the scenic landscape of Upstate New York, halfway between downtown Syracuse and the village of Cazenovia lies the charming village of Manlius. The quaint community with rich history is in the midst of a revival. The village is embracing small, local businesses with abundance. And the area is thriving with so many things to do in Manlius.
The History of the Village of Manlius
Manlius was first established in 1813 as the first village in Onondaga County. Due to its prime location along both roadways and the canal, it was the center for transportation, politics, and more. The village saw many firsts in the county, including the first pottery, distillery, newspaper, and gun factory. There was even an amusement park for several year. According to the village’s bicentennial statement, 46 buildings were placed on National Register of Historic Places. These parts of the “old village” are known as Onondaga County’s historic district.
Say hello to the swans at the Manlius Swan Pond
There is absolutely nothing more iconic in the village of Manlius than the swans in the swan pond. The swans are beloved by the local community, and collectively are the equivalent of the village pets. A trip to Manlius is truly incomplete without a visit to the Swan Pond and a walk along the trail behind it.
Currently, four juvenile swans reside in the pond. The offspring of Faye and Manny, these swans were the victim of a recent crime in which the mother and babies were stolen. Unfortunately, Faye did not survive the incident, and a memorial plaque is now there in her honor. Because of this, the future of the Manlius swans may be limited. Be sure to go and visit them and their duck friends whenever you are nearby.
Enjoy a beer and a pizza at A. W. Wander
When Dan Chapman and Joe Ori opened All Who Wander in Manlius in 2016, they had a tiny spot in a plaza. But after a few years they had outgrown their original home with the killer artwork. So they moved around the corner to the much bigger location previously owned by Ironwood. With the new location, they gained a wood-fired pizza oven and a new, shortened name: A. W. Wander. Swapping their famous grilled cheese sandwiches for wood-fired pizzas, they’ve continued to grow. With the bigger space, they can host more customers and continue developing the sense of community that the business is based on.
A. W. Wander is a mix between a restaurant and a beer stop. Guests can come in, enjoy a beer and a pizza, and strike up a conversation with some fellow craft beer lovers. That’s what is at the heart of A. W. Wander. But if you just need to do a quick beer run, you can do that too. With a selection of over 100 cans and bottles, there truly is something for everyone to enjoy. And you can even check out their beer list from home using their menu on Untappd.
The Wander team works closely with distributors and breweries in the area to keep the selection updated with the newest releases. They make a point to get the most rare and unique beer they can. And because the beer selection is constantly changing, Dan warns the customers, “Don’t fall in love with a beer; we may not have it again! Enjoy the beauty of variety and challenge yourself to try new brews.”
Watch a movie at the Manlius Cinema
There’s something special about attending a film in person. Especially after a fews years of having to stream movies at home during a pandemic, and losing the energy of being in a crowd at the theater. Well A. W. Wander owners Dan & Joe have expanded their footprint in Manlius with their recent purchase of the Manlius Cinema. They are bringing new life into the theater that is small in size, but large at heart. The cinema is currently showing a mixture of new releases, vintage films, and special events.
Listen to Music at the Rollin Rust Room
Okay, to be fair, this one isn’t fully available… yet. The Rollin’ Rust Room is a work-in-progress in an old building along Wesley Street. The upcoming music venue is owned, operated, and named after the Americana band The Rollin’ Rust. The community is at the heart of the project, with James VanDeuson and Rebecca Girouard taking the lead on making the dream a reality.
While we anxiously await the opening of the venue, you can following along on their remodeling adventures on their social media channels. And you can support them at various events in Manlius that they co-host with fellow village businesses.
Attend an event or shop local at The Yard in Manlius
I love when developers take an old, abandoned industrial place and reinvent it as a new multi-use, community-focused center. Just like Camp North End in Charlotte, North Carolina, The Yard in Manlius is doing just that. The old train yard has been transformed into a shopping, drinking, and dining destination southeast of Syracuse. Inside The Yard, you’ll find a handful of small, local businesses that are definitely worth visiting.
Eugenia’s General Store
Step back in time at Eugenia’s General Store, a shop that carries just a little bit of everything. From kitchen staples to novelty items, Eugenia’s carries everything you need – and some you just want.
The newest shop to open up at The Yard is Newish. The home goods store sells a mixture of new, vintage, and thrifted items that are sure to bring joy to any home.
Owned by Liz Andrianos, Rooted Wildlings is perhaps one of the cutest places you’ll ever shop for plants. Jumping on the houseplant surge that surged during the pandemic, Liz opened up her dream shop at The Yard. Stop in for all of your houseplant needs, for those with green thumbs… and those without.
Have a NYC pint at Singlecut Barn
One of the newest breweries to come to town may be new to us, but it’s not new to the beer world. Singlecut is based in New York City, and recently opened its third location at The Yard in Manlius. (The second location is in Saratoga.) While waiting for licensing to come through, Singlecut Barn did a soft opening for merch, tastings, and to-go beer. But in May of this year, the brewery officially opened for onsite consumption and plenty of events.
While enjoying a pint or two at Singlecut, be sure to visit Cafe Jarosz to get yourself a bite to eat. Their typical food truck menu features a variety of creative paninis, plus chicken tenders and local-favorite Utica greens. But during special events, the cafe gets even more creative with special themed menus.
Grab a sweet treat from Mrs. Kelder’s Cakes
If you’re looking for a place to satisfy your sweet tooth in Manlius, look no further than Mrs. Kelder’s Cakes. This village staple is much beloved by the community, featuring cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and more. The bakery always goes above and beyond for the holidays with delicious sweet treats themed to each special occasion.
Visit the fish at the Hatchery
While the swans are one of the main draws to the village of Manlius, they are not the only wildlife worth noting. The village is also home to a fish hatchery at Perry springs. Visit it year-round to learn a little more about fish stocking in New York State.
Learn a new game at Unplugged Games
Something you may not know about me is my love for games. Board games, video games, puzzles, brain teasers, you name it. In fact, my husband and I own over 400 board games — and are avid players on Board Game Arena. So it should come as no surprise that I regularly visit all of the local board game stores (and seek them out when I travel).
I love a good board game store that carries a unique selection of games, has friendly and informed staff, and offers opportunities to learn new games. Unplugged Games checks all of those boxes. In fact, I rarely visit the store without doing my part to keep them in business. Located in the village plaza, Unplugged often sells a variety of games that you can’t find in the big box stores. Plus, they have a nice selection of trading cards, collectibles, puzzles, and more. In the back half of the space there are several tables set up for free play, tournaments, and other gaming events. Be sure to check out there Facebook page for upcoming gaming events for both beginners and pros.
Admire the murals throughout the village
One of my favorite parts of Manlius’s latest revival is the addition of several beautiful murals in the heart of the village. All designed and painted by Mark Noble, it’s impossible not to notice their colorful beauty. and smile at their sight.
One of my favorite spots to eat in Central New York is Scenic Root in Manlius. Located right next to the swan pond, the restaurant provides beautiful views of the birds in the summer. Scenic Root has been serving elevated American cuisine since 2016, and has become a local favorite. The restaurant interior is split up into multiple dining rooms, each maintaining a cozy, inviting atmosphere.
The menu shines with its seasonal special and classic dishes. But the most important thing is not to skip dessert!
Shop local at The Station 603
Located in an old train station at the heart of Manlius, The Station 603 is the ultimate home decor and gift shop. Janice Abdo has a keen eye for the best giftables and decorations. And she not only runs the boutique, but outside in the summer you’ll find a well-stocked plant nursery. Because Janice is a also a landscape designer by trade.
She is so passionate about the shop and spends a lot of time curating the best home and outdoor decor. Inside you’ll find everything from candles and kitchen towels to frames and pillows to dog bandanas and maple syrup! Outside in the nursery there is a variety of plants and planters to decorate your garden.
Next time you’re looking for the perfect gift – or to treat yourself – check out what Janice has at the shop in Manlius.
Have one more drink at Seneca Street Brew Pub
There is yet one more place to enjoy a pint of craft beer in Manlius – at Seneca Street Brew Pub. Owned by the Menikheim family, the brewery opened in 2016 inside the historic First Baptist Church of Manlius. The family also owns their own hop yard, where they grow a variety of hops across two acres.
Visit their location right in the village to enjoy some beers, have a bite to eat, or attend an event.
Treat yourself to an ice cream at Sno Top
Summertime in Manlius, one place is busier than all the rest: Sno Top. Located beside the village plaza, Sno Top is very involved in the Manlius community. The ice cream shop has been involved in supporting little league teams and even offering free ice cream to encourage children to read. As far as the ice cream? It’s delicious, of course. Plus, it is the only place around offering old fashioned sodas and glaciers – slushies topped with ice cream. Sno Top is a definite for any Manlius-themed or summer-season bucket list.
Three Falls Woods in Manlius is truly a hidden gem. Very few people I know have heard about it, but the ones who do? They rave about how beautiful it is. And I couldn’t agree more.
The property, owned by the CNY Land Trust, has several trails through the woods with some of the most gorgeous views around. As the name suggests, there are three waterfalls along the paths – which are best seen when there’s been rain recently.
The woods are the epitome of natural beauty in the northeast, and truly shine in the autumn season. The small stone wall running through the forest is idyllic New England charm. Upon entering the woods, you can choose the pond trail or the waterfall trail. Both trails provide beautiful scenery and mild level hikes.