Watch the video from our visit.
By Mika Turim-Nygren, Travel Correspondent
Syracuse is a city of rebirth. Once a manufacturing center crisscrossed with canals and railroads, today the town boasts a major research university and a bustling arts and music scene. A few blocks from campus, Hotel Skyler has undergone its own fair share of reinventions. A Hebrew verse engraved on the pediment reveals the building's 1921 origins as a Jewish temple, and painted-over curtain pulleys residing upstairs hint at the building's stint as the Salt City Theatre.
In king hotel rooms, varying layouts evoke the hotel's eccentric history, with details such as 20-foot ceilings, semicircular windows, and quirky angles. Advanced green technology has brought the building in line with the 21st century. A closed-loop geothermal pump powers the heating and cooling system, and an energy-saving electric system activates only in the presence of a room key, shutting down all electrical sockets except for those at the desk when guests leave the room. Sustainable fibers go into the making of bedding, and in the bathroom, biodegradable bath products in recycled bottles soothe skin and conscience alike.
As the sun jogs toward a dinner appointment in the west, visitors can turn to Stefon's Marketplace, an on-site mini grocery, for a quick snack, or slide onto a faux-cowhide stool at the Skyler Bar for a specialty martini ($9). Come morning, baristas brew organic fair-trade coffees ($1.80$3.95) complemented by rotating pastries such as mocha-chip biscotti ($1.39 each). The morning sunlight brightens the lobby, where stained-glass panels of flowers reclaimed from a New York churchthrow kaleidoscopic patterns across the gleaming wood floor.
In 1851, the abolitionist movement in Syracuse was so strong that when a fugitive slave named William "Jerry" Henry was arrested by federal marshals, both black and white Syracusans broke into jail to free himan event memorialized in the Jerry Rescue Monument in Clinton Square, located at the heart of downtown Syracuse. Today, the city's proud antislavery legacy lives on at the Onondaga Historical Association, where interactive exhibits recount the city's role in the Underground Railroad.
Nearby, the Erie Canal Museum transports visitors to the 19th century, when the storied waterway first connected the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. Visitors can don bonnets and stovepipe hats before boarding a barge populated by plaster figures representing canal workers, everyday people, and Mark Twain's stunt doubles. In addition to its abundant historical offerings, the city plays host to numerous art galleries as well as the hands-on, kid-friendly Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology.
Southeast of downtown, a mere block or two from Hotel Skyler, Syracuse University buzzes as the hub of the city's culture. Across the quad, students in signature orange apparel play an impromptu soccer match as professors chat with colleagues while strolling past Romanesque columns. On-campus theaters such as the Syracuse Stage regularly regale audiences with productions of works by the likes of Shakespeare and C.S. Lewis.
Live entertainment of another sort sweeps through nearby bars and restaurants on the weekends. "Syracuse has a very large music scene," says Michael John, a.k.a. M.C. Tots, a rapper who raps only about potatoes. "People really enjoy their homemade, locally grown music." Jam sessions ranging the gamut from blues to punk keep feet tapping and hips shimmying, with revelers toting amber mugs of local craft beers.
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