For more than a decade, I’ve been at Syracuse University – as a student, staff member, alumna, and faculty. I’ve played my fair share of roles. I know all about Westcott Street and what it has to offer, but I haven’t spent enough time there. For years I heard people on campus rave about the Westcott Street Cultural Fair – the music, the food, the vendors… But life would catch up with me and I’d forget to go, or I’d already planned something else that day. This year was different. This year I made a point to go to the festival, and I will never have it any other way. The Westcott Street Cultural Fair really is fantastic, and is something that everyone should experience if they can!
First, it’s held on a Sunday at the end of summer/beginning of fall. Students and faculty are back on campus for the new school year; it’s crowded. Parking is not easy – but it’s free! After listening to some advice from people who had gone in the past, I parked at the Thornden Park swimming pool parking lot and walked the few blocks to the festival. Every street parking spot on the way there was taken, and the streets are already narrow!
Second, Westcott Street is regularly full of so much culture and energy, that it’s worth a visit at any time of the year. All of the local favorites (in detail later in this post) are open during the festival and they thrive from the sudden influx of customers to the neighborhood.
Third, there are several stages for performers. There are belly dancers, ballroom dancers, jam bands, drumming groups, singers, and a wide variety of local bands. From the smaller start-ups to the local favorites, like Root Shock. (P.S. If you haven’t checked out Root Shock yet, do it now! They are amazing!)
Fourth, it’s dog-friendly! SO MANY dogs were at the festival this year. Helping Hounds Dog Rescue even had two dogs at their booth who were available for adoption. So don’t leave your pup at home; they are welcome too!
Fifth, and most important, the festival is FREE! What more could you want? In addition to the music and dance performances, the cultural fair is full of vendor tables selling a wide variety of products – arts & crafts, locally sourced food, books, clothing, jewelry, furniture, etc – along with organizations trying to raise money or spread information about their causes. Some of my favorite vendors included Revival Handmade & Refurbished, Wombat Parliament, and Black Rabbit Studio. It’s an experience you shouldn’t miss!
The rest of the year in Westcott
Now, let’s talk about the wonder that is Westcott Street year round. There are so many gems in the eclectic Westcott neighborhood, you’ll need to make multiple trips to be able to enjoy them all.
- The Westcott Theater may be the most famous of them – a concert hall attracting a lot of indie artists.
- Then there is Alto Cinco, a Mexican restaurant with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. I get something different every time and am never disappointed. They’ve grown so much that they’ve even opened a second location, Otro Cinco in downtown Syracuse. Their food is THAT good.
- Looking for a nice cup of coffee? Recess Coffee has become a Syracuse favorite. Their location, right off of Westcott Street, is such a quaint location – perfect for grabbing a specialty latte and relaxing. Bring your homework or a book to read and you have the perfect afternoon. You can also find their coffee at the local farmers market and nearby restaurants.
- Need some dessert after that coffee? Make your way over to Picasso’s Pastries & Café. Another venue for local coffee (this time Café Kubal), they also serve pastries that look almost too delicious to eat! Almost. Definitely eat them. They are delicious!
- Westcott Nation is also home to some other local favorites – Munjed’s, a Mediterranean restaurant, Beer Belly Deli, a gastro pub with a creative menu and weekly trivia, Boom Babies, home to formal wear and modern clothing, and Petit Branch Library.
Now that I’ve given you dozens of reasons to visit Westcott Street, the only trouble is deciding which place to check out first! And make sure to put the Cultural Fair on your calendar every summer. It’s a great event bringing together so many people.