If you’re planning a move to Syracuse, New York, you’ve probably heard about the city’s epic winters. But while the region receives more than its fair share of snowfall, Syracuse has also developed a reputation as a friendly and affordable metro area with a lot to offer families, retirees, and young professionals.
In addition to active social and culinary scenes, Syracuse offers activities for every lifestyle. For example, proximity to the Adirondack and Finger Lakes regions provides ideal opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. If you’re a sports, music, or festival fan – or event junkie – NCAA basketball at the Carrier Dome, world-class concerts, and an abundance of regional festivals serve up options for year-round entertainment.
But many residents find the thing they appreciate most about living in Syracuse is the convenience. With desirable suburbs like Fayetteville, Manlius, and Baldwinsville nearby, you’re never more than 20 minutes from the action. And since Syracuse sits in the center of the state, destinations like NYC, Rochester, Buffalo, and Toronto are within a few hours driving distance.
Living in Syracuse, NY: What to Know Before Moving to Syracuse
Home to Syracuse University, the Syracuse metro area boasts more than 650,000 residents. Like many cities in the Northeast, “The Cuse” is quickly moving beyond its blue-collar roots to become an attractive location for students and young professionals in the healthcare, education and aerospace industries.
Pros and Cons of Living in Syracuse
- Cost of living
- Affordable housing
- Active social and culinary scene
- Sports, festivals, and outdoor activities
- Winter weather
- Higher state and property taxes
- Limited public transportation
- Average job climate
- Lack of big-city amenities
There’s no getting around the fact that New York is a high tax state. New York residents pay more state and local income taxes per capita than residents in any other state, according to the Tax Foundation.
- Property Tax: The average property tax rate in Onondaga County is 2.747%. This rate is more than double the average national property tax rate of 1.211%. With a median home value of $141,300 in Onondaga County, the average homeowner pays $3,882 in property taxes each year.
- Sales Tax: The combined sales tax rate in Syracuse is 8%. The New York state sales tax rate is 4%, and the Onondaga County tax rate is 4%, thus totaling 8% Syracuse sales tax.
- Income Tax: The New York state individual tax rate is 8.82%.
Syracuse has a surprisingly vibrant housing market with plenty of opportunities for buyers and renters. As of July 2019, the median home price in Onondaga County was currently $141,300, a 3.1% increase over the average home value a year ago. While 38% of city residents own their homes, 62% rent living space. The average rent for an apartment in Syracuse is $1,136.
The least expensive neighborhoods in the city of Syracuse include Lakefront, Elmwood, Outer Comstock, Far Westside, University Hill, and Northside.
Cost of Living
The cost of living for a family of four in the greater Syracuse metro area is $96,173. The costs of housing, food, transportation, and healthcare are lower than the national average, while the cost of transportation is slightly higher. Bestplaces.net lists Syracuse’s overall cost of living at 82.5, considerably lower than the national average of 100.
Weather & Natural Disasters
Syracuse residents experience all four seasons and encounter a range of weather conditions throughout the year. The region receives significant snowfall — an average of 115 inches each year, falling primarily in November through March. The Syracuse metro area receives some form of precipitation 171 days a year. Annual precipitation averages 38.9 inches with June, July, and September being the wettest months.
Syracuse averages 163 sunny days a year, lower than the national average of 205 sunny days. The warmest months of the year are July (high 82°/low 59°) and August (high 79°/low 58°). The coldest months are January (high 31°/low 14°) and February (high 33°/low 15°).
Fortunately, extreme weather and natural disasters are rare in Syracuse. But the weather in New York can change quickly. Snowstorms, ice storms, flooding, and high wind events are always a possibility, so it’s important to stay alert.
Economy & Job Market
The median household income in the city of Syracuse is $34,716, significantly below the $54,498 median household income in Onondaga County and the US median income of $60,336. The Syracuse unemployment rate is currently 3.9%, which is just slightly above the national unemployment rate of 3.6%. However, both private sector businesses and area population are on the rise — the US Census Bureau reports that Syracuse was the only major city in New York to experience population gain in 2017-2018.
Top industries in Syracuse include healthcare, education, and retail. The highest paying industries are utilities; public administration and professional; and scientific & technical services. A center for some of New York’s fastest-growing technology companies, Syracuse is also becoming one of the state’s most important tech hubs.
Major employers in the Syracuse metro area currently include the Upstate University Health System, Syracuse University, St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center, Wegmans, and Lockheed Martin. Since Syracuse is a smaller city, job seekers often find success through referrals or by tapping into their professional networks.
Traffic & Transportation
The Central New York Regional Transportation Authority (CENTRO) provides public transit service for residents in Syracuse, Onondaga County, and the surrounding area. Carrying more than 11 million passengers a year, CENTRO buses connect residential neighborhoods to area universities, shopping destinations, event spaces, medical facilities, and employment districts.
Although public transit options are limited to CENTRO, Syracuse sits at the crossroads of several major highways, making it easy to travel across town as well as to destinations across New York State and south through the Mid-Atlantic Region. While Interstate 81 runs north-south and provides access to Canada, Pennsylvania, and points south, Interstate 90 (the NYS Thruway) runs east-west and offers convenient access to Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, and other major cities in New York State.
The Syracuse metro area experiences typical rush-hour traffic patterns for a city of its size. But residents in the suburbs and exurbs can reduce commute times by taking advantage of local highways like Interstate 690 (east-west through the city with access to I-90 and eastern/northwestern suburbs) and Interstate 481 which loops around the city with access to Fulton, Oswego, and Lake Ontario.
Syracuse’s walk scores are mixed: 61 for walking, 44 for transit, and 46 for biking. Although the city falls short in its number of bike lanes, several neighborhoods — including Downtown, Northside, and Westside — are highly walkable. The University Hill area, home to Syracuse University, SUNY ESF, SUNY Upstate Medical University, and Crouse Hospital, is also extremely walkable and offers convenient access to several shops and restaurants.
What to Do
The Syracuse area offers a variety of opportunities for residents and visitors. Located in the heart of central NY, Syracuse provides close access to the wineries and breweries of the Finger Lakes region as well as camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities. In the city itself, residents enjoy an active culinary scene and NCAA sporting events with the Syracuse Orange.
City, County, or State Parks
- Thornden Park. Visit a large park on the city’s east side, featuring green spaces, recreational facilities, a pool, and an amphitheater.
- Onondaga Park. Spend an afternoon at a century-old park with sunken gardens, grottos, and a rustic stone bridge.
- Green Lakes State Park. Visit a scenic state park in nearby Fayetteville for swimming, kayaking, or a round of golf at a course designed by Robert Trent Jones.
- Chittenango Falls State Park. Take a quick drive to Chittenango and traverse a gorge trail down to the base of a majestic 167-foot waterfall.
- Rosamund Gifford Zoo. Do you like animals? Visit Syracuse’s impressive zoo. Enjoy clean, modern facilities and a combination of indoor and outdoor exhibits.
- The Great New York State Fair. Every August, Syracuse hosts the Great New York State Fair, America’s first and oldest state fair.
- Destiny USA. With 2.4 million square feet of shopping space, Destiny USA is a retail destination for shoppers across New York State and throughout the Northeast.
- The Erie Canal Museum. Check out 200 years of Erie Canal history, housed in a building that once weighed canal cargo.
- Sylvan Beach. Located on the east end of nearby Oneida Lake, Sylvan Beach is a popular summer destination featuring bars, restaurants, a vibrant beach scene, and amusement park rides.
- The Syracuse Orange. The Syracuse University Orange NCAA basketball team helped put Syracuse on the map. But in addition to basketball, the Orange compete in NCAA football, soccer, lacrosse, ice hockey, and other sports.
- The Syracuse Mets. A Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets, the Syracuse Mets are the region’s most noteworthy minor league club. Most recently, the Mets roster included Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow as he attempted to transition from football to professional baseball.
Schools and Universities
The Syracuse City School District serves more than 21,000 K-12 students through 33 public schools (2018-2019 school year). With a student-teacher ratio of 15:1, the city school district ratio is slightly above the NYS average of 14:1.
Although the city school district recently received a C rating, several school districts in the Syracuse metro, including Fayetteville-Manlius, Jamesville-DeWitt, Baldwinsville, and East Syracuse-Minoa, rank at the top of the list for New York State schools.
Syracuse is also home to several colleges and universities, including:
- Syracuse University. Syracuse University traces its roots back to 1831 and is one of the nation’s leading private research universities. With a student body totaling more than 22,000, SU is quite literally a city within the city. Several departments, including the SI Newhouse School of Public Communications, receive consistently high rankings and attract students from around the world. Notable SU alumni include Joe Biden, Aaron Sorkin, Megyn Kelly, and Bob Costas.
- SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) is widely regarded as the nation’s premier college for environmental disciplines, natural sciences, and the sustainability of natural resources. Part of the SUNY system, ESF is located directly adjacent to Syracuse University and boasts an enrollment of more than 2,200 undergraduate students.
- LeMoyne College. Founded in 1946, LeMoyne is a private Jesuit college located in the suburb of DeWitt. With more than 3,500 undergraduate and graduate students, LeMoyne sits on a 160-acre campus and maintains partnerships with businesses and organizations across the Syracuse area.
- Onondaga Community College. Onondaga Community College (OCC) is the largest public community college in the region with an enrollment of more than 10,000 students. Founded in 1961, OCC features two campuses: the main campus on Onondaga Hill west of Syracuse and OCC@Liverpool (also called the North Site) located just north of the city.
Like other Upstate and Central New York cities, the city of Syracuse suffers from above-average crime rates. The violent crime index for the city of Syracuse is 39.8/100 compared to 22.7/100 for the entire US. Similarly, the city’s property crime index is 52.9/100, significantly higher than the national index of 35.4/100. However, Syracuse suburbs and exurbs report significantly lower crime rates than the rest of the nation.
- Gas & Electric: To request electric and gas service, contact National Grid using an online form or call 1-800-642-4272 M-F between the hours of 7 am and 7 pm.
- Water: Before you relocate to Syracuse, you’ll need to determine whether the OCWA or the City of Syracuse Department of Water provides water for your address. You can reach the City of Syracuse water service at (315) 448-8238 or by email at WaterOperations@syrgov.net. To contact OCWA, call (315) 455-7061 x3335 or complete the contact form on OCWA’s website.
- Waste Removal: The Syracuse DPW handles residential trash and recycling pickup. To request a bin and determine your scheduled pickup day, call (315) 448-CITY or visit the DPW page on the municipal website for additional options.
- Internet/Cable: Spectrum is the most popular cable and internet in the Syracuse area. To establish service, call 1-855-243-8892 or enter your address on the Spectrum website to receive special offers and request new service.
Best Neighborhoods in Syracuse, NY
Here are some of the top neighborhoods to explore as you plan your Syracuse relocation:
Named after the Revolutionary war hero, Marquis de Lafayette, the village of Fayetteville is a suburban community located less than 10 miles east of downtown Syracuse. With exceptional public schools and a high homeownership rate, Fayetteville appeals to families, retirees, and others looking for a laid-back suburban vibe. Fayetteville ranks #7 on the list of best suburbs for buying a home in New York.
The Fayetteville community offers a variety of parks, restaurants, coffee shops, and stores. Good news: There’s a massive Wegmans located just west of the village on Route 5. The village of Fayetteville is walkable. But several nearby highways, including Route 481 and Route 5, make it easy to access destinations outside the village as well as the city of Syracuse
- Population: 4,324
- Median household income: $74,863
- Median home value: $174,495
- Median rent price: $1,021
- Schools: Fayetteville-Manlius Senior High School (9-12), Wellwood Middle School (5-8), Fayetteville Elementary School (K-4), Mott Road Elementary School (K-4)
Something to try: Swing by the Stickley Museum and learn about the history of one of the region’s most well-known furniture manufacturers.
Westvale is a friendly and safe neighborhood on the west side of the city. Situated along Route 5 and close to Route 690 and I-81, Westvale sits at the center of the action: Destiny USA, the Rosamund Gifford Zoo, the New York State Fairgrounds, and Syracuse University are all just a few short miles from the Westvale neighborhood.
Despite its central location, Westvale manages to maintain a peaceful and family-friendly atmosphere. In addition to the many shopping and dining options, residents enjoy walking and jogging on the community’s trails and ample sidewalks.
- Population: 5,193
- Median household income: $76,802
- Median home value: $147,249
- Median rent price: $1,037
- Schools: West Genesee Senior High School (9-12), Westhill High School (9-12), Onondaga Hill Middle School (5-8), Cherry Road Elementary School (K-4), Onondaga Hill Elementary School (K-4)
Something to try: Spend an afternoon at the Rosamund Gifford Zoo and check out a “mob” of meerkats in the Social Animals wing.
Liverpool is a near suburb located along Onondaga Lake, just northwest of downtown. With a name adopted from a city in northern England, Liverpool’s roots go back to the origin of the salt trade in the region. Even now, many people refer to Syracuse as Salt City — and it started in Liverpool.
Over the years, Liverpool has cultivated a reputation as a safe and peaceful middle-class suburb. If you’re looking for nightlife, the vibrant downtown social scene is only a few miles away. But if you would rather stay local, restaurants like the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant, Limp Lizzard BBQ and Francesca’s serve up a diverse range of cuisines.
- Population: 2,305
- Median household income: $60,520
- Median home value: $131,534
- Median rent price: $879
- Schools: Liverpool High School (9-12), Liverpool Middle School (5-8), Chestnut Hill Middle School (5-8), Liverpool Elementary School (K-4), Long Branch Elementary School (K-4)
Something to try: Visit the Salt Museum to learn about the role Liverpool played in providing the entire nation with salt.
Looking for an affordable community that offers a great place to raise a family? You might want to take a look at Fairmount. This Syracuse suburb, located west of the city between Camillus and Westvale, receives high ratings for its schools and allows residents to enjoy a suburban lifestyle without the high costs frequently associated with family-friendly suburbs.
Eighty percent of Fairmount residents own their homes thanks to the community’s modest home values. For those who prefer to rent, average monthly rents fall well within the budgets of most families. Although Fairmount is not as walkable as most city neighborhoods, your family will appreciate the large number of chain and independent restaurants located along West Genesee Street.
- Population: 10,224
- Median household income: $60,343
- Median home value: $125,208
- Median rent price: $1,004
- Schools: West Genesee Senior High School (9-12), Westhill High School (9-12), Onondaga Hill Middle School (5-8), West Genesee Middle School (5-8), Camillus Middle School (5-8), Split Rock Elementary School (K-4), Cherry Road Elementary School (K-4), Stonehedge Elementary School (K-4)
Something to try: Walk your dog at the Camillus Erie Canal Park and see a restored aqueduct that used to carry the canal over Nine Mile Creek.
Baldwinsville has one of the best school districts in Onondaga County. So, it’s no surprise that “B-Ville” appeals to families who want to stay close to the city but prefer to live in an affordable community with a small-town feel. Slightly smaller than some of its neighboring communities, this northern suburb takes pride in its reputation for welcoming newcomers with open arms.
However, don’t let the community’s small-town atmosphere fool you. Baldwinsville is a surprisingly active neighborhood that hosts more than its fair share of outdoor activities, summer concerts, farmers’ markets, and restaurants. If you’re moving to Baldwinsville, be sure to check out the Baldwinsville Oktoberfest, an event that occurs every September, with all profits going to charities in the Baldwinsville community.
- Population: 7,681
- Median household income: $53,230
- Median home value: $121,636
- Median rent price: $741
- Schools: Charles W. Baker High School (10-12), Theodore R. Durge Junior High School (8-9), Donald S. Ray School (6-7), Mae E. Reynolds School (K-5), Harry E. Elden Elementary School (K-5), Van Buren Elementary School (K-5)
Something to try: Visit the Beaver Lake Nature Center for a firsthand experience with area flora and fauna.
Many people who relocate to Syracuse are students, faculty, healthcare workers, and professionals moving to the Downtown area. Officially recognized as one of the city’s 26 neighborhoods, Downtown is the heart and soul of the Syracuse metro area. As home to Syracuse University, the Downtown neighborhood houses more than 4,000 people and employs more than 30,000 local residents.
Thousands of students and visitors flock to Downtown each year to experience sporting events, regional festivals, and the city’s active urban scene. Many of the area’s banks, insurance companies, and attorneys have offices in Downtown, but the area comes to life after dark. On any given night, the bars, clubs, and restaurants near Armory Square, Hanover Square, and Clinton Square buzz with activity.
Given the large student population, owner-occupied residences are extremely rare in the Downtown neighborhood. Just 1.4% of residents own the homes in which they live.
- Population: 4,005
- Median household income: $9,940
- Median home value: $83,900
- Median rent price: $673
- Schools: Henninger High School (9-12), Corcoran High School (9-12), Expeditionary Learning Middle School (5-8), Grant Middle School (5-8), Bellevue Elementary School (K-4), Franklin Elementary School (K-4)
Something to try: Don’t miss the opportunity to take in an NCAA basketball game or concert at the 50,000-seat Carrier Dome.
Minoa is a popular Syracuse suburb for professionals and young families. Located 15 minutes to the east of downtown Syracuse, Minoa allows residents to avoid city congestion and enjoy a sense of community that can be difficult to find in an urban neighborhood.
Public schools in Minoa receive high ratings, and the area features a large number of newer homes, many of which sit on large lots. But don’t plan on hiding behind closed doors because Minoa residents typically like to get to know their neighbors. Events sponsored by the Minoa Volunteer Fire Department, schools, local charities, and churches bring the entire community together year-round.
- Population: 3,529
- Median household income: $59,229
- Median home value: $135,208
- Median rent price: $797
- Schools: East Syracuse Minoa Central High School (9-12), Pine Grove Middle School (6-8), Fremont Elementary School (K-5), Minoa Elementary School (K-5)
Something to try: Enjoy a romantic dinner on the scenic veranda at Brian’s Landing, a first-class restaurant located inside Green Lakes State Park.
Looking for a Syracuse exurb with a really cool, small-town vibe? Then you need to check out Cazenovia. Located 20 miles southeast of downtown, Cazenovia is a popular bedroom community for Syracuse area residents who enjoy scenic views and a casual pace of life.
Home to Cazenovia College, the Cazenovia community hosts a variety of unique pubs and eateries, including Empire Brewing Company, Owera Vineyards, Critz Farms Brewing and Cider Company, and the Brae Loch Inn (an inn and restaurant offering authentic Scottish cuisine).
The village of Cazenovia is highly walkable. But you’ll need a car to visit breweries and wineries, or to take route 92 to Downtown. You should also know that while real estate prices in most of Cazenovia are reasonable, property values along Cazenovia Lake on East Lake Road typically run much higher than the New York median home value.
- Population: 2,826
- Median household income: $63,370
- Median home value: $242,191
- Median rent price: $799
- Schools: Cazenovia High School (8-12), Cazenovia Middle School (5-7), Burton Street Elementary School (K-4)
Something to try: Enjoy classic central New York scenery as you kick back with a bottle of locally produced wine and a brick oven pizza at Owera Vineyards.
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