Auburn really is one of the “Best Small Cities To Raise A Family.” Besides all the other factors Forbes Magazine considered when it placed Auburn at the top of their list in the Northeast Region, it deserves the honor for having so many great, affordable family activities. Here’s a “Top Forty” list of hits for family day:
1. Concerts in the Park
Grab a blanket and some lawn chairs; gather up the family, and head over to Hoopes Park for the free summer concert series. Enjoying a relaxed, pleasant summer evening with the family while listening to some great bands play in a picturesque park is what makes living in a small town something to sing about! You can bring a picnic basket or cooler, or keep it simple and grab a burger, hot dog, soda or ice cream from one of the refreshment vendors. And stick around after the concert ends to watch family-friendly movies under the stars. Check the Event Calendar for the Summer Concert schedule.
2. Auburn Doubleday’s Baseball Games
Take me out to the ball game, buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks, a hot dog and an ice-cold beer – and don’t break the bank. Bring the whole family and enjoy all the fun and excitement of rooting for the home team at Falcon Park along with the rest of the friendly fans. The City of Auburn’s professional baseball team is named after Abner Doubleday, the famed (if not historically accurate) inventor of the game of the baseball, who spent his childhood years living in Auburn. It is a fun night of sports entertainment and socializing you are sure to enjoy with the Auburn Doubledays!
3. Apple Picking
Upstate New York is famous for its apples, and some great orchards surround Auburn. Apple picking has become a full-fledged event over the years. One of the best times of the season is the annual family trip to the orchard. Sure you could just pick up some apples at the grocery store, but then you would miss out on the fun of sampling different varieties of apples, picking them fresh off the tree, and filling your baskets. But the fun doesn’t end there. Many orchards Half country stores where you can buy cheese, cider, baked goods, and assorted country crafts and gifts. There’s even more fun for the family at some orchards where kids can enjoy wagon rides or pony rides, and parents can sample a variety of hard apple ciders.
4. Harriet Tubman House
Auburn is proud to have been the home of one of the great heroes of the Civil War era, Harriet Tubman. Often referred to as “The Moses of Her People,” after escaping slavery, this courageous conductor on the Underground Railroad reportedly made as many as 19 trips back into the South over the next ten years, to free a total of around 300 slaves. She also served as a Union spy during the Civil War years.
Her residence in Auburn, The Harriet Tubman House, alongside The Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged that she founded after the Civil War, was designated a National Historic Park by Congress in December 2014 and is open to the public.
5. Fourth Of July Celebration
Start with the charming setting of Victorian-style buildings landscaped with beautiful floral Gardens located on the shore of Owasco Lake. Add a rousing patriotic concert by Syracuse University’s Brass Ensemble as the sun slowly sets. Then finish it off with the splendorous sights and sounds of a thrilling fireworks display lighting the night sky over the water. Spectators with blankets spread on the grass, comfortably seated in camp chairs on the lawn of Emerson Park, or watching from the deck of their boat delight in the spectacle of an Independence Day celebration to rival any.
6. Drive-In Movies
It is a rare form of entertainment nowadays, which harkens back to a simpler time. There is much more to be found, however, than just nostalgia at the Finger Lakes Drive-In Theater. While only a handful of drive-ins remain throughout the United States, this oldest, continuously operating drive-in theater in New York State has it all. There’s the giant screen large enough to contain all the screens of an entire multiplex; there is the concession stand building, with all your favorite snacks; your listening choice of new FM transmitter or the old-fashioned fun of a speaker in your car window; and bargain of bargains, there’s always a double feature! Nothing beats the fun of putting the kids in their pajamas, making up a bed in the back seat, and snuggling up together to make family memories.
7. Hoopes Park
It won’t cost you a dime, but the relaxation discovered as you spend your hours in beautiful Hoopes Park is priceless. Take a leisurely stroll around the pond. Stop and feed the ducks. Admire the variety of beautiful flowers and plants carefully laid in their garden beds. Or, if you are the more active type, “power walk” along the paved paths throughout the park. From the gazebo to the pavilion and fountain, from the stone bridge to the outdoor bandstand; Hoopes Park is a pleasant, peaceful, oasis for people of all ages.
There are some great spots to hike right in Auburn, and even more spectacular trails in the surrounding areas. For a short hike, the one mile nature trail found behind Cayuga Community College is a hidden patch of forest in the midst of schools and houses. For serious hikers, Auburn Fleming Trail is a 1.6 mile trail through scenic woods, wetlands, and farmland. At the southern end of Owasco Lake, Fillmore Glen State Park displays magnificent views of gorges and waterfalls in all of the Finger Lakes. Taughonack Falls State Park on the western side of Cayuga Lake will thrill hikers as they walk along the rock floor, wading through shallow waters in a corridor between the steep walls of the gorge.
9. Casey Park Ice Skating Rink
Who says there is nothing to do in winter? Strap on some skates, and hit the ice for fun and exercise, and beat the winter blues. The indoor ice skating rink at Casey Park offers public skating, as well as the opportunity to play hockey on a team. Open seasonally from October 12th to February 28th, the rink is the home to the Auburn Ice Hawks, an organized league for youth ages 6 through teens. More information and the schedule for the rink can be found during the winter months at Auburn Hockey Booster”s website.
10. Pumpkin Picking
Apple picking isn’t the only family-favorite, fun activity found on the farm in the fall. You can grab a wheel barrel and find that “perfect pumpkin” at one of the many pumpkin patches surrounding Auburn. And here again, there are other offerings and activities to be enjoyed — like finding your way through a corn maze.
There are plenty of quiet streets and park paths throughout Auburn’s neighborhoods for the whole family to enjoy a bike ride. Casey Park and Emerson Park both offer paved paths throughout, and riding a bike through Emerson Park affords great views of Owasco Lake. For cyclist comfortable with taking it to the streets, the route around Owasco Lake allows incredible views of the lakes pastoral splendor! For a special family-fun challenge, combine biking with running and paddling and join The Great Race at Emerson Park at the end of summer.
12. The Great Race
For some, it is a display of athletic prowess, but for most it is simply the friendliest of fun competitions. Each year, starting from Emerson Park, hundreds of participants run, bike, and paddle in the annual running of the Great Race: Captain Myles Keogh Paddle, Wheel, and Run. The nation’s largest team-only triathlon consists of 2, 3, or 4 person teams. The race begins with a runner (5k or 10k), who hands off to a biker (10 or 20 miles), who then hands off to their kayaker or two canoeists. There is also a half-distance short course and Kids Fun Run available. The great race is for everyone, with teams comprised of families, friends and a few serious contenders of all ages joining in the competition. Even if you don’t feel quite up to the challenge, there is always the fun of cheering on your favorite team as they race across the finish line or endlessly paddle in circles out on Owasco Lake.
Owasco Lake offers excellent opportunities for recreational boating. The generally quiet, calm waters make the lake perfect for paddling a kayak or canoe. The eleven-mile long lake is also great for sailing, cruising along in a pontoon boat, skiing, tubing, and jet skis. Although the lake reaches a depth of 177 ft., the shoreline tends to be shallow, making deep keel boats impractical. Multiple public boat ramps may be found at the northern end of the lake at Emerson Park. Private ramps also exist at the southern end. Marinas are located at both ends of the lake as well, offering various types of boats for rent. Canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, and paddleboards are also available to rent at Emerson Park.
The end of the summer festival, TomatoFest, is another great event focused on family fun. Since its inception in 1986, families have found great food, entertainment, crafts, live music, and kid’s activities at this festival held annually at Emerson Park. TomatoFest MusicFest 2015 will include continuous Americana, Country, Bluegrass, Blues, Folk and even a touch of Jazz music on three different stages. Tomatofest will be held on Saturday, September 12th, and Sunday, September 13th, 2015 from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. Admission is only $3.00 for adults and free for children with the donation of a canned good. Proceeds from the event are donated to help feed the hungry.
With more fresh water coastline that any other county in New York State, the area is a favorite destination for anglers. The Finger Lakes of Owasco, Skaneateles, and Cayuga are all less than ten miles from Auburn; and on the northern border of Cayuga County, one of the Great Lakes, Ontario, is less than 30 miles away. Emerson Park on Owasco Lake offers plenty of spots for fishing with long shorelines and large, attractive seawalls on both sides of the Owasco Outlet, which leads from Owasco River into Owasco Lake. Public boat ramps at the park also provide access to fishing for boaters. New York State also provides numerous additional fishing access sites throughout the area. A detailed map of those locales can be found at the NY DEC Bureau of Fisheries website page: New York DEC Fishing Access. Lake trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, northern pike, pickerel, bluegills, rock bass, bullhead and yellow perch may all be found in Owasco Lake. The lake is stocked annually with trout.
16. Case Research Lab
The Case of the talking pictures — everybody loves movies, but did you know they have one of Auburn’s own to thank for the talkies? Thanks to Theodore Case, Auburn gave birth to talking movies. In the 1920’s, Theodore Case invented the first commercially successful system of recording sound on film at Case Research Lab in Auburn. The history of his work and exhibits from his lab and studio; including the first sound camera, the darkroom, chemistry lab, and recording studio are on display at The Cayuga Museum and Case Research Lab close to downtown Auburn.
17. Swimming at Emerson Park and Fair Haven State Park
Ready to hit the beach and cool off? You’ll find public beaches and bathhouses at both Emerson Park on Owasco Lake and Fair Haven State Park on Lake Ontario. The shallow waters at the southern end of Owasco Lake warm up fairly early in the season and allow for a large swimming area of safe depth for little ones. Emerson Park has two beaches: one in the main part of the park and the other on Deuville Island. Swimmers of all ages will love Lake Ontario’s waves and sandy beach, along with the State Park’s diving board into the channel.
Summer just isn’t summer without the good times found at a family picnic! Pack the cooler and a picnic basket, charcoal, and some camp chairs and head on over to Emerson Park for a day of fun on Owasco Lake. Or take the short drive to one of the area’s many State Parks for even more activities in the great outdoors. It’s more than just a meal when you smell the burgers cooking on the grill, slice the watermelon, and grab a cold one.
19. Neighborhood Playgrounds
No matter where you live in the family-friendly community of Auburn, a place for the kids to play is not far away. With thirteen neighborhood playgrounds and parks throughout the city, they can swing, climb, and slide on the playground; ride bikes, scooters, and skateboards; swim in the summer and ice skate in the winter; play baseball or soccer in the playing fields, or basketball or tennis on the courts. See Auburn’s Parks and Recreation Map for park locations throughout the city.
Tennis is a great game for fitness and fun that the whole family can enjoy! It doesn’t require an expensive membership or a lot of expensive equipment. All you need is a racket, a couple of tennis balls, and one of the numerous outdoor tennis courts spread throughout the city. There are public courts located at Casey Park, Auburn High School, Lincoln Park, and Clifford Park. Indoor courts are also available for year round play at Champions for Life Sports Center.
21. Casey Park Swimming Pool
Dive in and beat the heat this summer at the public swimming pool at Casey Park. Times for family swim and laps are available daily throughout the summer. Swim lessons are available on weekdays. For information and a detailed schedule, see the Casey Park Pool Schedule. New this summer – all residents of Auburn swim free!
22. Baseball and Softball Leagues
There are several youth baseball and softball leagues in the area. You will find information about the leagues and registration information from the links provided at Youth Activities. But why let the kids have all the fun? Join one of Auburn’s organized softball leagues for adult men and women; and enjoy the fun, camaraderie, exercise, and competition. Games are played at Casey and Clifford Parks. Rules and schedules may be found at Auburn Softball League Information.
23. The Cayuga Museum of History and Art
Read the personal letters from some of history’s famous people. See the uniforms civil war soldiers wore into battle. Break into the background of the oldest continually operating prison in the United States and learn about the model for all American prisons. Just be careful where you sit—Auburn was also the first prison to use the electric chair. You can find all this and more of the rich local history and culture on display at Cayuga Museum of History and Art.
Your kids will cheer! Children can participate in the sport of cheerleading at Champions for Life Sports Center, and on the Pop Warner Auburn Indians cheerleading team. The team cheers at football games and participates in cheerleading competitions.
The game of soccer promotes fitness, sportsmanship, and friendly competition for boys and girls. Children can participate in youth soccer teams through the YMCA, Champions for Life Sports Center, Boys Auburn Arsenal Soccer, and Finger Lakes Minor League Soccer.
26. The Schweinfurth Art Center
Your family can enjoy the fine art exhibits and gain hands-on experience at Schweinfurth Art Center. The Art Museum is a non-profit gallery and multi-arts facility located within walking distance from downtown Auburn. The Art Center also offers a variety of programs, studio classes, and workshops for youth and adults throughout the year. For visitor information, visit: Schweinfurth Art Center
27. Casey Park Skatepark
Riders can develop their skills and have fun on skateboards, BMX bikes, and scooters at the free outdoor skatepark located at Casey Park in Auburn. The skatepark includes metal ramps, half pipes, decks, stairs, handrails, and flat rails.
There is a reason why the phrase, “doing handsprings,” is a used to express fun and excitement! The sport of gymnastics builds strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility while having a great time. Champions for Life Sports Center offers classes for all ages and levels.
29. Martial Arts
The martial arts promote self-defense, discipline, confidence, and fitness. Adults and children can find martial arts programs teaching many different styles in Auburn, including taekwondo, jiu-jitsu, karate, kung fu, muay thai, judo, thai chi, and mixed martial arts.
30. Williams H. Seward House
America’s history comes alive as you tour the beautiful, historic Seward House. Home to Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Henry Seward and his family, the Seward House Museum contains an extensive collection of Civil War era artifacts, documents, photographs, and gifts from foreign dignitaries displayed among the well preserved original furnishings of this stately house. Seward ranks high among historians for his skillful diplomacy during the Civil War, as well as his visionary expansion of U.S. territory achieved with the purchase of Alaska, derogatorily referred to as “Seward’s Folly” at the time.
It’s fast paced fun and competition that’s sure to be a great workout! The Auburn YMCA has 5 racquetball courts available for members. Group or private lessons, as well youth racquetball lessons for ages 7 to 18 are available. Court reservations can be made one day in advance.
32. Ward O’Hara Agricultural Museum
Take the family on a trip back in time as they learn and experience the history of the region’s farming community. History comes alive as they tour the carpenter and blacksmith shops, complete rural kitchen, bedroom, one room schoolhouse, country mercantile and dairy room at the Ward O’Hara Agricultural & Country Living Museum. Exhibits include handheld tools, horse drawn implements, tractors and other large farm equipment that were made in the 1800s and 1900s. The museum is located at Emerson Park, across from The Merry-Go-Round Playhouse and admission is free.
Whether you are looking for a simple game of one-on-one, meeting up with a bunch of friends for a full-on game, or looking to join a league, there are plenty of opportunities to shoot some hoops at one of the outdoor or indoor courts in Auburn. Outdoor courts can be found at many of the neighborhood Parks throughout the city. Indoor courts and leagues are available through the YMCA and CCYO.
An evening at the theatre will delight the family! From May to October, the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival features professional musical productions along with new musicals at three different remarkable theatres. Experience musical theatre in the delightful setting of the renovated, historic carousel building located in Emerson Park Merry-Go-Round Playhouse. For the less traditional theatregoer, The Main Stage at Auburn Public Theater provides the Off-Broadway experience in Downtown Auburn. Theater Mack, another unique historic locale, hosts THE PITCH, which provides a showcase for original plays.
Get together with family and friends for a friendly game of touch football at one of Auburn’s many sports fields. Or sign the kids up for the Auburn Indians, a Pop Warner football league for children ages 5 to 14, and cheer them on to victory!
Bowling is a perennial favorite activity for people of all ages. Whether you’re looking for a family outing or to join a seasonal league, you are sure to find a lot of good, old-fashioned fun at Auburn’s bowling lanes.
When it comes to entertainment, a night at the movies is on the top of most people’s list. Can’t wait to see the latest blockbuster? Or are you more drawn to independent films? Whatever your taste may be, you will find movies of all genres at Auburn’s cinemas. Track Cinema at the Finger Lakes Mall, and Auburn Movie Plex feature the latest releases. And check out Auburn Public Theatre art house cinema for independent, foreign, documentary, classic, and family films.
It may not compete with the big balloons of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the colorful floats in the Rose Day Parade, but there is something that Auburn’s parades have that they probably don’t – the smiling faces of family and friends waving at the crowd, thrilled to march down the street! Bring the family downtown to join in the fun and festivities and make the holiday something special!
Raising a child, or being one, is harder then ever in today’s rapidly changing world. The experiences and values discovered in the long-standing tradition of scouting, however, continue to help guide youth on their journey to adulthood. The fun, friendships, skills, and values forged as a scout Will be treasured a lifetime. Check out the local Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Auburn’s YMCA offers so many activities that it is a center for family fun all by itself. The facilities at the Auburn YMCA offer two swimming pools, two gyms with basketball courts, racquetball and squash courts, multi-room fitness center, indoor track, health centers, locker rooms, and golf net. There are programs for adults and children, including swimming lessons, volleyball, martial arts, racquetball lessons, boxing fitness, golf lessons, aquatics, after school childcare, softball, Zumba, and more. The YMCA also serves the community by sponsoring special events throughout the year.