Winter in Upstate, NY for $10 or Less

Even if you have lived here for your entire life, winter in Upstate, NY can seem like a cold, dreary time with nothing to do. But this is not the case! There are plenty of things to do (both inside and outside) that won’t break your college-student-size budget.


Ice Skating:

Did you know that there is an ice skating rink about 10 minutes from campus? The New Hartford Recreation Center offers ice skating Tuesday through Sunday. For just $5, you can skate as long as the rink is open and get in the winter/holiday mood. Skates can be rented for $5 as well. Check out the rink’s schedule for more information.

Art Museums: 

Once the winter weather comes, finding inside activities are key for snowy weekends and days that you just want to stay warm. Local art museums, like the one on campus or the Munson Williams Museum of Art, always have new exhibits coming and going that compliment their permanent collections.

The Munson Williams Art Museum, only five minutes from campus, is free and open to the public Tuesday through Sunday. More than six exhibits are featured through out November along with their permanent collection. One exhibit, “Robert Indiana from A to Z,” will feature the works of the artist Robert Indiana, who actually spent some time in Utica. You may recognize his works from the image below! Check out the Museum’s website for more information.


The Edith Langley Barrett Fine Art Gallery is located in the lower level of the library on the College campus and is FREE and open to the public. From Nov. 4 through Dec. 6, the gallery will feature the works of the Utica Camera Club, which is composed of camera enthusiasts, both amateur and professional. The club, established in 1923, also hosts monthly photography competitions and challenges. Check out the Utica Camera Club’s page for more information.

Lights on the Lake:

The Lights on the Lake is one of my favorite thing to do during the winter. It is one hour from campus, but provides the perfect opportunity for one last road trip before the end of the semester. Lights on the Lake is a two-mile drive-through show that features thousands of displayed Christmas lights, accompanied by Christmas music played through your car radio. Admission is $10/ car Monday through Thursday, or $15/car during Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

I suggest that you get together with friends, (including one that owns a car) and all drive together. If about 5 people arrive in one car, that is only $2/person! You can also stop and get hot chocolate and cookies on your way to enjoy during the show. Lights on the Lake starts Nov. 21 and goes through Jan. 12. Click here for more information.

christmas lights

Turning Stone Casino:

Only 20 minutes from campus, the Turning Stone Casino is a great place to enjoy the holidays…even on a budget! Its annual Gingerbread Village and giant Christmas tree are quite the spectacles. The Gingerbread Village is a collection of houses, mansions, etc. all made out of gingerbread, candy and icing. Last year, the display was more than 50 feet long! There is no charge to view the village or the Christmas tree, so you can spend your money on coffee and dessert or other activities in the casino. 

The Utica Zoo: 

During the winter season, the Utica Zoo offers reduced admission, as well as snow shoe rentals! With a valid college student ID, admission to the zoo is only $3.50, and snow shoes can be rented for $2.50/hr. In addition to the many snow shoe trails and outside exhibits, the zoo also features several inside, heated buildings, such as the Primate Building, Wildlife Hall and gift shop. For only $6you can see snowy owls, monkeys, red pandas and more all only five minutes from campus! Check out the zoo’s map here!

Sea Lion

Have any other ideas for things to do during the winter? Share your ideas and/or experiences!