What to do when family and friends visit

Writer Rebecca Meluch
Rebecca Meluch

When my sister first came to visit me in Syracuse, she did not want to leave. She fell in love with the campus and saw a glimpse of what Newhouse looked like. She even enjoyed walking up the excruciating hill that Falk College sits on just to take a picture. 

She splurged a little bit at the campus bookstore, buying enough SU merch that she might as well be a student here herself. 

When family and friends come to visit us in Syracuse, it may feel like there’s only so much to do. If you’re like me, hosting and entertaining for a weekend can feel quite stressful beforehand. Those who come to visit sometimes drive or fly hours to come see us—so we might as well make the best out of it.  

Truthfully, Syracuse has lots to offer for everyone who comes to visit, whether you’re older or younger, if you have a car or not, and whatever you and your visitor’s price ranges are. 

From my experience, there is a lot to do and a lot not to do

Don’t have homework standing in the way.

First, whenever you’re planning for family and friends to come visit, don’t make them sit around and wait as you hurry to finish an assignment. Sometimes homework and stories do come up when you’re a Newhouse student, but try your best to knock those out before your guests arrive, or maybe just save them until they leave or turn in for the night. 

Nobody wants to visit a college and actually see what the homework process is like. And similarly, when you have family and friends here to visit, you don’t want to be stuck thinking about a paper or story you have to finish. It’s meant to be a fun and relaxing weekend, so pre-plan your workload for before or after the visit. 

Unless say, your sister who comes to visit is an excellent proofreader, then do with that what you will. 

For the first meal in town, get takeout or go somewhere laid back and cheap.

After driving or flying hours to get to Syracuse, nobody wants to be on a time crunch to get to a reservation or wait for hours on a never ending waitlist. 

Visitors who come to see you may want to catch up for a little bit, wind down after their travels, put their feet up and relax. Getting takeout or eating at a restaurant or café with no lines allows you and your guests to take a breather and set your own pace for the weekend. 

Don’t ignore the weather forecast for the weekend.

Syracuse is well-known for its cold and snowy weather. Luckily we don’t have to deal with the snow right now. But the weather here can still be surprising to some—hot and muggy humidity, torrential downpours, bursts of wind. It’s best to warn your guests what to bring with them before they make a trip out here. Sometimes, the weather can be unpredictable. 

If the forecast for the weekend says it’s going to rain, odds are there will be rain. Make sure to plan what you do around the changing weather. Because this city has a climate like no other, prepare your guests to bring clothes and shoes that are diverse for both warm, dry, wet and cold weather conditions.  

Nothing dampers a trip more than trudging in puddles in the wrong shoes or sweating through thick fall sweaters.

But if the forecast calls for beautiful weather for the weekend, make sure to spend time outside with your guests, enjoy a meal sitting outdoors, take a day drive to the many wineries and breweries at the Finger Lakes, sit by Onondaga Lake Park or go to one of the outdoor festivals Syracuse hosts downtown. 

Pass the time on long waitlists by showing them around the area. 

One thing I’ve learned about the Syracuse dining scene so far is that it loves waitlists. It’s nearly impossible to book a reservation ahead of time at some of the city’s most popular restaurants: Pastabilities, Dinosaur Barbeque or Rise and Shine Diner.  

Often, waitlists can take hours and slow down as they get closer to your number. It’s best to have a plan set beforehand that makes the wait go quicker. Get on the waitlist an hour (or two) before you intend to get there. 

Take your guests on a small walking or driving tour of the downtown area. Head into the Sound Garden in Armory Square to pass the time looking at records. Browse around the McCarthy Mercantile and its several shops. Maybe score a seat at a restaurant or bar nearby the one you’re waiting to get a meal at, and have a cheap appetizer and refresh for a bit before the main course. 

Take your visitors on a small walk through campus before you make your way to Westcott. Or stop by in Boom Babies and do some browsing to pass the time. 

The worst thing to do is to make your guests feel like they’re waiting too as you refresh the waitlist. Keep them and yourself entertained before you get a table. 

Go to an SU sporting event.

I don’t know a lot about sports, but what I do know is that there are plenty of games to go to and watch each weekend. 

Currently, it’s the season for football, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball and field hockey. If your guests are sports fans, going to a home game would be the perfect chance to show them around campus and pass a good amount of time out of the day. 

Before your friends and family arrive, search for games and events on campus they may be interested in and plan to get there and secure tickets in advance. 

Take them to the campus bookstore, or the Syracuse spirit shops on Marshall Street beforehand to buy a cheap T-shirt or SU gear so they can feel a part of the crowd and have something to remember the experience with. 

Show your visitors the spots that mean the most to you.

One of my favorite things about having friends and family visit is showing them the places that mean the most to me –– spots that I personally enjoy and keep to myself. 

There are certain things you feel like you have to do when showing visitors around campus and the city for the first time, like going to the well known places and excursions you think they may enjoy because mostly everyone else in the city enjoys them: Dinosaur Barbecue, Pastabilities, Destiny U.S.A, Armory Square and the Dome. 

Then there are things you want to do. These places are the types of places that you discovered on your own or places you regularly frequent. They can be coffee shops, boutiques, local parks, bars and restaurants—anywhere that you feel familiar with. 

While it’s important to go to and see some of the more typical, well-known Syracuse destinations, visits with friends and family are better when they’re personal and show a little bit about you and your experience here. 

Rebecca Meluch is a graduate student in the  magazine, news and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School