How far would you drive your kids to visit a good park? As long as the kids can stand it? Trick question. How about 25 minutes from Syracuse to Baldwinsville, where three parks with woods and a river view will call children to spend time outdoors? And then you can head to the local cafés or diner for an indoor treat.
Fall is a beautiful time to visit the town of Baldwinsville. Many may think of Beaver Lake Nature Center as the main draw to B’ville, as the locals call it, but other parks await your kids closer to the quaint village center.
For a quick start, stop in Mercer Park, located in the center of the historic village, right next to the Seneca River where Charlotte and North Streets meet. A renovated boat launch draws a few kayakers and canoers, while the modular park equipment draws youngsters and parents. The ducks and geese, well, they pretty much stick to the river. A sand beach makes it easy to try to skip rocks into the river or just run around when not playing on the swings or basketball courts. Parents will be glad to know the two bathrooms are clean and open during the day, along with benches and a gazebo.
Across the river, you can spot boats slowing down to go through Lock 24 on the Erie Canal as they head north on the river. A block up from the lock is the Canal Side Café & Bistro, which offers indoor and outdoor seating for breakfast and lunch next to the river.
The village of Baldwinsville actually sits within the Town of Lysander, which is significant because Lysander Park opened a new spray park this year and now allows dogs on leashes to join their human playmates on the park grounds. Can dogs play checkers? This is the place to find out. A Boy Scout project led to the creation of a life-size checkerboard near the butterfly garden; simply sign out checkers in the park office. You can also sign out pickleball racquets to give the new pickleball courts a try – or bring your own. Tennis courts, basketball courts, baseball and other fields – even a gaga ball pit (ask the kids) – are right by the park equipment, swings and big sandbox. A .75-mile walking trail goes through the surrounding woods and out by the gazebo. Another Boy Scout project helped extend the trail to one mile with markers located around the parking area.
“We have loved Lysander Park,” says Christi Jureller, a B’ville mother of twin 8-year-old girls and a 5-year-old boy. “That was our go-to place when they were little. We also like Mercer Park since it’s got bigger equipment and it’s on the water. We’ve found cool stuff at the water’s edge.”
Try the park at night, if you dare, from 5-8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5, during the Park at Dark Halloween celebration and fundraiser. For $5 a car, costumed participants may take a flashlight walk on the wooded trail, stop at the bonfire and hear spooky stories before ducking into the candy tent. The fundraiser will benefit phase two of the spray park, which Recreation Supervisor Tony Burkinshaw said would include changing rooms and another pavilion. The park is located off Smokey Hollow Road, between Routes 48 and 631.
For a more low-key park experience, visit B’ville’s Community Park, which is located on the south side of town off Route 48. This park is bound by the Seneca River on one side and woods on the other. Children and dogs love the walking trails, just feet from the river. There’s also a boat ramp, picnic tables and grills, softball fields, swings and other park equipment and bathrooms. With plenty of room to run and explore, this park is a hidden gem.
Thirsty or hungry visitors often stop at Shamballa Café and Coffee Roasters on West Genesee Street in the center of town. Freshly roasted coffee beans make up delicious drinks for grown-ups, while kids can try the hot chocolate or juice. Bagels and muffins also are available during café hours. Longtime B’ville residents treasure the 1950s-style B’ville Diner, located on East Genesee Street in the center of town. Milkshakes and French toast are among some teen and youngster favorites at this open around-the-clock restaurant.
If you want to keep walking after a snack, consider the Northeast Trail along the river behind the B’ville Diner. Follow it right, out of the parking lot to Route 48/Oswego Street and turn left. Walk over one bridge and down to the left on Marble Street. Keep walking straight along the river and into Volunteer Park on the peninsula that juts out into the water, separating the river from the Erie Canalway. Careful walking there; it’s easy to take many short side paths that lead right into the river. It’s probably better to walk back to the car for the quick ride home.
If You Go
Location: North Street, Baldwinsville.
More information: www.baldwinsville.org/
Location: Lions Parkway, Baldwinsville.
More information: www.baldwinsville.org/about/parks.
Location: Smokey Hollow Road, Baldwinsville.
More information: www.townoflysander.org/
Diners & Cafés
Location: 16 East Genesee Street, Baldwinsville.
Hours: Open 24/7.
More information: www.bvillediner.com.
Shamballa Café and Coffee Roasters
Location: 7 West Genesee Street, Baldwinsville.
Hours: Tuesday – Friday from 7 a.m. – 2p.m.
and Saturday from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Closed Sundays and Mondays.
More information: www.shamballacafe.com.
Canal Side Café & Bistro
Location: 23 Syracuse Street, Baldwinsville.
Hours: Open daily from 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.
More information: https://canalsidecb.business.site.