Lately I have been seeing too many articles or news reports being shared online claiming that Utica, NY is a ‘distressed’ city, most ‘depressed’ or one of the top most ‘miserable cities in America’. If you, like me, are part of the 60,000+ inhabitants that call this place “home”, then I hope that you find this as disturbing as I do.
First things first let me get this straight. Dorothy wasn’t kidding when she said…
there’s no place like home.
Utica has been my home for over thirteen years. It’s a pretty sweet city in upstate NY where you can experience multiple different cultures, make friends from 10+ surrounding towns and order every type of -as close to- ‘authentic’ food that you can imagine from Vietnamese to Polish eats within a 15 mile radius.
After traveling for almost a year, I get more and more excited to go home to the ‘tenth most populous city’ in New York State. If you’ve forgotten why Utica is great, no worries, I’ll remind you. Here’s why.
1. THE FOOD. (This one is obvious?)
Do you ever have that moment when you just ‘can’t decide what to eat’? Well maybe that’s because there are a million different options in Utica to choose from. Utica has some of the BEST FOOD CULTURE in upstate, NY; or the entire country for that matter (okay maybe I’m being biased there).
Seriously though – have you tried Daniele’s tomato pie? Symeon’s thracian chicken? Zeina’s kibbeh? Georgio’s chicken riggies? Florentine’s pusties? Pierogies from the Polish Community Club? Voss’ chilli dogs? Hemstrought’s half moons? [the list could go on for days]
If not, you probably should. Utica food will change your life.
2. Proximity to People, Places & Things
If Utica doesn’t offer it – I bet New Hartford, Whitesboro, Clinton or one of the surrounding areas does. Need to get to NYC? Easy 4 hour drive. Destiny USA? Day trip. Fancy a show at the Turning Stone Casino? 30 minutes. Camping in Old Forge? That’s practically in your backyard.
3. The Community (Or should I say family)
Utica is the type of place that no matter where you go, you will probably see someone that you know or at least recognize. (Chances of this typically increase when you are
having a ‘bad hair’ day) Utica is great because for as many people as you know, there are even more to meet and befriend. Even better, the people you meet will probably have mutual friends with you; making it easier to join in on pick up sports, nights out, weekday food dates or watching and supporting your friends/family at high school sports competitions.
Utica is also an amazing place to find overwhelming community support for events such as America’s Greatest Heart Run and Walk, the Out of the Darkness Suicide Awareness Walk, the ALS Walk, Relay for Life and so, so, so many more community wide events. There are multiple church and faith communities offering services in various languages. There are youth groups and people from all walks of life volunteering to make our city a better place. This is really something great.
4. Matt Brewery – ‘UC for me.’
How many cities can claim that they are home to the ‘fourth oldest family owned brewery’ in the United States? Let me tell you – just one. Utica, NY. If you get thirsty on a summer afternoon or are just looking for something to do – take the short drive down to West Utica and hop on a Brewery Tour. It’s good fun, the beer is great and Schultz and Dooley are waiting for you.
5. & Saranac Thursday, for all you 21+ Uticans
If you’re from Utica, you’ve probably come to understand that during the summer, Thursday is the new Friday night out. $5 gets you in the door at the Brewery to listen to some pretty awesome live bands, have a Saranac brew and visit with all of your friends from the area, or new ones that have come to join the fun! It’s a great place to meet people, it’s the perfect atmosphere and it’s always a good time.
6. The Entertainment (Utica & Surrounding)
Valley View Golf Course, sports tournaments, the Utica ZOO, Marquee Cinemas, Mini Golf or ‘Foot golf’, Varick St., live music performances, dining out at classy restaurants, karaoke at The Harp, The AUD (Go Comets!), Parkway ski slopes, trying to speed through all of the green lights on Genesee St, Munson Williams performances, year round sports facilities, cultural events, the National Distance Running Hall of Fame, King of Kings basketball games, cafes, Sylvan Beach trips, Late night Taco Bell runs. Just to name a few options…
7. Shopping at Your Fingertips
We don’t even realize how lucky we are to have a mall and multiple other shopping centers within a very close range. There are businesses ranging from lumber yards to sporting gear stores, Walmart to local paint shops and just about everything in-between. Oh, and we can drive our cars and (almost always) be ensured parking somewhere. As long as it’s not Black Friday – Who designed Consumer Square parking anyways?
8. Boilermaker SUNDAY – Our 2nd Christmas
This may be my favorite ‘Utican holiday’ of the year. The annual- second weekend- in July when thousands of people flock in from all over the world to run one of the best 15k races in the U.S. During Boilermaker weekend the city is BUZZING. Everyone is in visiting from out of town. Boilermaker gatherings, pasta dinners and parties are commonplace. Spectators are gearing up to line the race track and good vibes are high. If you don’t believe me, go out and experience this one for yourself. Truly a unique A++ community event for all Uticans and visitors.
9. The 4 Seasons – even better than the hotel & resort
They say ‘you never realize what you have until it’s gone’. Skip some of the weather seasons for a while and you might understand what I mean. Sure, the DPW
might not plow all of the streets as fast as we might like, and pothole dodging might become more popular than soccer; but in CNY we’re lucky to experience all of the seasons without any serious inclement weather hazards. In Utica, we can go on autumn drives over the parkway blaring the latest and greatest hits. We can ice skate, ski or snowboard during the winter. We can go on spring walks through Proctor Park – hopefully it has stopped snowing by then 😉 and take our bikes out for a summer ride by the Erie Canal – who has it better than us?
There are so many things to be grateful for. There are many very happy, healthy and content inhabitants. There are so many reasons to counter these concerning ‘claims’ about Utica. Do these writers and statisticians know what it means to be a Utican? Do they know that life, happiness and growth go beyond calculated numbers and figures? Do they see the whole picture? I’m concerned that they don’t – and meanwhile us Uticans are losing faith in our amazing area while letting negativity infiltrate our home.
is not perfect…but in all honesty, where is? Utica might not have everything that you could possibly want, but neither does NY, NY., Denver, CO., or Miami, FL. Everywhere you go will offer something new to experience. Something different to fall in love with. Something else to appreciate. Similarly, it will lack something – whether that be people, events, foods or that “home” feeling.
I’ve been taught to never be ashamed of where I came from. To be proud of the battle scars, the journey and the roots that have helped me grow. To count blessings,
To the people of Utica, NY. There is always something to be grateful for. Let’s be proud of the place that we call home. Let’s support our local businesses, change our attitudes and start to love Utica for the awesome city that it really is.
A Utica lover.