Clinton Square, Syracuse, New York
Welcome to Syracuse! My name is DJ Johnson, and I'll be your virtual tour guide for the weekend. What's going on this weekend, my helpful rhetorical reader question? StarCityGames is putting on their namesake, SCGCon! They'll be setting up shop in the Oncenter, Syracuse's premier convention center/arena/theatre. If you need an address to plug into Google Maps, 800 South State St is where all the fun will be.
That being said, I'd recommend plugging in 'Oncenter Parking Garage' instead. While street parking is free in the city on the weekend, you'll often be hard pressed to find a spot. You'll spend a lot less time if you just pay the day fee for the concrete megalith that is the parking garage.
SCGcons are like CommandFests in that they're three-day events that take up the entire weekend. Unlike CommandFests, there's no day pass or entry fee required to walk into the hall. If you just want to stop by and peruse the vendors and artists, you can! The hall is open on Friday from 12pm-9pm, Saturday 8am-9pm, then Sunday 8am-6pm. But that's the case for every SCGcon; what makes Syracuse special?
Well, we're the home base of TCGplayer itself! That's got to count for something! If you've ever ordered cards off TCGplayer Direct, they were shipped out of this massive office space/art-gallery-turned-gaming-warehouse, affectionately known as "The Galleries" by locals. You'll likely see a higher concentration of TCGplayer-branded shirts bustling around the convention as it's only a couple of blocks away from TCGplayer itself. While the warehouse itself isn't a local game store and isn't open to the public, there are plenty of other things to occupy your time while you're visiting the city!
Sleeping, Eating, Drinking
If you're looking for last-minute lodging downtown near the Oncenter, you've got a few options within walking distance. Jefferson Clinton Suites is a moderately priced 4-star hotel currently running at $130ish per night, perfectly nestled between two of my favorite local eateries! You've got your standard Marriott's and Crowne Plazas at roughly the same price range, with several cheaper motels and hotels the further you get from downtown.
Speaking of local eateries, I can't talk about Syracuse without mentioning Kasai. A ramen shop that popped up in 2019, they're my go-to for a special dinner out with the wife. With a mix of locally sourced and Japanese-imported ingredients, there's something for everyone here. Just remember they're closed on Sunday, so it's a place you'll want to check out on the first couple days of the event before you miss your chance.
Not in the mood for Japanese? No worries. Funk'N'Waffles will welcome you with open arms! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this funk vibe local hotspot is where you can let loose your previous conceptions about what a waffle can do. With the Guy Fieri seal of approval, we've got everything from a pulled pork waffle (with the famous Dinosaur BBQ sauce) to a more traditional chicken & waffles approach (my personal favorite). The lines can be long for breakfast, and with good reason. Don't leave Syracuse without stopping by.
I could spend an entire day writing about my favorite eateries in and around the Syracuse area, but unfortunately I don't have that kind of time. I did make a post on Twitter a couple of days ago, rallying some of my friends to share their favorite hotspots and coffee shops within walking distance of the Oncenter though!
Attending SCG Syracuse this weekend? Food recommendations:
* Funk'n' Waffles (breakfast/lunch)
* Modern Malt (breakfast/lunch)
* Kasai Ramen (dinner)
* Pastabilities (lunch/dinner)
* Tully's (dinner)
* Cafe Kubal (breakfast/coffee)
Local friends can add to this thread 🧵⬇️
— Douglas (DJ) Johnson (@CardGardenMTG) July 5, 2022
Out of all the Twitter replies in the above thread, the place that I'm most ashamed of neglecting to mention is the Salt City Market. It's sort of like the Reading Terminal Market of Philadelphia, albeit on a smaller scale. Dozens of vendors and food options, open from 11am-9pm Monday through Saturday, though it closes early at 5pm on Sunday.
Whether you're loading up on a dozen donuts for the carpool gang or looking for a vegan smoothie option, the Market is going to have something you want. It's also got a bar that's open late, if you happen to not do as well as you'd like in one of your events.
Local Gaming Shops
So! We've got a roof over your head and a few places to get a taste of Syracuse. What's next? Well, maybe you're missing a few cards for your Modern deck, or you want to hit up a local FNM after you're finished for the day at the Con. We've got a few local game stores that can get you sorted!
Larger than Life is the premier shop in town, and they just recently moved into a new location. If you can't find what you need on site at the SCGcon, it's worth the drive to the suburbs to browse LTL's expansive inventory and event schedule! LTL does have two locations, so make sure you don't get lost; the Clay one is where all the Magic happens, while their secondary location in Destiny USA mall is going to be for those more interested in toys, action figures, or Funko Pops.
While not exactly a Magic shop, we do have a retro game shop right across from the TCGplayer headquarters! Voltage is a locally owned and operated store where I've acquired plenty of old Fire Emblem and Pokemon titles myself, and it's only a few blocks walk from the convention center. They open at 11AM Friday, so you have a little bit of time to stop by before the hall opens for the SCGCon at noon.
Lastly, it's hard to write a guide to Syracuse without mentioning Destiny USA. While it's not the Mall of America, it's the eighth largest mall in America! There's an endless supply of entertainment options and locally owned stores. Whether you're crossing your fingers for the Morbius re-re-release in the IMAX, curious about the go-kart track, or simply want to get your steps in for the day wandering through the maze of a metropolis, Destiny has something for everyone, and it's easy enough to get to with the help of a rideshare app. My favorite store in the mall is Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters, and I don't even drink coffee! The smell near the store is mesmerizing enough, and I can't leave without picking up a couple of their baked goods and a hot chocolate.
It's not the easiest place to fly to, but the Syracuse area has been my home for 27+ years and continues to be a recurring stop on the SCG circuit. The gaming community has grown significantly over the past several years, to the point where pretty much *everyone* has at least heard of TCGplayer and what they do.
I wish everyone the best of luck on their Double Masters pulls this weekend, and I hope to see you all at the event in the wonderful city that I call home. Have a great weekend!