With a diverse food scene best known for its “Spiedie” sandwiches, a history of technological innovation that shines through today in many of its attractions, and charming carousels that make you feel all of the nostalgia, Binghamton is a happening place that fosters creativity and exploration. “Bing” is also a convenient base to visit the intensely popular Animal Adventure Park! The city is home to two signature annual summer events, the Spiedie Fest and Balloon Rally and LUMA, a citywide projection arts festival. Read on for a jam-packed family weekend getaway.
4 pm: Sign up in advance for a tour of the Phelps Mansion Museum (pictured), a gorgeous three-story Victorian home from the 1870s that now offers visitors a look back at the Gilded Age in well-preserved rooms. Guided tours are offered Friday–Sunday, and last about an hour; the tours are accessible to all. Fun fact: architect Isaac G. Perry would go on to become the chief architect of the New York State Capitol Building in Albany.
Other Friday afternoon and early evening options depend on the date or season of arrival. The city's First Friday Art Walks allow visitors to browse art galleries, take in live music performances, and shop a bit later, as participating businesses take part from 6 to 9 pm. From April through October, families may want to stop at Chuckster’s Family Fun Park, 20 minutes from downtown, to spend the late afternoon playing rounds at “The World’s Longest Mini Golf Hole.” Young ones can let out some energy after your travels at the batting cages, or on a zipline and mini-climbing wall. Sports fans should check the home schedules for Binghamton's two minor league teams, the American Hockey League team the Devils (a farm club of the New Jersey Devils), and the Rumble Ponies, the New York Mets' Double-A affiliate.
7 pm: Once you’ve had a chance to set down your bags and freshen up, head to local hotspot, Lost Dog Café and Lounge, for high-quality, affordable New American cuisine. Options include grass-fed burgers, pork tacos, and pasta dishes, but save room for dessert! Their pumpkin bread pudding, molten chocolate torte, and local coffee-infused crème brûlée are all heavenly. Thanks to its quirky decor and friendly waitstaff, the Lost Dog magically walks the line between high-end and casual. You may also come across a trivia night, karaoke night, or a jam session during your visit there.
10 am: New York is home to many famous diners, and Binghamton's go-to is Chris' Diner. This State St. mainstay offers all the breakfast favorites from 5 am onward, and has a hearty lunch and dinner menu as well. Coffee purists should stop at Laveggio Roasteria on the same block and pick up a bag of locally roasted, fair-trade beans.
1 pm: At least once during your trip to Binghamton, try the city's most famous dish, courtesy of the Italian immigrants who arrived in the 1920’s: spiedies (pictured). Pronounced “speedies," these signature sandwiches consist of mouthwatering cubes of marinated meat (often chicken, but also found with lamb, pork, beef, and venison) cooked on a skewer and stuffed into a soft Italian long roll. A local favorite is the Spiedie and Rib Pit (locations in Binghamton and nearby Vestal), where you can try an original spiedie, or a “specialty,” such as Buffalo-style, Greek-style, Caprese, chipotle, and more.
2 pm: History hounds will love the Bundy Museum of History & Art (pictured), a charming little time capsule of Americana. In the late 1800s, the two Bundy brothers invented a time-recording clock for workers to keep track of their hours. Their company proved successful and later changed its name to International Business Machines (IBM)! Besides admiring the beauty of this old preserved mansion, visitors can enjoy the time clock collection, a barbershop exhibit, original TV and film props from The Twilight Zone (think: Black Mirror before Black Mirror) in the Rod Serling archive—named for the one of the city's most famous longtime residents—and rotating art galleries.
4 pm: Even the shopping options in Binghamton are special. Browse rare and vintage wares from around 30 antique dealers on Clinton Street near downtown Binghamton that make up what’s called “Antique Row.”
5:15 pm: Home to viral-Internet-sensation, April the Giraffe, the wonderful Animal Adventure Park has so many compelling attractions that make it a must-visit stop about a 20-minute drive from downtown. The park hosts "Jungle Bells," with a holiday lights display and weekend visits from Santa Claus, from 5 to 10 pm Thursday–Sunday, from November 14–December 29, 2019, then re-opens with regular hours in spring. In season, you can feed giraffes, camels, tortoises, monkeys, lemurs, and parrots—or have your own Kristen Bell moment and splurge on the pricier “Sloth Encounter.” It includes hand-feeding, photo ops, and the cost of park admission. Don’t miss daily zookeeper talks where you can ask all your questions about the animals, and of course, say “hi” to April, Taj, and born-in-2019 Azizi!
7:30 pm: It wouldn't be a trip to Binghamton without trying tasty Italian-American favorites, so head for dinner at Little Venice Restaurant, which dates back to the 1940s. The menu features classics such as chicken parmigiana (including a gluten-free version!), shrimp scampi, and an endless variety of pasta dishes, thanks to a mix-and-match section with shapes, sauces, and toppings. Whatever you choose, be sure to try the "meat logs," the restaurant's play on meatballs.
9 pm: The Uncorked Creations Wine Loft, which occupies four floors of an old cigar factory, is a fun nightlife option, whether or not you sign up for one of the establishment's painting or ceramics classes. One floor is a 1920s-style speakeasy, 205 Dry, that you can find behind a hidden bookcase, another floor is a ceramics studio, and on another floor is the Wine Loft, where adults can sip wine and all can devour chocolate platters. The speakeasy is open nightly Wednesday–Sunday, and the wine loft is open Friday and Saturday nights; both spaces connect to the art lofts, so it's easy to make a night of it here at Uncorked Creations Wine Loft.
10 am: Grab breakfast and coffee at Strange Brew's Washington St. location, which offers coffee roasted by locals Java Joe's Roasting Co., as well as loose teas, and a menu featuring bagels, egg sandwiches, omelettes, and more!
12 pm: Did you know Binghamton is the “Carousel Capital” of the world? Home to six carousels on the National Register of Historic Places (including the C. Fred Johnson Carousel, pictured), these antique treasures offer a unique ride into the past. You’ll find one of the most popular carousels in Recreation Park. It features an original Wurlitzer organ and famously inspired Rod Serling’s nostalgic The Twilight Zone episode, “Walking Distance.” The park, open year-round, also has a remarkable all-abilities playground, with an enormous jungle gym, wheelchair-accessible swings, merry-go-round, treehouse, and more. (Note: The carousel operates seasonally spring through Labor Day, but opens Saturdays in December 2019 from 5 to 8 pm with Christmas carolers, hayrides, and more.)
3 pm: The Roberson Museum and Science Center is basically a one-stop-shop for science, history, and culture. Visitors can tour the historic Roberson mansion itself, examine creations of prolific inventor Edwin A. Link, and delight in the region’s largest model train display. There is also a 50-seat digital planetarium that offers showings that are out of this world.
From New York City: 2 hours 45 minutes
From Albany: 2 hours 30 minutes
From Syracuse: 1 hour 15 minutes
From Buffalo: 3 hours 30 minutes
From Boston: 5 hours
Fly into the Greater Binghamton Airport via Delta, United Express, and US Airways.
Syracuse Hancock International Airport is about an hour and 15 minutes away.