Whether you’re a history buff looking to learn or just looking for some fun things to do, take some time to explore Oswego County!
“If you like A, the outdoors, or if you like history, we have so much of both that it’ll take you a while before you’re bored” says Dave Turner, Director of Community Development, Tourism and Planning for Oswego County.
A great place to get started planning a trip – either for the day or longer – is VisitOswegoCounty.com.
Fort Ontario sits in Oswego is perhaps the county’s most well-known tourist destination. Built on the ruins of three British colonial fortifications dating back to the French and Indian War, it’s been a vital location since the 18th century, playing a role in every American conflict since. Even today, there’s an active military unit at the fort.
“This place matters” says Historic Site Manager Paul Lear. “It’s a shrine that was preserved by the State of New York to preserve the memory of those who served and sacrificed for our freedoms.”
Visitors can tour the old buildings and see exhibits about the fort’s history. Uniformed Interpretive Staff help share the stories of what life was like at Fort Ontario in the 1860’s .
“I like spots like this because it’s not Gettysburg, it’s not Williamsburg, right?” says Richard Weyhing, Professor of History at SUNY Oswego. “It’s sort of off the map and public understandings of history, but nonetheless it was just vitally important, and you can come out here and you’re where all these stories happen.”
Fort Ontario is also home to the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter. In 1944, nearly 1,000 men, women and children escaping the Holocaust in Europe came to live here. Also known as Safe Haven, it’s the only place of it’s kind anywhere in the entire United States.
Since 2002, the shelter’s old administration building has been a museum, which in 2020 received a complete makeover thanks to a New York State grant.
“This is one of the most significant pieces of history for Central New York” says Kevin Hill, President of the Board of Directors for the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum. “And really, the United States. With millions of lives lost in the Holocaust to be the only location in the entire country that housed refugees of the Holocaust is a big deal and it’s really something we’re, you know, we really are proud of. We want to tell the story. We want to really spread that that information as far as we can.”
Elsewhere in Oswego County, you’ll find historic homes to tour, ways to learn about the impact of Lake Ontario on the region, and plenty of ways to enjoy time outdoors. There are great local restaurants to enjoy. You can check out dirt racing, listen to live music, or bring the kids to a variety of fun and affordable places.
Here are some of the sites mentioned in the show – click a name to learn more:
Grace Tyler Estate Winery
Midway Drive-in Theatre
Children’s Museum of Oswego
Fort Ontario State Historic Site
H. Lee White Marine Museum
Oswego Public Library
Richardson-Bates House Museum
Rudy’s Lakeside Drive-in
Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum
Monirae’s Casual Dining and Entertainment
WEB EXTRA: Watch the video below to learn about capturing Oswego County’s natural beauty from longtime digital journalist John Kucko. Find him on Facebook at JohnKuckoDigital.