Watertown is iconic amongst North Country towns for its excellent amenities, including shopping and dining opportunities that won’t be found for miles around outside of town. Salmon Run Mall and a series of recognizably-named restaurants draw campers and crowds from smaller towns looking for a day of “big city” shopping and eating. Smaller, more intimate settings like cafes and boutiques line the downtown streets, making it easy to switch gears from big-box bargain deals to the more eclectic selections that highlight the local and the unique. Public Square, an iconic part of Watertown’s downtown area, is known as Public Square National Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places due to the heavy influence the of 19th and early 20th century culture that built it. Public Square is now home to a park as well as local shops to browse. On Wednesdays in the summer, a farmer’s market on Washington Street offers fresh local produce and handmade arts and crafts.
Watertown is well known for being a whitewater paradise, with three local rafting companies offering tours and trips down the mighty and much-loved Black River, a destination that whitewater enthusiasts the world over flock to to show off tricks and flips in whitewater kayaks. Rafting excursions are a bit more mellow, making them a fun family option for those who don’t have the rolling skills necessary to maneuver a whitewater kayak alone. If you want to watch, though, head over to Marble Street Park, where you can hit the nature trail to enjoy a leisurely stroll and watch the kayakers as they fight waves and roll. In fact, Veteran's River Walk, Waterworks Park, Bicentennial Park, and Marble Street Park are all located along the Black River, providing picturesque views and plenty of opportunity to play outside, including picnicking and fishing opportunities. Nearby Thompson Park offers beautiful views and cultural events, with a visit from the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra and fireworks each July and a long list of other attractions and events. The New York State Zoo at Thompson Park is not home to lions and tigers, but it is home to bears; that’s because the zoo celebrates the natural ecosystems of New York State, and its 32-acre facility is packed with species that are or were once native to the region, including mountain lions, wolverines, eagles, and other feathered and furry friends. A full roster of family-friendly events and programming keeps the fun going all year round. In addition to the zoo, Thompson Park is also home to a creative playground, pavilions, walking and exercise trails, tennis courts and the Watertown Golf Club. When the weather gets cold, cross-country skiing trails, sledding facilities and an outdoor skating area provide the perfect winter day getaway.
Historically, Watertown is a rich area. Once known as the Garland City because of the abundance of red, white and blue décor displayed on the buildings, this patriotic city is now a neighbor to nearby Fort Drum, the largest employer in Northern New York, an essential fort for the US Military and home to the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), which traces its roots back to World War II and remains actively in service today. Watertown’s public library offers exhibits on the city’s past as well as an excellent selection of books and other historical resources. The Jefferson County Historical Society, located in historic 19th century Paddock Mansion, operates a museum open Tuesday through Saturday which includes exhibits and archives on the Paddock Mansion and the local area itself. The Kinne Waterwheel exhibit at the museum is believed to be the largest of its type in the world and has been designated a National Landmark; the Paddock Mansion itself was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Across town, the Sci-Tec Museum offers 40 interactive science and technology exhibits and boasts the title of the only hands-on science museum in Northern New York.
For more information on Watertown, visit watertown-ny.gov. Additional information on local events and attractions can be found at publicsquare.com, nyszoo.org, jeffersoncountyhistory.org, scitechcenter.org, bobrafting.com, aroadventures.com, and hudsonriverrafting.com.