At the southern tip of Onondaga Lake, Syracuse is considered the geographic center of the state. The Syracuse area is the ancestral home of the Iroquois Confederacy's Onondaga tribe, who lived in the surrounding hills. In the 1600s, Europeans began settling the area, which was found to be rich in salt. The Erie Canal floated Syracuse salt to the world. Salt production peaked during the Civil War, and Salt City, as Syracuse was called, diversified by producing steel, automobiles, and china, among other goods.
Syracuse University and the State University of New York's Upstate Medical University are the top employers today in terms of numbers of jobs. Parts of downtown have been reinvented as a cultural and nightlife destination. The Everson Museum, which has outdoor sculptures and a large piazza, anchors one corner of downtown; Armory, Clinton, and Hanover squares anchor other sections of downtown, which hosts ethnic festivals, outdoor winter ice-skating, and an hours-long St. Patrick's parade, among other events.
Syracusans are fond of saying their city offers the best of city living without the traffic hassles. Thanks to quick-flow bypasses, it's possible to drive from one corner of Syracuse to another in minutes. But a good map and a game plan are essential; this is a loosely knit city, with attractions scattered throughout neighborhood nooks casual travelers might overlook.