It is that time of year for holiday shopping. Some might say, “shopping, is your DESTINY… join me and we will rule the galaxy as father and son.” No wait, sorry, got a little carried away there. However, if you must go shopping (and who doesn’t at this time of year), a brand-new mega-mall recently opened in Syracuse, NY. Destiny USA is more than just a shopping mall, it’s a complete family entertainment complex with an indoor kart racing track, amusement park, the world’s largest indoor ropes course, numerous restaurants, a 17 screen movie theater with IMAX, and more attractions added everyday. Continue reading for our family’s visit to Syracuse’s Destiny USA.
“There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny.” Han Solo
Ah, that may be true, but at Destiny USA, there certainly are plenty of retail stores and outlet shops where a smuggler could find goods. Destiny USA is an expansion of the area’s previous Carousel Center. The expansion includes 100 new shops, bringing the total number to over 250, and becoming the 6th largest shopping center in the United States. With its size and location in the Northeastern US, economists project Destiny USA will become the #2 most visited shopping destination in the country behind only Minnesota’s Mall of America.
During our visit, we arrived to find a very busy shopping center full of holiday shoppers, but had no trouble finding a place to park. As much as Destiny USA is a shopping destination, we were not really interested in the stores, but there to check out the entertainment offerings. We headed up to the 3rd floor entertainment level, and our first stop – Pole Position Raceway, “the ultimate indoor racing experience.”
Pole Position Raceway is an indoor kart racing track with electric karts reaching speeds of 45 mph. OH, YEAH! It was loud, smelled like rubber, and looked FAST! Whoo hooo! Let’s go, where’s the line? Where do I sign up? Wait, where are my kids… ? I looked behind, and it appeared my daughters did not share the same enthusiasm for the experience as their Daddy. “It looks scary,” said one; “I’m not sure I want to go,” said the other.
“Oh, it’s perfectly safe,” assured the man behind the desk, “the worst that can happen is you bump into a wall…” CRAAASH!!! BAAANNNG!!!! SMASH!!! His words hung in the air as the collision took place. We looked up to see one kart on top of another, and a helmeted boy holding his arm. Pit crews ran onto the track and separated the karts. And, with that, my girls, who were sitting on the fence about the experience… promptly, fell off.
We never did get to try the experience, as I’ve learned not to push too hard if the kids really don’t want to do something. But it looked sooo cool. Anyone out there want to ride with me? Anyone? You know, for research purposes…
Next, we made our way over WonderWorks – an indoor “amusement park for the mind.” We had seen other WonderWorks attractions in Orlando, FL and Myrtle Beach, SC, but had never tried one. So we were excited to check it out.
WonderWorks may be billed as an “indoor amusement park,” but with its edutainment activities – a cross between a hands-on museum and “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” may be a more appropriate description. You can’t miss the upside-down facade themed as if a building crashed down on top of Destiny USA. The theming continues in the inside “lobby” with the checkerboard tiled floor and marble staircase suspended overhead. Don’t worry though, the first exhibit had you walk through an “inversion” tunnel to turn upside-down (or is it rightside-up?) in order to see the space.
We had a blast in WonderWorks, from experiencing 84 mph winds in the Hurricane Shack…
to laying on a bed of nails…
to playing a number of interactive games with each other.
WonderWorks was a giant arcade filled with interactive games and activities for the entire family. We spent a good 90 minutes inside, and could have spent longer if we waited to design (and ride) our own virtual roller coaster or stood in line for the 4-D Extreme Motion Ride. Besides, we had another date with destiny… LazerTag! Because “hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side.”
For a ticket upgrade to your WonderWorks admission you can play LazerTag in a large blacklit room. And we all know, “once you start down the blacklit path, forever will it dominate your destiny.” The girls and I had a great time running around the room and blasting each other with lazers. For some reason they really enjoyed ganging up and shooting Dad. Hmmmm, maybe I should have made them ride the go-karts afterall…
In addition to LazerTag, WonderWorks also contains Canyon Climb Adventures Ropes Challenge (for another charge). This ropes course is the largest indoor one in the world, and stands 70 feet tall throughout the three story atrium of the mall. I really wanted to try this, and was even challenged by a travel writing colleague to do it (gotta love writer trash talk), but our family just ran out of time. For more details of the ropes challenge experience, check out this post on Canyon Climb on Go Big or Go Home. Don’t worry, when our family heads back to Destiny USA, we’ll swing from the ropes like monkeys and write up our own experience. I can’t let my fellow travel writer get the best of me.
Regardless, it speaks to how much there is to do at WonderWorks. You can easily spend an entire afternoon at the attraction. We simply ran out of time. It was nearing the dinner hour, and we were all hungry.
Directly below WonderWorks on the 1st level of Destiny USA was Cantina Laredo – a “modern Mexican” restaurant serving authentic Mexican cuisine in an upscale atmosphere.
What a treat this was! We were ready for a break from WonderWorks overstimulated environment, and settle down and relax for dinner. We started with the house specialty guacamole, made right in front of us with fresh avocados and our pick of extras.
The guacamole starter set the tone for dinner. Our oldest daughter had no interest in dining at Cantina Laredo, saying she didn’t like Mexican food. By the time we left, she said it was the best Mexican food she’s ever had. Everything was delicious, with tasty and complex sauces – from my enchiladas de mole entrée,
all the way through to the mango tres leches (vanilla cake with mango cream sauce) dessert.
Note: the wait for a table is very long for Cantina Laredo – over an hour at most times. Therefore, we put our name on the list ahead of time, played a little longer in WonderWorks, and came down just in time for dinner.
We had an extremely fun and entertaining day at Destiny USA, and notice, I didn’t even talk about the shopping. We strolled by the stores, and will need to come back to shop someday. However, Destiny USA is much, much more than just a shopping mall. It is a full destination family entertainment complex. After leaving Destiny USA, we ended our Syracuse day with a drive through the holiday Lights on the Lake display – a perfect close to the evening.
Have you visited Destiny USA in Syracuse, NY? What was your experience? Are you a shopper, or do you come just for the entertainment. Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.
Disclosure: Our family was hosted by the Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau and received complimentary admission to Pole Position Raceway, WonderWorks, and dinner at Cantina Laredo at Destiny USA for the purposes of writing this article. All opinions expressed are those of the author.