Where to Stay in Syracuse, New York

Where to stay in Syracuse - best hotels

What are the best hotels in Syracuse to stay in if you’re headed to a university event, a Finger Lakes region tour, or a getaway vacation? We’ve got the scoop on your options around this easy-to-navigate city in upstate New York.

Where to stay in Syracuse - best hotels

Most people in the USA know of Syracuse, New York from it’s university. They mostly know that because of its history of great basketball teams. The university has a nice campus to stroll around, including the centerpiece building above which is the oldest. It is a fine college if you’re scouting out where to send your kid. But the city also has a lot of interesting history to dive into.

The historic Hotel Syracuse, now a Marriott and one of the best places to stayThe Erie Canal once went straight through downtown and was the reason Syracuse boomed in the first place. That canal mostly got built because of salt barons who were extracting this essential life element from a nearby lake in the early 1800s. Some 75% of the salt consumed in the USA in that century was from this area. The city because a technological center too, playing a big role in the advance of typewriters, gas lanterns, “China” dishes, bike gears, car gears, the airplane engine, and that metal thingy that measures your foot size for shoes.

This was also the birthplace of Gustav Stickley, the man who first developed his famous furniture here and started the Craftsman house movement.

It was one of the biggest beer brewing centers in the 1800s. Syracuse had more than 40 of them at its peak. Thankfully quite a few good craft brewers have emerged in this century too.

Take Amtrak here from Chicago, Toronto, or New York City, or pop over in a car from Niagara Falls or the Finger Lakes wineries. Here’s where to stay if you do.

Marriott Syracuse Downtown

When a tycoon bought this long-abandoned Hotel Syracuse building and restored it to its 1920s historic glory, the Marriott people kept telling him he was spending too much. It was getting too fancy to be a Marriott and execs worried that it turn out nicer than some of their JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton properties. It did actually and that’s good news for guests because the Marriott Syracuse Downtown is a stunning place to stay, with interiors from a “don’t make them like that anymore” time.

Marriott Syracuse Downtown Hotel

Interesting restaurants and bars with a story will keep you happy when the city gets one of its famous snowstorms.

Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel

Sheraton Hotel Syracuse

The closest hotel to the university is literally steps from campus. It has a view of that Hall of Languages building at the top of this post (built 1873) and the equally impressive Crouse College building (1884) from one side of the property. From the other side you see frat houses in historic homes much nicer than where most students will call home after graduation. This is a well-run modern hotel with good food, an indoor pool, and a bar with a billiards table and a few craft beers on tap.

Jefferson Clinton Hotel

Part of the Historic Hotels of America group, the Jefferson Clinton Hotel was built in 1927 and like the Hotel Syracuse, sat empty during the darkest years in this emptied industrial powerhouse before people and companies started coming back to downtown. It reopened in 2001 and is right in the heart of the city near Armory Square. You can walk to every great restaurant and bar in the central city from here, as well as all the museums and attractions.

The Parkview Hotel, BW Premier Collection

The “BW” in that name stands for Best Western, but this is no roadside motel. It’s in a historic building across from a park with a fountain and is walking distance to most of the city’s attractions. Room rates are often under $100, though visitors seeing the elegant entrance and lobby may think it’s much higher.

Hotel Skyler

Hotel Skyler Syracuse

The full name of this property is Hotel Skyler Syracuse Tapestry Collection by Hilton. Old time residents of the city would know the building by a different name: Temple Adath Yeshurun. That’s what it was for decades after being built a century ago. The LEED-certified property has plenty of character in the lobby with a fireplace and with 58 rooms it is not too sprawling. There’s a fitness center, sofa beds in each room, included breakfast, and a complimentary shuttle for rides within three miles.

Crowne Plaza Syracuse

You can’t miss the Crowne Plaza here since it has 279 rooms in a 20-story circular tower you can see from all over the city. You’ll get chain hotel predictability and a good skyline view, though get a high floor room if you don’t want to be looking at the interstate highway passing by. Built in 1969, it has operated under at least five names, but went through renovations before the latest sign went up. It’s walking distance from the universities and local hospitals, but has its own restaurant and bar for those often chilly nights when you don’t want to leave.

When deciding where to stay in Syracuse, there are plenty of other options of course, especially if you have a car and don’t mind being further out. To get the best rate and earn loyalty points that are easy to cash in for your next vacation, search here for hotels in Syracuse on Bonwi.

Article and photos by Hotel Scoop editor Tim Leffel, who was hosted at two of the hotels here on different trips for article research and a conference. For more information on the area, see the official Visit Syracuse website.

Rewards Points Battle: Bonvoy vs. Bonwi

Marriott Starwood hotel brands

Bonvoy Rewards Marriott Starwood

If you were part of the Marriott Hotels loyalty program or the Starwood Preferred Guest points program, you’re now a part of “Bonvoy.” After a merger between Starwood and Marriott, this behemoth of a company now has either 29 or 30 different brands (apparently even they can’t keep track of these different hotel names). You can now earn points at a staggering 6,800 hotels in 127 countries as a Bonvoy Rewards member.

The first three letters are the same as “Bonwi,” but with Bonwi Rewards you can earn points at any hotel brand and redeem them for any hotel. But where can you get to a free night faster? Let’s take a look at which rewards program will reward you more quickly.

How the Marriott/Starwood Bonvoy Program Works

As with most of these big brand programs, the earning part of the equation in is relatively straightforward. You’ll earn 10 points per US$1 spent on the hotel charge itself at most properties (minus taxes), plus the same for eligible hotel charges like your bar tabs or restaurant bills. You earn 5 points per dollar at lower-priced brands Element, Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites hotels.

With this system, if you pay $250 per night for your JW Marriott hotel for two nights and charge $200 of other services, you would earn 7,000 points total for that two-night stay. Or 3,500 points at what they consider a lesser brand in the portfolio. That’s rather underwhelming, probably on purpose: they want you to stay at least 10 nights to get the bottom elite status, where you earn an extra 10%. If you stay 25 nights in a year you bump up to 2.5 extra points per dollar spent as a Gold member. The sales reps on the road who never see their family are the main targets of this program: to get to the highest “Ambassador Elite” level, you need to spend nearly 1/3 of your year in a Marriott property and spend at least $20,000. Do that and you get a 75% points bonus and some extra perks, like room upgrades, breakfast, and late checkout.

JW Marriott Hotel Cusco
JW Marriott El Convento in Cusco, Peru

Earning Free Nights With Bonvoy Rewards

Where it gets tricky is on the redemption side. There are now 8 tiers of redemption at Marriott/Starwood’s new Bonvoy Rewards. In theory these start at 7,500 (or occasionally less during an off-season promotion for an empty hotel), though in my experience, spotting a hotel available at that level is like spotting a rare species of bird in the wild. Plus it will be the bottom of their barrel, usually their version of a roadside motel. The rest range from 12,500 to 100,000 per night, roughly based on brand and price. So at the bottom level you’ll probably get a Residence Inn, at the top level you have a shot at a Luxury Collection or Ritz Carlton property.

In that two-night JW Marriott Cusco example before, the 7,500 points you earned won’t get you very far. You probably need about 5 stays like that to get a free night at this JW Marriott or an equivalently priced ($237) property.

Marriott Rewards redemption level

The combined Marriott and Starwood Bonvoy Rewards program is mostly an improvement, especially considering the wider breadth of properties available now, but how does being loyal there stack up to no loyalty at Bonwi? It might if you sign up for one of their premium credit cards, spend $5,000 within three months, and also pay an annual fee of $100+. But otherwise…

How the Bonwi Program Works

With Bonwi.com, it’s less straightforward on the earnings side, but that’s because the points you earn are variable. You will often earn far more than 10 points per dollar. You could earn enough for a free stay after just two or three nights. See how it works here.

There’s also upside on the redemption part since you will often find redemption levels that are far more generous than with traditional branded loyalty programs. So it takes fewer stays to earn points, then fewer points for a free night. Let’s say you regularly have to go to Houston on business, but you’re thinking about going to Peru on vacation. How would that play out with Bonwi?

Earning Bonwi Reward Points for Your City Hotel Stays

Pulling up a random week in Houston, Texas, we find that some of the highest-earning hotels are actually Marriott ones, so we can do an apples to apples comparison. In the screenshot example below, a two-night stay would earn you from 16,171 to 20,311 points.

earning more hotel reward points with Bonwi in Houston

Based on the price of those stays, if you booked them direct with Marriott, you would only earn 4,820 to 7,840 points in their rewards program (not counting food and drink charges that could bump it up).

What if our budget is lower? Other options are the Houston Marriott North, earning 8,371 points for a mere $135 rate (that would get you 2,700 points with Marriott) or a SpringHill Suites by Marriott at the airport. That would earn you 7,789 Bonwi points for a $131 rate (that would get you 2,620 at Marriott). Check your own business travel city here.

Redeeming Points With Bonwi

On the redemption side, you’re also far better off with the non-loyalty Bonwi Rewards points. When we head down to Cusco for our Peru vacation, here’s a sampling of what’s available to us.:

JW Marriott El Convento – 24,200 per night
Sonesta Hotel Cusco – 10,430 per night
Casa Andina San Blas – 7,875 per night
WakaPunku Boutique Hotel – 6,184 per night

So first of all, you need 11,000 fewer points to book that JW Marriott than you would with Marriott, even though we earned far more by booking our Marriott property through Bonwi in Houston. Next, with Marriott you only have two choices in Cusco, whereas with Bonwi you have more than 100 choices. Some of the smaller B&B type places go for 5,000 points or less. So if you had the kind of points Marriot requires of you just to get a one-night stay, you could get a whole week’s vacation in Cusco and the Sacred Valley via Bonwi.

vacation in Cusco Peru with reward points

In this example, just one two-night business trip to Houston would earn you enough points for a two-night stay at many hotels in Cusco. Earn from a few other business trips and you could upgrade to that JW Marriott easily. In this example, six domestic business travel trips in the USA could probably pay for six nights in Peru between Lima, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley. Do this a few more times or stay more than two nights on your biz trips and you’ve got enough points to pay for airline tickets too—at the simple redemption level of one point = US 1 cent.

Airline Transfer Options Bonvoy vs. Bonwi

You can transfer your Marriott Bonvoy points to airlines, which does make them more valuable than your typical hotel loyalty program points. That doesn’t mean it’s a great deal, however. I’ll leave the math to this post on the Boarding Area because, as with most things in the Bonvoy program, it’s kind of complicated.

Marriott Bonvoy points are transferable to a huge selection of airline partners. In most cases the transfer ratio is 3 Marriott points to 1 airline mile. However, if you transfer 60,000 points, you’ll get 25,000 miles instead of 20,000. That makes the transfer ratio 3 to 1.25. Additionally, when you transfer to United Airlines miles, you get a 10% bonus. 60,000 rewards points converts into 27,500 United miles (a 3 to 1.375 transfer ratio).

What’s the ratio for Bonwi points? The math is much simpler. If you have 60,000 Bonwi points, that will get you a $600 flight. Any airline, any time, no transfers necessary. No downgrades, no blackout dates, no time on the phone with the oh-so-helpful reps at United.

Oh, and those 60,000 points will also get you a $600 gift certificate to a retailer if you prefer. Again, no complicated formulas. Just move the decimal.

Once again, it’s no contest. Bonwi Rewards is going to earn you freebies far faster than Marriott Rewards.

Book your next hotel stay here and start earning more.

The Declining Appeal of Traditional Hotel Loyalty Programs

What's Marriott doing with your personal data?

Is your loyalty program paying off with a vacation?

What is your loyalty to a specific company or brand worth? Are you getting enough benefits from a traditional hotel loyalty program to make it worth them having deep insight into your habits and your travels? Does less privacy equate to better service?

It’s looking like many consumers are saying no. They’re joining brand loyalty programs when they’re forced to, like when a big hotel conglomerate won’t give them WiFi access otherwise, but increasingly they’re leaving it at that and not really participating.

That’s the conclusion of a study mentioned in an article in Skift on “brand loyalty in the era of the empowered traveler.” More people than ever are signing up for branded loyalty programs, but fewer are actually loyal in any real sense of the word.

According to loyalty insights firm Colloquy, the number of memberships in travel and hospitality loyalty programs grew by 20 percent between 2014 and 2016, surpassing more than a billion members. Yet during this same period, more than half (54 percent) of these travel loyalty memberships were inactive, and more than one quarter (28 percent) were abandoned without ever being used.

There are a lot of reasons for this that any traveler who is not a business road warrior could tell you.

Brand Loyalty Is More Pain Than Gain

1) It takes too long to earn any rewards.
We sign up for a traditional hotel loyalty program through Hyatt, IHG, or Marriott because we can’t get free internet access otherwise (except at their lower-priced brands, ironically), or we may even pay more money when booking direct without a membership number. So we grudgingly give our details, but then that’s often the end of it. It takes another year or two before we spend a night with that brand again and the earnings are never enough to get a free stay. The account is inactive and eventually the points expire. It was all an empty exercise. This is especially frustrating to younger travelers who want quicker rewards.

2) We can’t tell the difference between the hotel brands.
It has become impossible to keep up with all the hotel brands out there. After Marriott and Starwood merged, that sprawling beast has 30+ brands. Wyndham has 18. And most of these conglomerates are planning new brands! Do you really know which company oversees Candlewood Suites, Staybridge Suites, or Cambria Suites? Do you like any one of them enough to always stay with them instead of the competition, just to earn a couple thousand points?

30+ hotel brands to keep track of with Marriott

3) We are getting tired of giving up so much privacy.
The Skift article linked above seems to think the solution is spying on us more in order “to serve us better.” If only they could dig up more info on our personal preferences, that would make us more loyal.

This is a seriously flawed premise. Just because someone answers in the affirmative that they like booking preferences saved in an app doesn’t mean they want everything they do in a hotel room to reside in a big data database.

Again, ask anyone who is not in a hotel every week if they want lodging corporations to know more about them and you’ll usually get a flat, “No way!” It’s one thing for a hotel chain to acknowledge our elite status and address us by our name. It’s quite another to know what we drank at the bar our last three stays and try to use that to predict what kind of services we require. It doesn’t take long for “personalized service” to cross over to, “You are seriously creeping me out here guys.”

What's Marriott doing with your personal data?

4) We’re worried about our data being stolen.
The more data we give these sprawling corporations, the more of our information is subject to hacking. Marriott just learned that the hard way when hackers stole the information for 500 million Starwood guests. How do you feel knowing all that data they gathered on you may be in the hands of the Chinese government now? Or for sale to the highest bidder on the dark web?

This was not an isolated incident either—it was just the largest. Smaller breaches have hit Hyatt, IHG, Kimpton, Trump Hotels, Radisson, and others.

A Low-key Loyalty Program With the Fastest Payback

There’s a way to get something out of every booking, no matter which brand you stay with, and earn free rewards faster. You won’t have a company spying on all your personal habits either. Just sign up with Bonwi and book your hotel stays through them.

You’ll see up front how many points you are earning for your stay:

Points back for Los Cabos Resorts

Just try getting a payoff that big from any traditional hotel loyalty program. Then it’s easy to figure out what you can get for your points when you cash in:

use Bonwi points for free hotel stays

If you want, you can even book a flight with your points on a simple 1-cent per mile redemption formula. Or you can book a rental car with those points. The system is transparent, simple to figure out, and doesn’t come with short expiration windows.

With Bonwi you only have to be loyal to yourself. You don’t have to stay with the same brand and you don’t have to give up a mountain of personal data. You just earn, cash in, and enjoy your travels.

Most Loyalty Rewards Programs Are Really Only for Road Warriors

Hyatt resort near Fort Myers

Hyatt resort near Fort Myers

A recent travel trade article on airline and hotel reward loyalty rewards programs pointed out a clear trend: for most of us, these programs are getting worse. While the road warriors at the top elite levels are getting showered with perks – those who stay 75 nights a year out of 365 with Marriott for instance – the rest of us are getting less and less for our flights or hotels stays.

As U.S. airlines moved from a distance-based to revenue-based model, the only loyal members with something to gain were those who bought expensive business class tickets. Those at the top of the elite pyramid. Everyone else started finding that their 6,000-mile flight was earning them 1,000 “miles” now because it was based on ticket price. At that rate it can take 25 flights to earn even the lowest domestic ticket.

That model has already spread to one major hotel chain. Hyatt gave its loyalty program a new name, World of Hyatt, and promptly made it more difficult for all but the most frequent biz traveler guests. The new system awards 5 points per dollar instead of a set amount per stay, though you’ll need to spend at least 10 nights at Hyatt properties in a year to get to the lowest of three elite levels. The head of the program, who is now gone, made it clear in interviews announcing the change that the program was aimed at one tier of guests: the most loyal ones, those spending the most money each year.

If You’re Not First, You’re Last

As we’ve seen in the airline industry, this kind of program quickly leads to a two-tiered system. The highest elite level members get most of the freebies, get the best rooms, and earn the most points for every stay. The rest of us get stuck with what’s left, whether it’s a cramped middle seat or the smallest room with no view.

Like a well-trained magician performing a sleight of hand, the bad changes for consumers are usually buried within news of big “improvements” the loyalty rewards program will bring. With the hotel programs, they’re usually touting your ability to combine points and dollars (a dubious win at best) or buy merchandise with your hard-earned points.

The dirty little secret of the latter is that your points value plummets if you do a merchandise buy instead of cashing in points on a hotel. Here’s what Skift noted in their article:

While these new tools are a boon for airlines and hotel mileage programs, their value to consumers is still somewhat mixed. When United launched its pay-with-miles Wi-Fi service, Maphappy took a look at the value of the purchase in cash or in miles. Its conclusion? ‘The premium on paying in mileage was about 117 percent higher than the cash price,’ Maphappy found.

If you purchase a pair of headphones or get a Best Buy gift card, it can be even worse. Often these transactions can degrade the point value to a small fraction of what it was in hotel or airline value. Here’s what you’ll have to pay for a $30 item via IHG’s program:

$180 of rewards for $30 item

Where You Can Earn More and Not Lose Value

With Bonwi Rewards points, you have a lot of advantages over these programs from the airlines and hotels:

1) You can use your rewards on any hotel, not just one company. When you cash them in for a hotel, you can get 20%, 25%, or 30% return on your spend. With the average direct loyalty program you’re lucky to rise above 10%. (In other words, you have to spend $10,000 to get $1,000 in value–even if you do everything right.)

2) You don’t have to be loyal to one company. You can choose any hotel in any location at any price and earn Bonwi Rewards, even picking which one has the highest payoff to maximize your return. When it’s time to cash them in, you have just as many choices.

Bonwi points payoff
3 nights at either earns you a plane ticket or a night’s hotel stay.

3) Points earned on hotel stays can be redeemed for flights. Forget about blackout dates, restrictions, or the lack of seats at lower tiers. With your Bonwi points you can book on any airline at any time, based on a simple 1-cent per dollar redemption figure. If you have 30,000 points, you have $300 for a flight, and no, you won’t have to still pay for the taxes if they’re included in the fare, as you would with the U.S. airlines.

4) You aren’t penalized for choosing a rental car or gift cards. That 1-cent per mile redemption figure that’s so easy to understand applies to rental cars and gift card purchases too. You won’t see your rewards value decrease just because you made one spending choice rather than another. Your Bonwi points have a clear intrinsic value.

So book your next hotel stay with Bonwi and see how easy it is to be on Easy Street, instead of feeling like your loyalty is only getting you kicked to the curb.

Article by Tim Leffel, editor of the Cheapest Destinations Blog and author of the book Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune.

Can We Really Keep Up With All These Hotel Brands?

30+ hotel brands to keep track of with Marriott

30+ hotel brands to keep track of with Marriott

Quick – if you have 30,000 Starwood or Marriott points, at which of their brands can you probably stay one night for free?

If you have 50,000 points with IHG, what does that really mean for which hotels you can stay in as a reward?

What do you get if you have points with Wyndham, Choice, Carlson, or Hilton?

Well, that picture at the top of this post will give you a clue about how hard this is to answer. As hotel chains have merged, spun off, been acquired, and split up, it’s hard to keep up with who’s who. It’s hard to know one big hotel company is owned by the Chinese, while another is owned by the French. One big conglomerate is Spanish and the Four Seasons is majority-owned by Arabs. Do you know which of the ever-expanding brands you can get into with your loyalty points?

The Head-Spinning Hotel Brands Game

The problem isn’t that you aren’t aware of who’s who. The problem is that only the most dedicated lodging geek could possibly keep up. Ritz-Carlton wasn’t always part of Marriott. Kimpton wasn’t always part of Intercontinental Hotel Group. Fairmont wasn’t always part of Accor – home to Sofitel and Mercure. Motel 6 was part of that chain, then it wasn’t.

Then just when you think you have a brand pegged, it shifts again. Orient-Express Hotels become Belmond. Andaz is launched as a hipper Hyatt. The roadside motel chain Best Western starts launching nice beach resorts right on the sand. Radisson hotels are usually dated and second-tier in the USA, but it Asia if you put “Blu” on the end it might be the nicest property in town. In Stockholm I stayed at a Clarion and it looked like this:

Clarion Amaranten in Central Stockholm restaurant

The problem comes in when you’re limited to a specific set of brands by your hotel loyalty program. Looking at that Marriott list at the top, do you have any idea what you’ll end up with if you cash in points for Delta, Tribute, Protea, AC, or Moxy? If you have Hilton Honors points saved up, do you feel comfortable trading them for a stay with Canopy, Tapestry, or Tru?

Sure, it’s nice to be able to trade Wyndham Rewards points in for a free stay, but there may not be a Wyndham Grand where you’re headed. Your only choice may be Super8, Days Inn, or Howard Johnson’s.

Points for Any Hotel, Anytime, Anywhere

If you book your stay with Bonwi, you won’t have to worry about any of this. Your points build up with any hotel brands, so there’s no need to compromise and pick an inferior choice. You can choose the hotel that earns the most reward points or just choose the hotel – from any brand – that is closest to your meetings or convention. You will usually earn more points than you would have with the corporate program, but your choices of what to do with them aren’t limited. You can book an independent hotel not part of any chain and still earn points that are worth real money.

You can earn points from a Hilton stay that you then apply to a Holiday Inn Express. Points from a stay at an Econolodge can top off your point balance to get you into a Four Seasons. You can rack up points with a Banyan Tree resort in Asia and take your family to any all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean you’d like.  No restrictions, no redemption tiers, no reward chart to memorize. Just earn points, cash them in, get free stays.

See how it all works here.