The Social Scene of Syracuse University

The Social Scene of SU

2019's "No. 1 party school" looks a little different than it did four years ago.
Published: December 13, 2022

To call it a fall from grace would be unfair.

In 2019, Syracuse University was ranked No. 1 in The Princeton Review’s party school ratings. Today many students admit that Syracuse’s reputation as a “party school” has greatly diminished. Granted, a global pandemic may have played a part in the mellowing out of the university. The social scene of Syracuse, like many things, was shaken by the pandemic and looks different than it did back in 2019.

This year’s graduating class has been through a lot– from racial reckonings to pandemics to the death of DJ’s to the birth of Hungry Chuck’s. But what has not changed is the fundamental sense of knowing the importance of the memories being made as they are lived. It permeates every football game, every frat basement, every bar; that mindset that “these are the days.”

Just because Syracuse is no longer ranked No. 1 does not mean its social scene is any less deserving of recognition– a time capsule of what a Syracuse weekend looked like in 2022, and the combination of being fresh out of a pandemic and on the cusp of adulthood makes for a unique atmosphere on Friday nights.

The Bars

If they don’t want to Uber, Syracuse students technically have five options along Marshall Street: Harry’s, Faegan’s, Orange Crate (better known among the student populace as Lucy’s), Lucy Blu’s and Hungry Chuck’s.

We say “technically” because all but two of these bars are obsolete.

“Harry’s is where you go if you’re underage,” said Lukas Gibson, a senior advertising major, “If you’re over 21 and going to Harry’s, I’m sorry. There’s Faegan’s. Faegan’s is only good on Wednesdays for Flip Cup. There is Lucy Blus, which is hands-down the nicest bar to ever be on Marshall Street in our time in Syracuse, but people won’t go for some reason. So it’s just this awesome dead bar that’s way better than every other option. And then there’s Lucy’s which is where we all settle. It’s where girls who have grown out of their frat phase and guys who won’t join a frat go.”

For the most part, students who are old enough (mostly seniors and a handful of lucky juniors) find themselves at Lucy’s if they are looking to go to a bar.

Lucy's is a popular bar for Syracuse seniors.

The backlot of Lucy's is the place to be for Syracuse upperclassmen when the weather permits.

Lucy's bartenders making drinks.

The sports-themed bar is a popular game day destination.

“My favorite bar is reluctantly Lucy’s, not because it’s nice or because I enjoy it, but because it’s where everybody is and I think the only fun part of going out is having a lot of people that you know around you,” Gibson, 21, said.

Across the street stands Faegan’s, which reaches its glory on Wednesday nights. Flip Night, and the chance to get draft beer for $1.50 if you guess the side of a coin flipped by the bartender, attracts college students like moths to a budget-friendly flame.

Flip Cup is a popular event at Faegan's Bar at Syracuse University.
Flip Cup is a weekly event hosted by Faegan's in which students can flip a coin for a $1.50 draft beer.

One Syracuse student, a senior studying political science and psychology, describes the crowd as, “Every person that you would vaguely recognize slash your random class friends.”

On the weekends, Faegan’s has less luck.

“People are a lot more chill there,” this senior, who requested to be anonymous, said, “There’s no dancing, but there will always be some older people. I honestly kind of like that equilibrium: the girls in corset tops from Urban and old men just watching TV at the bar.”

Tucked away in the back on an alley, Lucy Blu’s sits forgotten and neglected despite having great potential.

“I’ve never been to Lucy Blu’s when they have people,” the same senior said, “I’ve only been twice ever and it’s been completely empty. We go because you can get a stamp there and then go to Lucy’s and skip the line. Once we went into Lucy Blu’s and it was like a bunch of DKE boys fail-flirting with the bartenders, and like it was a meme.”

Hungry Chuck’s seems to share the same fate.

“I’ve only ever been there the first week when they did their $1 drinks and that was actually insane,” the senior said, “I saw literally so many people and it was the first week I’d been back since being abroad so it was really fun. But I’ve never seen any people in there ever since then.”

Last and quite possibly least, is Harry’s– a bar that makes its money by being the only bar lenient enough for students under 21 to get into. But even that is not enough to entice some people.

“I’ve never been a big proponent of Harry’s just because I don’t like paying to go into things,” said Summer Adams, a sophomore majoring in psychology, “I went once my freshman year and once at the beginning of this semester but that’s it. I don’t like standing in line just to pay for drinks when it is a gamble whether you’ll get in at all, because no one’s I.D. is real.”

The Frats

Unlike the local bars, frats garner far more conflicting views that range from animosity to indifference to necessity.

“I feel like an ideal weekend would just be going to frats because they’re easy,” Adams, who is 20, said, “They’re on your own time, you make the call when you go out. You don’t have to plan around other people’s timing.”

The majority of female students seem to outgrow frats as soon as they are 21, but, in the meantime, frat row can always be relied on for free alcohol and loud music.

Students file into a fraternity party on a weekend night.

Fraternity banner

Chapters at Syracuse tend to be strict in who they allow into their basements on weekend nights. It is rare for a male student who is not a brother to be seen on the dance floor.

For some, this is enough incentive to rush. But for students like Lukas Gibson, it is not worth the commitment and the cost.

“It definitely means that there were a lot of times during COVID, especially considering I wasn’t 21 yet, that I got to see my friends who were in frats and all of my girl friends go out and have fun, and my only option was to stay home and do nothing which sucked,” he said, “But now that I am 21, in retrospect, I’m saving a lot of money, I’m enjoying it, and all of my friends go to bars so now it’s like I’m getting the best of what I just had to wait for.”

Many students avoid frats for moral reasons.

“I just think it’s being getting older and realizing the institutional problems with fraternity life, like what it’s actually about, versus the ignorance of being an 18-year-old freshman in college going to frat parties,” said the anonymous senior.

The House Parties

House parties range from pong and die to student shows held in pimped-out basements.

Despite being a sophomore and still living on campus, students like Adams express excitement for the house party scene.

“I feel like something at a house would be more preferred or popular with my group of friends because you can have people over and hang out around a couch or a kitchen table and spend time together rather than going to a frat when you’re over 21,” she said.

Houses often act as venues for pregames where friend groups come together to play drinking games and talk before heading to the next phase in their night.

“I kind of like to start early so ideally a lot of my friends coming together – like my closer friends – hanging out for a little bit, playing pong or playing video games together and then probably going to another friend’s house,” Gibson said, “We usually get everybody together and go to a bar, all of us heading out together.”

Listen below to one senior’s recount of her usual weekend and the importance her house plays to her night.

Houses are also put to use in the hosting of various student shows. From music to comedy, these venues act as a creative space for students to perform for their peers and get feedback on their work.

Every Wednesday at 8 p.m., roughly 80 students pack into the basement of 311 Comstock to watch eight student comics perform at what is endearingly called The Playground. In tolerable weather, there does not fail to be a line of patrons waiting for the doors to open wrapping around the side of the house.

The Playground is a student comedy show.
The Playground attracts a crowd on Wednesday nights.
Syracuse students perform stand-up at The Playground

“For someone who likes to do comedy and wants to keep getting better, it’s a great place to work on my jokes while having fun with the friends I’ve made there,” said Sam Schappell, a senior majoring in Broadcast, News and Digital Journalism, “It’s really rewarding too to have people show up and spend their time listening to our jokes. It means a lot to see the place full and it’s always a great time.”

The Consensus

Overall, like anywhere else, the Syracuse social scene is about the relationships of the people you’re with. It seems to students that the ranking of No. 1 in the nation for partying is a bit of a stretch, but that doesn’t mean there is a shortage of things to do on the weekends. ‘Cuse is a big enough school that, if students search hard enough, they are sure to find their people and their ideal Friday nights. And these little ecosystems within the greater Syracuse University community develop their own personalities and their own ideas of a good time.