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Spotlight: Rochester

This city is full of surprises, including a museum of play, great food and nightlife, and a 96-foot waterfall in the middle of town.

Whether it's beautiful parks, lively arts and cultural offerings, hiking and biking, unique cuisine, cool festivals, or hot jazz, this eclectic city has just what you're looking for. From boat rides on the Erie Canal and star shows at the Rochester Museum & Science Center to pubs, clubs, and great entertainment, everyone finds something to love in Rochester.

Three Things You Can't Miss Family Fun | Spend the Day | Spend the Weekend | Spend the Week | Hotels & Stay | Where to Eat | Getting There

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Three Things You Can't Miss

Trees and pathway at Highland Park, Rochester

Highland Park

Refresh in Rochester's iconic urban retreat designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed NYC's Central Park. Stunning in every season, the 150-acre park includes Lamberton Conservatory, garden memorials, and Lily Pond, a natural skating rink, in winter. In May around Mother's Day, the Rochester Lilac Festival celebrates a collection of more than 12,000 lilacs in full bloom (America's largest collection).

George Eastman House in Rochester, NY

George Eastman Museum

Tour the mansion and gardens of the founder of Eastman Kodak and visit the world's oldest photography museum. The Eastman has vast film archives and unbelievable collections of photography and cinematic film. Visit for daily screenings, from silent films to Hollywood classics and early Westerns, as well as live music performances.

A mother and daughter play at the Rochester Museum & Science Center

Rochester Museum & Science Center

Kids will love immersing themselves in the wonders of science, from operating the locks of the Erie Canal to seeing stars at the edge of the universe in the Strasenburgh Planetarium. Learn about the history of the city from 500 million years ago when it sat at the bottom of a tropical sea south of the Equator to how the Native Americans lived before the European settlers arrived and Rochester's important role in the Underground Railroad.

family fun

Strong National Museum of Play
Credit: The Strong, Rochester, New York

The Strong National Museum of Play

Gain major points with your kids by taking them to the Strong, where they can play for hours in Berenstain Bear country, in a pretend Wegman's grocery store, or on Sesame Street itself. Play through 80 years of pinball machines, walk among butterflies in the Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden, and show your children and grandchildren the toys of your own childhood in the National Toy Hall of Fame.

Genesee Country Village & Museum - Photo Courtesy of GCVM
Credit: Genesee Country Village & Museum

Genesee Country Village & Museum

Visit the largest living history museum in New York. Learn what life was like in the 19th century as you watch demonstrations of pottery-making, gardening, barrel-making, blacksmithing, cooking, chores, and more, all performed by costumed interpreters. Kids will delight in playing with games and toys of times before Wi-Fi like stilts and rolling a hoop with a stick, as well as watching games of historic baseball.

Elephant at Seneca Park Zoo

Seneca Park Zoo

Seneca Park Zoo is dedicated to conservation efforts both within the zoo's walls and globally. Visit more than 90 animal species including African penguins, sea lions, a polar bear, and, in the recently expanded Animals of the Savanna exhibit: Masai giraffes, zebras, naked mole rats, and a white rhino. They are also the only zoo in New York with African elephants.

spend the day

George Eastman House

Start with a walking tour of Highland Park. Depending on the season, you'll be surrounded by fragrant lilacs, roses, vivid autumn colors, or the tropical gardens of the Lamberton Conservatory.

Head to High Falls, a 96-foot waterfall in the historic Brown's Race neighborhood. Genesee Brew House near the pedestrian bridge serves pub-style fare on a rooftop patio overlooking the falls, including white hots, a local favorite.

Tour the mansion and gardens of the George Eastman Museum and see one of the world's best collections of photography and film. Allow at least two hours, or longer if you want to take in one of the daily film screenings.

Try Rochester's famous Garbage Plate at Nick Tahou Hots, a unique dish with your choice of meats (cheeseburger, sausages, steak, etc.) covered with home fries, french fries, baked beans, and macaroni salad.

spend the weekend

Kids playing at the Strong National Museum of Play
Credit: The Strong, Rochester, New York


Get an early start with breakfast at the Rochester Public Market (open 5 am–3 pm). More than 300 vendors include bakers, food trucks, coffee shops, and farmers selling fresh regional produce. Browse the stands and pick up snacks for later.

Take a morning walk in Highland Park and feast your eyes on gorgeous gardens, an arboretum, and the Lamberton Conservatory.

With or without kids, it's all fun and games at the Strong National Museum of Play (pictured). Explore the world's largest toy collection, arcade videos, carousel, train rides, and plenty more. Play Guitar Hero or rack up a high score on a vintage machine in the Pinball Playfields. Meet old friends in the National Toy Hall of Fame. Grab a burger at the classic Skyliner Diner in the atrium.

Bike or walk downtown to High Falls. Nearby, Genesee Brew House serves salads, appetizers, and local hots on the rooftop patio. At dusk, the falls are illuminated with colored lights.

Plan a night on the town in the East End. A top choice for nightlife and entertainment, this neighborhood has dozens of clubs, restaurants, galleries, museums, and theaters, including the Eastman Theater, one of America's finest concert halls. Year-round events include the nine-day International Jazz Festival in June, featuring legends and rising stars. 

Charlotte Genesee Lighthouse


Pick up breakfast treats at Savoia Pastry Shoppe, an old-style bakery famous for their sausage bread and pastries as well as a great selection of cupcakes and cookies. Let the heavenly aroma on Clifford Avenue lead you to their door.

Bike or hike along the paved multi-use Genesee Riverway Trail that runs 24 miles through Rochester. Part of the New York State Canalway Trail, it starts in Genesee Valley Park and passes three waterfalls, eight pedestrian bridges, and 11 parks (including four designed by Frederick Law Olmsted), with a grand finale at Lake Ontario.

Travel through 5,000 years of art, ancient to contemporary, at the Memorial Art Gallery and view masterworks from Monet to Warhol. Hear the rare tones of the only full-size Italian Baroque organ in the US every Sunday afternoon. Tour the sculpture park, with impressive public art and follow the interactive Poets Walk that borders it. 

Take in a Sunday afternoon concert at the mansion of the George Eastman Museum.

Be sure to see the Great Lake Ontario before you leave town. Take a selfie with the Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse (pictured) on a trip to Ontario Beach Park (also known as Charlotte Beach) where you can also swim, picnic, stroll along the pier, or ride on the old carousel.

spend the week

Rochester Museum & Science Center


Choose from six self-guided walking tours of downtown Rochester available to print before you head out or use with Google Maps app on mobile devices. Find the links at Landmark Society of Western New York.

Explore wonders of the world at the Rochester Museum & Science Center (pictured), with 200 fascinating interactive exhibits, shows, and collections. Journey across the universe in the Strasenburgh Planetarium, experiment with lasers, lenses, and mirrors, and take a virtual world tour.

Save your appetite for a trip to the landmark Nick Tahou Hots, home of the famous Garbage Plate and featured on the Food Network.  

Susan B. Anthony House


Get breakfast at the Rochester Public Market (open 6 am–1 pm). Browse the stands for bargains and regional specialties, from ethnic foods to craft brews and wine.

Visit the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House (pictured), home of the founder of the women's suffrage movement and the site of her arrest in 1872 for daring to vote in an election.

Whatever your age, feel like a kid at the Strong National Museum of Play, the only museum in the world dedicated to play. Check out the Lego exhibit, play vintage pinball, explore the world's largest collection of electronic games, and see the World Video Game Hall of Fame.

Genesee Country Village & Museum


Start your day with breakfast at Highland Park Diner, a classic 1940's railcar diner.

Step into the past at Genesee Country Village & Museum (pictured) in Mumford, 20 miles from Rochester. Costumed interpreters recreate 19th-century village life on 700 acres with heirloom farms and restored historic buildings including homes, shops, inns, churches, and a one-room schoolhouse.

Bring a blanket and a tasty picnic dinner from Swan Market to the free Wegman's Concerts by the Shore, held Wednesday nights from June through August. Check out Ontario Beach Park's many other great events like the Big Band Dance series in spring and fall.

Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion


Spend a perfect day along a picturesque section of the 22-mile Canandaigua Wine Trail that runs from nearby Fairport to Canandaigua to Naples.

Along the way, stop in Fairport to tour the hilltop Casa Larga Vineyards, whose award-winners include authentic ice wines. In Canandaigua, visit Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion (pictured), a Victorian country estate with a crystal-palace-like greenhouse and lush gardens with marble statues, fountains, and reflecting pools. Watch a chef demonstration or taste New York specialties, artisan cheeses, wine, beer, and spirits at the New York Kitchen beside Canandaigua Lake. Sample small plates or have dinner in the locally-sourced restaurant.

Seneca Park Zoo


View exotic animals up close at the Seneca Park Zoo (pictured), a hidden gem with naturalistic habitats for more than 90 species, from meerkats to snow leopards to African elephants. Party animals 21-and-over can reserve tickets for ZooBrew on select Friday evenings, billed as the wildest happy hour in town.

Spend a relaxing afternoon on the Erie Canal aboard the Sam Patch, a replica of an 1800's packet boat. Cruises depart from the Port of Pittsford, nine miles south of Rochester. Stop in for ice cream at Pittsford Dairy while you're in town.

Have dinner beside the Erie Canal at the landmark Richardson's Canal House, originally an 1818 tavern, also in Pittsford.

Lake Ontario Beach


Pick up subs from DiBella's and bike along the Genesee Riverway Trail that runs along the river. If you're up for it, you can ride all the way to Lake Ontario (pictured).

Visit the George Eastman Museum to learn about what photography and film were like before the days when we can capture everything on our mobile phones. The former mansion and gardens of the founder of the Eastman Kodak company are beautiful, educational, and entertaining.

Live it up with a night on the town in the East End, where the activities include everything from lively bars and romantic bistros to street festivals, theaters, and live music performances. 

Seabreeze Amusement Park


Make it a Sunday Funday at Seabreeze Amusement Park (pictured). Ride the Jackrabbit roller coaster from 1920 or the Screamin' Eagle if you dare! The Log Flume, a super soaker, is one of the steepest in the country. The waterpark has wild slides and a lazy river. Over 100 years old, Seabreeze remains a family favorite and is still growing.

Before heading home, stop at nearby Ontario Beach Park to see the 1822 lighthouse and stretch your legs.

Get a heavenly Abbott's frozen custard, popular since 1902, and walk out to the pier to watch the awesome sunset over the boundless lake.


Hotels and Stay

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Where to Eat

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getting there

By Train

Take Amtrak to Rochester station (ROC) at 320 Central Ave. Taxi service is available to downtown shopping district and city attractions. 

By Bus

RTS Bus Service & Megabus

By Car

• From Albany: 3.5 hours
• From NYC: 5.5 hours 
• From Boston: 6 hours 
• From Buffalo: 1 hour 15 min 
• From Philadelphia: 5 hours 
• From Toronto: 3 hours 
• From Montreal: 5 hours

Bonus Tip

Check out Visit Rochester for more information.