25 Best Things to Do in Rochester (NY)

Source: Kenneth C. Zirkel | CC BY-SA 4.0

Rochester, New York is a 1.5-hour drive from Niagara Falls, Ontario, which is a must visit place if you’re in that area! Rochester is packed with diverse activities and is perfect for a scenic getaway from, classical music, waterfalls, amusement parks, museums.

Rochester is a tricky place with the Erie Canal and the Genesee River Path, where one minute you step into an old weathered building and the next minute, you walk under a canopy of lush green. This mid-sized city packs surprises for visitors of all ages and interests, from top-ranked golf courses to the Strong National Museum of Play.

Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in Rochester (NY)

Source: Map data @2022 Google

1. The Strong Museum

The Strong Museum
Source: Flickr / gardener41 | CC BY-SA 2.0

Rochester has become a favorite for visitors, and the biggest draw is the Strong National Museum of Play. A highly interactive museum where people of all ages can play, explore, and learn, with approximately 400,000 games, electronic games, toys, dolls, and other historical materials related to play, there’s literally something for every age. The Strong is half history museum—hands-on history lesson for the littles and a fantastic nostalgic experience for big kids. There are over 20 exhibits including,

The historic dolls section, which is the most famous among girls. There is a whole floor dedicated to historical dolls, where you could look at beauties all day long. Another worth checking section and most extensive exhibit in the Museum is Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden – a tropical greenhouse and rainforest-like environment where hundreds of butterflies circling around you.

2. Seneca Park Zoo

Seneca Park Zoo
Source: Flickr / Thomas Belknap | CC BY-SA 2.0

The Seneca Park Zoo is a great relaxation if you feel intimidated walking alone; there are enough people around to not feel isolated. And while polar bears and Amur tigers enjoy the cold, long Rochester winters, many animals prefer to stay inside a den comfy-cozy. It was discovered and established in 1894; it is one of the oldest cultural attractions in the Rochester area; Seneca Park Zoo inspires its visitors to connect and conserve wildlife and wild places.

The Zoo is a gem situated on 15.5 acres along the Genesee River, among Greater Rochester’s family attractions. The Zoo leads conservation efforts for its residents locally, regionally, and internationally. Opened a five-acre Animals of the Savanna area in September 2018 to brings guests face-to-face with plains zebras, Masai giraffes, a southern white rhino, and many other species native to the African Savanna. African lions, olive baboons, goats, and African elephants also reside.

3. Seabreeze Amusement Park

Seabreeze Amusement Park
Source: Flickr / Michelle Bradley | CC BY 2.0

4th oldest in the USA, 12th most aged globally, Seabreeze Amusement Park is also among the trolley parks still functional in the United States, overlooking Lake Ontario in Irondequoit, NY. The famous Jack Rabbit roller coaster is the oldest continuously running roller coaster. Seabreeze is a seasonal amusement park, and the Jack Rabbit celebrated 100 years of thrills in 2020.

As the oldest and still functional coaster in America, This classic coaster holds a place of honor in amusement park history. Play on the midway, family fun with roller coaster, see a spectacular show, thrilling adult and family rides, and enjoy some summertime treats in the water park.

4. George Eastman Museum

George Eastman Museum
Source: Flickr / Ken Zirkel | CC BY-SA 2.0

George Eastman Museum, located in the Downtown area of Rochester, New York, is the location where George Eastman had lived. The founder of Eastman Kodak Company, George Eastman, was an American entrepreneur. He helped to bring the photographic use of roll film into the mainstream as a significant contribution.

It’s bright & cheery as the museum is FILLED with Eastman’s favorite spring flowers. The whole house smells so good, also a hopeful reminder that Spring is on the way. Make sure to enjoy the scent and sight of hundreds of tulips, daffodils, and hyacinth placed throughout the George Eastman mansion during your visit.

5. Rochester Museum & Science Center

Rochester Museum and Science Center
Source: Flickr / Anthony Sokolik | CC BY-SA 2.0

BEST for older kids and adults Rochester Museum and Science Center is an exciting experience to get hands-on while learning about amazing Wildlife Rockstars, whether big or small. There is a variety of different animals visiting the museum each day of the week and is dedicated to science, technology, and local history.⁣.

There is a substantial SciFiTech exhibit at the Rochester Museum and Science Center for a virtual reality experience. Also, there is a huge toddler-friendly area at the museum. The new technology inside not only allows you to explore the solar system but also the entire visible universe from any perspective.

6. Highland Park

Highland Park
Source: Flickr / Tobin | CC BY-SA 2.0

Highland Park situated along with Genesee Valley, Maplewood, Seneca, also known as Botanical Park, and during Rochester’s famous Lilac Festival attracts thousands of international crowds every year. However, the lilacs are not the only thing to see; there are variety of different kinds of flowers to treat its visitors with fragrance and beautiful nature.

Designed in 1888 by Frederick Law Olmsted, it is part of the more fantastic Pinnacle Range that lines the City of Rochester and Brighton and the southern border. Everything in the park is intentional and noteworthy, from trees, vista and every relationship between the water and land.

7. Memorial Art Gallery

Memorial Art Gallery
Source: Flickr / smallcurio | CC BY 2.0

The Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester has a well-rounded calendar of events and art classes, an incredible variety of traveling exhibitions, and an extensive permanent collection. On the campus, you’ll find the Sculpture Park, including The Unicorn Family by Wendell Castle and The Creation Story by sculptor Tom Otterness.

Around the perimeter are the Story Walk and Poets Walks. This “urban gathering space” in the Neighborhood of the Arts welcomes you to use your imagination to interact with the elements and explore the grounds. In the evening, there are Double-Positive, and other lighting installations outdoor, and the first floor showcases rotating collections of creativity and traveling exhibitions to engage the guests.

8. Ontario Beach Park

Ontario Beach Park
Source: Flickr / Liz Lawley | CC BY-SA 2.0

Located on Lake Ontario’s shores, occupying an area of 39 acres, Ontario Beach Park is a perfect recreational place. It provides all that’s necessary for a perfect summer day, whether riding the Historic 1905 Dentzel Carousel or taking a romantic stroll along its picturesque pier. Ontario Beach Park draws the attention of tens of thousands of visitors annually for activities like Playing fields, fishing, swimming.

It is a famous and well-known destination among travelers seeking relief from the summer heat, looking for a lovely picnic spot near the water, or just pursuing some fun. Start planning your warm-weather road trips along the Lake Ontario Seaway Trail to experience swimming, boating, camping, and dining.

9. Susan B. Anthony Museum & House

Susan B. Anthony Museum and House
Source: Wikimedia / Daniel Penfield | CC BY-SA 4.0

History surrounds Susan B. Anthony Museum and House in Rochester, NY. Susan B. Anthony was an agitator, suffragist, and social reformer. Rochester has a unique role in the women’s suffrage movement, as it is the home of Susan B. Anthony. The modest brick house on Madison St, now a National Historic Landmark, was once the home of one of the world’s greatest revolutionaries under the National Park Service umbrella.

 The Museum shares the story of Susan B. Anthony’s lifelong struggle for women rights. The museum aims to keep her vision alive by preserving her home, collection of artifacts, and research materials related to her life and work.

10. High Falls

High Falls
Source: Flickr / Lew Layraman | CC BY 2.0

There are very few states in America with a dramatic waterfall; the earliest pioneers realized High Falls’ value when they chose this area to develop as a central focal point. High Falls at Tettegouche State Park and a frozen Baptism River made some fun winter exploring as the falls aren’t completely solid.

It looks lovely in the winter when everything is enveloped by snow and ice; the river flows beneath a layer of impenetrable white but occasionally pokes its head out. A beautiful contrast against the woods’ darkness gives an impression of a calm exterior and a mighty roar just under its surface. It’s a perfect hiking spot on beautiful snowy and warmer days with your favorite hiking buddies. 

11. Artisan Works

Artisan Works
Source: Flickr / Tim Pierce | CC BY 2.0

Nestled in the heart of the Rochester community, Artisan works is genuinely supported by the community, described as a walk-through kaleidoscope, a 360° canvas, a space that defies all boundaries, surprising and inspiring. Also, the most eclectic places you have ever visited, full of art from all over the world and even rare antiques. You will find original works by Picasso, Ansel Adams, Roy Lichtenstein, Remington, Andy Warhol, and Frank Lloyd Wright.

It is great to have a guide to point out some well-known artists and share stories about the collections. While touring, you’ll come across an artist-in-residence working on a new piece of art, most likely. The majority of art is traditional and local, with many pieces created on the spot.

12. Rochester Contemporary Art Center (RoCo)

Rochester Contemporary Art Center
Source: Wikimedia / Bbwiki00 | CC BY-SA 3.0

Rochester Contemporary Art Center (RoCo), located in Rochester, New York’s East End District, is a non-profit art center. The Art Center is a source of exchanging ideas, founded in 1977. RoCo provides unique encounters for audiences and extraordinary opportunities as a center for thoughtful contemporary art for artists worldwide. It is well known for its annual 6×6 exhibition, which supports contemporary art of all forms.

The Art Center is also known for combining notable educators with their current and former students in an Exhibition of Makers & Mentors. Its state of the City exhibitions feature artists from across the region and focus on contemporary urbanism. The organization collaborates with arts organizations for community-based projects and organizes various curated group exhibitions.

13. Cobb’s Hill Park

Cobbs Hill Park
Source: Flickr / Angie Armstrong | CC BY-ND 2.0

Take the road up from Highland Ave or Walk from Monroe Ave or run up the hillside, near the tennis courts on Culver Road’s corner. Either way, the Cobb’s Hill Park offers a reward of a fantastic view of the city with a good workout.

The paved walkway around the reservoir is splendid. You can just walk at the top if you’re short on time or drive up the hill, working your way up to tackling the mountain. Great for sightseeing the Rochester skyline, walking around the water supply pond, where you can see many people walking, taking pictures, running, hiking, sometimes playing instruments.

14. Jack Rabbit

Jack Rabbit
Source: Wikimedia / Sarion | CC BY-SA 4.0

Designed by one of the greatest coaster designers of the era, John A. Miller. It was constructed by Harry C. Baker in just eight weeks. It is the oldest existing coaster featuring Miller’s revolutionary wheel design. The Jack Rabbit marked 100 years of glory and thrills. As the oldest continuously running coaster in America, it is considered a place of honor in amusement park history.

With faster speeds and awesome negative g-forces – ushering in a whole new world of steep and taller hills, Jack Rabbit is believed to be the first coaster ever to feature under-friction wheels with fun bunny hops. It is placed in Seabreeze Amusement Park, one of the trolley parks still operating in the United States.

15. Charlotte Genesee Lighthouse

Charlotte Genesee Lighthouse
Source: Flickr / Doug Kerr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Marked as one of the National Register of Historic Places, Built-in 1822, in Rochester Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse‘s northernmost neighborhood, the light tower is 40 feet tall. It turned into a museum operated by a non-profit agency for Monroe County agency as it was saved from destruction in 1965.

A tour of this 1822 structure will teach you how this lighthouse monitored ship traffic of the considerable part of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail. You can also climb up the tower to see Lake Ontario’s sweeping views, Ontario Beach Park, and the Genesee River. Take your family nearby to visit the George Eastman Museum and the Strong Museum of Play.

16. Lamberton Conservatory

Lamberton Conservatory
Source: Flickr / gardener41 | CC BY-SA 2.0

A beautiful collection of plants from different places, Lamberton Conservatory, is open all year round. Many folks visit to seek a calm space, the perfect place to spend inside on a gray day. You can practice macro-photography in this colorful space filled with the sound of running water, warm to tropical temperatures, and the scent of fragrant flowers, color, and aroma make for a delightful awakening from the depths of winter.

Located in Highland Park, it has a vast collection of distinct types of flowers, including lilies and daffodils, and each leaf and flower’s details are more easily captured when there is no wind.

17. Ontario Beach

Ontario Beach
Source: Flickr / Liz Lawley | CC BY-SA 2.0

On the Eastern border at the northernmost tip of the cityOntario Beach Park is located by the Genesee River’s mouth. From Genesee Valley Park to Lake Ontario, there is a 16-mile Genesee Riverway Trail. The park can be found at the north end of the trail that connects the four Frederick Law Olmsted-designed parks and the boardwalk at Turning Point Park.

Here in the City’s Charlotte neighborhood, you’ll find the Port of Rochester and marina, restaurants with waterfront seating, a long walking pier extending out into the lake, the original 1905 Dentzel Carousel, and the original Abbott’s Frozen Custard. Also, there is a free public swimming beach to treat its visitors.

18. Irondequoit Bay

Irondequoit Bay
Source: Flickr / Angie Armstrong | CC BY-ND 2.0

Irondequoit Bay Marine Park provides fishing access to Lake Ontario, and a launch site for small and powerful boats.A 4 mile long and 1 mile wideJust northeast of Rochester Irondequoit Bay, the inlet of Lake Ontario and Webster shorelines, not heavily developed or populated, with wilder places, teeming with wildlife.

The town of Irondequoit lies along the west shore, and a channel connects the northeastern end of the bay with Lake Ontario, and the creek enters the bay from the south. Irondequoit means “bay,” and the French built Fort des Sables at the bay in 1720.

19. Tinker Nature Park/Hansen Nature Center

Tinker Nature Park Hansen Nature Center
Source: Flickr / Angie Armstrong | CC BY-ND 2.0

Tinker Nature Park‘s boardwalks and trails are specifically designed for people of all abilities, comprise 68-acres along the Pittsford-Henrietta Town border. Offers a 1.2-mile flat perimeter trail for jogging, skiing, biking, walking, and snowshoeing.

You’ll find beautiful spots to observe nature, relax and feel free to wander down the paths lead off the perimeter trail, leading you outside the park to the surrounding neighborhoods, or just a quiet and calm spot to read a book. With beautiful trees covering the paths along the sides, it makes it a perfect recreational spot for weekends and vocational trips for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

20. Clubhouse Fun Center (Henrietta)

Clubhouse Fun Center (Henrietta)
Source: Unsplash / SLR Lounge

Be sure to visit the Clubhouse Fun Center Henrietta for all sorts of fun during your visit to Rochester. It is a family Park with various outdoor activities, including unique go-kart tracks, more than 36-holes of spectacular miniature golf, a tree house-themed cafe, Batting cages, and an incredible arcade with delicious food.

The inside is recently updated with many fun decorations and a bunch of new drink and food options, which really made it pretty kid-friendly and perfect for a kind of relaxed night; also a colorful edition of all the lights and sounds from the video games.

21. Edward Boynton House – Frank Lloyd Wright

Edward Boynton House - Frank Lloyd Wright
Source: Wikimedia / Stilfehler | CC BY 2.0

This privately owned prairie-style home was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, The Edward E. Boynton House in Rochester, New York. The house is an absolute work of art and architecture, including furniture and landscaping. Stretched across four city lots, an expansive garden, rectangular reflecting pool, tennis court, providing the open prairie feel to its residents and visitors.

It reserves the eminence of being the easternmost home built becomes pretty special with signature Prairie style. Both outside and inside architecture are vastly integrated, much like the idea of an open-concept. It was made with great attention to ensure that this incredible treasure will continue to sustain the brutal seasons.

22. Warner Castle

Warner Castle
Source: Wikimedia / Daniel Penfield | CC BY-SA 2.0

As a part of Highland Park, was built in 1854 by Horatio Warner. Warner Castle, and its Sunken Garden located on Reservoir Ave and Mt. Hope Ave, Landmark Society of Western New York is taking care of the property. Before them, the castle was under Rochester Civic Garden Center’s supervision until late 2017.

The castle has a remarkable history of over 150 years. The distinctive design and incomparable architecture and set still retain its original shape and structure from the interior to its high ceilings, walnut woodwork, tall windows, marble, parquet floors, and an impressive entrance hall with a grand staircase and scenic wallpaper.

23. Sunken Garden

Sunken Garden
Source: Wikimedia / Somebleu | CC BY-SA 3.0

While you stroll down the grassy lawn and behind the Warner Castle, you’ll discover the Sunken Garden. Most visitors don’t realize about the small garden and a part of Highland Park because of its remote location across South Ave on Reservoir Ave toward Mount Hope Cemetery.

You can explore by taking a walk behind the garden, where you’ll find yourself at Highland Bowl. The bottom sunken part is inaccessible but you can walk the outer ring and take some photos. Or you can walk up the stairs and see Warner Castle. While coming down from Warner Castle you can continue hiking through forests.

24. Pont de Rennes Bridge

Pont de Rennes Bridge
Source: Wikimedia / DanielPenfield | CC BY-SA 4.0

Pont de Rennes was built in 1891, spanning Rochester’s central artery and the Genesse River offers marvelous scenic views of the city and natural surroundings. It provides a close-up view of the falls rushing below 96 feet as a tourist attraction and serving as a vital connection between two sections of the city.

Approach the bridge from the west and admire it from the side to appreciate the falls and the blue-green trusses with gray stones, and the occasional light shows as it projected onto the water. You can stride onto the bridge to the Genesse Brewery from the eastern side, which offers relaxation and refreshment at the end of your journey.

25. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
Source: Flickr / Joe Shlabotnik | CC BY 2.0

The Dinosaur Bar-B-Que started in 1983 by the founder John Sage and two of his partners. The idea of a plate of good and delicious food especially made for bikers, compelled the three partners to embrace the opportunity and they started  this business which became a famous tourist attraction in the coming years.

 In 1988, the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que settled in Syracuse, NY, and later extended its chains to Rochester, NY. At Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, fresh, homemade, and high-quality food is the foundation. Food quality and genuine hospitality are intense and unyielding also a great place to have fun. The menu and flavors have distinctive characteristics that depict the traditions of Southern bar-b-que.