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Rochester: It's Got It

Updated: Jul 18, 2023


Your one-stop-shop to (some of) my favorite local haunts (not including restaurants). I've also added a few day trips & weekend trips that are within a few hours of Rochester. And if something is bolded and underlined, that means I've added a link, so you can learn more!

 

Free & Outdoors


Cobb's Hill

The old water towers offer a constantly-changing public art display of murals and other graffiti. Different every time. And when the more accessible tower dries out, throwing stones inside it and listening to the echoes is amazing and otherworldly. Sunsets from the lookout are also beautiful - one of the best places for a view of the Rochester skyline. The woods around the water towers - called Washington Grove - are also lovely and peaceful for an easy stroll. Here is a slideshow of a few of my pictures, through all seasons:

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Wall Therapy

Another great public art project - this one requires a bit more effort, as their are gorgeous murals located all over the city. Some of my favorites are in the Swillburg, South Wedge, & Susan B. Anthony neighborhoods, in & around the Public Market, and the El Camino Trail. The easiest way to find them all is by using their interactive map. Below is a small selection of them:

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Genesee River Gorge, and the Lower Falls, Middle & High Falls

There are multiple ways to enjoy the falls and the Genesee River gorge... High Falls and Lower Falls both have easily accessible viewing platforms and bridges from which you can see the water. The Middle Falls are much smaller, but have a bridge across them where you can look down from above. The Genesee River Trail offers a number of cool views. And you can walk down into the gorge near Seth Green Park on St. Paul Blvd.

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Parks, Parks, Parks

There really is a lot to explore outside in the Rochester area, for example...

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Lake Ontario


There are a ton of beach (& pier) options. I know many people have their favorites. A couple of my go-to's are Ontario Beach Park (aka Charlotte Beach - this is where I collect beach glass!), Irondequoit Bay Outlet Pier & Beach, Webster Park, and the "Secret Sidewalk" off of Beach Ave.

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Indoors with a Fee


Not a complete list, by far, and I don't have photos of all the places listed, but here are a few great options (with links).


Memorial Art Gallery - Always something great here! Visit the website to see what traveling exhibits are currently on display. Plus, in any weather it's fun to explore all of the outdoor art on the grounds, like Tom Otterness' "Creation Myth" statues.


Eastman Museum - The museum itself is interesting if you've never been, plus they have special exhibits like The Dutch Connection flower show in the spring, and Gingerbread Houses in November! Also, the gardens surrounding the museum are beautiful. And in the summers they have outdoor concerts.


ARTISANWorks - A super eccentric art space - you just have to go to really understand it! Multiple rooms and floors of art everywhere you look.


Lamberton Conservatory in Highland Park - Beautiful all year round, but especially nice to visit a warm, indoor garden during the winter. There are also fish in the ponds, and many wandering turtles, tiny quail, and a duck.


Rochester Contemporary Art Center (RoCo) - My favorite exhibit is always the summer 6x6 show with hundreds of artworks from around the world, all 6" x 6" big. But they definitely have other very cool shows throughout the year.


RMSC Strasenburgh Planetarium - A 65-foot dome theater (with super comfy seating - chairs lean way back so you can look up) showing all kinds of different star shows, as well as feature films about Earth and the cosmos.


Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden at Strong Museum - Another warm, indoor garden! This time with butterflies. Depending on what colors you're wearing, they might even land on you. Of course the Strong Museum is also an amazing place to visit with kids, or if they happen to have a traveling exhibit that appeals to adults too!


Susan B. Anthony House - Once you've seen her gravesite at Mt. Hope Cemetery (see above), you can visit her home to learn lots more about her amazing life, and all of her Rochester connections. While you're there, make sure you visit the Susan B. and Frederick Douglass "Let's Have Tea" statues in the nearby park.


Radio Social and The PlayHouse/Swillburger - Radio Social for food and bowling with a trendy atmosphere, Playhouse for food and arcade games in a beautiful old church.


Seneca Park Zoo - Not indoors, but there is a fee, and some of the animals can be viewed from inside. They've made a lot of improvements over the past few years, so most of the animals have a lot of space to roam, which is nice.


Wild Wings - Also not entirely indoors, but so worth a visit! While you're in Mendon Ponds Park on the Birdsong Fairy Trail, check out this birds of prey sanctuary - they have some amazing animals.

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See a Show or a Game


Movie theaters: Of course we have lots of big-box theaters, but our two independent theaters are The Little Theatre, and the Dryden Theatre at Eastman Museum



Sports: Rochester Red Wings (baseball) is the only team I care about, but there's also: Rochester Amerks (hockey), Rochester Knighthawks (lacrosse), Rochester Lancers and Flower City Union (soccer), and of course the nearby Buffalo Bills (football).

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Day Trips


There are SO many places within an hour or two of Rochester. Here are a few that I really enjoy, and have been or want to go back to over and over.

  • Chimney Bluffs State Park in Wolcott - gorgeous views, good hiking, otherworldly looking.

  • Sodus Point Beach - nice, quiet beach, and almost never has a lot of seaweed.

  • Lazy Acre Alpaca Farm in Bloomfield - feed the cute alpacas!

  • Letchworth State Park in Castile - the "Grand Canyon of the East."

  • Lakeview Village Shoppes in Olcott - quaint specialty shops on the boardwalk.

  • Holley Canal Falls Park in Holley - beautiful man-made waterfall which is overflow from the nearby Erie Canal.


Niagara Falls is of course a must, if you haven't already been. If you're able to, the views are much more impressive from the Canadian side (but breathtaking from the US side too, if you can't get over there). The Maid of the Mist boat ride and the Cave of the Winds walk are amazing.


And finally, it's well worth the drive to go to Auburn for the Harriet Tubman Home and the Seward House, and to Seneca Falls for the National Women's Hall of Fame, and the Women's Rights National Historical Park.


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Weekend Trips


Similarly, there are a lot of places you can get to very easily for a weekend visit. One of my favorites is Ithaca, with their many waterfalls, and Cornell attractions like museums, galleries, the library, and the Cornell Botanic Gardens, to name a few. Another new find for me was Green Lakes State Park, which is a bit past Syracuse, in Fayetteville (probably doable as a day trip, but a bit far). The lakes are an unusually blue-green color, and crystal clear.


As for the Finger Lakes, there's really no way to "cover" them, as that could be multiple posts just on it's own! Definitely good for day trips or weekend visits. So, you'll just have to check out this link for more! The few photos I've included here are from Canadice Lake, the smallest of the Finger Lakes, and the Finger Lakes Welcome Center in Geneva, on Seneca Lake.


I haven't visited Buffalo enough to explore a lot, but I want to.. Albright-Knox Art Gallery (I've been there - beautiful), great restaurants, and a lot of cool public, outdoor art too... so I hear! Toronto is also quite close - easier to get to, but with all the "we have everything you could possibly want-ness" of NYC.

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Festivals


The majority of Rochester's festivals are in the summer, because that's obviously when we can actually be outside! I'm absolutely going to forget some, but here are some of the larger ones:


Food Truck Rodeos - monthly from April-September

Jazz Fest - in June

Party in the Park - from June-August

Fringe Festival - in September

ROC Holiday Village - in December - with outdoor ice skating all winter long

and multiple different festivals in the Finger Lakes


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I know the moment I post this I'm going to think of so many more things I want to add... like the "Haunted Housel" skeleton house in Canandaigua, Powers Farm Market tee-pees, Landmark Society's Inside Downtown Tour, Writers & Books' Rochester Reads community read, concerts at CMAC, and more more more.


City News is a great publication and website to pay attention to and learn about what's happening right now. Getting on the mailing lists of some of your favorite places can help keep you informed. And I poke around on social media and see what other folks are up to - Gives me ideas for what I need to check out.


I hope this helps inspire you to go exploring!


(Photos included here are mine - please do not share photos without permission. But feel free to share the blog post itself!)

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