Rochester: A great day trip or weekend getaway destination
Now that summer vacation is here why not take a trip with the kids or grandkids to someplace that’s far enough away that you get that vacation feeling, yet close enough that you don’t have to pack your bags and stay overnight, unless you want to. Rochester, just a mere 80 miles down the Thruway, fits the bill. It offers enough to keep your family busy for a day trip or even several days.
Check out the zoo
The last time my family took a trip to Rochester, we headed there via scenic Route 104, since it was the closest route to our first stop, the Seneca Park Zoo, which is located along the Genesee River Gorge several miles north of downtown Rochester. SenecaPark, along with three other parks in Rochester, was designed by renowned landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed the Buffalo parks system.
The zoo, established in 1894, is one of Rochester’s most popular attractions. What’s nice about this zoo is that while it’s good size and has a lot of exhibits, it’s not overwhelming, so you can easily see everything in a few hours. My kids especially enjoyed the sea lion and polar bear exhibits, where you can watch the animals from an underwater viewing window, as well as from above.
Lean about science and more
Another fun place to take the kids is the Rochester Museum and Science Center, which has three floors of exhibits focusing on science, technology, nature, and cultural heritage.
The first exhibit you encounter after paying your admission is Adventure Zone, which has a lot of fun, hands-on activities. Another exhibit, Glaciers and Giants, takes you on a journey back in time to when dinosaurs and mastodons roamed western New York. Movies are shown on the big screen in the museum’s Strasenburgh Planetarium, along with a variety of star shows. KEVA Planks: Come Build with Us is the current traveling exhibit at the museum. The exhibit, which runs through September 3rd features KEVA wooden building planks; visitors are encouraged to build their own masterpieces.
Regional history is also presented at the museum. Flight to Freedom chronicles the Underground Railroad in the Rochester area. There is also an exhibit, At the Western Door, which focuses on the Seneca and Haidenosaunee Indians.
One of our favorite places to visit in downtown Rochester is the Museum of Play, the only museum in the world devoted to the study of play. My ten year old son absolutely loves the museum, as all the exhibits are hands-on. He keeps asking me, “When are we going back to the Strong Museum?” We usually try to visit at least once a year.
There are numerous hands-on permanent and traveling exhibits, including their signature exhibit, Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street? Other exhibits include Kid-to Kid, where they can learn about communications, a kid-sized Wegmans and Field of Play, where kids can do thing like walk through a giant kaleidoscope, put balls through an overhead ball machine and walk in a slanted room. The museum is also home to the National Toy Hall of Fame and the Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden.
Part of the museum’s second floor exhibit area features dolls, toys, dollhouses and household items which were in the collection of the late Margaret Woodbury Strong, the museum’s founder. Even if you don’t have children, this extensive collection of Americana is reason enough to visit the museum. Another portion of the second floor is home to the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, with many vintage arcade and video games that you can actually play.
Another Rochester attraction you might want to check out is the Rochester Redwings baseball team, who play in Frontier Field in downtown Rochester. We’ve been to a couple games in the past few years. The stadium is fairly new and the atmosphere is family-friendly.
Historic Points of Interest
Historic points of interest in Rochester include the George Eastman House, which houses the International Museum of Photography. Once the home of George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak, the museum features exhibits that capture 150 years of photographic history, as well as traveling exhibits and hands-on children’s activities.
Another historically significant home in the city is the Susan B. Anthony House, a designated a National Historic Landmark. It was here that Anthony planned the Woman’s Suffrage Movement. She lived here from 1866 until her death. The museum is filled with memorabilia and displays on Woman’s Suffrage.
The High Falls Heritage area, located near Frontier Field, has exhibits on the history of this district, which had numerous flour mills and factories over 150 years ago. From a 850 foot long pedestrian bridge over the Genesee River Gorge you can view High Falls, a 100 foot waterfall which has been named the best city waterfall in America.
Explore Lake Ontario’s shore
Located along Lake Ontario in the northern section of the city is Ontario Beach Park, a favorite spot of mine. It has one of the nicest sand beaches in the Great Lakes region and a historic 1905 Dentzel carousel. The Charlotte Genesee Lighthouse, which is open for tours Saturday and Sunday afternoons, is located nearby.
Further east along the lake you’ll find Seabreeze Amusement Park, which is actually the fourth oldest amusement park in the country. It originally opened in 1879 as a picnic grove; today it has over 75 rides and waterpark attractions.
If you go
Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau (585-546-3070, 800-677-7282; www.visitrochester.com) 45 East Avenue, Rochester. Open Mon.-Fri. 8:30am-5pm; Saturday 9am-5pm (10am-4pm Nov. –April) Sunday 10am-3pm.
SenecaPark Zoo (585-336-7200; www.senecaparkzoo.org) 222 St. Paul St., Rochester. Open Nov.-March 10am-3pm; April-October, 10am-4pm. It is open 364 days a year; the zoo is only closed the first Saturday in June for their annual fundraiser.
RochesterMuseum and ScienceCenter (585-271-4320; www.rmsc.org), 657 East Ave., Rochester. Open Mon.-Sat 9am-5pm; Sunday 11am-5pm.
Museum of Play (585-263-2700; www.museumfplay.org), 1 Manhattan Square, Rochester. Open Mon.-Th. 10am-5pm; Friday & Saturday 10am-8pm; Sunday 12-5pm.
Rochester Red Wings Baseball (585-454-1001; www.redwingsbaseball.com) Frontier Field, 1 Morrie Silver Way, Rochester.
George Eastman House (585-271-3361; www.eastmanhouse.org) 900 East Avenue, Rochester. Open Tues.-Sat. 10am-5pm; Sunday 1-5pm.
Center at HighFalls (585-325-2030; www.centerathighfalls.org) 60 Browns Race, Rochester. Open Wed.-Fri. 11am-5:30pm; Sat. 12-5:30pm; Sun. 1-5pm.
Susan B. Anthony House (585-235-6124; www.susanbanthonyhouse.org) 17 Madison Street, Rochester. Open Tues.-Sun. 11am-5pm.
Ontario Beach Park (585-256-4950) Lake and Beach Avenues, Rochester
Seabreeze Amusement Park (585-323-1900; www.seabreeze.com) 4600 Culver Rd., Rochester