Are you ready to visit Rochester with your family, but not sure where to visit and what to do? Or maybe your grandparents taking the kids out for day trips in and around Rochester. Either way, there’s plenty to do! From a museum made for play to visiting to hometown heroes, here are nine cool things to do in Rochester, NY for families.
- Get Strong
- Get Blinded with Science!
- Hometown Heroes
- My Weggies
- Art Smart
- So That’s How Cameras Were Made!
- Play Dress-Up and Learn About Local Architecture
- Float Down a Historical Canal
- See Local Artists in a Brand New Way
Rochester, New York, has been on my radar for some time. It’s not only where some of our extended family live, it’s just a cool city. Pretty in all four seasons, Rochester offers both visitors and residents fun, affordable things to do no matter what time of year. Here are the ones that made my short list.
1. Get Strong
Upstate New York’s largest year-round indoor cultural attraction and experience is The Strong Museum of Play. If you want scale, it’s more than a city block long! What we love about The Strong is the fact that there are no age limits to have fun. Younger children will love the recreated Sesame Street area (who am I kidding? I LOVED it, too!) and teens will dig the two dedicated gaming rooms for classic arcade and pinball games.
The spaces flow beautifully between exhibits, too. Our faves were American Comic Book Heroes which moves directly into a life-size pop-up storybook. Also worth touring are the butterfly garden, the Toy Halls of Fame, and a 1918 carousel. If the kids get hungry, there’s a food court or an actual steel trolley with amazing milkshakes.
2. Get Blinded with Science!
Okay, you won’t technically get blinded at Rochester Museum & Science Center, but the kiddos will have a chance to stand next to twin Tesla Coils at Electricity Theater while safely inside a grounded cage. The Kid had a chance to give it a go and the musical lightning actually played the theme from Pokemon.
After the electric experience, touring the rest of the museum is a must. There are plenty of hands-on experiences including a three-story climbing area, learning the ups and downs of Lake Ontario in its Adventure Zone, and how Rochester helped with freeing slaves in Flight to Freedom: Rochester’s Underground Railroad.
3. Pay Tribute to Rochester Hometown Heroes
When it comes to Rochester, there are two hometown heroes that are at the top of the list: Susan B. Anthony & Frederick Douglass. Just a quick history lesson, Anthony (famous from her tireless efforts for women’s rights) & Douglass (integral in freeing slaves) were friends. Actually, the two used to meet at Anthony’s home, to plan history.
These days, the Official Susan B. Anthony House is available to tour (make sure to check open times). What I found so poignant was how she lived in moderation. There was nothing super fancy in the house; I feel all of her extra money went to the women’s rights cause.
As for Frederick Douglass, you can see the adoration they both shared for each other just a block away from the Anthony home. In Susan B. Anthony Square sits a life-sized bronze statue aptly titled “Let’s Have Tea”. Anthony & Douglass sit across a small table drinking tea, and it was made for kids to explore. I asked my daughter to sit on Douglass’s lap and have her photo taken and it’s absolutely precious.
4. Take a Trip to My Weggies
During our visit, I had the pleasure of being driven around by a couple of local gals. And, when they saw there neighborhood Wegman’s, it was an expression of pure happiness. If I can back track a minute, every NY state local that I’ve met that lives near one has asked me if I’ve been to Wegman’s. Until recently, the answer was no. I mean, it’s just a grocery store, right?
It’s like the WalMart of Grocery stores, only hipper. Celebrating its 102 birthday, the chain has 48,000 employees in six states. It’s the place that the locals go to get freshly-prepared hot meals, great donuts, and of course, coffee and barista-created beverages. Honestly, I really enjoyed my shopping experience when I visited.
The prices are affordable and the food is delicious. So, if you’re from out of town, consider stocking up on non-perishables for your trip home.
5. Art Smart
You don’t have to go to the MoMA or similar museum to see amazing art and sculpture. University of Rochester Memorial Art Gallery has a bit of everything, including Monet and Sarah C. Rutherford. While Monet is a name unto himself, Rutherford’s exhibit is all about empowered Rochester women.
The MAG is not gigantic, so if you have littles it’s a very manageable museum.
6. So That’s How Cameras Were Made!
Think about it for sec: have you ever stopped and actually thought about how cameras were made? What about the evolution of film? I know, we have mini computers in our pockets with lenses that give cameras a run for their money, but learning about cameras starts in Rochester at the George Eastman Museum. Filled with cameras, the tour is well worth it if your kiddos can handle and hour or more.
While a few of the exhibits may seem a bit much for young kiddos, they’ll definitely love the hands-on room filled with books and crafts. After that, you can walk outside and tour the gardens – a perfect spot for photos!
7. Play Dress-Up and Learn About Local Architecture
Just a short drive from Rochester proper sits New York State’s largest and most comprehensive Living History Museum. The official description of Genessee Country Village & Museum in Mumford, NY, is that it has restored historic buildings and costumed interpreters in a 19th Century country village. But it really is so much more than that.
GCV&M has taken actual homes throughout the state, picked them up, and moved them to the museum. And the costumed interpreters are so skilled and knowledgeable that we actually felt like we had time traveled a couple of centuries back.
You’ll find restaurants, gift shops, seasonal walks and tours – and an actual working farm. GCV&M is open year-round, but when the colder weather hits times and days are limited, so please check the official website before you visit.
8. Float Down a Historical Canal
Have you ever considered taking an actual canal boat on a 90-minute cruise – down an actual historical canal? Another short drive from Rochester, the Sam Patch Erie Canal Cruise is not only fun, it’s another way for families to immerse themselves history while having a ball.
On our cruise, we went through an actual lock (much less-scary than I thought it was going to be!) and our guide was highly knowledgeable. We traveled up and down a century-old canal and learned about what life was like on the boats. Fascinating!
Before or after your cruise, take time to check out Pittsford, NY. The quaint town is filled with rich history, cute stores, and pretty places to enjoy pleasant days.
9. See Local Artists in a Brand New Way
How do I even begin to explain ARTISANworks in Rochester?
Where to Stay in Rochester, NY
We loved Hyatt Regency Rochester. It has larger rooms, comfy beds, and really pretty views of the city. There’s also a couple of dining spots (the in-house restaurant and Starbucks) and houses art piece in the lobby worth checking out.
If I sing its praises even more, the property has a connected parking garage, is close to just about everything downtown, and has impeccable staff. Yep.
Disclosure: I was hosted by the fine folks at Visit Rochester to give you the scoop on what to do when you’re in town. All opinions are my own!