Things to Do in Rochester, New York

Erin De Santiago
Rochester, NY night skyline

Rochester, the third largest urban area in New York state, was once known as the "Flour City" because of its early milling industries, and later as the "Flower City" for its parks, nurseries, and Lilac Festival. It serves as the northwest gateway to the Finger Lakes region, a picturesque area known for its award-winning wines.

Celebrate History and Culture

As Rochester continue to grow as a center of innovation, there are a number of attractions available that showcase science and the history of the region.

Rochester Museum & Science Center

RMSC At the Western Door Display
At the Western Door (RMSC)

Bring the fun back into science with over 200 interactive exhibits designed to unlock the marvels of the natural world at the Rochester Museum & Science Center. There are over 1.2 million items on display at the museum which includes the Strasenburgh Planetarium and Cumming Nature Center. The planetarium offers a laser show on Saturday nights that brings the solar system to life in line with music.

Within the museum, in the "At the Western Door" display, you can learn about the history of the Senecas. The area of western New York around what is now known as the city of Rochester first belonged to the Iroquois. The Senecas of the Genesee Valley were the largest of the five tribes of the Iroquois, and they were known as the "Keepers of the Western Door".

Genesee Country Village and Museum

For another look at the history of the area, visit the nearby Genesee Country Village and Museum (about 20 miles southwest of the city). There you'll find restored and authentically furnished homes, shops, churches, and schools. Witness the villagers, in 19th century period costumes, performing their tasks of weaving, spinning, and blacksmithing.

Susan B. Anthony House

Yet another historically important establishment is the Susan B. Anthony House. Dedicated to the women's rights and anti-slavery movements, Susan B. Anthony made her national headquarters in her Madison Street home in Rochester. You can even step into the very parlor in which she was arrested for voting back in 1872.

George Eastman Estate

In the heart of Rochester's cultural center, you'll find the mansion and gardens of Kodak founder George Eastman. This celebration of George Eastman's life and accomplishments includes a variety of exhibitions on film and photography.

Eastman School of Music

George Eastman also founded the Eastman School of Music, an institution that has played a leading role in the musical life of the city since 1921. Now part of the University of Rochester, the Eastman School of Music presents more than 700 concerts a year (many of them free) in the magnificent Eastman Theatre and in the smaller, more intimate Kilbourn Hall. Its Sibley Music Library is the largest music library in the Western Hemisphere.

Memorial Art Gallery

The Memorial Art Gallery, also part of the University of Rochester, features an indoor sculpture garden and artistic masterpieces by such renowned artists as Monet, Matisse, and Cassatt.

High Falls

The Genesee River High Falls are a 96-foot-high waterfalls with a seasonal lights and fireworks display. The falls are located in the center of Rochester, at the Pont De Rennes Bridge. The best way to view the falls is via the pedestrian bridge, but there are also hiking trails that take you along the falls pools.

Fun for the Whole Family

Rochester is also home to a number of attractions to educate and entertain your children. Here are a few attractions that are both fun and educational for your family.

Seneca Park Zoo

Polar Bear at Seneca Park Zoo photo by Marie Kraus
Seneca Park Zoo

Learn about animals and conservation throughout the year. The Seneca Park Zoo provides residents and visitors a chance to learn about the animals residing in the zoo as well as conservation efforts both locally and abroad. A visit to the zoo includes the Rocky Coasts Gallery featuring polar bears, sea lions, and penguins.

Strong National Museum of Play

This is where the National Toy Hall of Fame, Sesame Street, and other interactive displays create a lively display of exploration and excitement. The Strong National Museum of Play is one of the largest family museums in America, and one of the leading history museums in the United States. It is also home to the International Center for the History of Electronic Game and the World Video Game Hall of Fame.

Rock Ventures

Rock Ventures is the largest indoor climbing and high-ropes course in the US. Whether you're a seasoned climber looking to keep your skills sharp, or a beginner looking for a family excursion, there are courses for all ages and skill levels. Climb on your own, or host a team-building event or birthday part at the center.

Altitude Trampoline Park

For high-energy excitement, spend the day at the Altitude Trampoline Park. The 50,000 square foot center has 24,000 square feet of interconnected trampolines. Enjoy a bounce with your family in the Kids Zone, or take part in more extreme activities like dodgeball, rock wall climbing, a ninja course, foam pit, or basketball dunking.

Rochester Bounce-It-Out

Rochester offers Bounce-It-Out, catering to children aged 10 and under. Rochester's largest indoor playground will entertain your family with nine bounce inflatables, rock climbing walls and a sports simulator.

Seabreeze Amusement Park

One the of the oldest amusement parks, Seabreeze (open since 1879) offers an array of rides for your family to enjoy. Aside from adrenaline pumping thrill rides and rides for children, there is also a water park complete with a wave pool, soak zone and hydro racer.

For the College Crowd

Rochester offers more than just family activities and culture. Rochester is also home to a number of activities that make it a hotspot for the millennial generation as well.

KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival

Every September, Rochester is home to one of the most successful fringe festivals in America. The KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival runs for 10 days, and showcases over 500 acts of international, national, and local artists across more than 25 different venues. There are acts of visual and performing arts, including theater, comedy, music, dance, and literature.

Finger Lakes Wine Region

The Finger Lakes wine region is one of the up-and-coming wine regions of America, and Rochester is the gateway into the Finger Lakes. Since 2005, the Finger Lakes wine region has had its own classification as an American Viticultural Area, and today is home to hundreds of high quality wineries and breweries.

Ontario Beach Park

If you're looking for some outdoors activities, head to the shores of Lake Ontario where you can find swimming, fishing, beach volleyball and more throughout the year. The park offers 39 acres of sandy beaches on which you can relax and sunbathe, or take part in more active endeavors.

East End

Rochester's East End neighborhood is one of the city's hottest nightlife districts, with two blocks of bars and restaurants drawing in crowds of 20-somethings on Friday and Saturday nights.

South Wedge

The South Wedge district is home to Rochester's artistic crowd, with a selection of bars and nightlife for the more eclectic tastes. The close-knit community is home to some of Rochester's oldest homes, green spaces, and a large selection of restaurants and bars.

Where to Go Shopping

Welcome to Rochester sign
Welcome to Rochester

The Rochester area offers a lot of shopping opportunities too, including boutique and specialty shops along the Erie Canal and a great selection of shops, cafes, restaurants, and parks in "The Avenues" districts (Park, Monroe, and University Avenues). For the antique lover, a guide to more than 60 antique shops in the area is available from the Greater Rochester Visitors Association.

Shopping Malls

Popular shopping malls in the suburban Rochester area include the Eastview Mall in Victor, the Marketplace Mall in Henrietta, Pittsford Plaza in Pittsford, and the Mall at Greece Ridge in Greece. There is also a large outlet center with over 100 stores at Waterloo Premium Outlets, just east of the city.

City of Rochester Public Market

Alongside the more traditional shopping malls, Rochester also has the City of Rochester Public Market. The popular public market, over 100 years old, is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, with a variety of vendors selling fresh produce, flowers and other specialty items. There are also prepared food offerings from local food vendors.

Returning to the Forefront

While a few years back, it may have seemed that Rochester may have seen its best days, today, there is a new Renaissance in the city. With plenty of attractions for all ages as well as the nearby attractions of the Finger Lakes, Rochester offers something for all types of visitors.

Things to Do in Rochester, New York