From pretty to paranormal, autumn in Rochester, New York has no shortage of unique seasonal activities! Scenic train rides, leaf-peeping in our arboretums, fall bird migrations and ghost walks happen only in autumn so take advantage of them while you can!
1. Observe changing foliage
Pick a place with tree-diversity—it may even be your own neighborhood. Observe the autumn changes once a week, maybe on your way home from work or on Sunday mornings. I have a few favorite places I like to frequent in the fall because of their dramatic displays.
2. Witness the autumn migration
Massive migrations of waterfowl, wading birds and raptors come back through New York on their way south toward open waters. These areas around Rochester are dedicated to giving them safe harbor to eat and to rest. Bring your binoculars!
3. Take a drive
You don’t have to be in the Catskills or Adirondacks to find an inspiring view. Pick any slow-road leading out of Rochester and just drive!
- County Road 21, or 12, or 33, or 36 into Naples. Stop at the “jump off” in Ontario County Park, Harriet Hollister or Bristol Mountain along the way.
- Lake Ontario Seaway Trail east to Oswego, or west to Olcott
- Route 96 to Seneca Falls and Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge
- Route 20 east to Skaneateles or Lafayette or Cazenovia
- Route 98 to Salamanca and Little Rock City
- Route 20A west to East Aurora
- Route 19 to Rushford Lake
- Route 15-15A loop around Hemlock Lake
- Drive through Letchworth, Mt. Morris to the Glen Iris Inn
- Seriously, I could keep going!
4. Take a hike
A walk anywhere in a park or forest, along a lake shore or your own neighborhood is satiating enough! I love a combination of tree-diversity, water elements, moments of canopy and vista, and a bench to take it all in. Try these!
You really can’t go wrong picking any of these trails.
- 8 Gorge Trails to Hike Before Winter
- 20 Monroe County Parks
- 45 Trails Around Rochester that are Not Just a Walk in the Park
- 47 New York State Parks within a 2-hour Drive
5. Ride the rails on a scenic train
These fall foliage trains around Rochester are a unique way to enjoy the season!
- Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad (Rush)
- New York Museum of Transportation Trolley Rides (Rush)
- Medina Railroad
- Arcade-Attica Railroad
Adirondack Scenic Railroad is an ambitious day trip, but enjoyable nonetheless!
It is a 2-hour drive to Utica’s Union Station, or a 2.5-hour Amtrak ride if you’d rather sit back and enjoy the scenery. The round trip on Amtrak gives you time for dinner in Utica. Grab an Uber to Nail Creek Pub, Swift’s Restaurant & Pub, or walk down to The Tailor and The Cook or Oyster Blue Restaurant & Oyster Bar.
- Rochester to Utica train (8:36am – 10:51am) There is an earlier one too if this cuts it too close for you.
- The Fall Foliage “No-Layover” Trip Itinerary:
Depart Utica – 11:30am
Arrive in Thendara – 1:30pm
Depart Thendara – 2:15pm
Arrive Utica – 4:30pm
- Utica to Rochester train (8:48pm – 11:09pm)
These would probably require an overnight unless you’re feeling ambitious! I’d also recommend them more in September when the mountain regions are nearing peak foliage change.
- Amtrak’s Adirondack Great Dome Train (Albany to Montreal)
- Catskill Mountain Railroad (Kingston)
- Delaware & Ulster Railroad (Arkville/Catskills)
6. Follow the river
Spend time along the Genesee River on its course through the City of Rochester.
- Turning Point Park
- Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse
- Genesee Valley Park
- Seneca Park
- Maplewood Park & Lower Falls
- River Romance Weekend
- Take Guided Hike with the Lower Falls Foundation and learn about Rochester’s history and the importance of the river to our beginnings.
7. Get above the canopy
There is nothing like leaf-peeping from above the tree line!
8. Take a ghost tour
Ghosts are active all year long, but there is something about October that peeks our interest in the paranormal. From storytelling to investigating, these tours help to explore “the other side” of Rochester.
- Landmark Society’s Ghost Walk
- Cobblestone Museum Ghost Walk
- Rolling Hills Asylum Ghost Hunting
- Rochester Candlelight Ghost Walks
- Events around NYS along the “Haunted History Trail“
9. Or a haunted hayride
These may scare you more than the ghost tours!
10. Fun on the farm
Grab some cider & donuts, get lost in a corn maze, and pick your favorite pumpkin on family farms around Rochester.