Rochester day trip idea: Sailplane glider at Harris Hill

43 Rochester Day Trip Ideas for 2018

While there are many excellent First Day Hike opportunities for January 1, 2018, I draw the line for spending time outside at single-digit temperatures. There will even be a full Wolf Moon, which would be great for a First Night Full Moon Hike looking for Super-Moon-dogs! Instead, I’ll enjoy the warmth of the fireplace while daydreaming about Rochester day trip ideas for this year.

I have not been everywhere but it is on my list

First, a quick look back at 2017

We enjoyed so many extraordinary day trips around Rochester, the Finger Lakes, and Western New York in 2017! These are a few of my favorite destinations.

Rochester Day Trip Ideas: MacKenzie Childs

I spent a few hours between Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge and MacKenzie-Childs on the way to the Catskills (take the slow roads!) If Kingston qualified as a day trip I’d love to tell you all about our state’s first capitol city.

Rochester Day Trip Ideas: Cascadilla Gorge
Cascadilla Gorge in Ithaca

In Ithaca, my daughter and I decided to spend a few nights to take in more activities like hiking through Cascadilla Gorge and Taughannock Falls, exploring Cornell Botanic Gardens, and traveling through geologic time at the Museum of the Earth.

Rochester Day Trip Ideas: Bully Hill Vineyards on Keuka Lake
Bully Hill Vineyards on Keuka Lake

Both girls and I circumnavigated Keuka Lake, stopping at wineries with scenic lake views and dipping down toward Watkins Glen for a tour of Farm Sanctuary.

Rochester Day Trip Ideas: Webster Arboretum
Webster Arboretum at Kent Park

We visited Webster Arboretum and MacKay Wildlife Preserve for the first time, and Highland Park and Letchworth State Park for the millionth!

47 New York State Parks
Within a 2-Hour Drive

And now, our Rochester day trip ideas for 2018!

This is my inspiration list for the new year. Some are places I’ve never been. Others are places I want to revisit with greater depth. And all are part of a “Rochester day trip ideas”  list that’s a mile long, with miles to go before I sleep. 

Step out of your comfort zones and soar.

My number one day trip idea for this year is to take a ride in a sailplane at Harris Hill.

This has been on my list for years! I could imagine it’s pretty popular in the late autumn for a unique leaf-peeping experience. When I go, I plan to take their advice and show up early, call ahead, and check their onsite weather station and webcam. I’d also make a plan-B just in case it’s a no-go. There’s plenty to do around the Chemung Valley, and it’s just 30 minutes south of Watkins Glen and Montour Falls, and an hour south-west of Ithaca.

From the Harris Hill National Soaring Museum website, “Harris Hill Soaring Corporation offers rides 10 am to 6 pm on weekends from April through October; from late June through August it operates seven days a week. The glider ride certificates are good for 2 years and rides are given on a first-come, first-served basis. Please call ahead on the day you wish to fly; the sport of soaring is very weather-dependent. Therefore, not every day is a good soaring day. The ride lasts approximately 15-20 minutes, not including prep time. Be sure to bring your camera to capture the experience!”

Day Trips from Rochester still to do in 2018:

  1. Harris Hill Sailplane Rides
  2. Green Lakes
  3. Knox Farm
  4. Onanda Park
  5. Keuka Outlet Trail
  6. Robert H. Treman
  7. Skaneateles Lake Mail Boat
  8. Fort Ontario
  9. Lewiston, NY
  10. East Aurora, NY
  11. Holland Land Office Museum
  12. Cobblestone Museum
  13. Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village
  14. Hidden Valley Animal Adventure
  15. Buffalo Botanical Gardens
  16. Forest Lawn Cemetery
  17. Niagara Power Vista
  18. Chittenango Falls
  19. New York State Fair
  20. Corning’s Gaffer District
  21. Griffis Sculpture Park
  22. Nannen Arboretum
  23. Midway
  24. Panama Rocks
  25. Letchworth


  1. Taughannock Falls (in the winter)
  2. Helmer Nature Center
  3. Chimney Bluffs
  4. Holley Falls
  5. Powder Mills Park (in May, Daffodil Trail)
  6. Fairport, NY
  7. Sonnenberg Gardens
  8. Schoellkopf Geological Museum & Niagara Discovery Center
  9. Stony Brook
  10. Grimes Glen
  11. Whispering Pines
  12. Arcade & Attica Railroad
  13. Rolling Hills Asylum (didn’t take a tour-yet-but checked it off my Roadside Attractions list!)

Missed it! On the list for 2019 now

  1. Olcott, NY (in June, Mermaid Parade)
  2. Ganondagan Native American Dance & Music Festival
  3. Cartwright Maple Tree Inn (Feb-April only)
  4. Linwood Peony Festival
  5. Webster Arboretum (in spring)


31 Quirky Rochester-Area
Roadside Attractions

Where will your new year’s adventures take you?

Debi Bower

Born, raised and living life as a digital designer in Rochester, NY! I am also a day-tripper, writer & photographer, exploring the nooks and crannies that make our part of New York State so special.

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