Every year there are dozens of opportunities around Rochester to walk through grand and historic homes, and meticulously manicured garden spaces. Some are inspiring and insightful tours lead by passionate guides; others are self-guided. And while some tours happen only once a year, many are open year round for you to explore at your leisure.
The time-frames we have listed below are general. Check each website for their specific dates. It’s early in the year, and many still have their 2017 dates listed but that’s OK! For now let this be your inspiration for good things to come. Check back each month for updates.
Tours Held on Specific Dates
These tours offer a glimpse into how Rochester’s past is enhanced by modern culture, architecture and technology. Expert volunteers are available in each home to tell its story and answer any questions. Tours take place typically in early-June and have included:
- A Grand Boulevard: The Western End of East Avenue (Arnold Park, Prince Street, and Strathallan Park)
- East Avenue and East Boulevard area
- Highland Ave and Cobbs Hill Neighborhood
- Mt. Hope and Highland Neighborhood
- Park Ave Neighborhood (including Westminster and Canterbury Roads)
2. Parkside Garden & Architecture Tour Buffalo
Tour the local gardens nestled between the beautiful homes of the Parkside neighborhood, the suburb designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1870. More than 50 gardens will be open to visitors in late-June—from formal to quirky, edible to elaborate. There will be free admission to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Darwin Martin House conservatory and gardens only, along with garden-related talks and special activities throughout the day by Master Gardeners and the Darwin Martin House Horticulturalist Nellie Gardner. A garden map with a directory is available for $5. The tour is self-guided.
3. Tour of Open Gardens Buffalo
On Thursdays in July, you can visit gardens, for select hours, in Hamburg, Orchard Park, Boston, Amherst, Cheektowaga, Williamsville, Kenmore, Snyder, Tonawanda, Lancaster, Townline/Alden and Buffalo’s Delaware District, Elmwood Village, Allentown, and Parkside neighborhoods. Just pick up a Tours of Open Gardens and Garden Events Guide (for only a $5 donation!).
We made it easy to plan your day, with a map showing the gardens, and suggested routes to see them all. Be sure to check the open hours for each garden. You’ll have eight days to visit (or re-visit!) the gardens throughout the month. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more unique garden tour at this price!
4. Lockport in Bloom Twilight Tour
Lockport rose from the banks of the Erie Canal, which is a marvel of engineering. Rich, fertile soil makes it an ideal place to garden. This tour includes more than 35 gardens of many types, from small city plots to large park-like spaces. The city offers an inviting variety of unique specialty shops, antiques, and restaurants. Pay a visit to the Erie Canal Discovery Center and tour the Lockport Caves. Cruise the canal on a Lockport Locks & Erie Canal tour and visit local wineries. Saturdays throughout the summer, visit the Lockport Farmer’s Market located along the upper canal in downtown Lockport. Tour in mid-July is fee and self-guided.
In mid-July each year, experience beautiful residential gardens in the Rochester area. Proceeds benefit the Rochester Museum & Science Center.
Explore unique gardens around Rochester each year in late-July. You will receive a beautiful guidebook with detailed directions to each garden, photos, and stories written by the gardeners themselves. Past tour locations include:
- Gardens in Brighton, Rochester, The South Wedge, and Chili
- 7 gardens in Brighton, Penfield, Fairport and Webster
- Gardens in Rochester, Brighton, and Penfield that focus on gardening in harmony with nature and wildlife
Don’t miss America’s largest garden tour! Since 1995, Garden Walk Buffalo has been a destination for garden lovers throughout Western New York and Southern Ontario–and abroad. Held annually on the last weekend of July, Garden Walk has become one of Western New York’s most anticipated summer happenings. Tens of thousands of visitors flock to Buffalo’s West Side to tour more than 400 residential gardens as well as many community and public gardens.
A free step-on/step-off shuttle service is available throughout the Walk. This tour in late-July is free and self-guided. No tickets required. 400-plus creative urban gardens, and some of the friendliest gardeners you’ll ever meet!
A day of visual delights as Maplewood swings open the doors in early-September to several beautiful and architecturally unique homes in the historic Maplewood district.
You’ll visit historic homes, churches, plus the W-PHS museum and Gates Hall in early-September. On the morning of the tour, pick up your booklet which will serve as your passport for visiting all the tour stops.
Get up close and personal in mid-September with cobblestone architecture in this self-drive tour of area cobblestone homes, schools and businesses. Many indoor tours, too. They also have a Holiday Tour of Homes in early-December.
The Inside Downtown Tour opens up urban environments where folks are creating exciting spaces to live and work. We visit re-purposed spaces, renovated homes, lovingly preserved places, and newly built sites that are designed with sensitivity to the overall built environment. Typically held in late-September, these tours have included:
- The Saint Paul Quarter
- Washington Square
- East Avenue and East Main Street Penthouses & Rooftops
- Cascade District
- Neighborhood of the Arts
Celebrate in style and see the latest holiday-inspired decor in early-December. Each home will feature Christmas tablescapes, offering more innovative entertaining ideas. When you have finished the home tour, visit our many shops and restaurants. Celebrate Christmas in the Village of Lewiston the old fashioned way with complimentary carriage rides, shopping, carolers, a Santa promenade down Center Street, outdoor entertainment and refreshments served by our Lewiston Businesses.
This tour is held in early-December each year. Entertaining tour guides will lead small groups through the neighborhood to the homes that have been selected especially for this tour.
Ongoing or Periodic Home and Garden Tours
14. Ellwanger Garden
A Victorian style English garden with an extensive collection of peonies and other plantings. Originally the private garden of famed 19th-century horticulturist George Ellwanger. The estate is an active bed & breakfast so public access to the garden is limited to special events, such as the Lilac Festival weekends in May and Peony Weekend in June.
The house is the oldest standing structure in Monroe County and maintained by The Landmark Society as a historic house museum. Interpreters recreate the private and public activities of a household and frontier tavern in Brighton, NY between 1790 and 1820. Open April-December; Friday and Saturday, 12-3pm.
This was the home of the legendary American civil rights leader during the 40 most politically active years of her life, and the site of her famous arrest for voting in 1872. This home was the headquarters of the National American Woman Suffrage Association when she was its president.
The mansion and surrounding gardens of the George Eastman Museum have so many details to discover; each season uniquely spectacular. The grounds are free to explore, but do go inside! The museum is a beautiful tribute to the life & legacy of George Eastman, and is the world’s oldest photography museum with one of the oldest film archives.
The 50-acre estate is one of just two public gardens in the New York State Parks system. A serene respite just blocks away from downtown Canandaigua, Sonnenberg is a gift to the community from Frederick Ferris and Mary Clark Thompson. From this article by Garden Destinations, “But here’s a tip from the Sonnenberg Gardens’ executive director David Hutchings – head straight to the Alpine Garden. That’s where you will find a hydrangea vine planted in 1915 that continues to blossom rich blue hues throughout July and August. Surrounded by ferns, wildflowers and a selection of pine trees, the five-acre Alpine Garden is one of Hutchings’ favorites.”
19. Linwood Gardens
Linwood Gardens offers several opportunities to enjoy their beautiful estate. The Tree Peony Festival of Flowers is held over several weekends from late-May through early-June, and they have open gardens days that are posted as the season gets closer; pre-registration is required. Consider becoming a Friend of Linwood Gardens for additional tour opportunities such as an autumn walk and summer house tour.
The Harriet Tubman Residence, Harriet Tubman Home for the Elderly and the AME Zion Church are National Historic Landmarks.
The historic home of William Henry Seward and his family. Serving as a New York State Senator, Governor of New York, a U.S. Senator, and as Secretary of State in the Lincoln and Johnson administrations, Seward was one of the foremost politicians of nineteenth century America. A guided tour is the only way to see the Museum. Enjoy masterpieces of American art and special exhibitions in both the historic house and the museum’s gardens.
Once a working farm, the house and surrounding grounds are now open seasonally for guided tours. Built in 1839, the elegant Greek Revival house was the center of a busy and productive farm. The tour focuses on the Swan family, who lived in the house from 1850-1890.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the women’s rights movement’s most important figures, asserted that her experiences in this Seneca Falls house induced her to become an advocate of women’s rights.
Listen to stories of the four generations of Grangers, who lived in this magnificent home from 1816-1930. Docents have wonderful stories and anecdotes to share about the family and the history of the mansion and carriage barn.
The home features six period rooms furnished with an eclectic mix of the Oliver’s belongings and the collections of the Historical Society. Guided tours are available, or folks can explore the rooms on their own if they prefer.
Experience the splendor of the late 19th century at the 1890 House Museum in downtown Cortland, New York. This grand limestone mansion, built by successful industrialist Chester F. Wickwire, is a symbol of the grandeur of the Victorian and Gilded ages.
Clara Barton founded the first Chapter of the American Red Cross in Dansville, NY in 1881. Today, her legacy is honored through a beautiful home on Elizabeth Street which functions as a meeting space, and a museum of Red Cross history. Tours are available by appointment only.
All summer long the Genesee Country Village and Museum hosts themed events on the weekends like Highland Days, Civil War Days, and a Fiddlers Fair. In the spring, it’s all about Maple Syrup, in the fall, Trick-or-Treating in the village. In December, it’s Yuletide in the Country which is a fantastic way to get into the holiday spirit while learning about Christmases past–how, where and when today’s traditions began. During the weekdays in the summer, it’s business as usual; a quiet time to enjoy the village.
Tour historical homes, a rural church and one-room schoolhouses from the Buffalo Niagara region. Interact with costumed interpreters who show you what life was like in the 19th century.
Between 1871 and 1889 Mark Twain and his family spent their summers at Quarry Farm in Elmira. For many summers, Twain spent his days writing in his octagonal study built in 1874. It was where he worked on Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, The Prince and the Pauper and other notable works. Guests can visit the Mark Twain Study on the campus of Elmira College, as well as other Twain sites around town, including his gravesite at Woodlawn Cemetery.
America’s 32nd president, Roosevelt’s estate in Hyde Park is a National Historic Site protected by the National Park Service and open to the public. The Springwood estate, as it is also known, was constructed in 1800. President Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, as well as his beloved dogs, are interred in the rose garden. The estate is also home to the Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, the first presidential library ever created.
32. Graycliff Estate
Tours during June, July, August, weekends in September and October and Thanksgiving weekend often sell out; purchase your tickets early to ensure you can visit Graycliff. There is no admittance to the historic buildings or grounds except on a docent-led tour.
The grounds at MacKenzie-Childs headquarters in Aurora are open to the public. They offer free, guided Second-Empire Farmhouse tours throughout the day.
Note: Descriptions are from each website