explore visit rochester new york

Explore Rochester

Rochester is a vibrant and diverse city in the heart of the Finger Lakes region. With a population of over 200,000, it is the fourth-largest city in New York State and home to several world-renowned institutions and attractions.

A perfect day in Rochester would involve visiting one of the city’s engaging museums, spending time in its exceptional parks, and seeing both High Falls and Lake Ontario. Enjoy fantastic food and drinks, and consider rounding out the day with an evening at a theater, baseball game, festival, or concert.

Best of Rochester - Day Trips Around Rochester book

Day Trips Around Rochester, New York

Plan Your Day Trip in the City of Rochester

Rochester Public Market
Public Market

Breakfast

Begin your day in the East End with a satisfying breakfast at Jim’s on Main, Jines, The Mad Hatter, or Locals Only.

If you’re visiting on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday, spend an hour at the Rochester Public Market and grab something light from Zimmerman’s, Best Coffee at the Market, The Chai Guy, Flour City Bread, and Duke’s Donuts.

Memorial Art Gallery
Memorial Art Gallery

Morning

Choose one of Rochester’s excellent museums to spend a few hours. The little ones will love The Strong National Museum of Play. Young scientists will appreciate the Rochester Museum and Science Center. Budding photographers and history buffs will enjoy exploring the George Eastman Museum. And art enthusiasts should see the Memorial Art Gallery. If you’re in the mood to search for local treasure, each museum offers a delightful gift shop, plus Parkleigh on Park Avenue and Craft Company No.6 on University Avenue are both nearby.

Nenos Gourmet Mexican Street Food 642 Monroe Ave Rochester, NY
Nenos Gourmet Mexican Street Food

Lunch

On Monroe Avenue, there are many places to grab lunch, such as Dogtown, Voula’s Greek Sweets, Cedar, Han Noodle Bar, Neno’s Gourmet Mexican Street Food, and Aladdin’s Natural Eatery.

After lunch, take some time to browse the shops at Archimage and Aaron’s Alley.

Cobbs Hill October
Cobbs Hill

Afternoon

Drive up to Cobb’s Hill Reservoir to capture the picturesque view of Rochester’s skyline peering out above the treetops.

Afterward, continue exploring the Pinnace Range with a walk through Highland Park and a leisurely drive through Mount Hope Cemetery.

As you head north through the city, stop into Genesee Brew House, one of the oldest and largest operating breweries in the United States, and marvel at Rochester’s impressive 96-foot urban waterfall.

Take an hour to explore Seneca Park Zoo, and if the ZooTram is operating, hop on for a ride back to your car.

Alternatively, Rochester is home to a dozen excellent craft breweries you can choose from to taste your way around the city. In addition to Genesee Brewing, you’ll enjoy Rohrbach, Swiftwater, Three Heads, Heroes, Strangebird, Iron Tug, Sager, Nine Maidens, Nine Spot, and Fifth Frame.

Hose 22
Hose 22

Dinner

Drive to Charlotte and choose from Hose 22 Firehouse Grill, California Rollin’ II Sushi, Pelican’s Nest, Mr. Dominic’s, Windjammers, or Whiskey River Pub and Grill for dinner by Lake Ontario.

Red Wings Stadium
Red Wings Stadium

Evening

Enjoy a sunset stroll down the pier with an Abbott’s Frozen Custard.

Alternatively, plan your night around a live performance at the Auditorium Theatre, Geva Theatre, or Blackfriars Theatre, or the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra at Eastman Theatre.

You could also catch a movie at The Little Theatre or Dryden Theatre, laugh out loud at Comedy @ The Carlson, attend a Red Wings baseball game, enjoy bowling at Radio Social, or watch an Amerks hockey game.

Signature Events

George Eastman Museum Dutch Connection 3
Dutch Connection

George Eastman Museum Dutch Connection

February

Experience the beauty and fragrance of the mansion’s numerous tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and other flowering bulbs. This colorful display is a welcome contrast to the monotony of winter.

Lake Ontario Polar Plunge
Lake Ontario Polar Plunge

Rochester Polar Plunge

February

The Rochester Polar Plunge is thrilling, even if you’re not participating. The party-like atmosphere is a great way to shake off winter’s blues. What’s the reason for freezin’? The funds raised from the plunge are used to support the programs and services of Special Olympics New York.

Events around Rochester - St Patricks Day Parade
St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Main Street

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

March

The annual parade attracts tens of thousands of people downtown. Starting at 12:30 p.m. at the intersection of East Avenue and Alexander Street, the parade proceeds down East Avenue, turning left onto Main Street and crossing the Genesee River before ending near State Street. The parade route offers excellent views, but note that East Avenue is lined with bars, which may or may not be appealing. My favorite spot is near the Convention Center, where I can enjoy the river and the view of Main Street.

Rochester Lilac Festival concert
Rochester Lilac Festival

Lilac Festival

May

The Lilac Festival is a ten-day event that features free concerts, art shows, tastings, footraces, and parades. The lilacs in Highland Park usually bloom by mid-May, but the exact timing varies depending on the weather.

Jazz Fest free outdoor concerts
Jazz Fest

Rochester International Jazz Fest

June

Spend hours enjoying exceptional music at the Rochester International Jazz Festival, with many free performances. This nine-day event attracts musicians and attendees from all over the world to Rochester.

Corn Hill Festival
Corn Hill Festival

Corn Hill Arts Festival

July

Avery Mall (Park) serves as the official shuttle stop for the popular weekend-long art and music festival held in Corn Hill, Rochester’s oldest residential neighborhood.

Clothesline Art Festival

September

The Memorial Art Gallery hosts this renowned two-day arts festival; museum admission is included in the gate fee.

Fringe Fest Crystal Palace
Fringe Fest Crystal Palace

Rochester Fringe Festival

September

This 12-day festival offers a wide range of entertaining performances. Centered in Rochester’s East End, the festival includes popular attractions such as the Spiegelgarden, Spiegeltent, Pedestrian Drive-In, and major weekend events. There’s a mix of free and ticketed shows offered across multiple venues. The Fringe team produces half the events, while each venue selects the other half.

Guide Walk High Falls
Guide Walk to High Falls

ROC the Riverway Weekend

October

The city sponsors various activities, including guided hikes, bike rides, and paddles, as well as events focused on the Genesee. While some activities may require a fee, most are free to attend. ROC the Riverway Weekend, which takes place on the first weekend of October, celebrates the river and life along its banks. Various locations.

George Eastman Museum gingerbread cottage
GEM

Holidays at the George Eastman Museum

November

The GEM is a beautiful place to experience the joy of the holiday season. In addition to the delightful Sweet Creations gingerbread houses, wreaths, and tabletop Christmas tree displays, the Dryden Theatre offers a wide selection of festive films.

planetarium holiday laser
Holiday Laser

Holidays at the Rochester Museum and Science Center

November-December

The Strasenburgh Planetarium at the RMSC presents Saturday night laser shows throughout the year featuring innovative technology. In November, the Holiday Laser show opens with multiple showtimes available for the season. Be sure to get your tickets for this popular annual event in advance. Admission fee.

ROC Holiday Village ice skating building
Roc Holiday Village

Roc Holiday Village

December

The festivities kick off on the first Saturday of December with the Main Street Liberty Pole lighting and a Santa-led procession to Roc Holiday Village. In the heart of downtown, the charming village offers a range of free holiday-themed activities and events for the community, including ice skating, live music, and a visit with Santa Claus. Visitors can also take advantage of shopping and dining in the village.

Rochester Public Market horse-drawn carriage rides
Holidays at the Market

Holidays at the Rochester Public Market

December

This delightful holiday tradition showcases vendors offering fresh trees, wreaths, decorations, specialty foods and drinks, handcrafted items, and more. You can enjoy music, carriage rides, and even see Santa on select Sundays.

Lamberton Conservatory holiday show path
Lamberton Conservatory

Holiday Show at Lamberton Conservatory

December

Enjoy evening hours on Friday and Sunday nights until 9 p.m. to appreciate the holiday lights after dark. The show begins on the first Friday in December and continues through the second weekend in January. Note that Saturday evenings are reserved for weddings. Admission fee.

Genesee Brew House Holiday Lights Keg Tree
Genesee Keg Tree Lighting

Keg Tree Lighting at Genesee Brew House

December

The first Friday evening in December marks the start of the holiday season, lighting a towering three-story keg tree comprising over 500 kegs. Visitors can admire the tree’s 30,000 lights synchronized to holiday music throughout the month.

Edgerton Model Railroad winter display
Winter

Edgerton Model Railroad

December

The Edgerton Model Railroad is open for additional hours and offers free tours of its four season-themed model train layouts.

Google Map of Locations

View the map separately here.

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My Favorite Books About the Rochester Area

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Give the Gift of Rochester! 5 City Shops that Celebrate Regional Novelties

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Unplugged and Offline: Take the Day Trips Around Rochester, New York, Guidebook on the Road

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Rochester’s Cultural Heritage

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Highland Park in Rochester

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High Falls on the Genesee River

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Your Rochester Date Guide for Spending Quality Time Together, Day or Night

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More About Rochester, NY

Rochester, New York, is a vibrant and diverse city in the heart of the Finger Lakes region. With a population of over 200,000, Rochester is the fourth-largest city in the state, home to several world-renowned institutions and attractions.

Rochester was recently included in a list of 23 of the best places you should travel to in the US in 2023 by Insider. Specifically, they note that Rochester “deserves a spot on this list because the city will host the 2023 PGA Championship” May 15 – 21, 2023, at Oak Hill Country Club. In 2023, the Strong National Museum of Play will also complete its 90,000-square-foot expansion.

One of Rochester’s most widely known attractions is the Strong National Museum of Play, which houses a collection of more than 100,000 toys and games and an interactive children’s museum. The museum is a must-see for families and is a great way to learn about the history of play and entertainment.

Rochester is also home to the University of Rochester, a prestigious institution that offers a wide range of academic programs and research opportunities, and Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

In addition to its educational and cultural institutions, Rochester is an excellent destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The city is surrounded by beautiful parks and green spaces, including the Genesee Riverway Trail, which offers miles of hiking and biking paths. The nearby Finger Lakes region is also popular for boating, fishing, and other outdoor activities.

Rochester’s thriving arts and culture scene is another reason to visit the city. The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, one of the oldest orchestras in the country, performs regularly at the Eastman Theater, and the city is home to many galleries, theaters, and performance spaces.

Overall, Rochester is a vibrant and exciting city with something for everyone. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or outdoor activities, Rochester always has something to see and do.

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What does your ideal day in the city of Rochester include?

Your insights and experiences are valuable. Please share them in the comments.

Debi Bower, Day Trips Around Rochester NY

Debi Bower is the founder and creative director of daytrippingroc.com and author of the award-winning book Day Trips Around Rochester, New York.

People often ask me if I get free access to places while exploring. The answer is no unless I’m invited to previews or granted behind-the-scenes access as part of my media role. Generally, I don’t mention my project, Day Trips Around Rochester, NY, because I want the same experience you would have. I create and share content simply because it brings me joy. I would appreciate your support—a cup of coffee or two to help fuel future field trips—if you have found valuable information here that has helped you explore the Rochester area.

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