Don’t let tight budgets stop you from adventuring! Enjoy these unique, fun and free things to do in Rochester. They’ll cost only gas and time—pack a zero-waste lunch and save even more!
Our top 12 day trip ideas will give you over 500 actual destinations, including hundreds of street art pieces throughout the area.
1. Hidden Places
We drive past some of Rochester’s most unique features every day, completely unaware that these 13 hidden places are just minutes away from where we work and live.
2. Roadside Waterfalls
These 34 roadside waterfalls are spectacular, and for some, you do not need to get out of your car. Impressive waterfalls are not all buried in ravines accessible only by difficult trails.
3. Monroe County Parks
Monroe County parks are free, so take advantage of 12,000 acres of natural, zoological, horticultural, historical and geological experiences!
4. Monroe County Libraries
We all know visiting libraries is free, and borrowing from libraries is free. But, they also have a V.I.P. pass that offers free admission and buy-one-get-one admission to select venues around Rochester.
Plus, you can borrow a NYS Empire Pass which gives you free entry into our New York State Parks.
5. Hiking Trails
Here are 77 less populated, rustic, or unusual trails around Rochester that will inspire you to take a hike. Explore this diverse collection of rail-trails, waterside trails, and inland trails.
6. Quirky Rochester-Area Roadside Attractions
Here are 41 unusual Finger Lakes, Western New York and Rochester-area roadside attractions. Pinpoint these on your map while exploring other free Rochester day trips!
7. Water Trails
Here are 58 places to explore Rochester’s waterways. Water trails can be formally marked routes along a navigable waterway, or simply any waterway suitable for canoes, kayaks, and small motorized watercraft.
8. Nature Preserves
Our 48 nature centers, wildlife preserves, management areas, etc., all serve to protect and sustain life, while making nature accessible to people to enjoy and learn from.
9. Cheap & Free Concerts
Free outdoor concerts around Rochester start ramping up in June, when the city and surrounding towns kick off their summer music series and festivals.
Check out these events sprinkled throughout Monroe County!
10. New York State Parks
These 49 NYS Parks are all within a 2-hour drive of Rochester, and are free off season; roughly November-April.
You can also visit many of them for free when you borrow an Empire Pass from a Monroe County Library.
11. Street Art
You could make a full week of free Rochester day trips by exploring hundreds of exceptional wall art designs by Wall\Therapy artists, Erie Canal Murals and more!
12: Culinary Trails and Self-Guided Tours
While the wine, beer, and food destinations will have fees for tastings, many of the self-guided tours are free—it’s just you and the open road!
Explore the back roads and city streets of Western New York, Southern Tier, Genesee Valley, and the Finger Lakes regions looking for Wells Barns, barn quilts, cobblestones, fairy doors, art studios, and remnants of our history.
Those are just our top 12 free things to do in Rochester!
There are more! Filter our day trips by our “free” tag to explore other ideas.
There are also places that charge an admission to explore inside the building, but it is free to explore the grounds, like the Memorial Art Gallery, The Strong National Museum of Play, George Eastman Museum, and the Rochester Museum & Science Center.
Rather than an escape, I prefer to think of these as transcending places that encourage us to transcend space, time, and state of mind.
Where are your favorite free Rochester day trips?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!