Mendon Ponds winter Chickadee cover

Child-Sized Fun During the Holiday School Break

This guide offers a variety of fun activities for you and the kids to enjoy around Rochester during the holiday school break. From visiting museums and restaurants to going ice skating or hiking, there are plenty of ideas for spending time indoors and out.

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Day Trips Around Rochester, New York

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Enjoy Staying Warm Indoors

Lamberton Conservatory holiday cacti
Lamberton Conservatory

Lamberton Conservatory

Take a break and unwind in the Lord and Burnham glasshouse filled with exotic, desert, and economy plants, including banana trees. Enjoy the warm, tropical temperatures and the soothing sounds of running water. Find turtles lounging by koi ponds and small quail and tortoises wandering around.

The theme of the Seasonal Display Room changes five times throughout the year, with the beloved Holiday Show in December. During this time, the conservatory is open on Friday and Sunday evenings to fully appreciate the beautiful festive lights.

The Lamberton Conservatory Holiday Show runs from the first weekend in December through the second weekend in January, ending Sunday, January 15, 2023.

pinball silverball saloon
Strong Museum

Hands-On Activities

Rochester Museum Science Center
RMSC Laser

Rochester Museum & Science Center

The RMSC city campus, featuring the three-story Science Museum and the Strasenburgh Planetarium, is the perfect place to spend a day during the holiday school break.

In the Science Museum, you’ll interact with immersive installations like At The Western Door, Rochester’s Underground Railroad, Science on a Sphere, Expedition Earth, Adventure Zone, and new and innovative exhibits that make every visit unique. Don’t miss the two singing Tesla Coils in the Electricity Theater, where audience members can volunteer to stand inside a Faraday Cage while the coils sing a duet with lightning.

The Strasenburgh Planetarium offers a state-of-the-art view of our solar system and the visible universe using near-real-time data. The lounge chairs in the planetarium are not fixed to the floor, making the space accessible for wheelchairs and strollers.

The planetarium also features multiple showtimes for the Holiday Laser show during the holiday school break week. Be sure to get your tickets ahead of time for this popular annual event. 

Escape winter: Strong Museum of Play Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden landed on wrist
Strong Museum

The Strong National Museum of Play

The Strong houses the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of historical materials related to play. Besides its fascinating interactive exhibits, the museum also has a kid-sized Wegmans grocery store, historic pinball and arcade games, and a ropes course above the Skyline Diner.

The museum also houses the National Toy Hall of Fame, World Video Game Hall of Fame, and various collections from Margaret Woodbury Strong, ensuring that there is plenty to see and do for an entire day.

For those looking to escape the cold weather, the Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden offers a beautiful rainforest environment. It is the only year-round indoor butterfly garden in upstate New York.

Edgerton Model Railroad autumn display
Autumn Scene – Edgerton Model Railroad

Edgerton Model Railroad Room

If you’re a fan of transportation heritage and Rochester history, you’ll love visiting the detailed model railroad room. Each of the four season-themed layouts showcases a different story from the 1950s, featuring operating model trains touring throughout the scene.

You can explore the intricate details of each display during open house layout tours held on the last Saturday of each month and during special hours on Tuesday, December 27, and Thursday, December 29, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

ARTISANworks lips
ARTISANworks

ARTISANworks

ARTISANworks is a unique and immersive experience that challenges the senses and defies conventional boundaries. From the moment you enter, you will be transported into a world of vibrant color and intricate design. From the original works of Picasso and Warhol to the artist studios that showcase the creative process in action, this is a space where art lives.

Explore the 360-degree canvas and discover hidden gems that will surprise, inspire, and sometimes shock you. Whether you are a seasoned art aficionado or simply looking for something new and exciting, ARTISANworks promises to be a truly unforgettable experience during the holiday school break.

corning museum of glass show
Corning Museum of Glass

Take a Short Roadtrip During the Holiday School Break

There are excellent children’s museums in nearby cities that are worth the drive to explore.

Nenos Gourmet Mexican Street Food 642 Monroe Ave Rochester, NY
Nenos Gourmet Mexican Street Food sit down at 642 Monroe Ave Rochester, NY

Family-Friendly Restaurants, Cafes, and Breweries

I asked the Day Trips Around Rochester, NY community this question presented to me by a new Rochesterian: “Do you know of any Rochester-area restaurants that are great for date night and kid friendly but not kid centric? A place that has a nice atmosphere, diverse menu, and maybe offers a play space or something interesting or entertaining for the kids?”

I also received a question about where to take kids starting from a young age to experience varied cuisines.

Take a look at what the community suggested!

Irondequoit Library
Irondequoit Public Library

Monroe County Libraries

Visit a couple of the thirty-one libraries in the Monroe County Library System during the holiday school break. Each one offers unique amenities and is in a different neighborhood, providing plenty of opportunities for exploration. Did you know that some of our libraries have reading rooms with fireplaces?

Enjoy Winter Break Outdoors

Rochester-Area Day Trip: Mendon Ponds Park Monroe County Sledding snow sports
Mendon Ponds

Snow Sports

Snow sports and other outdoor activities are a great way to shake the winter doldrums with exposure to fresh air, exercise, and sunshine. For some great sledding hills, try Mendon Ponds Park, Black Creek Park, Ellison Park, or Cobb’s Hill Park.

Seneca Park Zoo winter tiger
Seneca Park Zoo

Seneca Park Zoo

The Seneca Park Zoo is open all year. And while many animals prefer to stay comfy-cozy inside or in a den, some species, such as polar bears and Amur tigers, enjoy the long, cold Rochester winters.

Mendon Ponds Park birdsong trail
Mendon Ponds Park

Feed the Birds

The most popular walk among bird lovers and families in Mendon Ponds Park is the Birdsong Fairy Trail, near the nature center. With a broad, dirt pathway and slight elevation change, this trail provides an easy way to explore a forest full of woodland creatures, ideal for a multi-generational nature walk.

Wandering counterclockwise along the path, search for over forty colorful fairy homes and play spaces.

When food is scarce in winter and early spring, head clockwise on the trail with a handful of black oil sunflower seeds, so chickadees, nuthatches, and tufted titmice can eat them directly from your hand.

Seneca Park Zoo winter pathway
Seneca Park Zoo

Walk in a Winter Wonderland

These winter walks in Monroe County will inspire you to spend more time outside, breathing in cold, fresh air, and soaking up a little sun.

Letchworth Humphrey Nature Center fire pit winter
Humphrey Nature Center

Nature Centers

Visitors can enjoy an interpretive center that is easily accessible and offers interactive educational opportunities about the environment. They can either explore on their own or take part in guided walks and other events. Our various nature centers, wildlife preserves, and management areas in New York State all work to protect and maintain natural spaces for the benefit of all.

icy upper falls winter letchworth
Letchworth

Roadside Waterfalls

Impressive waterfalls are not all buried in dark ravines reached only by challenging trails. These waterfalls can be viewed from the road, parking area, or a short walk on a pathway. And they take on new personalities in winter.

What are your favorite holiday school break activities?

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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