I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the unique and wonderful places I explored this year, most within two hours of Rochester, NY. Some of these day trips were with my husband, daughters, or friends. Others were solo-ventures—a leap out of my comfort zone into the wild unknown!
I hope this 2019 list helps inspire your 2020 adventures!
My 12 favorite day trips
These were the most special, each for their own reasons.
1. Wayne County
One of my favorite adventures this year was spending an entire day—from dawn to dusk—exploring all of Wayne County with my new friend, Bethany. She reached out through our Facebook page and offered to show me everything she loves about her home county.
Bethany took me through every village, showed me notable places, and hidden spaces on sketchy back roads where I began to question my bold trust of a person I’d never met! (Yes, I’m talking about you, River Road through Marengo Marsh.) And together we discovered a few places neither of us had been to before.
In 2020 I’ll return the favor by showing her all around Monroe County and the City of Rochester over multiple days. Thank you, Bethany, for being such a passionate tour guide!
2. Moss Lake
While doing research for our article, 39 Other Great Lakes Around Rochester, Moss Lake was a most delightful new discovery for me. I’d spent a few childhood days on Rushford Lake, but had not been aware of Moss Lake until a few years ago, and only visited for the first time this year.
It’s a National Natural Landmark, and the moss is fascinating. Several families I met there were visiting as part of an annual summertime pilgrimage. It seems to hold special meaning for people and I’m committed to going back in 2020 and spending time walking around the lake and over the boardwalk, which, at the time, was closed due to high water levels.
3. All 16 lift bridges over the Erie Canal
Ever since I found out there are only 20 lift bridges over the Erie Canal, and that 16 are between Fairport and Lockport, I’ve committed to seeing all of them. A beautiful Saturday came along and I decided that this was the day!
Of course, it wasn’t all about the bridges, as they are pretty similar. It was more about exploring the canal towns and cities that the Erie Canal brought to life in the 1800’s. There is a unique way of life between Rochester and Buffalo. I learned so much along back roads that follow the canal.
4. Finger Lakes Live Steamers Open House
I stumbled onto this Finger Lakes Live Steamers event in 2018 while doing research for our article about Rochester’s railroading history. I committed to actually attending the open house in 2019 and was so excited to see it in person! It was so popular I decided not to ride the trains (the lines were extraordinary!)
Rather, I spent the day wandering around, taking in the atmosphere and the displays throughout the property. People were so happy to be there, and it’s no wonder why. It’s a purely joyful time and it’s free!
5. Twilight Criterium
The Rochester Twilight Criterium was something I had only heard of on the news. But WOW was it worth seeing in person! It’s hard to describe what it looks like to see these internationally-renowned cyclists racing on Rochester’s city streets, cutting corners at intense speeds around our most historic buildings.
The walkways are strategically laid out so spectators can explore the entire course without having to cut through it. There are places, though, where you can cross once the racers have passed by.
6. Guided Walking Tour of High Falls
It has not happened before, but I hope it happens again! During ROC the Riverway Weekend, this guided hike down to the base of High Falls (RG&E property) was revealed on the activities agenda. I knew I had to be there, but so did roughly 100+ other people.
I think the organizers were pleasantly surprised at the level of interest, and grateful for all of us being respectful voyagers. If we hear of this happening again we’ll let you know!
7. Maple Farms
I spent both Maple Weekends in March exploring all of the farms I could realistically get to. The weather happened to be amazing as you can see from photographs! This was the first time I had been to many of them. There’s nothing like tasting fresh Maple syrup.
8. Dachshund Parade
If you need a moment of pure joy, go see the annual Dachshund Parade in May at Washington Square Park. It’s a big ol’ pile of cuteness!
9. Green Lakes State Park
I had not been to to Green Lakes since 1991 (I know, right?) but have wanted to get back. What made this trip so special is that I went with my father, who drove. The weather was perfect as we walked around Round Lake (a National Natural Landmark) and part of Green Lake. Both tell a beautiful story of our geologic history. As you can see from the photos, the color of the lakes change with perspective and sunlight.
10. Geneseo Air Show
I’ve always loved air shows but have not been to one in years. I’ll find a way to watch from a distance as planes are doing wide loops around the show, but I miss out on so much. The commentary, ground displays, and low-flying demos are all worth the admission price. The National Warplane Museum in Geneseo is a special place to witness and participate in aviation history.
11. Griffis Sculpture Park
This was a place so nice I went there twice, but still didn’t see all of it! Griffis Sculpture Park is expansive, and the trails rustic so they can get rained out to the point the park will close them. I’m putting this back on the to-do list for early summer 2020.
12. Chautauqua Lake
This particular trip is special because my husband and I decided to spend the weekend exploring. You can realistically explore Panama Rocks Scenic Park, the National Comedy Center, or Chautauqua Institute on a day trip, but we opted to stay in Jamestown during the National Comedy Festival and experience events throughout the weekend.
Even still, it wasn’t enough time! I could have spent an entire week at Chautauqua Institute, and full day at Panama Rocks and two days at the National Comedy Center.
Other day trips
throughout the year
The crazy thing is that this isn’t even everything! This doesn’t capture all of the places I stopped along the way. It doesn’t include scenic drives or vistas I went out of my way to see.
What’s beautiful about a day trip are the things you don’t plan for or expect to see when you’re just driving along; things you can’t capture with a camera.
One example of something that lives only in my mind’s eye is a scene along a winding back road, heading toward Allegany State Park, when I came upon an Amish carriage. The children were waving to me with such joy. I have a more vivid memory of that than many things I’ve photographed.
Experienced the new state-of-the-art technology at the Rochester Museum & Science Center Strasenburgh Planetarium
Fed the nuthatches & chickadees along the Birdsong Trail in Mendon Ponds Park
Warmed up at the Holiday show at Lamberton Conservatory
Visited the ice volcano at Letchworth
Enjoyed the extraordinary tulip displays throughout the George Eastman Museum during Dutch Connection
Attend a free choral event at Eastman Theater where 20+ different choirs throughout Rochester came together to sing their own music, and to sing together. If was beautiful! There’s so much free music at Eastman Theater throughout the year.
Ice Festival at the Caledonia Village Inn
Caledonia Fish Hatchery & Spring Creek
I’ve spent many hours driving around Rochester, but in April I focused on capturing some of Rochester’s architectural heritage as research for the article about Rochester’s Fun Facts.
There is no place like Highland Park in April. Except Highland Park in May. And June…
Old Fashion Days at Honey Locust Farm in Caledonia
Enjoyed springtime in Corbett’s Glen Nature Park
Attended Lilac Fest in Highland Park
Hiked around the arboretum in Durand-Eastman Park
Walked along the Genesee River through Breese Park, enjoying the Trillium and Bluebells
Spent time in Bushnell’s Basin along the Erie Canal
And time exploring the historic Village of Pittsford doing more research about Rochester’s transportation history
Hiked the Yanty Marsh trail in Hamlin Beach State Park
Attended Fairport Canal Days
Explored Maplewood Rose Garden & Lower Falls
Took an exploratory drive down and around NY-19, to many roadside waterfalls including Wiscoy Creek Falls
Spent hours enjoying the talent of headliners and high school students alike during Jazz Fest
Explored Bergen Swamp
Took a relaxing and informative ride on the Sam Patch
Found the fairy houses in their new home along the Fairy-Birdsong Trail at Mendon Ponds Park
Spend an entire day reliving my childhood at Seabreeze Amusement Park
Took a guided tour of the National Susan B Anthony Museum & House
Enjoyed the extraordinary new wall art in Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park at Manhattan Square
Finally took a trip to Robert H Terman State Park
Checked out the new FUA Krew exhibit at the Memorial Art Gallery
Enjoyed the day at the Park Ave Fest
Wandered through Hart’s Woods, another of our National Natural Landmarks
Spent a day along the Lake Ontario Seaway Trail, with several stops including Fair Haven Beach, B. Forman Park, and Fort Ontario in Oswego
Enjoyed a colorful hike through Oatka Creek Park
Even more color on the Cobbs Hill Water towers
Wandered the trails through Helmer Nature Center
Explored the hidden pond behind St. Bernard’s Seminary along the Genesee Riverway Trail
Explored Genesee Land Trust’s Christine Sevilla Wetlands Preserve
Wandered around the moss-covered boulders in MacKay Wildlife Preserve
Had so much fun during Massaoke at Rochester Fringe Fest
Spent a few hours wandering around Seneca Falls
Participated in a guided walking tour from Seth Green along St. Paul Blvd. to Maplewood with the Lower Falls Foundation
Spent a day wandering around Mount Morris & Geneseo
Went back to Allegany State Park specifically to explore Thunder Rocks
Took a guided fall foliage walking tour through Mount Hope Cemetery
Took a drive to see as many Ginko trees as possible while their pools of bright yellow leaves lay undisturbed by wind
Walked along the lake shore and down the pier at Webster Park
Enjoyed a beautiful, free holiday concert at the University of Rochester
Spent many hours during the end of the month and into December exploring holiday lights around Monroe County
Took a winter drive through Mount Hope Cemetery
Renewed my membership for RMSC because I looooove the planetarium. I wish they’d host an adult sleepover under the stars!
Strolled around the Genesee Country Village & Museum’s Holiday Open House
Visited the Seneca Park Zoo
Stopped by the Edgerton Model Railroad about 1/2 hour before they closed and need to go back! There’s so much detail to appreciate.
Explored the Strong National Museum of Play and the new parking garage and entrance
Enjoyed the tropical temperatures inside Lamberton Conservatory
Took a wonderful winter hike along Irondequoit Creek through Channing H. Philbrick Park
Rather than an escape, I prefer to think of these as transcending places that encourage us to transcend space, time, and state of mind.
Venture into one of these New York State Parks within a 2-hour drive of Rochester and discover what makes them each unique!
What were your favorite day trips around Rochester in 2019? What are you planning for 2020?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!