Strong Museum of Play cover

75 Rochester Experiences that Make Great Gifts

The benefits of sharing Rochester experiences as gifts extend far beyond personal happiness!

I read an article a few years back about nontraditional gift-giving. The author shares that she decided to stop giving stuff and start giving experiences.

“On Christmas morning,” she writes, “my kids opened a letter from Santa. In it, he explained that we’d be leaving on a trip that very day. There were no presents to unwrap, but there were no tears, either. My kids were too excited about the adventure ahead to think about what they didn’t get.”

Table of Contents:

  1. Create Something Together
  2. Seek Entertainment
  3. Relive Your Childhood
  4. Enjoy 400+ Food Options
  5. Explore Outdoors
  6. Team Up
  7. Make a Difference in Others Lives
  8. More Rochester Experiences that Make Great Gifts

According to Fast Company’s article, The Science Of Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you.

“In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”

Picture your home with less clutter, less to pick up and move around, less waste, less stress—less is truly more!

Date Night in Rochester: Arc Flame
Arc + Flame

Rochester experiences that encourage you to create something together

  1. Work with glass or metal at Studio 34 Creative Arts Learning Center, Arc+Flame, or Corning Museum of Glass.
  2. Choose from a variety of creative opportunities at The Memorial Art Gallery, Flower City Arts Center, Turk Hill Craft School, or
  3. Learn something new from Rochester Brainery or Chautauqua Institute.
  4. Learn to express yourself at Writers and Books.
  5. Paint together at Paint Nite, Painting with a Twist, Wine & Design, or buy paint, brushes, canvas, and an easel, and plan a day to paint outside (en plein air).
  6. Glaze your own pottery at Jade Pottery, Splatters or Color Me Mine.
  7. Learn how to process film and take photos at George Eastman House or Finger Lakes Photography Center.
Free Rochester Day Trip Ideas: Rochester International Jazz Festival
Rochester International Jazz Festival

Entertaining Rochester experiences

  1. Attend a concert at a large venue like Darien Lake, CMAC, and Blue Cross Arena, or small like Abilene Bar and Lounge, Lovin’ CupMain Street ArmoryBands on the Bricks, Party in the Park, Concerts by the ShoreRochester International Jazz Festival, and the Lilac Festival.
  2. Go to a performing arts show by high school and college students, local professionals, or touring companies.
  3. See a classic or first-run movie at a small, historic movie theater.
  4. Pick a gorgeous summer evening and head to the Avon Drive-In Theater.
  5. Laugh out loud at Comedy at the Carlson.
  6. Enjoy a playful 21+ night out at RMSC After Dark, Strong Happiest Hour, or Zoo Brew.
Seabreeze Amusement Park Jack Rabbit exit tunnel

Regift Rochester experiences from your own childhood

  1. Spend the day at an amusement park like Seabreeze, Darien Lake, or Roseland Waterpark.
  2. Visit an old country store.
  3. Head to the farm and pick your own fruit or Christmas tree.
  4. Attend a variety of these annual events around Rochester.
  5. Find some quirky Rochester-area roadside attractions.
  6. Explore our 10 Best New York Attractions.
  7. Visit animals at Seneca Park Zoo or Hidden Valley Animal Adventure.
  8. Check out Niagara Falls Aquarium, Wild Wings, Caledonia Fish Hatchery, or Powder Mills Park Fish Hatchery.
  9. Visit a place that rescues animals like Farm Sanctuary, Asha Farmed Animal Sanctuary, or Lollypop Farm.
  10. Learn about farms at Springdale Farm, or Old McDonald’s Farm.
  11. Explore just beneath the surface at Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve, or deep underground at Howe Caverns.
  12. Climb around a child-sized tree house village at Tree Creations in Geneseo.
  13. Cruise along the Erie Canal aboard the Sam Patch or Colonial Belle.
  14. Rent a kayak or canoe from Genesee Waterways Kayak & Canoe RentalsBayCreek Paddling Center, or Oak Orchard Canoe & Kayak
  15. Partake in some Paranormal Activities.
  16. Enjoy a museum like Rochester Museum & Science Center and the Strasenburgh Planetarium, The Strong National Museum of Play, Artisan Works, Memorial Art Gallery, George Eastman Museum, Genesee Country Village and Museum, or dozens of Other Museums around Rochester.
  17. Plan a day exploring one of our 11 Finger Lakes.
  18. Ride the Discover Niagara Shuttle with 15 stops including Niagara Falls and Old Fort Niagara. You could also plan a 3-day getaway in Lewiston.
Diner-car diners Swan Street Diner interior
Swan Street Diner

Rochester experiences with food & beverage

  1. Craft Breweries in Monroe County
  2. Authentic “Dining Car” Diners
  3. Highly Recommended Restaurants, Bakeries, and Bars
  4. Wineries with Scenic Keuka Lake Views
Moss Lake
Moss Lake

Rochester experiences in the great outdoors

  1. Have a beach day at Ontario Beach Park, Durand Eastman, or Hamlin Beach State Park.
  2. Explore one of our 20 Monroe County Parks
  3. Hike these Trails that Are Not Just a Walk in the Park
  4. Grab a “Hit the Trail” Passport from participating Wegmans.
  5. Explore one of eleven National Natural Landmarks near Rochester.
  6. Spend the day at one of these New York State Parks Within a 2-hour Drive
  7. Explore these Gorge Trails and Boardwalks
  8. Visit one of our many Nature Centers and Natural National Landmarks
  9. Try Geo-caching.
  10. Learn how to find your way in the woods with the Rochester Orienteering Club.
  11. Explore the ponds around the Braddock Bay Complex
  12. Savor autumn with scenic train rides, leaf-peeping in our arboretums, fall bird migrations, and ghost walks.
  13. Swim in a natural pool at Robert Treman State Park, or Buttermilk Falls State Park.
  14. Explore a rock city.
  15. Pitch a tent in the yard and have a camp out. Stay up late and find constellations among the stars, or look for meteors during the summer Perseids. Find the darkest skies around Rochester to observe the Universe!
  16. On a clear Saturday night, visit the astronomy tower at the Strasenburgh Planetarium. Their telescopes let you see the rings of Saturn and the Orion Nebula, to name a few. You can become an amateur astronomer with help from ASRAS (Astronomy Section Rochester Academy of Science)
  17. Watch the sunset or fireworks from Cobbs Hill.
  18. Take a self-guided tour of Rochester using the Landmark Society guides or take a drive through the countryside.
Sledding Hills Around Rochester: Mendon Ponds Park Monroe County
Mendon Ponds Park

Sporty & adventurous Rochester experiences

  1. Go sledding at one of our 20 Monroe County Parks, including Durand Eastman, Black Creek, and Mendon Ponds, or at Cobbs Hill.
  2. Rent snowshoes, skis, or skates.
  3. Start a gym membership at the YMCA or JCC.
  4. Learn to play or join a team through ROC Sports, Rochester Curling Club, Rochester Ice Center, Total Sports Experience, or Radio Social Bowling.
  5. Enjoy a few hours of ROC City Roller Derby, Red Wings Baseball, Razorsharks Basketball, Rochester Rhinos Soccer, Rochester Knighthawks Lacrosse, or Rochester Americans Hockey.
  6. Take horseback riding lessons at Heberle Stables, Meadows of Mendon Stables, Hidden Acres Equestrian, TrueNorth Equestrian Center, or City View Equestrian.
  7. Zip & climb at the new Central Rock Gym, Aerial Adventures at Bristol Mountain, Niagara Falls Adventure Park, Canyon Climb at Destiny USA, The Niagara Zipper in Lockport, or RockVentures.
  8. Fly high with Balloons Over Letchworth, Harris Hill Soaring Club, Finger Lakes Seaplanes, or Rochester Skydivers.
  9. Learn to dance with Rochester Dance Lessons, or Arthur Murray. Or, take your feet off the ground with Aerial Arts of Rochester.
Rochester experiences: Farm Sanctuary Watkins Glen
Sponsor a farm animal at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen

Rochester experiences with local & global impact

  1. Adopt a family for Christmas through Catholic Family Center of Rochester.
  2. Sponsor a rescued farm animal through Farm Sanctuary.
  3. Adopt a domestic animal from Lollypop Farm, but only if everyone is prepared to provide life-long care!
  4. Plant a tree from the Arbor Day Foundation.
  5. Sponsor land, wildlife, or water through The Nature Conservancy.
  6. Give the gift of YOU! Your time and talent is needed throughout the Rochester community.
Strong Museum space invaders
Museum of Play

Miscellaneous Rochester experiences

  1. Spend an afternoon playing pinball and video games at The Strong National Museum of Play or The Playhouse // Swillburger.
  2. Attend a battle reenactment at Tinker ParkOld Fort Niagara, Fort Ontario, or the Genesee Country Village and Museum.
  3. Explore a hidden place together
  4. Get into the holiday spirit by checking our neighborhood lights and singing Christmas carols.
  5. Solve a mystery together at The Great Escape Room, or Breakout Rochester.
  6. Attend an event at a Monroe County Library. Remember you can borrow DVDs and board games in addition to books. Borrow a V.I.P. Pass while you’re there.
  7. Books! Now, you might say “books are things” but I would argue that books are experiences that can be passed along once read. I love books about Rochester and Rochester-area bookstores.
Panama Rocks

Plan your ROCation!

Take a week off from work and spend it exploring the Rochester area.

Use a map to plot your day trips, plan what new restaurants to try each day, and car-ride activities if your day trip is more than an hour from home.

Try planning your trip with your home as the center of a compass rose. What can you do if you head northeast one day, southwest the next? Plan to alternate short-distance day trips with long-distance.

Present your gift!

  • Make a calendar with new Rochester experiences each month.
  • Write experiences on slips of paper and put them in jars. Give each person a jar from which they can draw random ideas throughout the year.
  • Hang envelopes from the tree, each containing a gift of togetherness like a “coupon” for a Saturday hike, a gift card to a bookstore, a museum membership, or an art class.
  • Create a memory book (or a blog!) of all of your Rochester experiences.

If you’re gifting from out-of-town, most of these organizations have gift cards and memberships as well.

It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas means a little bit more.

The Grinch

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What Rochester experiences will you share this year?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!


1 thought on “75 Rochester Experiences that Make Great Gifts”

  1. Another place where you can paint your own pottery is at Jade Pottery in Henrietta. They also offer classes for making custom painted wood signs and other craft ideas.

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COVID-19 NOTE: Some of the information you find in our articles may currently be inaccurate due to closures and cancellations.

Please follow the most current recommendations from the CDC and New York State for spending time away from your home. The great outdoors can provide a well needed respite & escape during stressful times. Please move quickly through parking lots, trail heads, and scenic areas. If crowded, choose a different park, trail, or time to visit. Please day trip responsibly.