These self-guided tours around Rochester are like a regional scavenger hunt! From Wells barns and barn quilts to great oaks, cobblestones and fairies, these maps and itineraries help you explore our expansive backyard. Discover the meaning and history behind some of the things you see along our roadways and waterways.
1. Wells Barn Driving Tour
Melville, J. (Fall 1986). Countryside cathedrals. RMSC Focus, 22-26.“The excellent Wells barns that do survive are increasingly appreciated as living history, and pride of ownership combines with sentimentality for things past to prompt present-day owners to preserve them. They are used for a variety of purposes, from country club headquarters to farm machinery storage, from chicken ranch to private dwelling. All stand as a collective monument to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of J. Talcott Wells, and as a legacy for future generations.”
Wells Barns achieved designation in 2018-2019 as one of the League’s “Seven to Save” list of endangered properties across New York. Look for the signature “Lazy W”. Wells Barns are sometimes referred to as “Country Cathedrals” because their interior construction resembles the Gothic Arch.
These barns are all on private propery. Please stay in your vehicle at all times. And since you can’t see inside each barn, check out the patent to see Wells’ unique design solution, and watch this video!
Make sure to take a drive past the Wells Homestead on Scottsville-Mumford Rd. in Garbutt. The historical marker reads, “Birthplace of John T. Wells, inventor of the famed Wells Truss. Some 200 barns using this system were built from 1886 until 1942.”
2. Barn Quilt Trail Driving Tours
Barn Quilts are large, colorfully-painted squares (typically 8′ by 8′) displayed on the front or side of a barn. The patterns usually have special meaning to the owner, representing a specific heritage, story or memory. Color your own barn quilt!
“So often rural America, all we know, is get up and put one foot in front of the other, go to work, come home, cook dinner, wash the dishes, go to bed, get up and do the same thing. And as the times get harder and harder and harder, we forget how to dream. I like to think that developing the quilt trails is allowing people to dream.”Donna Sue Groves, Originator of the Barn Quilt Trail
The Wyoming County Barn Quilt Trail began in 2016 thanks to the efforts of local citizens, businesses and artisans seeking to introduce visitors to their roughly 90 magnificent works of art. Build your own digital tour map!
Each quilt is unique, and has a name reflecting its purpose and message. It not only stands alone as a beautiful piece of artwork, but its placement on the home or business makes it an integral focal point of the spectacular landscape found throughout Wyoming County!
LeRoy, Genesee County
With the help of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, the LeRoy Historical Society has been able to offer free maps of the four barn quilt trails. The maps can be obtained in numerous places in LeRoy, the Jell-O Gallery, the Chamber of Commerce in Batavia and the LeRoy Historical Society.
This quilt trail was established in 2006, when local farmer Lora Partyka (Partyka Farms, Inc.) rallied members of her community in Kendall, NY to work hand-in-hand with her in the creation of a local quilt trail, following the example of other trails. Maps to the full Country Barn Quilt Trail are available at Partyka Farms.
Currently the Country Barn Quilt Trail has grown to include more than forty barns and other buildings adorned with hand-painted quilt squares throughout the farming communities of Orleans County, near the southern shores of radiant Lake Ontario.
Along the trail you will find numerous farm markets, antique shops, ice cream stands, summer time grills, fine restaurants, art offerings, gift shops, roadside wild flowers, and an abundance of beautiful views.
3. Independent Walks along the Genesee Riverway
Tour Blend has partnered with the Genesee River Alliance to create and promote a series of “Independent Walks” along the Genesee River corridor. You can enjoy these audio guided walking tours while following recommended safety guidelines. Download the free Tour Blend iOS app or a two-page brochure for each individual tour.
Tours include the Eco Loop at High Falls District, Lower Falls, Downtown Riverfront, Charlotte & Port of Rochester Loop Tour, and Genesee River South Loop.
4. Cobblestone Trail Driving Tour
The Cobblestone Museum sponsors a “Cobblestone Trail” highlighting nearly 100 separate Cobblestone sites in Orleans County. This driving tour is intended strictly as a “roadway tour.” No access beyond the roadway should be presumed to any private property.
“Cobblestone Landmarks of New York State documents a nineteenth-century building phenomenon peculiar to Upstate New York. Using glacially-formed cobblestones native to Central and Western New York regions, pioneer craftsmen of the 1830’s perfected a folk art technique that was without precedent in America. For approximately thirty years they created a variety of decorated walls on hundred of buildings. Today their creations are unique among all those structures erected in the Great Lakes region before the Industrial Revolution rendered such craftsmanship economically obsolete.” [source]
5. Lighthouses Along Lake Ontario
These lighthouses along Lake Ontario are all within a two-hour drive of Rochester. And where there is a lighthouse there is a beautiful, sweeping view of our great lake!
6. Self-Guided Walking or Driving Tours of Rochester
If you are a fan of history and architecture, you will thoroughly enjoy these self-guided Landmark Society tours of The City of Rochester.
7. Wyoming County Geocaching Trail
There are 12 geocaches placed throughout Wyoming County, and to successfully complete the trail you need to find at least 10 of the 12 geocaches and write down the special code word inside each geocache container.
Geocaching is a family-friendly outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and attempt to find a geocache (container) hidden at that location. The purpose of geocaching is to introduce people to new and interesting things in the world around them! This could be long hikes in beautiful spaces, visiting a historical landmark, or just learning something new right in your backyard!
To participate in the Wyoming County Geocaching Trail, all you need are three things:
- A GPS-enabled phone or handheld device. If you have a smart phone, you should be all set!
- Create a free profile on the Geocaching website so you can look up the geocaches and begin your adventure! Need more information on what geocaching is? Check out these great tutorials!
- Head out and geocache!
8. Freethought Trail
A collection of 151 marked and unmarked sites important to the history of radical social reform in west-central New York State.
The Freethought Trail is site-focused, designed especially for the history enthusiast who yearns to understand—and, in better times, to stand on—the spot where a historical event occurred, regardless of whether or not the site is marked or interpreted today. Some Freethought Trail sites feature historical markers or even museums; others are unmarked and may be unknown among area residents.
9. Quirky Roadside Attractions
If you’re familiar with Roadside America and Atlas Obscura you’ll know both sites are dedicated to plotting out odd roadside attractions all over these United States (think America’s largest ball of twine.)
Spend a day checking out these unique & unusual roadside attractions—shoe trees, a skeleton army, a metal dragon, a shark girl—within 2.5 hours of Rochester.
10. Fairy Doors of Dansville Walking Tour
Fairy Doors of Dansville is a fully accessible trail of little doors, each one a unique piece of folk art that often reflects the nature of its host’s business or location. There are 22 whimsical little doors located in the business district, with several more in the trees of Pioneer Park next to the Dansville Area Historical Museum. New in 2020 is a life-size fairy door at Dansville ArtWorks!
Fairy trail maps can be picked up in the entryway of the North Dansville Town Hall on Clara Barton St. and at fairy door hosts who are open.
11. Geneseo Scenic Oak Tree Driving Tour
The history of the Genesee Oaks goes back hundreds of years, when the Seneca people were the main inhabitants of the Genesee Valley. The Seneca cleared land for hunting and growing crops. They then used periodic burning to maintain hunting clearings. These burnings left the scattered ‘Oak openings’ seen today with their broad and heavy trunked trees, most of which are more than 200 years old.
The Genesee Valley oaks can be considered a gift from founding brothers James and William Wadsworth who stipulated at least one shade tree per 2 acres and occasional clumps on their densely wooded land be saved from the tenant’s axes.
Celebrate the beauty of the valley by taking this self guided tour to view the extraordinary oak trees around northern Livingston County.
Are there other self-guided tours you enjoy?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!