Strong Museum of Play cover

Shared Rochester Experiences that Make Great Gifts

Giving the gift of experiences in Rochester offers rewards beyond mere personal joy. Imagine a home with less clutter, waste, and stress—where less is genuinely more.

Immerse yourself in creative activities where you can discover new talents and express yourself through painting, pottery, photography, and writing.

Explore the great outdoors with beach days, hiking trails, geo-caching, and kayaking. Experience Rochester’s natural beauty by exploring its parks, nature centers, and national natural landmarks, or enjoy a campout under the stars. Plan a memorable experience together for the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse.

Rochester, with its multitude of experiences, offers an abundance of opportunities to create lasting memories, making it an ideal place to give the gift of experiences that will be cherished for a lifetime.

2023 Best of Rochester Award Winner

Day Trips Around Rochester, New York

Best of Rochester Award-Winning Book for Best Published Literary Work of 2023.

Date Night in Rochester: Arc Flame
Arc + Flame

1. Creative Endeavors

Immerse yourself in creative activities at places like Studio 34 Creative Arts Learning Center, Arc+Flame, or The Memorial Art Gallery. Discover your unique expression through painting, pottery, photography, and writing.

  1. Work with glass or metal at Studio 34 Creative Arts Learning Center, Arc+Flame, or Corning Museum of Glass.
  2. You can choose from various creative opportunities at The Memorial Art Gallery, Flower City Arts Center, or Turk Hill Craft School.
  3. Experience something new with Rochester Brainery.
  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 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

2. Entertainment Ventures

Discover entertainment in Rochester, from concerts at large venues like Darien Lake to small, historic movie theaters. Enjoy live performing arts shows, laugh out loud at Comedy at the Carlson, or experience a playful 21+ night out at RMSC After Dark or Zoo Brew.

  1. Attend a concert at a large venue like Darien Lake, CMAC, and Blue Cross Arena, or a small one 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. Pick a gorgeous summer evening and head to the Avon Drive-In Theater.
  4. Laugh out loud at Comedy at the Carlson.
  5. Enjoy a playful 21+ night out at RMSC After Dark or Zoo Brew.

Theaters Around Rochester

Sit back, relax, and enjoy a show on stage or screen. Experience diverse artistic expression, from Broadway productions to classic movies.

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High School Musicals and Plays in Monroe County

Celebrate the talented young actors performing in high school musicals and plays as they bring classic and contemporary pieces to life.

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Seabreeze Amusement Park Jack Rabbit exit tunnel

3. Nostalgic Activities

Revisit childhood by spending a day at amusement parks like Seabreeze or exploring roadside attractions, animal sanctuaries, and farms. Relive the past through a plethora of events, from exploring underground caverns to cruising along the Erie Canal.

You may also wish to plan a special experience for the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse. When future generations ask where you were during the eclipse, what story will you tell them?

  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, pick your own fruit or Christmas tree or visit a farmer’s market.
  4. Attend a variety of events around Rochester.
  5. Find some quirky Rochester-area roadside attractions.
  6. Visit animals at Seneca Park Zoo or Hidden Valley Animal Adventure.
  7. Check out Niagara Falls Aquarium, Wild Wings, Caledonia Fish Hatchery, or Powder Mills Park Fish Hatchery.
  8. Visit a place that rescues animals like Farm Sanctuary, Asha Farmed Animal Sanctuary, or Lollypop Farm.
  9. Explore just beneath the surface at Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve or deep underground at Howe Caverns.
  10. Cruise along the Erie Canal aboard the Sam Patch or Colonial Belle.
  11. Rent a kayak or canoe from Genesee Waterways Kayak & Canoe RentalsBayCreek Paddling Center, or Oak Orchard Canoe & Kayak.
  12. Partake in some Paranormal Activities.
  13. Enjoy a museum like Rochester Museum & Science Center and the Strasenburgh Planetarium, The Strong National Museum of Play, ARTISANWorks, Memorial Art Gallery, George Eastman Museum, Genesee Country Village and Museum, or dozens of Other Museums around Rochester.
  14. Plan a day exploring one of our 11 Finger Lakes.
  15. Ride the free Discover Niagara Shuttle with 18 stops, including Niagara Falls and Old Fort Niagara.

Rochester, NY Events & Activities: The Ultimate Month-by-Month Guide to Year-Round Fun

Join me as I explore the best things to do around Rochester each month, highlighting unique activities and events throughout the year.

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Paranormal Activities: Our Favorite Haunts for 2023

There is something about October that piques our interest in paranormal activities. Explore the other side of Rochester!

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4 Old Country Stores Around Rochester

These old-fashioned country stores house aisles full of nostalgic candies, toys, and knickknacks that transport you back in time.

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Museums Around Rochester

Rochester is home to world-renowned museums and thought-provoking galleries. You can spend weeks exploring our rich cultural heritage.

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Rochester-Area Boat Tours

Discover the breathtaking beauty of the Great Lakes, Genesee River, Erie Canal, and Finger Lakes on one of these Rochester-area boat tours.

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Diner-car diners Swan Street Diner interior
Swan Street Diner

4. Gourmet Experiences

Indulge in culinary delights from craft breweries in Monroe County to authentic “Dining Car” diners. Savor highly recommended restaurants, bakeries, breweries, wineries, cideries, distilleries, and chocolatiers that offer a taste of Rochester’s gourmet landscape.

  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
  5. Rochester-area Chocolatiers

600+ Highly Recommended Restaurants Around Rochester

Some food destinations are well-established, while others are quickly becoming favorites as Rochester’s culinary scene explodes.

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31 Craft Breweries in Rochester and Monroe County

Considering all the breweries that call the Greater Rochester area home can be overwhelming. Let’s focus on the ones here in Monroe County.

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Moss Lake
Moss Lake

5. Outdoor Adventures

Explore the great outdoors with beach days, hiking trails, geo-caching, and kayaking. Experience the natural beauty of Rochester by exploring its parks, nature centers, and national landmarks, or enjoy a campout under the stars.

  1. Have a beach day at Ontario Beach Park, Durand Eastman, or Hamlin Beach State Park.
  2. Explore one of our Monroe County Parks.
  3. Hike a trail less traveled.
  4. Grab a “Hit the Trail” Passport from participating Wegmans (makes a great stocking stuffer!)
  5. Spend the day at New York State Parks within a two-hour drive.
  6. Explore these Gorge Trails and Boardwalks.
  7. Visit one of our many Nature Centers and Natural National Landmarks.
  8. Try Geo-caching.
  9. Learn how to find your way in the woods with the Rochester Orienteering Club.
  10. Explore the ponds around the Braddock Bay Complex.
  11. Savor autumn with scenic train rides, leaf-peeping in our arboretums, fall bird migrations, and ghost walks.
  12. Swim in a natural pool at Robert Treman State Park or Buttermilk Falls State Park.
  13. Explore a rock city.
  14. Pitch a tent in the yard and have a campout. Stay up late, find constellations among the stars, or look for meteors during the summer Perseids. Find the darkest skies around Rochester to observe the Universe.
  15. 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.)
  16. Watch the sunset or fireworks from Cobbs Hill.
  17. Take a self-guided tour of Rochester using the Landmark Society guides, or drive through the countryside.

12 Self-Guided Tours

These self-guided tours around Rochester are like a regional scavenger hunt! Learn the stories behind some of the things you see along our roadways.

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49 New York State Parks Within a Two-Hour Drive of Rochester

Venture into one of these New York State Parks within a two-hour drive of Rochester and discover what makes them unique.

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Swimming Holes

On a hot day, you can sit under a waterfall, swim in a lake, or jump in a creek at one of these refreshing natural swimming areas.

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30 Perfect Picnic Spots Around Rochester

When searching for the perfect picnic spots, I look for a picnic table, scenery and proximity to water, shade, and relative privacy.

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Sledding Hills Around Rochester: Mendon Ponds Park Monroe County
Mendon Ponds Park

6. Collaborative Activities

Participate in sports and adventurous activities, from sledding to learning to dance to cheering on the home team. Experience the thrill of zip lining, soaring high with balloons, or joining a sports team.

  1. Go sledding at one of our Monroe County Parks, including Durand Eastman, Black Creek, and Mendon Ponds, or 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, Total Sports Experience, or Radio Social Bowling.
  5. Enjoy a few hours of Red Wings Baseball 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, or Canyon Climb at Destiny USA.
  8. Fly high with Balloons Over Letchworth, Harris Hill Soaring Club, 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.

Snow Sports: 6 Ways to Stay Active in Winter

Skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, skating, and tubing are fun winter activities that offer exposure to fresh air and sunlight.

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22 Monroe County Parks

Monroe County parks are free and offer 12,000 acres of natural, zoological, horticultural, historical, and geological experiences.

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Rochester experiences: Farm Sanctuary Watkins Glen
Sponsor a farm animal at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen

7. Impactful Contributions

Make a difference by adopting a family for Christmas or sponsoring a rescued farm animal. Contribute to the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants by planting trees, sponsoring land or wildlife, or volunteering your time and talents in the Rochester community.

  1. Adopt a family for Christmas through the Catholic Family Center of Rochester.
  2. Sponsor a rescued farm animal through Farm Sanctuary.
  3. Only adopt a domestic animal from Lollypop Farm (or any shelter) 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 are needed throughout the Rochester community.

26 Rochester-Area Volunteer Experiences

I can’t think of a better day trip than volunteering with one of these amazing Rochester-area organizations.

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Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen

Farm Sanctuary sits on 175 acres in Watkins Glen, just west of Sugar Hill State Forest, and is home to more than 500 rescued farm animals.

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Strong Museum space invaders
Museum of Play

8. Unique Miscellaneous Experiences

Explore hidden gems, solve mysteries at The Great Escape Room, or delve into the world of books about Rochester. From attending battle reenactments to getting into the holiday spirit, Rochester offers a myriad of unique experiences to explore and enjoy.

  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 Old 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! You might say that books are material objects, but I believe that books are experiences that can be shared I love books about Rochester and Rochester-area bookstores.

Strong National Museum of Play

The Strong National Museum of Play boasts the world’s most extensive collection of play-related historical materials.

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31 Monroe County Libraries

A free library card allows you to access 31 Monroe County libraries, including Central Library and Libby, the digital library.

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New & Used Bookstores Around Rochester

Books take us on a journey through time and space. If you’re looking for a new adventure, check out these bookstores around Rochester.

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Panama Rocks

Presenting Your Gift

  • Mark a calendar with new Rochester experiences to try 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 museum membership, or an art class.
  • Create a memory book or a blog of all your Rochester experiences.
  • Most of these organizations offer gift cards and memberships for those gifting from out-of-town.

Final Thoughts

As the Grinch realized, the essence of Christmas isn’t found in material possessions. It’s about experiences and the joy they bring, transcending the tangible to touch our souls more deeply.

Rochester, with its multitude of experiences, offers an abundance of opportunities to create lasting memories, making it an ideal place to give the gift of experiences that will be cherished for a lifetime.

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

Grand Adventures: 10 Rochester Skip-Gen Day Trip Ideas

This guide offers ten skip-gen day trip ideas for grandparents and grandchildren to spend quality time exploring the Rochester area together.

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Your Rochester Date Guide for Spending Quality Time Together, Day or Night

Whether it’s your first date or 50th anniversary, trying various activities with your partner is a great way to shake up your routine.

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Our 4 Favorite Extreme Christmas Lights Around Rochester: 2023 Edition

Enjoy our four favorite extreme Christmas lights, plus more extraordinary Rochester-area homes and holiday-themed events.

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132 Things to Do Around Rochester

We’ve pulled together a list of fun and unique things to do around Rochester, NY, within two hours of home—perfect for quick getaways.

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What Rochester experiences will you share this year?

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 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.

1 thought on “Shared 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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