Transcending places around Rochester: Grimes Glen

Transcending Places: 37 Alternate Reality Destinations Around Rochester

Rather than an escape, I prefer to think of these as transcending places, or transformative places, that help us to become more mindful people. 

When I think of “transcendence” as it relates to travel, I think of destinations that move us into a reality that differs from daily life. I look for places that encourage us to transcend space, time, and state of mind, and also to be present and immersed in the experience at the same time.

Transcending Space

These destinations have been described as other-worldly, Narnia, Terabithia, Oz (or “not in Kansas anymore”), and hidden gems. You can’t go wrong with a place that has the word “glen” in its name!

Corbetts Glen
Corbett’s Glen

1. Corbett’s Glen


Nestled in between an express way and 2 highly trafficked roads near the Penfield/Brighton Town borders, Corbett’s Glen Nature Park is a glorious green space in a suburban jungle.

Walking Stick Grimes Glen
Grimes Glen

2. Grimes Glen


There are few experiences like Grimes Glen around Rochester. The glen is public, free, and you are encouraged to walk in the water. Most people look forward to wading the creek to the first and second falls–both 60′ cascades.

Gorge Trails Watkins Glen
Watkins Glen State Park

3. Watkins Glen

Seneca Lake

Watkins Glen State Park is located in the heart of the small town of Watkins Glen, at the southern tip of Seneca Lake. The glen is only 2 miles long, perfect for a day trip.

Little Rock City in Rock City New York State Forest
Little Rock City

4. Little Rock City in Rock City State Forest


Little Rock City in Salamanca’s Rock City State Forest, not to be confused with Rock City Park in nearby Olean, is free to explore!

You could spend 20 minutes or two hours wandering through the boulders, some as large as houses.

Hidden places: Turning Point Park snow winter
Turning Point Park

5. Turning Point Park


Turning Point Park is located on Boxart St, off Lake Ave near Charlotte Furniture & Appliance. The trail’s most striking feature is a 3,572 ft-long bridge over the Genesee River Turning Basin.

Things to do around Rochester NY: Chimney Bluffs State Park
Chimney Bluffs State Park

6. Chimney Bluffs


The bluffs, rising 175 feet above Lake Ontario, are fragile drumlins, like all of the truncated drumlins along this section of shoreline.

Rochester Hidden Sidewalk
Rochester’s Hidden Sidewalk

7. Rochester’s Hidden Sidewalk


I have lived in Rochester my whole life, with my childhood years spent in West Irondequoit, and I never knew this public sidewalk was here. Rochester’s hidden sidewalk may be it’s best kept secret!

Eternal Flame Trail Chestnut Ridge Park Buffalo
Eternal Flame Trail in Chestnut Ridge Park

8. Eternal Flame

Orchard Park

Once you’ve made it to the creek bed, you just keep following the water upstream until you hit the falls at the gorge’s dead-end.

Warner Castle Sunken Garden in shadow
Warner Castle’s Sunken Garden in shadow

9. Sunken Garden


If you can get there when no one else is about, it’s a peaceful retreat, beautiful anytime of the year.

Tinker Nature Park

10. Tinker Nature Park


Tinker Nature Park has a series of trails and boardwalks that are great for folks of all abilities.

Wander through woodlands, wetlands, and meadows, or enjoy a good book on one of the parks many benches.

Inside ARTISANworks
One of the many themed spaces at ARTISANworks

11. ARTISANworks


I’ve heard ARTISANworks described as a walk-through kaleidoscope, a bombardment on the senses, a 360° canvas, a space that defies all boundaries, a place that can’t be described but must be seen, surprising, inspiring, and in some instances shocking.

Earth Planetarium

12. Strasenburgh Planetarium

Rochester Museum & Science Center

The new technology allows you to explore the solar system and the entire visible universe from any perspective! The quality of the images and near-real-time data is extraordinary!

And, the chairs are no longer fixed to the floor making it accessible for wheelchairs and strollers.

Transcending Time

These destinations transport you into the past to appreciate and to learn about how we developed the culture, values, and amenities we have today. Stepping inside is like entering a time machine.

New York Routes 5 and 20
New York Routes 5 and 20

13. New York Routes 5 and 20

Routes 5 and 20 is a beautiful 67-mile stretch of highway where NY-5 and US-20 converge.

The path it takes is a foot trail of New York’s first people from the Hudson River to Lake Erie, between the Adirondacks and the Catskills, and over a rolling drumlin field. 

Genesee Country Village Museum
Genesee Country Village Museum

14. Genesee Country Village & Museum


Walk through the historic village, including the early homes of Nathaniel Rochester and George Eastman.

Enjoy the themed weekend events, like 1812, Civil War, Highland Days, a Fiddler’s Fair, and Yuletide in the Country.

Historic Inns Around Rochester: Big Tree Inn
Big Tree Inn, Geneseo

15. Historic Inns

Unlike modern hotels that offer both dining and lodging, these will transport you into our history as a frontier town, connected to the rest of the country by only train, boat, or stagecoach.

Things to do around Rochester NY: Old Country Store
The Old Country Store and More – est. 1849

16. Country Stores

When you walk into one of these old country stores, you feel like you are stepping back in time with aisles of old fashioned toys, knickknacks and candies.

Historic Small Movie Theaters Around Rochester Strand Theater Brockport
The Strand

17. Historic Movie Theaters

Many of these small movie theaters first opened during World War I and in the Roaring ’20s.

All have since transitioned to digital, with the intentional exception of Eastman Museum’s Dryden Theater. It is one of the few theaters in the world that makes nitrate film screenings part of its regular program.

Mount Hope Cemetery
Mount Hope Cemetery Tour, Susan B. Anthony grave site

18. Mount Hope Cemetery


There is so much to learn on a walking tour of Mount Hope Cemetery — the story of various residents, the trees, the geology.

They are also helpful in assimilating you to the lay of the land, helping you to navigate it on your own.

Penn Dixie Fossil Park Nature Reserve
Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve

19. Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Nature Reserve


Visitors can find and collect 380 million year-old animal and plant fossils that once flourished in an ancient tropical sea that covered WNY.

In 2011, The Geological Society of America ranked Penn Dixie as the No. 1 fossil park in the country.

Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth in Ithaca NY
Museum of the Earth

20. Museum of the Earth


Museum of the Earth focuses on life beginning in the Cambrian Period, though it delves a little into our 4.5 billion year history. 

The museum does a fantastic job of narrowing it down to large-scale events that are relevant to our place in New York State, and presented in a way that is engaging.

New York Museum of Transportation trolley interior
New York Museum of Transportation trolley ride

21. New York Museum of Transportation


Included with admission is a scenic 2-mile round-trip ride on an 90-year-old electric trolley car.

NYMT and the City of Rochester have arranged to feature 2 monorail cars from the now-demolished Midtown Plaza as a permanent exhibit. They are on public display-only—no monorail rides to relive those childhood memories. But what a thrill to see them all the same!

Rochester Genesee Valley Railroad Museum
Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum

22. Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum


Volunteers at the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum actively acquire, restore and preserve New York’s largest collection of historic railroad equipment.

Spend a day riding the train and checking out their Rochester-centric collection!

Arcade and Attica Railroad
Arcade & Attica Railroad

23. Arcade & Attica Railroad


You’ll enjoy roughly 45-minutes of bucolic scenery on the way to Curriers, and the same scenery on the way back. You’ll travel through farmland, wetland, and woodland ecological communities.

Sam Patch Packet Boat Corn Hill Landing
Sam Patch Packet Boat

24. Sam Patch Packet Boat


Sam Patch Erie Canal Tours are a great way to immerse yourself in the canal’s history and operation during your narrated cruise. 

Lockport Flight of Five
Lockport Flight of Five on the Erie Canal

25. Erie Canal Towns & Villages

The Erie Canal spans 100-miles between Lockport and Lyons, with Rochester located right in the middle making it easy to get out there and explore! To enjoy every moment, choose just 15 miles on the canal to explore in a day.

Pick a town like Brockport or Fairport to spend a few hours. Choose an entry point like Greece Canal Park or Meridian Center to walk or bike the trail. Stop at one of the canal locks and watch the boats go through.

Landmark Society Home and Garden 2016 Rochester
Landmark Society Home and Garden 2016

26. House & Garden Tours

Every year there are dozens of opportunities around Rochester to walk through grand and historic homes, and meticulously manicured garden spaces.

Some are inspiring and insightful tours lead by passionate guides; others are self-guided.

Transcending State of Mind

I find that these places demand that you become absorbed in your surroundings. They have a way of closing off the world behind you as you explore. They convey peacefulness, serenity, beauty, and connection with nature.

Channing H Philbrick Park

27. Channing H. Philbrick


Irondequoit Creek passes through 3 Monroe County Parks, from its origin just outside Powder Mills Park, then through Ellison Park and Lucien Morin Park on its way to Irondequoit Bay.

Along the way it picks up more water from tributaries like Thomas Creek, Mill Creek, and Allen’s Creek.

Highland Park Magnolias in May

28. Highland Park


Frederick Law Olmsted designed this park in 1888, along with Genesee Valley, Seneca, and Maplewood, to be enjoyed year-round. Every pathway, every tree, every vista and every relationship between the land and water is intentional.

Lamberton Conservatory

29. Lamberton Conservatory


Tropical plants need tropical temperatures, so visiting Lamberton Conservatory in winter is a welcome escape from the cold!

Letchworth State Park NY Inspiration Point
Inspiration Point at Letchworth

30. Letchworth


Relax beside a massive waterfall, hike the gorge trails, fish in the park’s pond, take a ride during the hot air balloon festival, whitewater raft, dine at the Glen Iris Inn, learn about the local history of the Seneca people and Mary Jemison or the geology of Upstate New York.

Sonnenberg Gardens Japanese Tea House
Japanese Tea House at Sonnenberg Gardens

31. Sonnenberg Gardens


Sonnenberg Gardens is an exceptional example of the lavish wealth and philanthropy of the Gilded Age.

George Eastman House Museum garden
George Eastman estate garden

32. Public Gardens

Gardens are historically places of rest and reflection; of focus and attention to detail. Botanist Luther Burbank said, “Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.”

Enjoy a peaceful afternoon at one of these arboretums, labyrinths, or botanical gardens, all within a 2-hour drive of Rochester.

Canandaigua Lake: Jump Off Trail on Gannet Hill in Ontario County Park
Jump Off Trail on Gannet Hill in Ontario County Park

33. The Jump Off


Spectacular any time of year, my favorite time to visit is in the Autumn during peak leaf changing season.

You’ll overlook CR-33/West Hollow Road and the backside of Bristol Mountain. This section below (CR-33-34-64-12-21) is my favorite scenic loop in the fall.

Honeoye Lake from Harriet Hollister
Honeoye Lake from Harriet Hollister

34. Harriet Hollister


Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area is a New York State Park located in the hills six miles south of Honeoye Lake, and affords one of the most beautiful scenic views in the Finger Lakes region.

Lily Dale Assembly
Lily Dale Assembly

35. Lily Dale Assembly

Lily Dale

Lily Dale is a lake-side hamlet of Victorian homes and cottages. It is both quirky and peaceful; a spiritual community like nowhere else on Earth.

Niagara Falls American Falls
Niagara Falls: The Crows Nest at Prospect Point, view from the Observation Tower

36. Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is beautiful year round, and I highly recommend going at different times throughout the year to witness the uniqueness of each season. With a natural wonder this close, there’s no reason not to go more than once!

34 Roadside Waterfalls Near Rochester

Impressive waterfalls are not all buried in dark ravines accessible only by difficult trails. And for some, you do not need to get out of your car.

Read more

Water: Taughannock Falls
Taughannock Falls

37. Taughannock Falls


Taughannock Falls is one of the most accessible waterfalls in our area’s state parks, second only to Letchworth State Park whose High and Middle Falls can be appreciated from several observation points throughout the park.

What I love about Taughannock Falls is that the most accessible view from the overlook is also the most impressive. Plus, the view from here is free!

Where are your favorite transcending places around Rochester?

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


7 thoughts on “Transcending Places: 37 Alternate Reality Destinations Around Rochester”

  1. Thank you for this list. We are waterfall enthusiasts and have planned a month in the Finger Lakes Region to visit/hike/see as many waterfalls as possible. You added at least two that weren’t already on our list. This is our first time to the Northeast and we are very excited to start hiking.

    1. Susan, I hope you have a wonderful adventure!!!!! You can’t go wrong with any waterfalls in the Finger Lakes. I’d love to dedicate a month to exploring them all.

  2. This is an amazing array! Have lived here all my 75 years and have have been to almost all, but to see them collected and highlighted in one place is breathtaking! We are so blessed to live in an area of such natural beauty!

    1. Kathy, I’m so happy you enjoy the list!! I loved putting these places together. They are special on their own, but together they are elevated. They are places that make you think, but let you forget about the daily grind long enough to internalize their message. And you take that with you. They help change your perspective on the world we live in.

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