42 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.
Table of Contents
- Corbett’s Glen
- Grimes Glen
- Watkins Glen
- Little Rock City
- Chimney Bluffs
- Eternal Flame
- Sunken Garden
- Akron Falls
- Havana Glen
- Tinker Nature Park
- Strasenburgh Planetarium
- Robert H. Treman
- Panama Rocks
- Routes 5 & 20
- Genesee Country Village
- Historic Inns
- Old Country Stores
- Historic Movie Theaters
- Mount Hope Cemetery
- Penn Dixie Fossil Park
- Museum of the Earth
- New York Museum of Transportation
- Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum
- Arcade & Attica Railroad
- Sam Patch Packet Boat
- Erie Canal Towns & Villages
- House & Garden Tours
Transcending State of Mind
- Learn Something New
- Rochester’s Hidden Sidewalk
- Turning Point
- Highland Park
- Lamberton Conservatory
- Public Gardens
- The Jump Off
- Harriet Hollister
- Lily Dale Assembly
- Niagara Falls
- Taughannock Falls
- Channing H. Philbrick
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!
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.
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.
3. Watkins Glen
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 two miles long, perfect for a day trip.
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.
5. Chimney Bluffs
The bluffs, rising 175 feet above Lake Ontario, are fragile drumlins, like all of the truncated drumlins along this section of shoreline.
6. Eternal Flame
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.
7. Sunken Garden
If you can get to the sunken garden behind Warner Castle when no one else is about, it’s a peaceful retreat, beautiful anytime of the year.
8. Akron Falls
Akron Falls Park is a linear park stretching along Murder Creek, with several places to park and walk down to access the gorge trail below. Even though the fall is the main attraction, the trial is a relatively flat walk through a lush, dense forest. Perfectly peaceful.
9. Havana Glen
This is one of the few places on our list that charges a fee, but it will be the best $2 you’ve ever spent! The 40-foot Eagle Cliff waterfall is a very short distance from the parking lot, but not at all accessible with a tight cliff-edge trail and a few sets of stairs.
Wade right in and stand under the fall. It’s so refreshing on a hot day, but it does get pretty crowded in there! Try visiting early in the day or during the week to fully appreciate the glen and take photos of the fall and dripping, moss-covered walls.
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.
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.
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.
13. Robert H Treman
An area of wild beauty, with the rugged Enfield Glen gorge as its scenic highlight scattered with 12 waterfalls, including the 115-foot Lucifer Falls.
14. Panama Rocks
The caves, crevices, and passageways that run through the rocks are likely the result of freezing and thawing: rocks cracking under pressure from the elements and their own weight; slowly and steadily pulled downhill by gravity in a process known as “creep.”
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.
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. Old 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.
19. 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.
20. 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.
21. 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.
22. 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.
23. 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!
24. 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!
25. 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.
26. 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.
27. 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.
28. 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.
29. Learn Something New
There are plenty of places to learn something new around Rochester. From lectures, to courses, to hands-on activities, these five organizations are great places to start!
30. Rochester’s Hidden Sidewalk
I have lived in Rochester my whole life, with my childhood years spent in West Irondequoit, and I only found out this public sidewalk exists a few years ago. Rochester’s hidden sidewalk may be it’s best kept secret!
31. 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.
32. 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.
33. Lamberton Conservatory
Tropical plants need tropical temperatures, so visiting Lamberton Conservatory in winter is a welcome escape from the cold!
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.
35. Sonnenberg Gardens
Sonnenberg Gardens is an exceptional example of the lavish wealth and philanthropy of the Gilded Age.
36. 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.
37. 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.
38. 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.
39. Lily Dale Assembly
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.
40. 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!
41. 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!
42. 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.
Where are your favorite transcending places around Rochester?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!