winter break sledding

Holiday & Winter Break: 24 Ideas for All Ages & Interests

The weather over holiday and winter break can be unpredictable! Here are several ideas for spending your days off outside or inside!

Enjoy Staying Warm Indoors

Chili Public Library
Chili Public Library

1. Visit some of our 32 Monroe County Libraries

Visit your favorite library or check out a new one. Signing up for a free library card gives you access to all 32 Monroe County libraries! The Monroe Country Library System comprises town & village locations, Rochester Public Library branch locations, and the Central Library.

pinball silverball saloon
Strong Museum

2. Hands-on activities

Rochester Museum and Science Center Planetarium
RMSC Strasenburgh Planetarium

3. Rochester Museum & Science Center

Experience the vastness of the Universe & the complexity of human history all in a single day.

Escape winter: Strong Museum of Play Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden landed on wrist
Strong Museum

4. The Strong National Museum of Play

The Strong has a wealth of interaction for toddlers, school-aged children and adults.

Their butterfly garden is the only year-round indoor butterfly garden in upstate New York. With a rain-forest environment it’s the perfect retreat during holiday or winter break!

Lamberton Conservatory turtles

5. Lamberton Conservatory

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

Don’t miss the Holiday Show (December to mid-January) and the Spring Show (late-March through May.)

Winter break: ARTISANworks

6. 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.

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

7. Explore one of the 100+ other museums around Rochester

Things to do around Rochester NY: Old Country Store
The Olde Country Store and More

8. Visit an old country store

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.

Hunter Dinerant
Hunter’s Dinerant

9. Try a new restaurant

Try one of these 200+ highly recommended restaurants, diners, cafes, pubs and bakeries. Some of these food destinations are well-established, while others are quickly becoming favorites as Rochester’s culinary scene explodes.


10. Volunteer your time and talent

I can’t think of a better day trip than one that helps others. Make time to volunteer your time and talent with one of these amazing Rochester-area organizations.

Enjoy Winter Break Outdoors

Rochester-Area Day Trip: Mendon Ponds Park Monroe County Sledding snow sports
Mendon Ponds

11. Snow sports

Snow sports and other outdoor winter activities are a great way to shake the winter doldrums with exposure to fresh air, exercise, and sunshine.

Sunken Garden at Warner Castle Rochester NY
Sunken Garden

12. Discover a hidden place

We drive past some of Rochester’s most unique features every day, completely unaware that these hidden places exist!

Seneca Park Zoo tiger cover winter
Seneca Park Zoo

13. Seneca Park Zoo

The Seneca Park Zoo is open all year round. Visit in the winter for a completely different experience.

Tinker Park Winter trail

14. Tinker Nature Park

Tinker Nature Park offers a 1.2 mile flat perimeter trail for jogging, biking, skiing, snowshoeing or walking. 

Niagara Falls Winter NY USA Horseshoe Falls
Horseshoe Falls

15. Niagara Falls, USA

Niagara Falls is beautiful year round, and I highly recommend going at different times throughout the year to witness the uniqueness of each season.

There’s nothing quite like seeing the falls after a period of sustained freezing temperatures. Bundle up!

Roadside Attractions - Shoe Trees Lyndonvile
Shoe Trees

16. Roadside attractions

Here are some unusual Finger Lakes, Western New York and Rochester-area roadside attractions that make for an interesting day trip.

Taughannock Falls winter hiking
Taughannock Falls

17. State parks

Venture into one of 49 New York State Parks within a 2-hour drive of Rochester and discover what makes them each unique! They are free in the off-season, with fewer amenities available (no restrooms or food) so plan ahead.

Monroe County Ellison Park Rochester NY
Ellison Park

18. Monroe County parks

Our 20 Monroe County parks are always free, so take advantage of 12,000 acres of natural, zoological, horticultural, historical and geological experiences!

Channing Philbrick Park
Channing Philbrick

19. Town parks

These five town parks have a unique offering of woods, wildlife, and water features to explore using pavement, hard-pack dirt, wood chips, gravel and boardwalk. Explore them all during your holiday or winter break.

Letchworth Humphrey Nature Center fire pit winter
Humphrey Nature Center

20. Nature centers

Our 48 nature centers, wildlife preserves, management areas, etc., all serve to protect and sustain life, while making nature accessible to people to enjoy and learn from.

Ontario Beach Park pier
Lake Ontario

21. Lake Ontario Beach Park + pier

Lake Ontario Beach Park is located at the northernmost tip of the city of Rochester, and is bordered on the East by the mouth of the Genesee River.

The pier can be wild and in-accessible after wind and rain have iced over, but, wow, what a scene!

Explore along the lake shore during winter break to observe natural ice sculptures and the wildlife that tough it out.

Ice Fishing Conesus
Ice Fishing on Conesus Lake

22. Spend a day in the Finger Lakes Region

The Finger Lakes Region is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and right in our backyard!

Check out the boat houses on Canandaigua Lake, or the gardens on Conesus at Vitale Park for an interesting twist on a summertime destination.

Watch folks ice fishing, or give it a try yourself.

High Falls Rochester NY Genesee River winter waterfall
High Falls

23. Roadside waterfalls

Our roadside waterfalls near Rochester are spectacular, and for some, you do not need to get out of your car.

Impressive waterfalls are not all buried in dark ravines accessible only by difficult trails. They take on new personalities in the wintertime.

Rochester Citizen Science Tree Frog
Tree Frog

24. Become a citizen scientist

Take a closer look at these Rochester citizen science opportunities and see how you can get involved!

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, dedicated citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

What are your favorite holiday & winter break activities?

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


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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.