18 Best Things to Do in Rochester New York (Food & Fun)

Step right into the vibrant tapestry of Rochester, New York – a city that weaves together history, art, and adventure to create an unforgettable escape.

Whether you’re a food aficionado craving the finest flavors or a thrill-seeker in search of excitement, Rochester beckons with its diverse offerings.

No matter your passion, Rochester’s pulsating energy and warm hospitality promise an experience that will linger in your memories for years to come.

1. Explore the Strong National Museum of Play

Ponder The Strong National Museum of Play’s interactive exhibits across two floors, and dive into upstate New York’s premier year-round cultural destination.

Strong national museum of play
Strong national museum of play” by Sean X. Liu is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

At the museum, you’ll find the world’s most comprehensive collection of toys, dolls, board games, video games, and other historical materials related to play.

Don’t miss the chance to explore the National Toy Hall of Fame and take a trip down memory lane with both modern and classic toys and games.

The museum offers an extensive array of video game classics and rare pinball machines for you to play and experience.

Among the interactive exhibit spaces, you’ll also discover the fascinating world of American comic book history.

2. Savor a Meal at the Public Market

At the historic Rochester Public Market, you’ll discover an array of sumptuous dishes that cater to diverse culinary tastes.

Apples for sale at the Rochester Public Market, Rochester, New York
Apples for sale at the Rochester Public Market, Rochester, New York – 20191026” by Andre Carrotflower is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

The market has been serving the community since 1905 and offers a fun and exciting atmosphere where you can satisfy your hunger whims.

Begin your culinary journey at Flour City Bread with their artisan treats, from buttermilk biscuits and cruffins to sticky buns and savory tarts, ideal for breakfast or a snack.

Don’t forget to sample some of the market’s global flavors of ethnic delicacies like tacos and curries, catering to all taste preferences.

The Rochester Public Market buzzes year-round with events like garage sales, Flower City Days, live music, Artist Row, and Halloween festivities, offering endless entertainment.

3. Visit the George Eastman Museum

If you’re looking for a remarkable and educational experience in Rochester, New York, be sure to visit the George Eastman Museum.

George Eastman House Garden
George Eastman House Garden (1)” by RLHyde is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

As the world’s oldest photography museum and one of the oldest film archives, it offers a unique glimpse into the history of these art forms.

Located on the estate of George Eastman, the pioneer of popular photography and motion picture film, the museum showcases a rich collection of photographs, films, and related artifacts.

Your visit features iconic photo exhibits, antique cameras, and over 300 annual film screenings at Dryden Theatre, including the Nitrate Picture Show festival dedicated to film preservation.

4. Stroll Through Highland Park

When in Rochester, NY, don’t miss exploring Highland Park, a 150-acre gem designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, known for its rich plant and animal life and inviting atmosphere.

Highland Park, Rochester, New York
Highland Park, Rochester, New York – 20220525 – 11 – Trellises and benches at Remember Garden” by Andre Carrotflower is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

While you’re there, don’t miss the chance to see over 1,200 lilac shrubs contained in Highland Park’s arboretum.

The park is best known for its annual Lilac Festival held in May, attracting visitors from around the globe for this colorful event.

Highland Park also offers a variety of fun activities and attractions. Here are some recommendations to try out:

  • Attend summer concerts at the park
  • Explore the Greater Rochester Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  • Capture moments with beautiful flower backdrops
  • Bring a picnic to enjoy in the designated picnic area

5. Discover the Seneca Park Zoo

If you’re looking for a fun and educational experience in Rochester, look no further than the Seneca Park Zoo.

Bornean Orangutan mother and baby, Seneca Park Zoo
Bornean Orangutan mother and baby, Seneca Park Zoo” by Seneca Park Zoo is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

This 20-acre zoo features over 90 species of animals and offers a fun exploration experience.

Upon entry, grab a map to explore exhibits like Cold Asia, home to snow leopards and red pandas, and the Savanna section with giraffes, zebras, and a white rhino.

Enhance your visit with the tram service for easy navigation and a relaxing view. Enjoy educational programs, interactive exhibits, and play areas suitable for all ages.

Visit the Savanna Outpost for unique souvenirs and enjoy various dining options within the zoo to refuel.

6. Enjoy the Rochester Museum & Science Center

The Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC) is a great place to explore during your visit to Rochester!

This museum offers a fusion of interactive displays, hands-on exhibits, and engaging programs to entertain and educate visitors of all ages.

At RMSC, discover over 200 interactive exhibits on natural history, native cultures, and space.

Don’t miss out on the museum’s spectacular live science shows. These interactive presentations bring science to life before your very eyes.

You can also explore the museum’s authentic collections, offering a chance to step back in time and admire the history of Rochester and its surrounding areas.

7. Relax at Ontario Beach Park

One of the best ways to enjoy your time in Rochester is by spending a day at Ontario Beach Park.

Ontario Beach Park, Rochester, New York
Ontario Beach Park, Rochester, New York – 20201018 – 05” by Andre Carrotflower is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

This beautiful park offers a variety of activities that you can enjoy by yourself, with friends, or with your family.

Stroll along the sandy beach to enjoy Lake Ontario’s beauty, take a dip, or try water sports like kayaking and paddleboarding.

Consider experiencing history with a $1 ride on the 1903 carousel during your visit, a nostalgic delight for all ages.

Beyond the beach and carousel, enjoy picnics in shaded areas of the park with your loved ones.

8. Take a Walk on the High Falls Heritage Area

Explore Rochester’s High Falls Heritage Area to enjoy the magnificent 96-foot waterfall and delve into the city’s historic essence.

Start at the Pont de Rennes bridge for stunning High Falls views—ideal for photography.

Continue your exploration by venturing into Brown’s Race, recognized both as a National Register Historic District and a city preservation district.

This locale is brimming with exquisitely restored structures that were once pivotal to the industrial heritage of Rochester.

9. Indulge at a Rochester Food Truck Rodeo

If you’re looking for a fun and delicious way to spend an evening in Rochester, you can’t go wrong with the Rochester Food Truck Rodeo.

This event at the Public Market showcases more than 30 food trucks, offering a variety of tasty mobile food options, from gourmet sandwiches to ice cream, ensuring plenty of choices.

For a more enjoyable visit, pack essentials like a lawn chair and fold-out table for a comfortable food truck dining experience.

The Food Truck Rodeo, held monthly from April to September, features great food, live music, and a festive atmosphere, enhanced by a selection of Rohrbach beers.

10. Art Lovers’ Haven: Memorial Art Gallery

If you’re an art enthusiast visiting Rochester, New York, you should pay a visit to the Memorial Art Gallery.

This gallery, situated at 500 University Ave, boasts an incredible collection of art that spans over 5,000 years of art history.

It houses works from various mediums, styles, and cultural backgrounds, ensuring there’s something for everyone to appreciate.

As you wander the exhibits, you’ll discover a stunning mix of ancient artifacts and modern art, showcasing global artistic achievements.

People standing in the dark near a light

The collection also includes prominent examples of early American art, offering history enthusiasts a window into the historical narrative.

11. Experience the Susan B. Anthony House & Museum

When visiting Rochester, New York, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House.

This landmark commemorates the home and arrest site of the iconic civil rights advocate Susan B. Anthony, who boldly challenged voting laws in 1872.

As you step inside, you’ll find yourself immersed in the story of Susan B. Anthony and her lifelong struggle for women’s voting rights and equal rights for all.

The house was the headquarters of the National American Woman Suffrage Association when she was its president, making it a crucial part of American history.

The museum is open from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM but may vary.

12. Attend the Rochester Lilac Festival

Attending the Rochester Lilac Festival is among the top activities in Rochester. Held annually in May at the beautiful Highland Park, this event draws visitors globally.

Highland Park, Rochester, New York
Highland Park, Rochester, New York – 20220525 – 16” by Andre Carrotflower is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

With more than 1,800 lilac bushes and 500 varieties of lilacs, you’ll be surrounded by a picturesque floral masterpiece in various shades of purple and white.

During the 10-day festival that runs from May 12-21, 2023, you can enjoy a variety of activities and experiences.

Start your day by taking a leisurely walk through the park, where you’ll be immersed in the delightful sight and scent of lilacs in full bloom.

You can test your physical prowess by participating in the exhilarating Lilac 5K & 10K races!

13. Tour the Historic Mount Hope Cemetery

While visiting Rochester, New York, make sure you take the time to tour the historic Mount Hope Cemetery.

Cannon pointing towards headstones in Mount Hope Cemetery
File:Defenders of the Flag – Sally James Farnham – Mount Hope Cemetery (Rochester) 01.jpg” by Carol Truesdale is marked with CC0 1.0.

This beautiful and serene location is not just a cemetery, but also a park filled with incredible architecture, captivating history, and lovely nature trails.

Mount Hope Cemetery, established in Rochester in 1838, houses the graves of notable figures like Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.

The cemetery features Victorian Gothic gatehouses, a Florentine fountain, and a Moorish gazebo, enhancing its status within the Mt. Hope/Highland Preservation District.

14. Sample Local Flavors at a Brewery or Winery

Rochester, New York, boasts a vibrant array of breweries and wineries, providing a rich craft beer experience and regional wines to savor right in the city’s core.

Check out Stoneyard Brewing Co. for standout beers like Sea-Dweller Triple IPA and Bumpa’s Orange Creamsicle Sour.

For a brewery experience buzzing with live music and a relaxing atmosphere, Rochester’s very own Swiftwater Brewing Company is the perfect place for you.

Wine enthusiasts, rejoice! While Rochester isn’t in a wine region, nearby Aurora boasts gems like Heart & Hands Winery, known for Pinot Noir and Dry Riesling.

15. Unwind at Genesee Valley Park

Genesee Valley Park is a fantastic retreat when you’re visiting Rochester. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or just looking for a pleasant spot to relax, this park is perfect for you.

People sitting on a bench in Genesee Valley Park

Start your visit at the Genesee Riverway Trail. The trail runs for 24 miles along the river, offering some of the best views in the city.

Next, head to one of the park’s many recreational areas like basketball courts, soccer fields, and tennis courts, you’ll have plenty of choices when it comes to staying active.

Even better, you can hop in a kayak or canoe and paddle down the Genesee River for a more immersive experience in nature.

The park has plenty of shaded areas perfect for unwinding and refueling, and perhaps even catching a glimpse of the stunning autumn foliage.

16. Spend an Evening in the East End

If you find yourself in Rochester, New York, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the lively East End neighborhood.

Known for its variety of entertainment, dining, and nightlife options, this area guarantees a fun-filled evening.

Begin your night by stopping at the Revelry, a popular restaurant and bar serving up delicious American cuisine.

Their menu boasts an array of dishes inspired by the Lowcountry of South Carolina, perfect for any foodie craving unique flavors.

If you’re seeking a thrilling group activity, the Great Escape Room offers a fantastic challenge.

Spend your evening in the East End enjoying a vibrant nightlife. Visit Marshall Street Bar and Grill for friendly vibes, excellent drink deals, and a tasty menu.

17. Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra

When you are in Rochester, New York, Don’t miss to watch local performances at The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO).

The (RPO) is a renowned professional ensemble founded in 1922, making it one of the oldest and most prominent cultural institutions in the city.

The RPO aims to enrich and inspire the community with music through performances, educational programs, and community initiatives.

The orchestra performs a wide range of music, from classical masterpieces to contemporary works, including symphonies, concertos, and chamber music.

The orchestra offers a variety of educational programs designed for audiences of all ages, from school children to adults.

18. Garbage Plate

A Garbage Plate, originating from Rochester, New York, is a unique and beloved culinary concoction that has become a cultural icon in its own right.

This dish is a testament to the joy of comfort food, combining various ingredients that, while seemingly disparate.

The Garbage Plate starts with a base that typically includes a combination of home fries, macaroni salad, or baked beans.

Created at Nick Tahou Hots, a Rochester landmark, the Garbage Plate has since inspired variations in eateries throughout the city and beyond.

What truly sets the Garbage Plate apart is its topping—a hearty ladle of meat hot sauce, which is a spicier, greasier variant of chili without beans.

18 Best Things to Do in Rochester New York (Food & Fun): The Essentials

Exploring Rochester, NY, features unique eats and fun activities, including the must-try Garbage Plate at Nick Tahou Hots and Abbott’s famous Turtle frozen custard.

Beyond the tantalizing flavors, Rochester offers a plethora of activities set against lovely environments. Highland Park provides a serene escape, especially during the vibrant Lilac Festival each May.

Each of these experiences weaves together to form a rich tapestry of what Rochester has to offer, ensuring that every moment spent in this city is filled with discovery and enjoyment.

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