I received complimentary accommodations, tickets and meals as part of a FAM trip, but all words and opinions are my own.
In October 1825, the Erie Canal opened, spurring exploration to the Western United States and instantly transforming Rochester, NY. into America’s first Boomtown. Today, you can still walk those same streets, see many of the iconic buildings, ride down the Eerie Canal and even view the once bustling flour mills. Rochester still remains a place of industry, but has morphed over the years into something more, a place for families to come and explore any time of year. There are a wide array of educational and just plain fun places in Rochester for kids and families to plan their vacations around.
Visit City Parks
Rochester features over 3,500 acres of nationally recognized parks, some even designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who designed New York’s Central Park! Within these city parks, visiting families will find a variety of activities such as ice skating, pools and even sandy beaches like the one found at Ontario Beach Park.
This 39 acre park is home to one of the best natural beaches in the Great Lakes area, a picturesque pier, a historic Dentzel Menagerie Carousel and plenty of opportunities for recreational activities like boating and picnicking. Don’t forget to stop by the locally famous Abbott’s Frozen Custard for a delicious chocolate almond cone!
Rochester Museum and Science Center
Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, the Rochester Museum and Science Center continues its tradition of providing an environment of discovery and learning to both local and visiting families. RMSC houses a mixture of permanent and traveling displays, so there is always something new to explore.
Current exhibits include the Electricity Theater, where ‘singing’ Tesla coils come to life in an exciting display of lightening set to music, Alien Worlds and Androids, where science fiction meets science fact, and KEVA Planks, where you are free to construct your own wooden masterpieces. Other exciting and more permanent exhibits exist, including Expedition Earth, the Adventure Zone and How Things Work. RMSC is open Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm and Sundays from 11am-5pm. Admission is $13 for adults and $11 for children ages 3-18.
National Museum of Play
If your children like to play, and what children don’t, then the National Museum of Play in Rochester is the place to get lost in. The second largest children’s museum in the country, and the only museum solely devoted to play, there are hands on exhibits around every corner of this three story collection of toys.
Exhibits include a fully stocked mini-Wegman’s Super Kids Market, where children can go grocery shopping, work the deli counter or even ring orders up with working registers. Sesame Street is full of visual and hands on activities, like Elmo’s World that allow you to play dress-up and interact with different characters from this hit TV show. Reading Adventureland brings books to life with a Mystery Mansion, Alchemist Laboratory and so much more!
Try on a cape and be a super hero for a day, take a walk through the Berenstain Bears’ home, be surrounded by so many different varieties of butterflies as you walk through the Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden or explore the exhibits of games both past and present! These are just a few of the playful delights that await you at this 150,000 square foot museum. The National Museum of Play is open Monday – Thursday 10am-5pm, Friday and Saturday 10am-8pm and Sunday Noon to 5pm. Admission is $13 for ages 2 and up, and under two are free.
Take a Trip Down the Erie Canal
Finished in 1825, the Erie Canal is not just an iconic part of this nation’s history, but the Rochester areas’ as well. In Pittsford, a Canal Town in the Greater Rochester area, you can walk by the quaint canalside, view the newly restored flour mills that have been renovated into office buildings, and take a ride on the Sam Patch Packet Boat down the Erie Canal. The canal boat is named after the notorious area stuntsman Sam Patch, who took his final leap from the Rochester High Falls on November 13, 1829, which happened to be Friday the 13th.
Aboard the Sam Patch Packet Boat, the captain will regale you with tales of the history of both the canal and the surrounding area. After a brief history, you will get to experience going through a lock in the canal, where the doors are closed behind the boat, and millions of gallons of water are pumped in to raise the water level and float you up. It is a fun experience, and children will find it captivating. Cruising back towards Pittsford you will get a wonderful view of the quiet little town and its beautiful buildings. Tickets for the boat tour are $14 for adults, $11 for students 13-22, and $7 for ages 3-12.
Go Wild at The Seneca Park Zoo
What family vacation would be complete without a trip to the zoo? No rows and rows of tightly packed cages and empty habitats to be found here though, the Seneca Park Zoo goes out of their way to make their animals feel truly at home. The morning we toured the zoo, the snow leopard was being given her meat tucked inside a Backyardigans pinata that was swaying from a nearby tree. Enrichment activities like this are what make the Seneca Park Zoo so unique.
From polar bears and penguins to Lou the Hyena who lounges in the morning son playfully gazing at visitors, the zoo is home to a wide range and ever changing variety of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish. The zoo is open 10am-3pm or 10am-4pm depending on the season. Current admission rates are $11 for adults and $8 for children 3 to 11.
With so much to do and see, there is no question that Rochester, NY. is a family friendly travel destination no matter what time of year you plan to visit. There are a wide range of things in Rochester for kids and families to enjoy, and the options listed above are just the tip of the iceberg. For more great family friendly travel ideas, go to VisitRochester.com.