Things to Do in Rochester, NY, on Your Next Weekend Getaway

things to do in rochester

Sometimes, the best adventures are just a short hop away. This is certainly the case when I look back on my weekend getaway to the city of Rochester, NY. It’s a charming city full of history, culture, and (let’s be honest) delicious eats.

Whether you’re a history buff eager to visit the former home of Susan B. Anthony to learn more about her legacy or a craft beer enthusiast searching for a new and exciting brewery destination, Rochester has something for everyone.This post will be your one-stop guide, covering everything from the perfect place to rest your head after a day of exploration to must-try restaurants and attractions. Get ready to discover the best things to do in Rochester, NY.

things to do in rochester this weekend

History of Rochester, NY

  • The village of Rochesterville was formed in 1817. By 1823, it had 2,500 residents, and the name was shortened to Rochester.
  • Doubling its population in just 10 years, Rochester was officially America’s first “boom town.”
  • It was given the nickname “Flour City” after becoming the USA’s largest flour-producing city in 1838.
  • Wheat processing moved west following agricultural development, and the city’s focus shifted to its expanding nursery industry. This earned Rochester its second nickname, the Flower City.
  • Abolitionist newspaper The North Star was founded in Rochester in 1847 by Frederick Douglass.
  • National leader of the women’s suffrage movement, Susan B. Anthony, was from Rochester. Her home is now a National Historic Landmark in the city.
tourist attractions in rochester ny
tourist attractions in rochester ny

Travelling to Rochester

Before I discuss the many things to do in Rochester, NY, let’s look at your options for getting there. While it is close enough to Toronto to make the drive, public transit options such as the bus or train may be better suited to your needs. Here are the pros and cons to help you make the best decision for your travels:

By Car

The drive from Toronto to Rochester will take approximately 3 hours, following ON-403 W and I-90 E. Of course, this trip will involve travelling across the border, which can add a lot of time to your travels on any given day. Make sure you are prepared with the necessary documentation to make the crossing as stress-free as possible.

By Bus

If you don’t have access to a vehicle or simply don’t want to worry about parking and gas costs, the bus is a great option. Greyhound offers a direct route from the Union Station Bus Terminal to their Rochester Bus Stop. This trip will take approximately 5 hours, and tickets start at $35.99 USD one way.  

If their schedule doesn’t line up with your plans, FlixBus also has routes to Rochester. However, they will involve a transfer, which adds to the trip length, with trips estimated to last 6 ½ to 7 ½ hours. Tickets are also a little more expensive, starting at $64.98 CAD one way.

Finally, Trailways is another bus line that offers routes from Toronto to Rochester. This is a direct trip lasting approximately 5 ½ hours, and tickets start at $38 USD one way.

By Train

Another public transit option that you may be interested in is the train. VIA Rail travels from Toronto to the city of Rochester, NY.  The trip will last approximately 5 hours and 15 minutes, including one connection, and tickets start at $96 CAD one way.

Hotels in Rochester, NY

There are many great Rochester, NY, hotels to choose from. This includes locations downtown, within walking distance of most of the city’s main attractions, and those slightly further away for travellers who prefer a less busy place to end their day. Here are three I highly recommend:

Country Inn & Suites by Radisson

2835 Monroe Ave

Located close to the airport, just 15 minutes from downtown, making it a convenient location for many travellers. The rooms are welcoming, and a complimentary, hot breakfast is the perfect start to your day. This hotel is an excellent choice if you’re planning a family vacation, as children stay free when accompanied by an adult.

Courtyard by Marriott Rochester Downtown

390 East Ave

I stayed at this hotel during my most recent trip to the city. It was designed to offer modern amenities while respecting the historic downtown area – a balance I believe they achieved perfectly. It is a short walk from the hotel to many of the city’s restaurants and attractions, plus a local shuttle stops at the front door, making it easy to get around. The onsite restaurant, The Bistro, offers coffee and a selection of breakfast options in the morning or visit later in the day for dinner and cocktails.

hotels in rochester ny
hotels in rochester ny
hotels in rochester ny

Hilton Garden Inn Rochester

155 E Main StUnlike the other two hotels, the Hilton Garden Inn is pet-friendly, allowing a maximum of 2 dogs or cats per room. This makes it the perfect choice if you plan to road trip with pets on your next getaway It is a 10-minute walk from the hotel to downtown, close to many restaurants and tourist attractions in Rochester, NY.  The onsite restaurant, Drifters, offers a modern twist on classic comfort food and a wide selection of drinks, including wine from the Finger Lakes Region.

Rochester, NY Restaurants, Breweries, Bars, and Taste Rooms

During your visit, you are sure to work an appetite. Luckily, there are some great places to grab a drink and a bite to eat. Fuel your getaway with any one of the following establishments. I’m sure you’ll have a great time regardless of which location you choose.

If you get to the end of this list and still have time to explore more, you’re in luck. A friend and fellow travel creator, Danielle Desire, wrote Places to Eat in Rochester You Don’t Want to Miss on her website, The Thought Card, with even more options to consider.

Rohrback Brewing Co.

97 Railroad St | 3859 Buffalo Rd

Unlike the other locations I share on this list, Rohrback Brewing Co. has two locations in the city of Rochester, NY. This includes the Rohrback Railroad St. Beer Hall and the Rohrback Buffalo Rd. Brewpub. Founded in 1991, it was the first craft brewer in Rochester. It continues to grow and thrive while staying true to its roots – great local beer.

rochester ny restaurants

Restaurant Good Luck

50 Anderson Ave

This bright and bold restaurant opened its doors in 2008 and brought life to the former warehouse location. Their menu offers heart meals featuring seasonal ingredients, delicious dessert options, creative cocktails, and an impressive wine list.

A quick heads-up – most of the food on the menu has a relatively large serving size. It’s designed to be shared (or packed up to enjoy for another meal later). The Bibb Salad and Good Luck Burger, which I ordered, were more than enough to satisfy two of us.

activities in rochester
activities in rochester
activities in rochester

Strangebird Brewery

62 Marshall St

This is another must-see brewery in Rochester. The Strangebird Brewery was named the 2022 New York State Craft Brewery of the Year. Here, you’ll find various handcrafted beer options spanning all styles and types, ensuring something for every taste. Their menu is filled with delicious, beer-friendly meals, including pizza, burgers, and mac and cheese. But don’t wait to order; the last food orders are at 9 PM.

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rochester ny restaurants
rochester ny restaurants
rochester ny restaurants
rochester ny restaurants

Living Roots Taste Room

1255 University Ave

If your idea of a relaxing evening out with your partner or travel buddy is a glass of wine in a warm and welcoming spot, the Living Roots Taste Room is the perfect option. Here, you will find a selection of wines made at the two Living Roots Winery locations – One in the Finger Lakes area and the other in Australia. While you can try your luck by popping in and hoping for an empty seat at the bar, I recommend booking a private wine tasting for the full experience.

activities in rochester
activities in rochester
activities in rochester

TRATA Rochester

145 Culver Rd

Looking for a fun place to hang out and enjoy a few drinks during your trip? Look no further. TRATA’s self-serve beer wall offers a selection of 45+ beers on tap (depending on availability at the time), from locally brewed New York favourites to the standard domestics. There are also four wines on tap if that is more to your taste. They also have a menu that includes individual dinner selections and party platters, depending on the size of your party and what you’re looking to enjoy.  

Locals Only

311 Alexander St

Open daily from 8 AM until 3 PM, Locals Only is a great place to start your day with their delicious breakfast and lunch selections. Coffee lovers, you need to stop in and check out their many seasonal and specialty coffees, including a fun and ever-changing Latte of the Month. The food was delicious, and the atmosphere was relaxed and welcoming (even for visitors, despite its name).  

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rochester ny restaurants
rochester ny restaurants
rochester ny restaurants

The Cub Room

739 South Clinton Avenue

This tavern has a unique vibe – a combination of modern industrial and a speak-easy style from the prohibition era. It offers seasonally driven American-style cuisine with influences from Italy and Spain and high-quality cocktails that taste as good as they look. It’s a family-run restaurant that focuses on sourcing ingredients locally and regionally.  

rochester ny restaurants
rochester ny restaurants
rochester ny restaurants
rochester ny restaurants

Dinosaur Barb-B-Que

99 Court St

If you’re a fan of BBQ, you’re in luck. This southern-style restaurant took over the former Lehigh Valley Railroad Station in 1998, transforming it into a popular stop for anyone craving that distinct BBQ flavour. Their menu showcases all the best BBQ favourites, including ribs, pulled pork, brisket, and smoked wings. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options are also available. For those travelling with their pets, the outdoor patio welcomes well-behaved dogs.

Genesee Brew House

25 Cataract St

In 2012, the owners of this brewery transformed a 100-year-old traditional brew house into a modern brewery dedicated to its historical roots. If you want to learn more about brewing, you should consider taking a tour. Their Newlands steam-fired 20-barrel brewing system is a sight to be seen. The brewery donates a portion of the proceeds earned at the Tasting Bar to local non-profits throughout the year. 

rochester ny restaurants
rochester ny restaurants
rochester ny restaurants
rochester ny restaurants

Things to Do in Rochester, NY

With so many fun things to do in Rochester, it can be hard to narrow down your options. Are you more interested in learning about the city’s history or taking in the local arts scene? Maybe a combination of the two? Do you love shopping from local vendors and small business owners when visiting somewhere new?

These are just some of the many activities and attractions in Rochester that are available:

Highland Park Gardens

180 Reservoir Ave

Highland Park, also known as the Highland Botanical Park, features an incredible planted arboretum (tree garden), including:

  • Over 1200 lilac shrubs
  • 35 varieties of magnolias
  • 700 varieties of rhododendron, azaleas, mountain laurel, and andromeda
  • Spring bulbs and wildflowers
  • A barberry collection
  • A rock garden with dwarf evergreens
  • Horse chestnuts
  • A Japanese Maple collection
  • A large collection of exotic trees

It spans over 150 acres, making it an incredible sight for plant lovers. Within the park, you will also find the Greater Rochester Vietnam Memorial. This beautiful location also hosts some fun events, depending on when you visit the city. In the winter, you can go skating on Lily Pond. Then, in May, the beauty of spring is celebrated with the annual Lilac Festival.

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best things to do in rochester ny
best things to do in rochester ny

Rochester Public Market

280 North Union Street

With over 300 vendors on the busiest Saturdays, this local market is a great place to shop for local arts and carats, fresh produce, and delicious food. The market opens at 6 AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5 AM on Saturdays, and runs until just after lunch. Some of my favourite vendors from my visit were Flour City Bread, Juan & Maria’s Empanadas, and Fresh Pressed Juice.

Considered a local tradition, the market has been in operation since 1905 and is definitely one of the must-see activities in Rochester.

fun things to do in rochester
fun things to do in rochester
fun things to do in rochester

Charlotte – Genesee Lighthouse

70 Lighthouse St

Standing 40 ft high at the mouth of the Genesee River, the Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse is the oldest active surviving lighthouse on Lake Ontario. Tours of both the tower and the lighthouse keeper’s house are available, and the gardens around the lighthouse are maintained with annual flowers, which are changed yearly.

Eastman Theatre

60 Gibbs St (Kodak Hall) | 26 Gibbs St (Kilbourn Hall) | 433 East Main Street (Hatch Recital Hall)

Opening in 1922, Eastman Theatre has long been a fixture in the Rochester music scene. It has hosted some of the world’s greatest musicians, including Leonard Bernstein, Igor Stravinsky, John Williams, Stan Getz, and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Kodak Hall is the principal concert hall for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. Kilbourn Hall, located in the main building of the Eastman School of Music, is recognized as one of the world’s finest chamber music halls. Hatch Recital Hall is the newest addition, offering a modern space for solo instrumental, chamber, and vocal music performances.

The theatre hosts many different forms of talent, including comedy, film screenings, jazz performances, and classical concerts. The line-up is available on the Eastman Theatre website.

High Falls

4 Commercial St

The tallest of Genesee River’s three waterfalls, High Falls is an impressive 96 feet tall and conveniently located in downtown Rochester for those interested in seeing its beauty. Recognizing its hydropower potential, the falls served as a focal point in the city as much of the industrial development happened around it. Today, many industrial buildings still stand as breweries and other businesses.

The best view of the falls on foot, I believe, can be found on the Pont de Rennes bridge or from the lookout in High Falls Terrace Park. However, if you want to enjoy a drink and a view, the rooftop of the Genesee Brewery is the perfect spot.

fun things to do in rochester

Frederick Douglass Monument and Memorial Plaza

Robinson Dr & South Ave, in Highland Park

One of the more notable historical figures with ties to the city, Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave and abolitionist who moved to Rochester, where he lived most of his adult life. Honouring his contributions, African American activist John W. Thompson commissioned sculptor Sidney W. Edwards to create a statue in his likeness.

what is rochester ny known for

White Lady’s Castle

Lakeshore Blvd, Irondequoit

Located just outside of Rochester, Durand-Eastman Park is home to the crumbling stone walls of an old dining hall. At first glance, the old structure may not seem like much, but people travel from all over the country to see this location, dubbed by locals as the White Lady’s Castle.

Legend has it that a ghostly figure of a reclusive woman who once lived there wanders the property at night, searching for her daughter after she had gone missing. Whether you believe in ghost stories or not, I will admit that the spot does look a little spooky.

Erie Canal Cruise on the Sam Patch

38 Schoen Pl, Pittsford

While this attraction isn’t right in Rochester, it was too much fun not to include in this guide. The boat departs from Schoen Place in the Port of Pittsford, NY, approximately 20 minutes from the city. Not only is this a great way to see the local scenery, but the boat itself is a replica of an 1800s packet boat, creating a unique experience.

The 90-minute cruise is led by a knowledgeable guide who will share fun facts and information about local landmarks as you pass. You will also enjoy food and drinks on board.

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visit rochester
visit rochester

Rundel Memorial Building

115 South Ave

This stunning three-story building was built during the Great Depression, between 1934 and 1936, but not without facing many challenges of the times. Since that date, it has stood as a reminder to the people of Rochester that anything is possible.

The building was once the original downtown site of the Rochester Public Library and, along with the building directly across the street, continues to serve today as the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County. The architecture alone is worth the trip and offers a pretty photo opportunity.

Lamberton Conservatory

180 Reservoir Ave

Another must-see location for pet lovers, the Lamberton Conservatory, was originally constructed in 1911. Unfortunately, like many historic buildings, it deteriorated past the point where it could be maintained. In 2007, the Monroe County Parks Department completed a complete teardown and historical reconstruction, totalling one million dollars in work. The attention to detail in maintaining the original design and character is incredible.

best things to do in rochester ny

Bowling at Radio Social

20 Carlson Rd

This 42,000-square-foot entertainment experience and event venue inside Rochester’s historical Stromberg-Carlson warehouse is home to an epic bowling alley. Not only does it offer 34 bowling lanes, but there are also indoor and outdoor (yard) games, a beer and whisky bar, and an onsite restaurant that serves dinner Wednesday through Saturday and brunch on Sundays. As a bonus, you will often enjoy live music from local artists.  

Rochester Memorial Art Gallery

500 University Ave

Located on the University of Rochester’s campus, the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) offers a stunning permanent exhibition of 12,000 objects spanning over 5,000 years of art history. Browse the many works of art at your own pace or join in on one of the Art Lover’s Tours organized by the MAG Council. The location also offers other events and activities, including art workshops, talks, temporary exhibitions, public concerts, and children’s programming.

Historic Graves at Mount Hope Cemetery

1133 Mt Hope Ave

If you want to pay your respects to Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, this historic cemetery is the perfect place. This location, where they were both laid to rest, is also the final resting place of many other important historical figures from throughout Rochester’s history. You can visit the cemetery and take a self-guided tour at any time when the gates are open or book a guided walking tour through the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery.

Warner Castle

5 Castle Park

Built by Horatio Gates Warner, a prominent publisher, judge, and bank president, Warner Castle is one of Rochester’s most beautiful historical sites and an incredible photo opportunity. The building, constructed in 1854, sits atop an elevated part of the park. While you’re there, take a walk through the gardens stretching around the castle, including the Sunken Garden at the back, designed by Rochester’s most acclaimed landscape architect, Alling DeForest.

fun things to do in rochester
Sunken garden in early spring on a rainy day

Frederick Douglass Murals

999 South Avenue

If you visit 999 South Avenue, you will find a building that is currently being used as the Anna Murray-Douglass School, the Frederick Douglass Library, and the Frederick Douglass R-Center. But this building was once the rural second home of the well-known abolitionist, author, newspaper publisher, and orator.

The building itself is hard to miss. Why? The walls are adorned with creative and beautifully painted murals, paying respect to Douglass. They showcase his likeness alongside many of his inspirational and motivational quotes.

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city of rochester ny

Rochester Museum & Science Center and Strasenburg Planetarium

657 East Ave | 663 East Ave

The Rochester Museum & Science Center is another great attraction for the whole family. With over 1.2 million collection objects in their possession and only a limited amount of space to display them, the museum is continually rolling out new exhibitions and displays to enjoy.

Some exhibits that have been shown here include:

  • Native Peoples of the Americas
  • Electricity Theater
  • Flight to Freedom: Rochester’s Underground Railroad
  • The Changemakers Rochester Women Who Changed the World
  • Sound Bites (sound and music)
  • Under Construction: Building Careers
  • And much more…

The Cumming Nature Center, the museum’s 900-acre nature preserve, offers exhibits about local wildlife and their habitats. There are also 15 miles of hiking and ski trails, year-round events, and scheduled environmental educational programs.

Operated by the museum, the Strasenburg Planetarium continues the learning experience. Here, you can learn about space and the university, including exhibits that explain the history and technology behind space exploration and understanding, as well as fun educational shows like “Planet Spectacular” and “Stars with Carl.”

history of rochester ny
history of rochester ny
history of rochester ny
history of rochester ny

Susan B. Anthony Museum & House

17 Madison St

As previously mentioned, Susan B. Anthony was instrumental in the women’s suffrage movement and is a historical hero to many. The Susan B. Anthony Museum & House is built at the site of her National Historic Landmark home and where she was famously arrested for voting in 1872.

The museum focuses on the many important causes to Susan B. Anthony during her life, including abolition, suffrage, education reform, labour reform, and temperance. Guided tours of the museum run six days a week, from 11 AM to 5 PM.

Warning: These tours book out fast! To avoid disappointment, book your tour online before you arrive.

If you’re interested in learning more about the roots of the women’s suffrage movement in Rochester and its lasting impact on our society, you’re in luck. We covered this important topic on our podcast, Road Trip Ready. Learn more about Susan B. Anthony’s crucial role in securing women’s right to vote in the United States.

history of rochester ny
history of rochester ny
history of rochester ny

Let’s Have Tea Sculpture

39 King St (Susan B. Anthony Square Park)

This bronze sculpture, created by Rochester sculptor Pepsy Kettavong at the request of the Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood Association, features Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, two well-known historical figures tied to Rochester and famous for their work in social justice and civil rights, sitting across from one another and sharing a cup of tea.

It was erected in 2001, becoming the focal point of Susan B. Anthony Square Park, directly across the road from the Susan  B. Anthony Museum & House.

what is rochester ny known for

George Eastman Museum

900 East Ave

Also known as the International Museum of Photography and Film, the George Eastman Museum is named after the co-founder of the Kodak Company and one of the pioneers in photography and film as we know it today. George Eastman’s mansion was built in 1905. It was converted into a museum, which opened to the public in 1949, making it the world’s oldest photography museum.

Today, it boasts an impressive collection of over 400,000 photographs from 14,000 photographers. The museum also offers tours, gardens, music recitals, visiting artists, and more. Its Dryden Theatre is one of the few venues in the world equipped to exhibit highly flammable nitrate film safely.

visit rochester
visit rochester
visit rochester

The Strong National Museum of Play

1 Manhattan Square Dr

Are you travelling with the whole family? If so, this may just top your list of the best things to do in Rochester, NY. This highly interactive museum is dedicated to exploring the history and exploration of play, making it an unforgettable experience for all ages.

The two-story building houses the world’s largest collection of toys, games, and dolls, including video games, carousels, board games, comics, and more. In addition to the many interactive exhibits, you will also find an indoor butterfly garden, a high rope course, and a food court. 

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city of rochester ny
city of rochester ny
city of rochester ny
city of rochester ny
city of rochester ny

Enjoy a Memorable Weekend in Rochester, NY

Whether you’re searching for things to do in Rochester this weekend or planning a trip for a later date, I hope that you’ve been inspired by everything I have listed here. This city has so much to see and explore, and its rich history can be felt at every corner. It’s a great weekend getaway spot for families, couples, or solo travel.

If you really want to embrace the magic of Rochester, consider speaking to the locals and asking them for their best-kept secrets. I am positive there is much more to discover that I haven’t even touched on here! 


What is Rochester, NY, Known For?

Throughout its history, Rochester has made a name for itself in several different industries. This includes its role as the “Flour City” and the “Flower City” (from the nursery industry), its ties to the history of photography through George Eastman and the Kodak Company, and the many important historical figures who have called this city home.
To truly embrace and understand Rochester’s beauty, be prepared to walk through its history. It has so much to offer, both past and present.

When I Visit Rochester, Are There Other Places Nearby Worth Visiting?

Great news, there are many great places to visit near Rochester, NY. In fact, the most difficult decision you will face is which destinations to choose. Some of the cities nearby that I highly recommend include Buffalo and New York City.

What Should I Bring When Visiting Rochester?

The most important thing you will need during a trip to Rochester is a pair of comfortable walking shoes. There are so many great things to explore around the city’s downtown, all within walking distance. You may even wish to add comfortable insoles like Dr. Scholl’s Walk Longer Insoles.

Another important consideration is that Rochester does have a higher average number of rainy days each year than most other cities in the US. Knowing this, I recommend packing rain gear. A lightweight rain poncho will pack up very small, taking up very little space in your luggage while ensuring you can stay dry and comfortable throughout your trip. 

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