During my time writing this site, I’ve traveled extensively throughout New York, and there are few places that I look forward to visiting more than Rochester.
That’s because there are not only so many great things to do in Rochester, NY, but there is also an incredible variety of sights to see. Whether you love world-class museums, incredible waterfalls, local culinary creations, or fascinating culture, there’s a bit of something for everyone that can be easily checked out in the area.
So, after visiting the city many times over the years, here are my picks for the best things to do in Rochester and the rest of Monroe County.
Susan B. Anthony House
There may be no more influential figure to have resided in Rochester than Susan B. Anthony, and her home in West Rochester is open throughout the year for tours.
Visits to the Susan B. Anthony House offer the chance to learn more about her incredible life and the impact that she had on women’s rights, specifically the right to vote. Tours take you through the home and include many pieces owned and used by Anthony.
The home next door has even been turned into a great little museum.
Located in the heart of downtown Rochester, you’ll find the incredible High Falls along the Genesee River.
This nearly 100-foot waterfall creates a dramatic scene in the middle of the city thanks to both its large size and the massive canyon the river has carved below it.
There are a variety of viewing spots from which to see this waterfall, so make sure to check out each of the interesting spots.
Strong Museum of Play
I’ve visited many children’s museums, and I don’t think that there’s a better one in New York (or perhaps anywhere) than the Strong Museum of Play.
This museum features dozens of unique play areas for children including scientific areas, pinball machines, a giant pretend grocery store, Sesame Street, and much more. Even better, many of these areas are also quite fun for parents to experience too.
The Strong Museum is also home to an actual toy museum featuring vintage toys from American history and an entire area devoted to video games (many of which you can play).
George Eastman Museum
The George Eastman Museum is the world’s oldest museum dedicated to photography and is located in the home of George Eastman, the founder of the Kodak Company.
The museum chronicles the history of photography and film from its earliest days up through modern advancements. The pieces of display here are truly remarkable and offer a fascinating glimpse into how these media have changed throughout the years.
The museum also features a fascinating look into Eastman, who was quite an interesting individual even aside from his company.
Cobb’s Hill Park
Cobb’s Hill Park is a 109-acre park located southwest of downtown Rochester. The park features many typical park amenities including sports fields and playgrounds and is also home to the city’s reservoir.
The highlight for visitors, however, is the incredible view of the skyline of downtown Rochester from the top of Cobb’s Hill. Without a doubt, this is one of the best places in the city to watch the sunset.
Seneca Park Zoo
If you love animals, then visiting the Seneca Park Zoo is one of the best things to do in Rochester, NY.
This zoo is home to more than 90 different species from around the world and offers the chance to see many of them up close. These include popular species such as tigers, sea lions, and polar bears.
For kids, the zoo is also home to a very large and creative natural playground that is a ton of fun for them to explore.
If you love craft beer, Rochester is a great city to visit. Not only are there a ton of great breweries in Rochester, but there are also some really interesting and inventive taproom spaces to visit.
Spots like Genesee Brewing Company (with its great deck overlooking High Falls), Fifth Frame Brewing Company (which both brews beer and roasts coffee), and Stoneyard Brewing Company (which is right on the Erie Canal) offer the chance to enjoy great beer in unique settings.
A short distance north of downtown Rochester, you’ll find Lower Falls, another massive waterfall along the Genesee River.
At 110 feet in height, this is actually the tallest of the five major waterfalls along the river and is also the last before the river empties into Lake Ontario.
While viewing this waterfall isn’t as easy as seeing High Falls, there are several vantage points both at the rim of the canyon and near the base where you can enjoy this beautiful waterfall from.
Genesee Country Village and Museum
Located southwest of Rochester, you’ll find the Genesee Country Village and Museum.
This 19th-century living village features nearly 70 historic structures moved here from around the region and offers a fantastic look at what life was like in this part of New York in years past. Many of the buildings are staffed by costumed interpreters.
In addition to the village, there is a historic baseball field that has regularly scheduled baseball games with 19th-century rules and several other museums on the grounds.
Located near the mouth of the Genesee River, you’ll find the Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse.
This lighthouse dates back to the mid-19th century and allows visitors to explore both the museum within the lighthouse keeper’s home and climb to the top of the restored and still-functional lighthouse.
The views from the top are incredible and offer the chance to look out over northern Monroe County and Lake Ontario.
Corbett’s Glen Nature Park is a 52-acre park southeast of Rochester.
This small park features several picturesque waterfalls, a very cool stone tunnel, and a short trail that connects them all together. This hike is relatively easy, making it a great choice for visitors of all ability levels.
While parking here is pretty limited, this is definitely a neat spot for a quick hike if you can find a spot to park.
Rochester Museum and Science Center
Whether you want to learn more about Rochester or love science, the Rochester Museum and Science Center is a great spot to check out.
This museum offers a wealth of information about the history of Rochester, including details about the region’s natural history, native peoples, and important industries. Interspersed throughout the space, there are many hands-on science activities that are sure to delight people of all ages.
If you have the time, the museum is also home to the city’s only planetarium.
Seabreeze Amusement Park
Located north of the city, Seabreeze Amusement Park is a great spot to visit for some summertime fun.
Seabreeze first opened in 1889 and is the fourth-oldest amusement park in the country. Despite its age, there are a lot of fun modern rides here. However, the highlight is the Jack Rabbit, which is the world’s oldest continually-operating roller coaster.
In addition to the park’s 25 rides, there is also a popular waterpark that you can enjoy on hot days.
Mount Hope Cemetery
Mount Hope Cemetery was the first municipal cemetery in the country and has been open since 1839.
In that time, hundreds of thousands of people have been buried in the cemetery, including some of Rochester’s most prominent citizens. The grounds here are quite beautiful and you can visit the final resting places of luminaries such as Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.
There are also guided tours held periodically throughout the year.
Ontario Beach Park
While Rochester might be hundreds of miles from the ocean, there are several beach areas along Lake Ontario in Monroe County. Probably the closest to the city is Ontario Beach Park, which is located near the mouth of the Genesee River.
The natural sand beach here offers a lot of summertime fun and the chance to cool off on the water of the lake. There are also beach volleyball courts, a pier, and great fishing.
If that’s not enough, you can also take a ride on the park’s 1905 carousel.
Powder Mills Fish Hatchery
Powder Mills Fish Hatchery is a neat spot to visit in Powder Mill Park.
This hatchery first opened in 1933 and is home to thousands of trout being grown for stocking in nearby waterways. Visitors can check out the tanks with various sized fish, feed the fish, and read the great signs to learn more about the workings of the hatchery.
Of course, while at the hatchery, make sure to check out the many other great things to do in the park.
Nick Tahou Hots
No visit to Rochester is complete without a stop at Nick Tahou Hots, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant near downtown.
This restaurant is the original location for Rochester’s most famous culinary dish, the garbage plate. While the name might sound unappealing, a garbage plate is comprised of one of several meat choices and some combination of home fries, macaroni salad, and baked beans. This is then topped with chopped onions, hot sauce, and mustard.
While this is definitely an interesting concoction, and you’ll either love it or hate it, it’s the sort of thing that is worth trying at least once.
Rochester and Genesee Valley Railroad Museum
If you love trails, the Rochester and Genesee Valley Railroad Museum is a must-visit spot.
Located in southeastern Monroe County, this museum offers the chance to learn more about the impact that the railroad had on the history of the region. The museum operates out of a historic Erie Lackawanna Railroad depot and has restored dozens of antique engines, passenger cars, and other rolling stock.
It is also the only place in the Rochester area where you can ride an authentic antique train!
Honeoye Falls is both the name of a southern Monroe County community and the name of a waterfall located in the heart of the downtown area. While the village looks quite charming, I’m specifically referring to the waterfall here.
Honeoye Falls appears to be a natural waterfall topped with a small concrete dam. Combined, it is about 25-30 feet tall. It is located right in the heart of town with the town hall on one side and a historic red mill (that is privately owned) on the other.
The viewing area next to the town hall makes for a spectacular sight with the waterfall in the foreground and the bright red mill in the background.
Turning Point Park
Located north of downtown Rochester along the Genesee River, you’ll find Turning Point Park. This 275-acre park is home to an area known as Bullock’s Woods and features several miles of wooded trails for hiking and biking.
The highlight here, however, is the two-thirds of a mile-long boardwalk that passes over a bulbous area of the Genesee River that was once, as the name implies, a place for large cargo ships to turn around after docking along the river.
Walking over this boardwalk offers incredible views of the river and even gives you the chance, if you’re lucky, to see some of the area’s interesting wildlife.
New York Museum of Transportation
The New York Museum of Transportation offers a fantastic look into the history of transportation in New York.
The museum features many fantastic displays including a giant model railroad, many restored train cars, and even a historic subway car from the city’s defunct light rail.
The main draw here is their trolley ride, making them the only museum in New York with an antique electric trolley that visitors can ride.
What are your favorite things to do in Rochester, New York? Let us know in the comments below.
Looking for even more great places to visit in New York? Check out my favorite things to do in Buffalo, my top picks in Syracuse, the best things to do in Ithaca, and the top waterfalls in the Finger Lakes.