Known as the Flower City (changed from the original – “Flour City”), Rochester, NY, in Western New York State, is a diverse city with so many things to do. The third-largest city in New York State, Rochester New York is home to many beautiful parks, as well as world-class universities, and international corporations. On my recent trip to Western New York as part of the TMS Family Travel Conference, I extended my trip for a quick one-day tour of things to do in Rochester with kids.
This wasn’t my first trip to Rochester. In fact, I actually spend three and a half years living along the Genesee River when I attended the University of Rochester. Admittedly, much of my time in Rochester was spent on campus, and since I didn’t have children, I didn’t spend much time at the kid-friendly museums and attractions.
I definitely plan to return with my children soon – there are so many things to do in Rochester NY with kids. It’s also a great destination to combine with other destinations in the area, including Niagara Falls and Toronto.
Disclosure: Some of these activities were complimentary for review – all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. A purchase and/or click through these links may result in a commission paid to us.
Things to Do in Rochester NY With Kids
Seabreeze Amusement Park
Seabreeze Amusement Park is located at 4600 Culver Road in Rochester. It’s open seasonally, and operating hours are posted on their website.
The park features thrill rides and kiddie rides, as well as a water park. Thrill rides include the Music Express, the Jack Rabbit coaster (the oldest continuously operating roller coaster in America), a Log Flume, Revolutions 360, and the Sea Dragon.
Family rides include the Carousel, the train, the Twirlin’ Tea Cups, and the Tilt a Whirl. The water park features a wave pool, inner tube slides, a splash zone, and a lazy river.
Several different ticket types are available. There are single-day tickets, including separate tickets for those 48 inches and under.
The Rochester Museum and Science Center is actually one of the museums in Rochester NY that I did visit back when I was a college student. During my recent visit, I was impressed to see how much it’s grown and changed. Adjacent to the Strasenburgh Planetarium, the Museum and Science Center (RMSC) features traveling exhibits alongside permanent collections.
Most of the exhibits are hands-on and perfect for young children who are interested in exploring science. Favorites include the electricity theater and How Things Work. It’s also affiliated with the Cummings Nature Center, which is located about an hour away.
Tickets for the museum can be purchased online, and you can also get a combination ticket including a visit to the planetarium.
The National Museum of Play at the Strong
It’s worth traveling to Rochester, NY just to visit the National Museum of Play at The Strong. This museum, part of the Strong, is one of the largest children’s museums in the country. It’s one of the most fun things to do in Rochester NY with kids.
The National Museum of Play is more than just a children’s museum. It also includes the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, the World Video Game Hall of Fame, the National Toy Hall of Fame, the Woodbury School, the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, and the American Journal of Play.
You could easily spend the whole day at the National Museum of Play. It also offers several restaurants – Pizza Hut Express, Subway, Taco Bell Express, and Louie’s Sweet Shoppe. There’s also Bill Gray’s Restaurant which is located in a vintage diner right in the museum. The museum has a museum shop if you are looking for souvenirs or gifts.
Young kids will absolutely love “The Berenstain Bears: Down a Sunny Dirt Road”, where they can explore kid-sized exhibits of stores from the books. There’s also “Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street”, and “Wegmans Super Kids Market”.
You won’t want to miss the Toy Halls of Fame, where you can see the inductees of the National Toy Hall of Fame. I loved seeing some of my favorite toys from my childhood.
Tickets to the museum are $16 for anyone aged 2 and up. There’s also a combo admission where you get admission to the butterfly garden. ACM Reciprocal Network members receive 50% off standard admission. On Monday through Thursday from 3-5 pm (during the school year only with some exclusions), the museum offers matinee admission. Admission during this time is $11 for kids aged 2 and up.
I visited the museum during my media trip without my children, and loved it, even as an adult. Unlike other children’s museums that I’ve visited, I think this one would appeal to older kids as well.
Seneca Park Zoo
Despite the tough upstate NY winters, The Seneca Park Zoo is open year-round, except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. At the zoo, you’ll find all types of animals, including elephants, lions, penguins, tigers, gray wolves, and so much more.
The zoo offers a zoo tram (runs seasonally, tickets are available separately), as well as two restaurants (one open seasonally, the other open year-round).
Tickets for the Seneca Park Zoo, as well as meal vouchers, are available for purchase online. The rates are slightly discounted for admission from November 1st through March 31st each year, and the zoo is open rain or shine.
Erie Canal Tour Boat Cruises
Want to tour the Erie Canal by boat? The Colonial Belle offers boat tours of the canal from May through October. There are several options of 2-3 hour cruises with narration. Three hour cruises go through an Erie Canal lock. There are also specialty cruises offered, including a family pirate cruise.
There are several departures per day, and you can add on a meal for select trips. There’s also a bar on board, and snacks are sold. Reservations are recommended and required if you want to get a meal included with your ticket.
The boats leave from Fairport, NY, which is located in the Rochester area (about 20 minutes from downtown).
The beautiful 150-acre Highland Park is one of four Rochester parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. This urban park is a great place to take a walk, and it offers other activities as well. In May of each year, it’s home to Rochester’s famous Lilac Festival. You’ll also find multi-use athletic fields, a conservatory, geocaching, and a playground. There’s also an ice skating rink, however, you must bring your own ice skates.
The Lamberton Conservatory, located on property, is open 7 days per week, except for Christmas Day. There’s a small fee for those 6 and over, and it’s a beautiful place to visit when the weather outside isn’t cooperating.
There’s also the Highland Park Bowl, located in the park. It’s home to various entertainment options in the summer, including free movies in the park.
Highland Park is located at 180 Reservoir Ave, Rochester.
With a Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. designed river-side park and an IM Pei designed student union, the University of Rochester is one of the most beautiful universities I’ve seen (and I’m not just saying that because it’s my alma mata). In 1999, areas of the campus were designated as an arboretum. It’s definitely worth a visit, especially in the fall when the changing leaves make it look like a quintessential college campus.
The Memorial Art Gallery
The Memorial Art Gallery is part of the University of Rochester, although it’s located in a separate location. You’ll definitely need to drive there from the museum – it’s not walkable. Art lovers will enjoy seeing the gallery’s 14-acre property with a 12,000 object permanent collection.
As a student at the University of Rochester, I surprisingly didn’t visit the Memorial Art Gallery until my senior year. Immediately, I regretted it. There is so much to see there, and it’s absolutely worth visiting if your kids appreciate art.
In recent years, the gallery expanded to include the ten-acre outdoor Centennial Sculpture Park. Featuring the art of four different artists, the sculpture park has been a welcome addition to the community.
Tickets for the Memorial Art Gallery are $15 for general admission and $6 for kids aged 6-18. Special exhibits are extra. Every Thursday, from 5-8pm, half-priced admission is offered. AAA members can also get $1 off admission.
Rochester Red Wings Games
Baseball lovers will want to check out a Rochester Red Wings game. The Red Wings, the minor league affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, play their home games at Frontier Field. This downtown Rochester field was opened in 1996.
Like all minor league baseball games, it’s a great way for families to see a game up close without spending too much money. Tickets are available for purchase for individual games. If you are visiting Rochester during baseball season, it’s definitely worth a visit.
The High Falls
One of three falls in Rochester, the High Falls has a 96-foot drop. While it’s open all day 365 days per year, there’s also a visitor’s center that is open select hours (currently Wednesday through Friday from 10 am-5 pm), but check before you go. The visitor’s center offers a museum, art gallery, restrooms, and a gift shop).
Guests can choose to visit the falls on their own to look and take photos, or they can do a self-guided tour. The actually falls are free, but there’s a suggested donation for both the visitor’s center and the guided tour. Parking is available at a nearby garage.
You may have a Wegmans supermarket in your area, but probably not one as impressive as the flagship store in the Rochester suburb of Pittsford. This food emporium features row after row of fresh food. We actually visited for lunch, and the options were endless. When on your Rochester vacation, make sure you stop by for vacation snacks and lunch.
Susan B Anthony Museum and House
Rochester is famous as the home of Susan B. Anthony. If your kids are old enough, it would a great idea to teach them about her and her contributions by visiting the Official Susan B. Anthony Home Museum and House.
The house, open on Tuesdays through Sundays from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm, is three floors, and features highlights of Susan B. Anthony’s life. The museum is $15 for adults and $5 for children. Tickets are available directly at the house.
You can also visit Susan B. Anthony’s gravesite at Mount Hope Cemetery, which is located near the University of Rochester at 1133 Mt Hope Ave.
Photography fans will want to visit this museum, named for one of Rochester’s most famous former residents. It offers numerous exhibits, including visiting exhibits. Admission for kids aged 5-17 is just $5 (kids 4 and under are free).
Festivals in Rochester
Rochester New York is home to dozens of different festivals every year. Most famous of these is the Rochester Lilac Festival, which is held each May at Highland Park. This ten-day festival includes food booths, music, special events, and of course, gorgeous lilacs.
Other festivals held during the year in Rochester include the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, the Party in the Park Musical Festival, the Park Avenue Summer Festival, and the Corn Hill Arts Festival.
A trip to Rochester can also be combined with a visit to other upstate New York landmarks, including Niagara Falls, NY, Syracuse, NY, the Finger Lakes, and Corning NY.
Rochester is serviced by its own airport, located right near downtown. There are lots of airlines that fly to and from the Rochester airport, including JetBlue, United, Delta, Southwest, and American.
Locally, there are plenty of great places to stay in Rochester. These include:
You can find more ideas about things to do with kids in Rochester NY on the VisitRochester website.