Rochester, NY is ideally located to explore the beautiful Finger Lakes Region which has so much to offer visitors. The region is famous for producing some of the best wines in the country and there are many wineries, micro-breweries and farm-to-fork restaurants to feed your inner Foodie. If outdoor adventures are more to your liking you will find many destinations that fit the bill – examples include the Stony Brook State Park, Taughannock Falls State Park and the beautiful Montezuma Wildlife Refuge. To explore the culture and history of the region you can visit at few cities like Geneva, Corning and Canandaigua to tour wonderful museums and historic sites.
1. Sonnenberg Gardens Estate and Mansion National Historic Park
Built between 1885 and 1887, Sonnenberg Mansion and its surrounding gardens are a joy to behold from May to October and provide a wonderful day-trip destination for history and garden enthusiasts. The beautiful mansion is built in the Queen Anne style and is as impressive today as it was on completion in 1887. Your entrance to the estate includes a guided walking tour of the property but you are also free to wander around in your own time – you can download a Smartphone tour guide. The outstanding landscaping includes nine formal gardens, a greenhouse conservatory, a tranquil Japanese garden and much more. While you are there you can also visit the Finger Lakes Wine Center, the High Noon Café and the Gift Shop.
Sonnenberg Gardens Estate and Mansion, 151 Charlotte St, Canandaigua, NY 14424, Phone: 585-394-4922
Located just half an hour from Rochester, Canandaigua is a great day trip destination with attractive options for all interests. Many people visit Canandaigua to take advantage of the many options on offer for outdoor recreation, including sailing on the beautiful Finger Lakes, canoeing, kayaking, boating and fishing. You can have yourself a hair-raising zip-line adventure at Bristol Mountain Aerial Adventures or take a relaxing lake cruise on the Canandaigua Lady Paddle Wheeler. There are several historical sites and museums to visit including the Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park and the Genasee Country Village and Museum. Other activities on offer include brewery tours, shopping and dining.
Canandaigua, NY 14424
© national baseball hall of fame and museum
A day visit to Cooperstown is a must for all baseball fans. This pretty small town, which is located on the shores of Otsego Lake in central New York State, is home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum which showcases the history of baseball and honors the excellence of many of the most famous players. Ardent fans can book the VIP Experience behind-the-scenes-tour. Getting to Cooperstown is half the fun – you can anticipate an extremely scenic drive through the beautiful Hudson Valley. Other Cooperstown attractions include the Fenimore Art Museum and the Farmer’s Museum which showcases farm life in the 19th century.
Cooperstown, NY 13326
Located across the border in Canada, pretty Niagara on the Lake is definitely worthy of a place on your day trip list. Here you can step back in time, surrounded by the charm of 19th century Victorian architecture, horse-drawn carriages and an array of fabulous attractions and activities. Patrons of the arts will not want to miss the annual Shaw Festival (April to October) when first-class productions burst onto stages across the town. Equally exciting for art enthusiasts, the Niagara Pumphouse Arts Center should not be missed. Beyond the city you will find numerous vineyards and wineries to explore, as well as fabulous farm-to-fork restaurants.
Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
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Corning is proud to have been named as one of the best small towns in America, and welcomes visitors to come and find out how it earned this reputation. At the heart of the town lies an historic main street lined with interesting galleries, studios and trendy eateries. The town has always been at the fore-front of glass innovation and no visit would be complete without touring the Corning Museum of Glass, the largest and most prestigious museum of its kind in the world. From here you can move on to admire some of the many glass shops, studios and galleries in the Gaffer District. The Rockwell Museum is home to an exceptional collection of art, while historians and families can learn about ancient crafts in the Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes.
Corning, NY 14830
6. Corning Museum of Glass
© Corning Museum of Glass
You can spend an interesting and educational day learning everything you every wanted to know about glass at the fascinating Corning Museum of Glass, located in one of America’s most popular small towns in the Finger Lakes region. You should plan to spend most of your day exploring the museum or even consider a two-day visit if you would like the chance to make your own unique piece of glass art (entry tickets are valid for 48 hours). To make the most of your visit you can download the GlassApp to guide you through your tour of the facility. Highlights include the museum exhibit which showcases 35 centuries of glass-making, the Contemporary Glass Galleries and the fascinating Innovation Center.
Corning Museum of Glass, 1 Museum Way, Corning, NY 14830, Phone: 607-937-5371
7. Cumming Nature Center
Located near Naples, about an hour from Rochester, the Cumming Nature Center is a fun family destination at any time of the year. You should start your day out at the Visitor’s Center which has several animal exhibits as well as a touch-table, where children can get hands-on as they examine tusks, bones and furs. You can watch a short orientation video before you set off to explore the trails which lead you through the forests. There are plenty of opportunities to catch a glimpse of birds and other wildlife as you explore six miles of trails. If you visit during the maple harvesting time you may be lucky enough to see part of the harvesting process and enjoy a pancake breakfast. In winter the trails are great for cross-country skiing.
Cumming Nature Center, 6472 Gulick Rd, Naples, NY 14512, Phone: 585-374-6160
8. East Aurora
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More of a village than a town, East Aurora continues its heritage as a center of Arts and Crafts and beckons day tripper to come and explore all it has to offer. The prime attraction in East Aurora is the National Historic Landmark Roycroft Campus where you can learn all about the 1900’s Arts and Crafts Movement. If you visit during summer you can join one of the regular guided walking tours (off-season tours can be arranged in advance). Architecture enthusiasts will enjoy strolling around the village to admire the distinctive architectural styles. There are many quaint and quirky shops, galleries, studios and great eateries. When you have worked up a thirst you can head to the taproom at 42 North Brewing Company to try a craft beer (or two).
East Aurora, NY 14052
9. Erie Canal Boat Company
Rochester residents and visitors are fortunate to be located close to the amazing Erie Canal Way which offers many opportunities to enjoy a fun day outing on the water. You can rent a canal boat and spend a day navigating the scenic waterways and locks, stopping here and there to visit one of the many canal-side communities. If you prefer to relax and watch the passing parade you can go on a cruise. Other activities on or around the canal system include canoe, kayak and paddle-board rentals, guided kayaking excursions and cycling the Erie Canal Heritage Trail which runs along the canal ways for over 365 miles.
Scenically nestled along the shores of Seneca Lake, less than an hour from Rochester, Geneva is a great place to spend a day. You can start your day out at the Finger Lakes Welcome Center where you will find info on everything there is to do in the city. If you love the arts you can get tickets for a show at the Smith Center for the Arts, which is located in the history old Smith Opera House. Geneva has developed a wonderful reputation as a Foodie destination – gourmands can spend some time visiting vineyards and wineries, micro breweries and innovative farm-to-fork restaurants. In addition there is great shopping, outdoor recreation at the Seneca Lake State Park and plenty of fun activities for children.
Geneva, NY 14456
11. Letchworth State Park
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Outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers do not have to travel too far to access a wonderful outdoor recreational area at the Letchworth State Park near Castile, NY. The park is home to astonishing natural beauty including several impressive waterfalls along the course of the Genesee River. There are several ways to explore: you can set off on foot along a network of more than 66 miles of hiking trails, or bring your bike and hit the cycling trails. (In winter you can snow-mobile or cross-country ski). Other adventure activities include white-water rafting, hot-air ballooning, guided kayak excursions and various ranger-led activities. You really do need more than a day so bring along your tent or RV or spend a night in one of the park cabins.
Letchworth State Park, Castile, NY 14427, Phone: 585-493-3600
12. Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge
Located 45 miles east of Rochester, the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge is a wonderful day trip destination for birders, nature lovers and inquisitive children. The refuge offers sanctuary to many resident and migratory birds and is one of just a few places where visitors could spot bald eagles at any time of the year. You can pick up leaflets and brochures at the Visitor Center before spending a few wonderful birding hours along the 3.5 mile Wildlife Drive (only accessible from April until the first snows of winter). You can view the birds and other wildlife on foot along the Seneca Trail, the Esker Brook Trail and the South Spring Pool trail.
Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, 3395 Highway 20, Seneca Falls, NY 13148, Phone: 315-568-5987
13. Museum of the Earth
© Museum of the Earth
Located in Ithaca, the Museum of the Earth would be a great addition to your list of day trips from Rochester. Suitable for both adults and children, the Museum of the Earth gives visitors the chance to learn about our planet and its historic past. You can view the paleontologists uncovering fossils and bones in the Prep Lab, dig up your own fossil in the Fossil Lab and admire a brilliant collection of artifacts great and small. The exhibits include an almost-complete mastodon skeleton, an enormous right whale skeleton and many interesting displays and hands-on activities designed to stimulate young minds.
Museum of the Earth, 1259 Trumansburg Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-273-6623
One of the Finger Lakes Region’s perennially popular towns, Naples deserves a place on your list of day trip destinations. The town lies in the heart of the Finger Lakes Grape Growing region and many visitors come here to take a tour of the local vineyards and wineries, including Inspire Moore Winery, Arbor Hill and Hazlett’s Red Cat Cellars. Nature lovers can enjoy hiking at Grimes Glen and Ontario County Park – you can pack a picnic and explore the trails and waterfalls. Visitors should make a point of stopping in at the Wohlschlegel’s Naples Maple Farm for pancakes and to stock up on everything maple.
Naples, NY 14512
15. Cornell Lab of Ornithology
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Nature lovers and birders should definitely consider a day trip to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca. This remarkable research facility is dedicated to exploring the natural world and, in particular, the world of birds. You can start your tour in the Visitor’s Center where you will find many interesting science exhibits and art work. The Lab is surrounded by 230 acres of nature preserve which is a sanctuary to thousands of resident and visiting birds. You can explore on foot along four miles of trails (download the App before your visit). Behind-the-scenes tours are offered five days a week (not on Mondays and Wednesdays) and you can join a guided beginner birding walk on most weekends.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 159 Sapsucker Woods Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 800-843-BIRD
16. Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve
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If you have any budding paleontologists in the family the Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve (which is located just south of Buffalo) could provide a very enjoyable day trip. Here the whole family can get down and dirty as you dig for marine fossils which remain hidden in rocks and soil from an ancient ocean which once covered the area. It’s a fascinating way to spend a few hours and you will be guided in your dig by the enthusiastic staff and volunteers. Various special educational camps and workshops are held for children aged 8 to 13, lasting from three to five days, and you can even host a very memorable children’s birthday party at the park.
Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve, 4050 North Street, Blasdell, NY 14219, Phone: 716-627-4560
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17. The Rockwell Museum
© The Rockwell Museum
The fabulous Rockwell Museum is located in Corning, where it welcomes all art lovers to come and spend a wonderful day surrounded by a brilliant collection of American art. The museum building is almost worth a visit in its own right, housed in the stately and historic Old City Hall. Inside these historic walls you can explore a diverse art collection which spans two centuries and includes 19th century American paintings, bronze sculptures and Native American art exhibits alongside modernist and contemporary works. Entrance to the museum includes a visit to the hands-on KIDS ROCKWELL Art Lab, where kids of all ages can have interactive fun.
Rockwell Museum, 111 Cedar St, Corning, NY 14830, Phone: 607-937-5386
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The quaint lake-side town of Skaneateles is located about 80 minutes from Rochester, where it welcomes visitors to come and spend some time sipping wine, enjoying nature and doing some unique shopping. Try and visit on a Thursday afternoon or Saturday, when the Farmer’s Market is in full swing and you can stock up with your favorite farm-fresh produce. If you are feeling energetic you can rent kayaks at the marina and enjoy some fun on the lake. Other activities in the town include visiting a vineyard or two for a tasting, viewing the art at the John D. Barrow Art Gallery, or taking a scenic hike along the Charlie Major Nature Trail.
Skaneateles, NY 13152
19. Stone Quarry Hill Art Park (SQHAP)
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The Stone Quarry Art Park is a unique day trip destination for anyone interested in art and nature. The park was originally a private summer home and studio for artist Dorothy Riester and her husband but was later opened to the public to provide inspiration for other budding sculptors and artists. The park offers regular exhibitions (check their website for current offerings) and visitors are welcome to come and spend a day enjoying peace and tranquility as you explore the permanent sculpture collection on foot via the Secret Garden, Hilltop, Woodland and Vista trails. You are welcome to bring along a picnic to enjoy in the gardens. Guided tours are offered on weekends.
Stone Quarry Hill Art Park, 3883 Stone Quarry Rd, Cazenovia, NY 13035, Phone: 315-655-3196
20. Stony Brook State Park
Another of the Finger Lake Region’s gems, Stony Brook State Park offers day -trippers access to a beautiful outdoor recreational area located less than an hour from Rochester. At the heart of the park lies a deep river gorge where no less than three beautiful waterfalls can be viewed by hikers who follow the very scenic one-mile Gorge Trail. Other park activities include swimming and games on various playing fields/courts for baseball, volleyball, tennis and basketball and there is a playground for young visitors. You can pack a picnic to enjoy at the picnic area where there are tables, grills and restrooms. Most of the facilities are closed in winter.
Stony Brook State Park, 10820 Route 36, South Dansville, NY 14437, Phone: 585-335-8111
21. Taughannock Falls State Park
For your next day trip you could consider taking a ninety minute drive to the Taughannock Falls State Park in Trumansburg, to see one of the most impressive waterfalls in the North East US. The impressive Taughannock Falls plunge spectacularly through a gap in the towering rocky walls of the gorge, dropping 215 feet into a pool at the foot of the gorge. There are both rim and gorge trails to explore on foot for excellent views of the waterfalls and the surrounding rock formations. Other park activities include boating on Cayuga Lake, a swimming beach, and hiking and biking along a multi-use trail which offers great cross-country skiing in winter.
Taughannock Falls State Park, 1740 Taughannock Blvd, Trumansburg, NY 14886, Phone: 607-387-6739
22. Turning Point Park
Rochester locals are lucky to have Turning Point Park right on their doorstep. The park is located near Lake Ontario in the Charlotte neighborhood, where if covers over 275 acres along the scenic Genesee River. Many people come to the park to relax on a bench and look out over the scenic river but if you fancy a little exercise you can go hiking/running/biking along a 3.7 mile multi-use trail that follows the river for a distance before crossing over the water along a raised boardwalk bridge. If you continue beyond the Marina you will reach the Genesee Railway Trail which leads north to Ontario Beach Park or south to downtown Rochester.
Turning Point Park, 260 Boxart Street, Rochester, NY 14612
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Victor is a small town located about twenty minutes south east of Rochester which attracts many outdoor enthusiasts who return time after time to enjoy the great outdoors along a network of over 65 miles of trails. The trails are cleared and maintained by Victor Hiking Trails, who offer regular guided hikes and biking tours. The trails are generally multi-use and you are welcome to come for a walk, hike or cycle through the beautiful local scenery. Other attractions in Victor include the Ganondagan State Historic Site and the Valentown Museum. You can also visit a couple of craft breweries or play a round of golf at the Ravenwood Golf Club.
Victor, NY 14564
24. Watkins Glen
Another of the picturesque lake-side towns in the Finger Lakes Region, Watkins Glen offers visitors a diverse selection of activities or a day out. The Finger Lakes region is famous for its beautiful scenery and if you are up for some exercise you can see no fewer than 19 waterfalls along the spectacular Gorge Trail in the Watkins Glen State Park. You could easily spend the whole day on Seneca Lake, where you can take a scenic boat cruise, go fishing, rent a kayak or canoe or practice paddle boarding. Art lovers can feast their eyes on the collections at the Franklin Street Art Gallery and the Skyland Art Barn. Watkins Glen also offers great theater, shopping, dining and wining.
Watkins Glen, NY 14891
25. Whitworth Ferguson Planetarium
The Whitworth Ferguson Planetarium is currently (Oct 2019) located in a temporary facility on the campus of the Buffalo State University, while a brand new facility is under construction. When the all-new Whitworth Ferguson Planetarium opens in late 2020, (check the website for details) you can look forward to an even more wonderful experience. When you visit the new facility you will be able to watch amazing astronomy programs, projected onto a 35-foot dome, using the latest and best projecting systems. If you just cannot wait you are welcome to arrange a group or school visit to the temporary planetarium which is housed in an inflatable structure which can accommodate 27 visitors.
Whitworth Ferguson Planetarium, SUNY Buffalo State, Buffalo, NY 14222
What are the 25 Best Day Trips from Rochester, NY?
The 25 Best Day Trips from Rochester, NY according to local experts are:
Lake Ontario Fishing
Lake Ontario is one of the five Great Lakes of North America. It's actually the smallest of the five lakes in terms of its surface area, but it's still much, much larger than the vast majority of freshwater lakes on the planet. As one of the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario is a popular tourist hotspot, with visitors flocking from all over the world to see this incredible natural wonder, paddling on its waters or relaxing on its beaches. Fishing in Lake Ontario is also highly popular, with many different species of fish just waiting to be plucked from the waters by a keen angler.
Lake Ontario has a fascinating history, having been a home to various Native Americans over the years. In the 19th century, the development of North America led to overfishing in the lake, leading to several species going extinct, but there are still many different species living in the lake, including rainbow trout, chinook, coho salmon, brown trout, northern pike, largemouth bass, carp, and others.
With so many different types of fish swimming about Lake Ontario, it’s important for keen anglers to have an idea of what they want to catch and where they should be going to get it. Lake Ontario is enormous and different spots will provide different catches depending on the time of the year. Here are some detailed examples of the fish you can find in Lake Ontario.
Lake Ontario is considered one of the very best spots for salmon fishing in all of North America. The lake is home to both chinook and coho salmon, which spawn in the fall and spend most of their time in near-shore locations during this period. During the rest of the year, they’ll be found much further out in the deeper spots of Lake Ontario. The chinook is the larger of the two and more highly desired by anglers. These fish can most commonly be caught from April through to September. The biggest one ever caught was a little over 42 pounds and it's not uncommon for 40 pound fish to be caught each and every year.
Lake Ontario houses both smallmouth and largemouth bass. They tend to like the same kinds of water and are often found swimming around the same spots together. The smallmouth bass only tend to weigh a couple of pounds and are most commonly caught from spring through to late autumn, while largemouth bass are a little larger and can be caught most easily from early June through to September. They tend to gather around shoals and rocky areas, or any spots with flooded logs or timber.
- Northern Pike
Just like with salmon, Lake Ontario is one of the top spots in the whole of North America for Northern Pike fishing. These fish spawn in the spring, meaning that late spring through to fall are the best times for pike fishing. Early on in the year, they'll be found in shallow areas but will move into deeper waters as the temperatures rise. Then, when fall comes around, they'll repeat the cycle and head back to the shallows and rocky areas. The average catch can be anywhere from five to ten pounds, but a trophy pike can weigh over 20 pounds.
There are several different types of trout to be fished in Lake Ontario. The species that anglers care the most about are Steelhead and Lake Trout. Steelheads can be spotted often from late spring through to early fall out in the deeper waters of the lake. Lake Trout are actually indigenous to Lake Ontario and one of the most commonly caught species in the whole lake. The average catch measures up at around five to ten pounds. Like many other fish, these kinds of trout spend the cooler parts of the year feeding in shallow, near shore locations before heading out to the deeper waters as the summer months arrive.
Exceedingly rare, Muskies represent a very special catch for any angler. If you manage to land a big one of these, you'll want to snap a photo and treasure the memory. The average Muskie will weigh around a dozen pounds, but some huge specimens of over 60 pounds and 60 inches in length have been caught and can still rarely be spotted roaming several of the Great Lakes, including Lake Ontario and its adjoining St. Lawrence River. These fish are most commonly caught in the fall as this is when they tend to be most active in terms of feeding.
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