Situated on the southern shores of Lake Ontario, Rochester is the third-largest city in New York State. Home to the world’s only museum dedicated to the art of play and once-film-giant Kodak, Rochester is a haven of family-friendly attractions and activities. Water is a defining characteristic of Rochester, with three grand waterfalls flowing through the city. It also benefits from the abundance of water bodies in its surroundings, with many attractions linked to lakes, making it a lovely springboard from which to explore Western New York.
Witness the breathtaking power and experience the thunderous roar of Niagara Falls, a 1.5-hour (approximately) drive from Rochester. The Niagara Falls State Park is a natural treasure with plenty of fun activities to do. The Maid of the Mist boat ride is one of the most popular ways to see the falls and perhaps the most memorable one. Be prepared to get wet as you will get to experience the sheer power of the falls up close on this boat ride. (Rain gear such as ponchos will be provided, but it is quite impossible to avoid getting sprayed by the mist at the very least.) If you are seeking a greater adventure, get tickets for the Cave of the Winds Tour, where you get to walk along the Niagara River up to the Hurricane Deck. Experience tropical storm conditions as you come within a few feet of the gushing torrents of the Bridal Veil Falls. Staying dry is not an option here, but rest assured that ponchos and specially-designed sandals are included in the tour. Do note that as the walkways are very slippery from the spray, this tour might not be advisable for guests who have limited mobility. You can also visit Niagara Falls at night, when the falls are illuminated, for a different but equally majestic viewing experience.
Get the full experience and soak up the wonder that is Niagara Falls with the 2016 Discovery Pass (valid 19th May - 19th October). The discovery pass gives you access to 5 attractions: Niagara Adventure Theater, Aquarium of Niagara, Cave of the Winds, Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, and Maid of the Mist. The pass also includes a one-day coupon for unlimited rides on the Niagara Scenic Trolley. Prices for 2016 are 45 USD for adults and 34 USD for youths (6 - 12 years old).
Niagara Falls State Park
Address: Niagara Falls, NY 14303, United States
Price: Depending on attraction
Opening Hours: Niagara Falls are open all year round for viewing. Each attraction has its own hours of operation
Contact: +1 716-278-1796
Website: Niagara Falls State Park
Maid of the Mist
Address: Niagara Falls, NY 14303, United States
Price: 18.25 USD
Opening Hours: 9 am - 5 pm (weekdays); 9 am - 6 pm (weekends). Check website for seasonal schedule
Cave of the Winds
Address: Niagara Falls, NY 14303, United States
Price: 17 USD (Children 5 years of age and under free)
Opening Hours: Sun to Fri 9 am - 7 pm, Sat 9 am - 9 pm. Check website for seasonal schedule
Niagara Falls American-Side Tour with Maid of the Mist Boat Ride
Departure Point: Niagara Falls Boulevard and hotels situated on American side of Niagara Falls
Price: From 94.95 USD
Departure Time: From 9.30 am
Duration: 4 - 5 hours
2. Darien Lake Water and Theme Park Resort
Roughly a 50-minute drive from Rochester, Darien Lake makes a lovely day trip for families. This was a former Six Flags Theme Park so the roller coasters are really up to speed, and the most thrilling ones are definitely not for the faint-hearted. Young ones and thrill-seekers alike will enjoy the range of rides, from the most thrilling roller coasters at the theme park to the tame lazy river in the water park perfect for idling away the afternoon. The queues for the rides are usually not very long on most days, so you can really make the most out of your day here. Another highlight is the daily Ignite The Night Colour-Blast laser show that happens at night after the park closes.
Darien Lake also offers a host of accommodation options such as camping, glamping, RV rentals, cabin rentals, and hotels. Should you choose to stay a night there, your admission to the water and theme parks is free.
Address: Darien Lake Theme Park Resort, 9993 Allegheny Road, Darien Center, NY 14040
Price: From 29.99 USD
Opening Hours: 11 am - 7 pm
Contact: +1 585.599.4641
Website: Darien Lake
Wine is life, water is life. At Finger Lakes, the two elixirs of life flow. The Finger Lakes are a group of 11 narrow lakes that spread like fingers across central New York State. It is New York State’s largest wine producing region and is an ideal destination for wine-lovers to tour the wineries and be intoxicated by the sight of the vast vineyards, spreading as far as the eye can see. Some famous wine trails include the Cayuga Wine Trail with 16 winery members and the Seneca Wine Trail with 35 winery members. Blessed with deep waters and sloping hills, the Seneca Lake Wine Trail is the largest and most active one in New York State, with its member wineries known for producing world-class wines.
More than just grapes, there are also spectacular cascading waterfalls and gorgeous state parks scattered across the region that cater for nature-lovers. The Finger Lakes region makes for a therapeutic and rejuvenating day trip against the backdrop of Mother Nature’s works of wonder.
Cayuga Wine Trail
Website: Cayuga Wine Trail
Seneca Wine Trail
Website: Seneca Wine Trail
Seneca Lake Wine Tasting & Tour
Departure Point: Finger Lakes Casino and Race track. Hotel pick-up available at surrounding Seneca Lake area accommodations
Price: From 117.18 USD
Timings: Half-day tour: 11.15 am - 4.45 pm; Full-day tour: 10 am - 5.30 pm
Canandaigua is a small city about a 40-minute drive away from Rochester. Its name means “the chosen spot” or the “the chosen town” in Seneca. If you have decided to make Canandaigua your choice of day trip, start at the Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park. The 9 gardens, each with a different style, are simply delightful to wander around and breathe in the fresh scents of flowers in bloom. The gardens include a Japanese Garden with a quaint tea house, the Moonlight Garden, where only white flowers are planted, and the Rose Garden with more than 2,500 rose bushes. The best time to visit is from late spring to early fall as that is the peak blooming period. The mansion, which once belonged to Frederick Ferris Thompson and Mary Clark Thompson, is well-preserved and provides a window into how the rich lived back in the Victorian era. Walking tours are included in the admission price and begin at 1 pm daily. On weekends, walking tours are available at 10 am and 1 pm.
Being a part of the Finger Lakes Wine Region, Canandaigua is also a wine-lover’s destination. The Finger Lakes Wine Centre is located within the Sonnenberg Gardens, housed in the historic Bay House, where you can sample and purchase wines from over 40 Finger Lakes’ wineries. If you prefer to tour the vineyards and visit wineries in person, go on the Canandaigua Wine Trail. The self-guided trail will bring you around a collection of unique wineries, breweries, shops, and restaurants, and will provide splendid views of the beautiful Canandaigua Lake. You can also purchase a wine passport (10 USD) that entitles you to complimentary wine tastings at each winery and additional discounts for purchases.
Additional tip: if you are in Canandaigua on a Saturday, drop by the Farmer’s Market, which offers a range of fresh local produce, free-range meats, and organic goods.
Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park
Address: 151 Charlotte Street Canandaigua, NY 14424
Price: 14 USD
Opening Hours: May 1 - Oct 31, 9.30 am - 4.30 pm
Contact: +1 (585) 394-4922
Canandaigua Wine Trail Experience
Departure Point: Finger Lakes Casino and Race Track. Hotel pick-up available at surrounding Canandaigua Lake area accommodations
Price: From 95.68 USD
Timings: Half-day tour: 12.30pm - 5.45pm. Full-day tour: 9.45 am - 5.45 pm
Canandaigua's Farmer's Market
Address: Lafayette and Mill Street Pavilion, Canandaigua, NY 14424
Opening Hours: Saturdays 8.30 am - 12.30 pm( June - October), Winter Market: 10 am -11 am (Every other Saturday starting Nov 8th)
Website: Canandaigua Farmers’ Market
Chicken wings!! When you’re in the birthplace of buffalo wings (crispy fried chicken wings smothered in a tantalizing hot sauce), give up all notions of a diet and succumb to the succulent temptations of fried-food heaven. There are numerous eateries that sell this but one of the best places to try it is at Anchor Bar, the place that first cooked up Buffalo Wings in the 1960s.
Once you’ve settled your stomach’s desires, explore the downtown area with beautiful Victorian buildings and other architectural gems. On the eastern shores of Lake Erie, Buffalo is one of the most architecturally significant cities in America with numerous master architects, such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan, having contributed to sculpting its skyline. Architectural buff or not, don’t miss the six-structure Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin D. Martin House Complex, widely considered to be one of Wright’s finest prairie-style houses. Prairie-style architecture is characterized by low, horizontal lines that integrate the house into the surrounding landscape, achieving simplicity and utility. You can only enter the house on a guided tour, and it is recommended to book in advance online. Art deco fans will enjoy a tour of Buffalo’s beautiful City Hall and the observation deck that offers stunning views of the city and Lake Erie.
A reasonable 1 hour and 15 minutes by road from Rochester, Buffalo is full of impressive architectural monuments and home to lots of good food.
Darwin Martin House
Address: 125 Jewett Pkwy, Buffalo, NY 14214-2301
Price: 19 USD (14 USD for students)
Opening Hours: 9.30 am - 4.30 pm. Closed on Tuesdays
Duration: 90 minutes (Martin House Tour)
Contact: +1 (716) 856-3858
Website: Darwin Martin House
Address: 1047 Main St, Buffalo, NY 14209, United States
Opening Hours: Mon to Fri: 11 am -10 pm, Sat: 12 noon - 11 pm, Sun: 12 noon - 10 pm
Contact: +1 716-883-1134
Website: Anchor Bar
Buffalo City Hall Walking Tour
Meeting Point: City Hall lobby, 65 Niagara Square, Buffalo NY 14202
Price: Free (Donations Accepted)
Starting Time: Monday to Friday at noon
Duration: Around 1 hour
Website: Buffalo Tours
“Ithaca is Gorges” is a common phrase you will see adorning T-shirts and other souvenir items around the city. Indeed, Ithaca is gorgeous with its 150 majestic waterfalls traversing the town and the gorges carved out by the waters. The hilly city of Ithaca sits on the southern end of Cayuga Lake, the longest of the Finger Lakes, and is home to two universities: Ithaca College and the Ivy League Cornell University. Cornell University is a top-rated attraction in Ithaca due to its beautiful campus and the two waterways (Cascadilla Creek and Fall Creek) flowing through the university that are integral features of its landscape. From the university, one can also admire the beautiful views of the lake and watch the sun go down on the horizon.
Cayuga Lake provides many opportunities for recreation and you can go for a drive around the lake, go boating, or picnic with an amazing waterfront view in Taughannock State Park. If you seek a balance of nature and shopping, fit some shopping time in your itinerary at downtown Ithaca Commons, a 4-block pedestrian shopping area with a wide range of stores and restaurants.
Ithaca is Gorges and Waterfalls Tour
Departure Locations: La Tourelle Resort and Spa 1150 Danby Road, Ithaca NY or The Hotel Ithaca, 222 S. Cayuga St, Ithaca NY
Price: Adults: 83 USD. Children below 12: 55 USD
Timing: 10 am - 2 pm
Contact: +1 607-233-4818
Additional Info: Appropriate walking shoes and swimming attire are required
7. Spend the day at Sodus Point
Sodus Point is about water activities and most people head out on the water or enjoy the white beaches of Lake Ontario. Wayne County operates a public park at the Sodus Point Beach Park. With a bathhouse, picnic areas, and playgrounds for the kids, it’s an ideal place to relax and enjoy yourself. There’s volleyball and in the busy seasons, lifeguards keep bathers safe. If you want a meal there are cafe’s and restaurants close by. If you prefer not to swim, you could always head out for a game of golf at the Sodus Bay Heights Golf Club, followed by a delicious meal in the Robert Trent Jones Grill Room. The views from up there are stunning.
Sodus Point Beach Park
Address: 7958 Wickham Boulevard, Sodus Point, NY 14555
Sodus Bay Heights Golf Club
Address: 7030 Bayview Dr, Sodus Point, NY 14555-9509
Website: Sodus Bay Heights Golf Club
Cooperstown, NY has many museums, including the National Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s recommended that you spend at least three hours exploring the nonprofit museum. Delve deep into the history of America’s favorite sporting pastime. Meet the old managers and players going back more than 100 years. This is a place the whole family will enjoy. Three hours is the recommended time to be allocated, but some people feel they could easily have spent longer that the proposed period. Do the visit by yourself or book a tour to get the best of your experience.
National Baseball Hall of Fame
Address: 25 Main St, Cooperstown, Otsego, NY 13326-1330
Website: National Baseball Hall of Fame
Grab your tickets here:
Soak up the beauty of Western New York
Go with the flow and immerse yourself in the wonders of nature around Rochester. A short drive out of Rochester opens the door to charming cities with rich histories and even richer landscapes. Make the most of your time and take a day trip, or several!
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