Those of you who follow Canadian Traveller closely have probably heard about my love for Rochester, NY. A mere three-hour drive from Toronto, ON, this destination makes for the perfect long-weekend escape – not only because of proximity but also because of its beauty, charm and the diversity of activities available.
Typically, I pay a visit every May (Rochester Lilac Festival, anyone?), but here are a few awesome things to do at any time of year.
Play at The Strong Museum of Play
Granted, The Strong Museum of Play is basically made for children but I’ll be the first to tell you that it can be just as fun for the young at heart. The museum offers millennials a dose of nostalgia (spend some time in the Bernstein Bears room or walking down Sesame Street), while having entertaining educational activities throughout. It’s all about hands-on, dynamic, interactive exhibit spaces. From video game history to American comic book superheroes to a 1918 carousel and indoor, tropical butterfly garden (and a mini Wegman’s supermarket!), there’s so much to see and do – plan to spend at least four hours, if not an entire day.
Raise a glass at Living Roots Winery
Balance out the child’s play with a bit of adults-only fun at Living Roots Winery. This classic, chic venue (located in an old downtown warehouse) offers tastings of its delicious blends, made from grapes grown in New York’s Finger Lakes region and Adelaide, South Australia. A family-run business, wines are handcrafted in small batches, always exploring new varieties and styles. Safe to say, a visit here is good for the palate and good for the soul. Opt for a tasting flight or wine by the glass, and pair it with cheese boards and snacks available for pairing. Don’t want the experience to end? Buy a bottle or two to bring home with you.
Indulge a bit at Rochester Public Market
There’s no better way to kick-off a Saturday in Rochester than with a visit to the Rochester Public Market, which has been serving the community since 1905. This is the best place to watch a community come together, with local vendors offering fresh produce, speciality items and other delicacies - open 52 weeks a year! Do yourself a favour and find Scott’s II for a breakfast sandwich, and follow that with a sweet treat from BXCR Donuts.
Flex your competitive muscles at Radio Social
I’m not sure there’s a venue in existence that makes for a better night out than Radio Social, which brings together all the staples necessary for a great time: food, drink, music, bowling alley and social club. Start with dinner at the restaurant, which serves up delicious Middle Eastern-inspired dishes under the leadership of executive chef Steve Eakins. Be sure to pair your meal with any of the great cocktails on the menu, if the mood strikes. Speaking of strike – work off dinner with a few rounds of bowling but don’t plan to leave too soon thereafter; foosball, giant jenga, cornhole, ping pong, skee ball, ladder golf – the list goes on – are all there to be enjoyed (moreso if you’re winning).
Explore the Finger Lakes
Rochester is the gateway to the Finger Lakes region – which, in addition to boasting 11 major lakes, is also home to parks, trails and wineries. Spring through fall, hike, bike or plan to kayak the waters. In winter, plan for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Finger Lakes National Forest or any of the state parks in the area are there to be explored – we recommend Letchworth State Park, which is just over an hour’s drive away. Cap off your day of activity with a stop at any of the area’s wineries, craft breweries, cideries and distilleries.