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All-Season Outdoor Adventures

Rochester, NY doesn’t fit your typical definition of a city. It’s an urban oasis, true, surrounded by some of the most magnificent topographic features in all of Upstate New York. Adventure through the “Grand Canyon of the East” or stroll the man-made marvel that is the Erie Canal. It’s a nature lovers’ paradise, a photographer’s dream and a place for all to feel at home. 

Pack your bags and take to the roads for an unforgettable trip in a destination full of surprises. Let us help you plan – check out our all-season outdoor activities below and use this itinerary as your inspiration and your guide. 

DAY ONE

  • Pack a picnic and kick off your trip with a day spent at the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park! Head to any of the city’s major Wegmans locations and select a feast fit for the whole family. Grab a sandwich from the Sub Shop, a slice of pizza to-go, hand rolled sushi packed fresh or a pre-portioned salad. Load your basket and bring your blanket for an outdoor meal in a serene natural setting. Don’t forget the drinks and a bakery item as a special treat to enjoy at meal’s end. 

  • Then head 40 minutes south of the city, where Letchworth State Park offers outdoor recreation in all four seasons and some spectacular views that just can’t be beat. Choose from more than 66 miles of hiking trails that bring you through the woods and past water features and falls. White water raft down the Genesee River. Take a hot air balloon and soar above the gorge. Snowshoe or cross-country ski in the winter. Stop into the year-round Humphrey Nature Center for special programs, lectures and guided tours before your visit is complete. 

  • On your way back to the city, swing by one of Rochester’s local farms!

  • Stokoe Farms bring three seasons of fun with three amazing events. In the summer, the blooms begin with a vibrant field of sunflowers and warm-weather fun, including a Twilight Experience and picnic dinner. In late September and into October, the farm hosts a Pumpkin Patch & Harvest Fest, with over 35 family-friendly activities to enjoy – including wagon rides, a bounce pillow, bee line, low ropes course, Farmer 500 Race Track and mini-pumpkin launcher. In the snowy season, visit for the Christmas Tree Farm where pre-cut or to-be-cut trees await, along with holiday arrangements, gift shop items, hot apple cider and lunch at the Old Barn Grill.

  • Wickham Farms has more than 20 outdoor attractions on-site that the family can enjoy together. Lawn games and mini golf bring out the competitive side, while playgrounds and activity areas allow little ones to go at their own pace. Summer sees the farm’s sunflower field in full bloom and offers strawberry picking, while fall brings pumpkin and apple picking, hayrides and harvest fun. 

Food Stop! Check out the Big Barn Café for lunch options like pulled pork and apple butter grilled cheese or grab-and-go pizzas, pretzels and the signature “Shake Up” chilly sweet treat on the Pizza Porch. Grab some fresh popped kettle corn to go! 

  • Settle hungry tummies and stay out in the fresh air with dinner at the Genesee Brew House. An outdoor terrace overlooks High Falls and the Genesee River in downtown Rochester, while indoor and rooftop seating offer plenty of extra space. With its pub-style fare and 16 taps pouring the freshest beer in Rochester, this menu has all the familiar favorites – hamburgers, chicken wings, salads and sandwiches, and some Rochester specialties, like Zweigle’s Red or White Hots (hot dogs). 

DAY TWO

  • Start day two of your trip with a visit to the City of Rochester Public Market (open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays). Grab a breakfast bite at one of the many cafés, food stands or coffee shops, then browse the market’s outdoor and indoor vendor sheds, bursting with fresh seasonal produce, baked goods and food items, merchandise, clothing, handmade and homemade items. (Or check out the market on select summer nights for their famed Food Truck Rodeo!)

  • Then, go wild with a day at the Seneca Park Zoo! Open year-round, rain or shine, every season is a great one at the Zoo. Discover animals from the savanna, the rocky coasts, the tropics and more. Watch as the California sea lions charm the crowd, feed the giraffes, observe the lions roar and play and delight in the fluffy and adorable red pandas. There’s an important education piece here too for our youngest visitors. Your support directly helps save animals from extinction, as the Seneca Park Zoo remains a national leader in species survival and conservation action, globally and locally. 

Food Stop! Looking for lunch? The Eagle’s Landing Café and the Crater Canteen offer great food for families within the Zoo, including “Little Cub” combos, meals from the garden, the grill, the fryer and some snack options as well.

  • In the afternoon or early evening, head to the towns of Pittsford or Fairport to walk the Erie Canal path or rent bikes to enjoy the route at a faster pace. The canal offers beauty in every season, with many boutique shops and restaurants dotting the path as you go. 

  • Grab tickets in Pittsford to enjoy a 90-minute cruise along the Erie Canal with The Sam Patch Tour Boat, a replica packet boat that offers public tours. Learn the history of New York State’s legendary canal, considered to be the eighth wonder of the world by some. Kids will love the quintessential canal experience of passing through Lock 32, a century-old lock that brings you in through its massive 40-ton gates and floats you gently upward as the lock fills. (Or check out the Colonial Belle in Fairport, the largest tour boat on the Erie Canal, family owned and operated since 1989.)

  • Dine in at the Erie Grill at the Del Monte Lodge, where big windows overlook the Erie Canal path and its waters. A seasonal menu serves up some amazing and original entrees and desserts, and the cocktail list is sure to be a crowd-pleaser for the adults in the group. 

  • End your night with a sweet treat at Pittsford Farms Dairy, whose landmark dairy dates back to 1814. The Dairy uses the old fashion method of vat pasteurization, which takes longer but makes their milk and ice cream taste sweeter. Grab a cone or hand-packed pint of one of their unique homemade flavors to-go or pick out a bakery pastry (lemon squares, chocolate bombs, filled croissants and scones, cupcakes, cookies and more) for the road. In the winter leading up to the holidays, stop by for hot cocoa by the outdoor fire, fresh fir trees and a mini-Christmas market. 

DAY THREE

  • A short drive from Rochester lies another wild adventure with Hidden Valley Animal Adventure in Varysburg, NY. Here you’ll find an up-close and personal experience with the animals unlike that of a typical zoo, as camels, bison, zebras, ostrich and more come right up to your car! The safari drive-thru experience is the most iconic of Hidden Valley’s offerings, but the fun doesn’t stop there. Families can also enjoy a small animal adventure and petting zoo with goats, bunnies, donkeys and other more docile species available for interaction.

Food Stop! The Trailside Grill offers a great menu for on-site dining, with unique offerings like the Water Buffalo Patty Melt, Bison Burger or Bison Chili and Ciabatta. Grab some ice cream to go at the end of your day. 

  • Soak up the summer sun when you catch some waves at Roseland Wake Park! Roseland is the first and only cable wake park in the northeast, with a 5-tower, full-sized cable system and 2-tower training cable system ready for riders. Learn to ride with an easy program designed for first time wakeboarders or get out on the water and hit the ramps and rails spaced out throughout the park. Rentals, retail, a snack bar and a party room are also found on-site. 

  • Back in Rochester, spend the afternoon relaxing and taking in the local park scene: 

    • Cobb’s Hill Park features one of the most scenic city skyline views of Rochester, NY and a ¾ mile paved loop around its hilltop reservoir.

    • Mendon Ponds Park is the largest of the parks in Monroe County, with more than 2,500 acres of woodlands, ponds and wetlands. 

    • Genesee Valley Park and the Genesee River Trail offers an urban adventure with 3.4 miles of hard-surface trail linking to downtown Rochester. 

    • Powder Mills Park is a sight in the spring, with a Daffodil Trail spanning just .7 miles and bringing visitors past a field of spring daffodils in bloom. 

    • Highland Park is the site of the May Lilac Festival, with beautiful lilac bushes in bloom, as well as memorials and gardens including The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Victims’ Rights Memorial, AIDS Remembrance Garden and Lamberton Conservatory. 

ACCOMMODATIONS

Kick up your feet and stay a while with these local accommodations, fit for the whole family!

  • Situated in the scenic hills, Woodcliff Hotel & Spa takes you out of the downtown scene and into a relaxing retreat. It’s truly a resort hotel, with an on-site nine-hole golf course, full-service spa, café and restaurant, outdoor pool, fire pits and more. After a long day in the outdoors, no one in the family will be complaining about a stay at Woodcliff, with a little something to suit every taste and style. 

  • Staybridge Suites also brings a little of that outdoor flair indoors with its location right on Brooks Landing along the Genesee River. Suites are fully equipped with kitchens, wireless high-speed internet and a cozy living room area and workstation for the long-term visits. Enjoy free laundry, an indoor pool and spa, library, 24-hour Bridgemart, fitness center and same-day dry cleaning services, as well. 

  • Couple your dinner on day two with an overnight at The Del Monte Lodge Renaissance Rochester Hotel & Spa. Located right along the Erie Canal in Pittsford, NY, you can sink into its stylish comfort with pillowtop beds and complimentary wireless internet, and an award-winning restaurant and spa.