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While it doesn't have the glamourous lights of Broadway or the throbbing pulse of Times Square, sweet, little Rochester, in New York state, located in the wine-loving finger lakes region, has many fun things to do with kids. My husband and I have many fond memories of visiting my sister in Rochester while she was in college. Although...many of those trips involved a U-Haul and moving her somewhere. However, we learned Rochester is home to lots of cool things that kids of all ages will want to see.
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The Strong National Museum of Play
The Strong National Museum of Play is the second-largest children's museum in the world. It features tons of cool exhibits including pinball, a preschooler-sized supermarket, exhibits on comic books, and the National Toy Hall of Fame. You could easily spend a whole day here, maybe more. Even older kids will enjoy the Strong Museum of Play. My husband and I visited before we had kids and really enjoyed it. I don't know many teens who wouldn't enjoy a visit to the World Video Game Hall of Fame, which is also housed at The Strong Museum of Play. The preschool set will love the exhibits about Sesame Street and the kid-sized Wegmans supermarket.
Home of Susan B Anthony
While in Rochester you can visit Susan B Anthony's home, which is also the former headquarters of the National American Woman's Suffrage Association. The home has been restored to how it looked while Ms. Anthony lived there. We opted to take a tour, and I learned a lot about Susan B Anthony, even though I thought I already knew a lot about the history of women's suffrage in the United States.
While you're in the neighborhood, you can also pop by Mount Hope Cemetery and pay your respects at Susan B Anthony's burial site. During elections, many local women stop by to cover her grave with their "I Voted" stickers.
Seabreeze Amusement Park
Located in the suburbs of Rochester, Seabreeze Amusement Park is a quaint old fashioned amusement park. Seabreeze features kiddie rides, roller coasters, and plenty more for all ages. Make sure you visit Jack Rabbit, which is the oldest continually operating roller coaster in the United States! If you're looking to get your "Coaster Count" up, Seabreeze has 4 coasters for you to check out.
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House of Guitars
House of Guitars is a music store in the suburbs of Rochester. The store carries everything from guitars to CD's to amps to records. My husband dubbed it the "house of 1000 guitars" although we didn't actually count. The walls are lined with autographs from musicians and other celebrities that have stopped by. If your kids are interested in music, then they will love this stop!
Garbage Plates, Niagara Falls, A World Class Children's Museum, what doesn't Rochester have?
Garbage Plates are a Rochester NY delicacy. Quite simply they are plates served with two sides, usually either potatoes, macaroni salad or baked beans, and some kind of protein, often a hot dog or burger. Legend has it that a local college kid ordered " a plate with all the garbage on it" during a hangover and the name stuck. Nick Tahou may have invented it but my sister, who lived in Rochester for a few years, says that Henrietta Hot's does it better.
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While not technically in it, Niagara Falls is in the Rochester area. Niagara Falls is about 45 minutes away. I would highly recommend crossing the border if you can. The Canadian side has a better view of the falls. But if you can't do that, you can still view the falls and ride the infamous Maid of The Mist from the US side.
One of the things I like about Rochester is that it isn't a touristy town. Everyone in Rochester is very authentic. Rochester can also be a great base to explore Buffalo, Genesee Country Village, and the Seneca Park Zoo. Rochester is a great weekend getaway!
When you Go
When To Go
Let me assure you that I live in Ohio, and I've spent most of my life hearing the words "lake effect snow" every January on the news. My home for 10 years, Cleveland, is infamous for getting a lot of snow thanks to Lake Erie. So you can believe me when I say that Rochester gets A LOT of snow. So much snow that my sister's university built tunnels between the buildings so the students could get to class safely. If you don't know how to drive in snow, I have some friendly advice. I suggest visiting Rochester in the fall, so you can see all the gorgeous leaves. Or go in the summer or after the spring thaw. You know. Anytime it's not snowing.
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Where to Stay
If you'd like to stay downtown there is a nice Holiday Inn that is reasonably priced. If you have a little more room in your budget, try the Inn on Broadway which offers excellent amenities downtown. There is also a nice Courtyard by Marriott downtown. And if you're Emily, from several years ago, and you're on a super tight budget but you want to visit your sister, the Super 8 in Henrietta is a clean and safe place to crash near RIT.
Or if you'd prefer a different area - or a private home - use this interactive map to see where you can stay and the prices of each accommodation.