Rochester with Kids: 25 Best Things to Do in Rochester, NY

There's even a carousel in The Strong National Museum of Play.
There's even a carousel in The Strong National Museum of Play.
9/9/23 - By Jackie Jones

Rochester, NY is widely known as a gateway to the Finger Lakes region or the perfect stopover on a road trip to Niagara Falls. But this Upstate New York city stands on its own as a great family vacation destination, with good food, world-class museums, and a ton of history. Set right outside the banks of Lake Ontario, Rochester is also full of natural beauty.

Our family had a blast exploring Rochester on a recent summer trip. Here are 25 of our favorite things to do in Rochester with kids, including family-friendly hotels and restaurants in Rochester, NY. Check out our Adirondacks and Catskills Family Travel Guide for more New York State family vacation ideas.


Rochester with Kids: The Strong National Museum of Play
Play the day away at The Strong National Museum of Play.

Best Museums in Rochester, NY for Kids

1. The Strong National Museum of Play

Children of all ages will love this 150,000-square-foot museum with tons of interactive exhibits and cool displays. Our family spent all day here, building Mr. Potato Heads, challenging each other in the arcade, and watching classic toy commercials. Hands down, our favorite section was the Toy Hall of Fame, which features classic playthings and the history behind them. (Who knew Play-Doh was originally created to clean wallpaper?) The Strong hits all the right nostalgia buttons—I highly recommend visiting!

RELATED: Top Children's Science Museums Across the US for Families

Rochester with Kids: Rochester Museum & Science Center
Even big kids enjoy the water table at the Rochester Museum & Science Center.

2. Rochester Museum & Science Center

Spark your kid's interest in science at this three-story, hands-on museum that also has a planetarium. (The 900-acre RMSC nature preserve is about 50 minutes outside the city.) Children can meet Ice Age animals, touch dinosaur fossils, and try out plumbing and electrical engineering projects. We especially liked the Wonders of Water exhibit, which features a water table, a mock shipwreck, and a giant water-inspired climbing structure.

3. Susan B. Anthony House

Squeeze some history into your Rochester, NY trip by visiting the home of women's rights icon Susan B. Anthony. Guided tours (which last 45-60 minutes) take visitors through the Madison Street house while telling the story of Anthony's life. A highlight is seeing the front parlor where the leader was arrested after daring to vote in the 1872 presidential election.

Rochester with Kids:  George Eastman Museum
There are lots of old photos to see at George Eastman Museum.

4. George Eastman Museum

Check out some of the world's oldest photos and camera equipment at this museum located on the estate of George Eastman, a pioneer of modern photography. (Rochester, NY is home to the Eastman Kodak headquarters.) The family-friendly Discovery Room has craft projects, children's books, and antique stereoscopes—kind of like the View Master's ancestors—that kids can try out. The mansion and grounds at the estate are also stunning and fun to explore.

5. Genesee Country Village & Museum

Step back in time at this 600-acre outdoor history museum located in Mumford, NY, about 30 minutes southwest of Rochester. The village features 68 19th-century buildings, including a pioneer cabin, an 1840s drug store, a blacksmith shop, and an elaborate Victorian mansion. Most buildings are staffed by costumed interpreters, and in some cases include demonstrations. A highlight is watching the vintage baseball games played on Sundays in the summer months.

RELATED: 40 Top Amusement Parks in the US for a Family Vacation

Rochester with Kids: Seabreeze Amusement Park
There are rides for all ages at Seabreeze Amusement Park.

More Top Things To Do in Rochester, NY with Kids

6. Seabreeze Amusement Park

There are rides for all ages at this beachy amusement park set in the suburb of Irondequoit. Littles will love the junior roller coaster and kiddie rides. For big kids, there are 30-foot-high giant swings and the legendary Jack Rabbit, the the oldest continuously operating roller coaster in America that's an absolute blast. Seabreeze also has a water park with tube slides, a wave pool, and a lazy river. Bonus: Parking is free. Be sure to check the calendar, though—the park is only open seasonally.

7. Seneca Park Zoo

Visit zebras, frogs, African elephants, snow leopards, and penguins at this 20-acre, stroller-friendly and walkable zoo that is open year-round. Expect to take about 2.5 hours to fully experience it (maybe more if your child lingers on the zoo's small playground). Some up-close animal experiences are offered seasonally for an additional fee, including giraffe feedings. It's a must-do if you haven't before—the giraffes' long purple tongues are sure to bring the giggles!

Rochester with Kids: Highland Park
Check out the pretty trees at Highland Park.

8. Highland Park

Get some fresh air and exercise at this gorgeous 150-acre park that is home to the world-famous Lilac Festival in May. But lilacs aren't the only stunners here. We saw dozens of impressive trees and flowers during our morning hike, as well as cute chipmunks, groundhogs, and robins. Supposedly, there are 35 varieties of magnolia trees at Highland Park. There are also a couple of playgrounds and the Lamberton Conservatory, which costs a few dollars for everyone over age 5.

9. Genesee Valley Park and Sports Complex

More natural beauty can be found at this 800-acre park known for its three intersecting waterways—the Red Creek, the Genesee River, and the Erie Canal. Hike or bike the many miles of trails, hit the playground, picnic, rent kayaks or canoes... there are so many things to do. Plus, the on-site sports complex is an all-season facility that offers an indoor ice skating rink in the fall and winter and an outdoor Olympic-sized pool in the summer.

10. Rochester Red Wings

Root for the home team at Innovative Field baseball stadium. The Rochester Red Wings are the Minor League AAA affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. Themed games (like Star Wars night and Batman night) feature special guests, giveaways, and sometimes post-game fireworks. Bonus: Tickets are very affordable.

11. Family Farms

Longing for that old-fashioned farm feel? Find it at one of the greater Rochester, NY area's family farms. Visitors love the hillside slide, jumping pillow, and kiddie train rides at Wickham Farms in Penfield. Meanwhile, Stokoe Farms in Scottsville has been a local staple for more than 200 years. During its fall harvest festival, families can enjoy more than 30 attractions like hayrides, dog shows, a petting zoo, and a pumpkin patch.

RELATED: Adirondack Mountains with Kids: 40 Things To Do in this Family-Friendly All-Seasons Destination

Rochester with Kids: Lake Ontario
Take a refreshing dip in Lake Ontario.

12. Local Beaches

Soak up some sun, sand, and splash time one on of the beaches bordering Lake Ontario. Locals love the 5,000 feet of waterfront and free parking at Durand Eastman Park, home to the "White Lady's Castle" (a creepy/cool building in ruins that supposedly was once a dining hall and is the subject of many ghost stories). Meanwhile, Ontario Beach Park offers swimming, boating, a picturesque pier, and a historic carousel that was installed in 1905.

13. Six Flags Darien Lake

If your family is up for a road trip and you live by the mantra "go big or go home," there's a Six Flags amusement park in Corfu, about an hour outside Rochester. With 45 rides—including eight roller coasters and 10 water rides—this park will have your kids screaming their heads off all day long. Big kids may want to conquer the Ride of Steel, ;the fastest roller coaster in New York State. There are also plenty of attractions for little ones, as well as concerts and special events.

Indoor Fun for Families in Rochester, NY

14. OFC Creations Theatre Center

Got a musical theater fan in the house? This performing arts center in the upscale neighborhood of Brighton opened in 2020 with a goal of entertaining theater fans young and old. Though not all shows are kid-appropriate, many are—past performances have included Newsies, The Wizard of Oz, and The Sound of Music. Plus, the Student Performer Series features kids ages 4 and up, some of whom are preparing to head to Broadway and others who are taking the stage for the first time.

15. Altitude Trampoline Park

Defy gravity at this giant indoor trampoline park, known for its cleanliness and high-energy attractions. Practice cartwheels and flips on the tumble track, scale the free-climbing rock wall, jump into the big foam pit, or get into a game of extreme dodge ball. There's also a special court for the youngest jumpers. This 50,000 square-foot facility should keep your family busy for hours.

16. Indoor Playgrounds

Little ones can blow off steam at one of Rochester's many indoor playgrounds (especially handy when the weather takes a turn). The spacious Ontario Play & Cafe has a cool pirate-ship playground, an interactive water table, and plenty of comfortable seating so parents can easily watch their kids play. Meanwhile, Leap 'N Laugh has bounce houses galore and a three-story climbing structure with slides and a huge ball pit.

17. Climbing Centers

Are your kids scaling the walls? Take them to scale the walls of a local climbing center! Both RocVentures Climbing Gym and Central Rock Gym offer colorful bouldering walls, child-sized equipment for rent, and open climb times, as well as youth programs like classes and camps. Fill out an online waiver to save time before visiting.

18. Clubhouse Fun Center

This local chain is the go-to spot for families looking to play mini golf, hit the arcade, and race around the go-kart track. The Greece location also features batting cages and laser tag, while the Henrietta fun center has bumper cars and gemstone panning.

Rochester with Kids: Aladdin's Natural Eatery.
Try the veggie combo at Aladdin's Natural Eatery.

Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Rochester, NY

19. Aladdin's Natural Eatery

Hankering for some Middle Eastern food? Aladdin's has great hummus, gyros, Greek salads, and falafels. There are also plenty of pasta choices, if that's more your child's speed. On a nice night, visitors like to dine on the restaurant's covered outdoor terrace. Note: Aladdin's is known for generous portions.

20. SPoT Coffee

Begin your morning at this local staple that serves up great coffee, all-day breakfast, and some lunch items like salads and sandwiches. The kids menu has favorites like grilled cheese and pizza bagels, too. SPoT Coffee is open every day and offers daily specials such as drink discounts (check the website ahead of time for more info).

21. The Playhouse/Swillburger

The Playhouse is a combination restaurant and arcade, making for a fun night out with the fam. There are more than 30 vintage games and pinball machines to play. Plus, the restaurant is set in an old church building, adding to its hip vibe. On the menu: burgers, chicken sandwiches, fries, tater tots, and milkshakes.

22. The Owl House

Our family was really impressed with the food and experience at this fine dining spot that has a cozy indoor area and a gorgeous back patio. Everything was very fresh, with plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans. While there is no kids menu per se, the staff was very accommodating and willing to simplify their salmon entree for my picky daughter. Plus, the buffalo cauliflower wings are somewhat legendary.

RELATED: 100 Things To Do in New York State with Kids Before They Grow Up

Rochester with Kids: The Strathallan Rochester Hotel & Spa
The Strathallan Rochester Hotel & Spa is a great place for families to stay.

Great Hotels in Rochester, NY for Families

23. The Strathallan Rochester Hotel & Spa

My family stayed at this historic Rochester hotel and we were very satisfied. Sure, our room could've used an update, but the location was ideal (a block away from the science center), and the outdoor space at the hotel was just lovely, with a lush garden and comfortable outside seating. Bonus: The Strathallan's on-site steakhouse is great and very convenient.

24. Courtyard by Marriott Rochester Downtown

Clean and comfy, this Courtyard Marriott  in downtown Rochester, NY has many of the amenities traveling families are looking for: a 24-hour market, laundry services, and free parking. It's also located within walking distance of some of the Rochester Arts District's most popular restaurants.

25. Hampton Inn & Suites Rochester Downtown

This Hampton Inn, which opened its doors in June 2023, earns rave reviews for its spacious and connecting rooms, indoor pool, and complimentary breakfast. And if you want to be close to the Strong museum, this is the spot to stay—the hotel is a five-minute walk from the museum.

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All photos by the author

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