Rochester is New York State’s third largest city, perched attractively on the boundary of the gorgeous Lake Ontario.
It was America’s first boom town, giving it a true sense of history, but in the modern day it storms forward into the future with the notable research programs embarked upon by its universities.
For visitors though, it offers all the exciting diversions you could hope for from a big city; from breweries and art galleries to museums and live music.
It also has its fair share of natural open spaces in the form of gloriously green parks, and of course it also has the beach.
All in all, it’s a great spot in which to base yourself; especially with such an abundance of interesting places to visit in the surrounding area.
Niagara Falls, religious relics and some fantastic state parks; here are fifteen of the best day trips to take from Rochester.
1. Chimney Bluffs
Just east from Rochester sits this magnificently rugged state park, untouched by the development strangling many other spots around the country.
Chimney Bluffs is a spectacular geological site, with the clay, chimney-like cliffs towering boldly above the sands.
There are four miles of hiking trails to explore, with the Bluff Trail leading you right to the edge of the cliffs, providing you with magnificent views out over Lake Ontario.
Swimming is not allowed in this area, due to safety concerns, but it is a fantastic spot from which to take in a jaw-droppingly beautiful sunset.
2. Niagara Falls
You can hardly visit this area without paying a visit to its most famous feature: the spectacular Niagara Falls.
At only an hour and a half drive away, Rochester is a great hopping off point for the falls.
Gallons and gallons of water pound down from this majestic natural phenomenon; pay a visit and feel the powerful energy of this location as the spray mists across your face.
You can also visit Goat Island, perched in between the two falls.
If you’re feeling adventurous, head over to the Canadian side, so you can see for yourself which side does it better.
3. Niagara Region
Once you’ve seen the glory of the falls, take some time to appreciate the gifts of the beautiful surrounding region.
The area around Niagara is worthy of a visit in itself, with the picturesque town of Niagara-on-the-Lake sitting prettily on the water across the border in Canada, and some award-worthy wineries not far away.
The buildings and picturesque streets of the Canadian town are simply crying out to be explored.
If neither of those take your fancy, what about the Old Fort, site of exciting historic battles? Or take a walk around the art museum located at the Niagara University, which includes works by Motherwell and Picasso.
New York’s second largest town has more than just the proximity of Niagara Falls going for it.
Sports are famously massive here, and what better nibble to accompany the game than the famous chicken wings the city is well-known for? Add to that the historic architecture, with buildings designed by famous names such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan, as well as an elegantly thought out park system, and you’ve got yourself a charming place to spend a day.
There are also plenty of art galleries, including an excellent 20th century painting collection.
The iconic National Baseball Hall of Fame is reason enough to visit Cooperstown for fans of the sport, but even non-enthusiasts might find something to keep them entertained along the streets of Cooperstown.
If ogling at the national sport’s greatest players isn’t your cup of tea, there are a whole range of things to do; from watching opera to learning about agriculture in the Farmer’s Museum.
There’s also a local microbrewery which does a roaring trade.
If all that isn’t enough, there’s always the surrounding countryside to explore.
You certainly won’t be bored on a day trip to this place.
6. The Abbey of the Genesee
A place for quiet reflection and prayer, the Abbey of the Genesee is located in Livingston County and certainly provides a unique and different spot for a day trip.
Join the Trappist monks in prayer in the abbey’s Church, or simply take your own path and wander the grounds; with shady walkways offering a comforting space for your thoughts.
Make sure to pay a visit to the bakery and sample the famous Monk’s Bread, which has been baked there for decades; be sure to take a tasty treat home as a souvenir.
7. Sodus Point
This port town is an excellent choice for a fun day away from Rochester.
With its historical influences, from the Shakers to the war of 1812, it’s got plenty to keep visitors intrigued.
But perhaps more popular is its boating scene.
Once a significant shipping port, it’s now more of a place for pleasure, and enthusiasts gather from miles around to visit this pleasant site.
Head out onto Sodus Bay for a relaxing way to spend the afternoon.
8. Chautauqua Institution
Located in the Southwest of New York State lies the historical educational centre of Chautauqua.
For a more intellectual diversion for the day, the Chautauqua Institution is a brilliant option.
The home of spiritual growth and intellectual conversation, it’s a great place to relax, reflect and study.
When you’re just there for the day, it’s the perfect opportunity to take in a show at the amphitheatre, stroll around campus basking in its tranquillity, and take a peek at all the Victorian buildings in the national historic district.
9. Finger Lakes
Finger Lakes is the perfect place to relax and get away for the day.
Wineries abound in the area; over one hundred of them, and there’s an up-and-coming restaurant scene swiftly catching up behind them.
If shopping takes your fancy, there are lots of place to buy crafty things and antiques.
For those who like to keep active there are plenty of outdoor diversions too: fishing, hiking, rowing and biking are popular, and skiing is on offer in season too.
You might not expect much from a small city such as Ithaca, but there is definitely more to this place than meets the eye.
No matter what type of activities you are after, there is something that will take your fancy.
There are plenty of hikes in the surrounding area, some great health-conscious restaurants around for the foodies, as well as a thriving marketplace for artisanal crafts.
Pay a visit to the farmer’s market for fresh fruit and vegetables, or pop in to Buttermilk Falls or Taughannock State Park for a breath of fresh air.
This is also the home to Cornell University, which explains its vibrant culture and air of kookiness.
11. Seneca Falls
Not another waterfall, despite the name, Seneca Falls is actually a town, significant for its role in the history of the advancement of women’s rights, and therefore a place worthy of a visit.
The 1848 women’s rights movement began here, and today this fact is commemorated by the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, which is centrally located.
Take a look at the visitor’s centre to learn more about the struggle for the vote, among other basic rights, and wander round the four properties steeped in history that are a part of the park.
There’s also the National Women’s Hall of Fame, honouring important female icons such as Maya Angelou and Rosa Parks.
12. Watkins Glen
Arguably one of America’s best lesser-known parks, Watkins Glen boasts no fewer than nineteen waterfalls, as well as some spectacular 200-foot tall cliffs towering over a gorge.
Once named one of the top three state parks across the USA, it attracts busloads of tourists but isn’t much heard of outside America.
Step out and smell the fresh air, it definitely will not disappoint.
If you’re in the region, you simply must visit.
13. Darien Lake
Darien Lake is New York’s largest water and theme park, and therefore definitely worth checking out.
The kids will love it.
It’s only an hour’s drive away from Rochester’s downtown area, and in the summer, there are concerts happening at the nearby Performing Arts Centre.
With seven rollercoasters, bumper cars, and a Ferris wheel, among numerous other rides and attractions, this is definitely a fun option for a day trip.
Just make sure you’re not too exhausted from all the fun to make the drive back.
You won’t guess what this place is famous for unless you’re in the know: The Corning Museum of Glass attracts visitors from all over.
It’s a unique attraction, that’s for sure, with demonstrations of glass blowing, displays informing about the history, art and science of glass making, and plenty of show cases full of gorgeously crafted glass pieces.
If you haven’t had your fill of museums, there’s also the Rockwell Museum of Western Art, which looks at both Native American and Western American art through a range of different exhibits.
It’s well worth a visit if you have the time.
15. Hamlin Beach
You could hardly visit Rochester without going to sample the best of Lake Ontario’s beaches, which are a highlight of the area.
Clear, fresh water laps at the shore, and in the surrounding areas there are over six miles of tracks to wander or cycle round and explore.
Kids will love splashing around in the water, while the adults have a chance to sit back and relax.
If you’re there in winter, don’t worry; even more exciting options are on offer, including cross country skiing and snowmobiling.