I was doubtful about all the hype I’d heard about Rochester, NY. Then I visited* with my family for a long weekend! Rochester is very affordable, filled with cultural gems, and home to one of the best children’s museums in the country, the National Museum of Play.  Don’t let the lake-effect snow reports scare you off in winter–though summer is an even better time to visit. Here are the top places to visit in Rochester on a family weekend.

Rochester science center
Rochester Museum and Science Center

The Center’s mission is to inspire kids to love discovery with three floors of hands-on educational fun in the natural sciences, weather, technology and regional history (there’s an exhibit on the underground railroad). When you walk into the first exhibit area kids of all ages are immediately drawn to wav-like steps they can climb through to arrive at a second floor space just for them.  My 5 year old loved this and took about a half dozen trips to the top.  From giving a live weather report to raising the waters of the Erie Canal, you can easily spend a couple of hours at the Center with anyone from preschoolers to tween-age kids.

The National Museum of Play

At over 280,000 square feet, the National Museum of Play (top) is the second largest children’s museum in the nation.

From the Berenstain Bears, to climbing a wall like a superhero, this massive children’s museum will keep you in awe and your kids on the go.  One of my favorite exhibits at the Strong was the kid-size Wegmans supermarket. It’s my favorite grocery store chain, truth be told and the child version comes complete with miniature shopping carts, produce, cheese, bakery, seafood and meat sections. Many of the exhibit areas have specially designated areas for the youngest visitors that are completely baby proof.

Tip: The entrance to the Berenstain Bears exhibit is next to the alluring gift shop. Picking up young kids or strapping them in stroller will help you get to the exhibit without a meltdown.

Rochester Public Market

One of the oldest urban public markets in the country, the Rochester Public Market has been operating in its current location since 1905 and is open every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday year round. Mixing fresh produce, artisanal cheeses and meats, crafts, food vendors, cheap plastic toys and numerous other niche specialties, the Market is a melting pot of ethnic foods and cultures, and brings a diverse crowd of visitors each week.

Tip: Come hungry! we enjoyed grabbing a seat at Juan and Maria’s Empanada stand and savoring some of the best Spanish dishes in Rochester!

Eastman house in rochester
Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film

When your kids start to outgrow the Strong, consider The Eastman House, which is provides an excellent opportunity for school-age and older kids to learn about one of the most famous American industrialists and the history of Rochester.  The Eastman House was the former estate of George Eastman, the local entrepreneur and inventor of modern film.  The Museum does have a hands-on center within the main house called the Discovery Room, which allows kids to explore the different methods of photography and film, but it’s primarily used for summer camps, school groups and tour groups. I was fascinated but there was not enough to hold my preschooler’s attention.

Bristol Mountain

Bristol Mountain Resort, just outside of Rochester is an alpine and Nordic ski resort in winter and has a new Aerial Adventure Center with rope courses and zip lines in summer. It provided us with great opportunities to mix some outdoor adventures into our city weekend.

*Adrienne’s family were guests of Visit Rochester for for this visit. We did not agree to any particular coverage in exchange for the visit. Our opinions are always our own.

Adrienne Veglia Mazeau writes about finding balance between family, working full time and a healthy case of wanderlust on her blog Wandering Working Mom.  Her writing focuses on her travels with her 3-year-old superhero and 6-year-old unicorn lover and an attractively geeky archaeologist husband. 

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