11 Top Things to Do in Rochester 2024 – Cultural Gems and Modern Wonders

Rochester is a city filled with a rich history, vibrant culture, and a vast array of activities to keep locals and visitors alike entertained. As 2024 has rolled in, the attractions in this dynamic city have only multiplied. Before you decide to travel there, it is a good decision to learn more about various interesting spots and attractions.

1. Museum and Science Center

The Rochester Museum and Science Center (RMSC) has always been a hub for those curious about the world around them. This year, with its recent revamps, it promises an even more immersive experience.

  • A New Dimension of Learning: RMSC has incorporated cutting-edge AR and VR technologies in many of its exhibits. This allows visitors to dive deep into scientific phenomena, from journeying through the human body to exploring the far reaches of outer space.
  • Interactive Exhibitions: The revamped areas in RMSC are designed to be highly interactive. One can engage in hands-on experiments, tinker with gadgets, and even participate in guided scientific investigations.

2. Highland Park

Highland Park, known for its beautiful landscapes and the famous Lilac Festival, offers a peaceful retreat within city limits.

  • Seasonal Blossoms: Visit during spring to witness over 500 varieties of lilacs in full bloom. The aromatic experience is complemented by the visual treat of cherry blossoms, tulips, and azaleas.
  • Recreational Activities: The park isn’t just about flowers. It boasts a beautiful reservoir, various monuments, and an array of recreational activities. From jogging trails to picnic spots, it caters to everyone.

3. Local Arts Scene at the Eastman Theatre

Eastman Theatre

The Eastman Theatre, an emblem of Rochester’s commitment to the arts, is a must-visit for all music and theater enthusiasts.

  • World-Class Performances: Renowned for its architectural beauty, the theater hosts a range of performances. From the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra to touring Broadway shows, the offerings are diverse and of top-notch quality.
  • Workshops and Tours: Beyond just viewing performances, one can participate in workshops or take a behind-the-scenes tour. It’s an opportunity to understand the intricacies of stagecraft and the world of performing arts.

4. Bars and Restaurants

Rochester’s food scene has evolved exponentially. From fine dining to street food, there’s a gastronomic journey awaiting all.

  • Try the Classic Garbage Plate: A local delicacy, this dish combines macaroni salad, home fries, and your choice of meat, all smothered in a unique spicy sauce.
  • Rochester’s Breweries: Craft beer enthusiasts, should not avoid these places. Some recommendations include:
    • Three Heads Brewing: Known for its eclectic variety and live music sessions.
    • Rohrbach Brewing Company: One of the oldest craft breweries in Rochester, it’s a must-visit for its flagship beers.
    • Swiftwater Brewing: Not just about beer, it’s also known for its delicious food menu.

There are many great places where you can enjoy both local and international recipes. Here are some of the best options and their best features.

  • Strangebird: This establishment stands out not only as a restaurant but also as a brewery. Located on Marshall Road, Rochester, it offers a unique blend of crafted beers and a menu that complements its drink selection.
  • Avvino: Situated on Monroe Avenue, Avvino is a contemporary restaurant that serves a mix of American and international cuisines. The ambiance is modern, making it a great spot for both casual and formal dining.
  • Capri Wine Bar & Restaurant: This is more than just a restaurant; it’s a wine lover’s paradise. Located on East Avenue, Capri offers a vast selection of wines paired with a menu that ranges from light lunches to hearty dinners.
  • REDD: Inspired by the California wine country, REDD, located on Winthrop Street, brings a touch of the west coast to Rochester. The menu is as inspired as the setting, with dishes that reflect the flavors and ingredients of California.
  • Nosh: A modern American restaurant located on Russell Street, Nosh offers a trendy setting where traditional dishes get a contemporary twist. The ambiance is chic, making it a favorite spot for the younger crowd.
Restaurant Location Style Special Features
Strangebird Marshall Road, Rochester Brewery & Restaurant Crafted beers Excellent drink selection
Avvino Monroe Avenue, Rochester Contemporary American & International Modern ambiance Diverse menu
Capri Wine Bar & Restaurant East Avenue, Rochester Wine Bar & Restaurant Extensive wine selection Lunch to dinner menu
REDD Winthrop Street, Rochester California Wine Country-Inspired West coast flavors Elegant setting
Nosh Russell Street, Rochester Modern American Trendy ambiance Contemporary twist on classics

5. Seneca Park Zoo

A favorite among families, the Seneca Park Zoo is a treasure trove of diverse animal species and fun activities.

  • Animal Encounters: The zoo houses over 90 species, from African elephants to red pandas. Special encounters allow visitors to get up close and personal with some of these animals.
  • Conservation Initiatives: The zoo isn’t just about showcasing animals. They’re heavily involved in conservation efforts, educating visitors about the importance of biodiversity and ways to contribute to wildlife preservation.

6. Corn Hill District

Corn Hill

Explore the history of Rochester by walking through the streets of the Corn Hill district. With its beautifully preserved 19th-century homes and the annual Corn Hill Arts Festival, it’s a perfect blend of past and present.

  • Architectural Marvels: The district is home to some of Rochester’s most exquisite historical architecture. From Victorian mansions to classic townhouses, every structure tells a story of a bygone era.
  • Local Art and Culture: The Corn Hill Arts Festival, held every July, showcases local artists and craftsmen. From handcrafted jewelry to unique sculptures, it’s a paradise for art enthusiasts.

7. Genesee Riverway Trail

For those who prefer an adrenaline rush or simply want to take in the natural beauty of Rochester, the Genesee Riverway Trail offers a plethora of activities.

  • Hiking and Biking: Spanning over 24 miles, the trail offers a serene environment for hikers and bikers alike. The paths are well-marked, catering to both beginners and seasoned adventurers.
  • Water Sports: Parts of the trail run alongside the Genesee River, offering opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. There are multiple rental shops along the way for those without equipment.

8. National Museum of Play

Recognized as the world’s premier museum of toys, games, and play, The Strong offers a nostalgic journey for adults and an adventure land for kids.

  • Interactive Exhibitions: The museum houses iconic toy collections from various eras. Adults can reminisce about their childhood while kids can engage in interactive play zones.
  • The Butterfly Garden: A magical experience awaits as visitors can walk amongst hundreds of free-flying butterflies, learning about their life cycle and conservation.

9. Nightlife at East End

night life ROCHESTER, NY

As the sun sets, Rochester’s East End district comes alive with lights, music, and energy. Known for its bustling nightlife, it’s the go-to spot for those looking to experience the city’s vibrant evening scene.

  • Live Music Venues: East End boasts a myriad of live music joints. From jazz bars to rock clubs, there’s a rhythm for every soul. Venues like Anthology and Flour City Station host both local bands and international artists.
  • Trendy Bars and Eateries: If a quiet evening is more your style, choose from a range of chic cafes, cocktail bars, and gourmet restaurants. The area is renowned for its innovative mixologists and culinary experts who constantly reinvent their menus.

10. Literature at Writers & Books

Rochester, NY writers and books

For the bibliophiles and those passionate about literature, Writers & Books offers a sanctuary. Established in 1981, it’s a non-profit literary center that promotes reading and writing as lifelong activities.

  • Workshops and Readings: The center hosts numerous workshops for budding writers, covering a range of genres from poetry to fiction. Additionally, you can attend readings by both emerging and established authors.
  • Bookstore and Cafe: Browse through their curated collection of books, which leans towards the literary and unique. The adjoining cafe is perfect for sipping a latte while diving into a novel or writing your masterpiece.

11. Manhattan Square Park Ice Rink

Rochester ice skating

While many lament the cold Rochester winters, the season brings its own set of delights. Manhattan Square Park Ice Rink is a testament to this, offering an enchanting winter experience.

  • Skating Under the Stars: The outdoor rink, illuminated by fairy lights, offers a magical experience. Whether you’re a newbie or an expert skater, gliding on the ice under the starlit sky is mesmerizing.
  • Winter Festivals and Events: The rink often hosts winter festivals, complete with food stalls, live music, and hot cocoa booths. It’s a festive environment that celebrates the beauty of winter.

Book the Right Place For Your Needs

Downtown Rochester NY

While it is not essential for having a good time in this city, it surely can impact your overall experience. Here are some popular places that you should check out.

  • The Royal Victoria & Bull Hotel: Nestled in the heart of Rochester, The Royal Victoria & Bull Hotel is a beacon of hospitality. Guests are treated to rooms that offer panoramic views of the city, ensuring a memorable stay. The hotel’s architecture is a blend of historical charm and modern amenities, making it a favorite among travelers. The free WiFi ensures guests remain connected, while the private parking offers convenience for those traveling by car.
  • The Golden Lion Wetherspoon: A symbol of elegance in Rochester, The Golden Lion Wetherspoon is more than just a hotel. It’s an experience. The interiors are tastefully decorated, reflecting a blend of tradition and modernity. The entire property is equipped with free WiFi, ensuring guests can work or relax without any interruptions. Its strategic location makes it a preferred choice for both leisure and business travelers.
  • RBS Hotel: A stone’s throw away from the iconic Rochester Castle and the bustling Chatham Train Station, the RBS Hotel is a haven for travelers seeking both adventure and relaxation. The hotel’s ambiance is a testament to its commitment to luxury and comfort. Whether it’s the plush bedding or the attentive staff, every aspect of the hotel is designed to make guests feel at home.
  • The Gordon House Hotel: Situated in the vibrant heart of Rochester, The Gordon House Hotel is a blend of comfort and style. The hotel boasts a restaurant that serves a medley of cuisines, ensuring guests are always spoilt for choice. The garden is a serene spot, perfect for guests looking to unwind after a long day. The 24-hour front desk ensures that guests’ needs are catered to, no matter the hour.
  • Trivelles Rochester Hotel: Overlooking the majestic Rochester Castle, the Trivelles Rochester Hotel is a testament to luxury. The rooms are designed with a keen eye for detail, ensuring guests have a memorable stay. The shared lounge is a hub of activity, perfect for guests looking to socialize or simply relax. The hotel’s commitment to sustainability is evident in its choice of eco-friendly amenities.

Here is a simple comparison that can help you make the right choice.

Hotel Name Location Key Features Best Known For
The Royal Victoria & Bull Hotel Centre of Rochester Free WiFi, Free Parking, City Views Very welcoming staff, great value for money.
The Golden Lion Wetherspoon Rochester Free WiFi throughout the property Great location, very helpful and kind staff.
RBS Hotel Rochester Close to Rochester Castle and Chatham Train Station Exceptional customer service, valuable experience.
The Gordon House Hotel Rochester 2-star hotel, Restaurant, Bar, 24-hour front desk, Free WiFi Very nice place with original decor and friendly people.
Trivelles Rochester Hotel Near Rochester Castle Shared lounge, Non-smoking rooms, Free WiFi Comfortable stay, good location near the train station.


Are there any special events or festivals in Rochester during the autumn season?

Yes, apart from the mentioned attractions, Rochester hosts the annual “Fringe Festival” in September. It’s a multi-disciplinary visual and performing arts festival. The streets of downtown Rochester come alive with theater, music, dance, and more. It’s a great time to visit if you’re an arts enthusiast!

Is there a specific time of the year when it’s best to visit the Highland Park for flower blooms other than lilacs?

While Highland Park is famous for its lilacs in spring, the park features beautiful blooms throughout the year. For instance, the summer showcases roses and peonies, while the fall brings vibrant autumn foliage. So, each season offers a distinct and beautiful view.

Are there any guided tours available in the Eastman Theatre?

The Eastman Theatre offers guided tours that take visitors through the history of the theater, the architectural nuances, and behind-the-scenes areas that are usually not accessible to the general public. It’s a treat for history and architecture lovers!

Can visitors participate in any interactive workshops at the Rochester Museum and Science Center?

Yes, the RMSC often organizes interactive workshops and special educational programs for visitors of all ages. These range from hands-on scientific experiments to educational film screenings. It’s best to check their official website or call ahead to know the schedule during your visit.

Is the Genesee Riverway Trail suitable for beginners or only for seasoned adventurers?

The Genesee Riverway Trail caters to all levels of adventurers. The trail has both easy sections for beginners and slightly challenging ones for those seeking a thrill. Moreover, there are plenty of signboards and rest areas, making it suitable even for families with children.

Last Words

With its mix of historical charm and modern flair, the city promises a wide range of experiences. That is especially the case with its line-up of attractions, events, and innovations. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a foodie, a history buff, or an art lover, Rochester has something perfect just for you.