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Rochester offers small city charms with the culture of a big city, located along the shores of Lake Ontario. You’ll find everything from interesting museums to minor-league sporting events, historical attractions and more. Whether you’re here for a weekend, a week or longer, be sure to put some of these top things to do on your itinerary.
Anyone who has an interest in electronic games won’t want to miss visiting Rochester’s National Center for the History of Electronic Games, located at the Strong National Museum of Play. It’s the only one of its kind in the world, solely dedicated to exploring the history of play as well as its impact on society. Discover how electronic games have changed throughout history as well as how they’ve shaped the interactions between players. Its permanent collection features more than 20,000 games and consoles that include everything from early Atari models to the Nintendo Wii. There are over 10,000 individual video game titles, 5,000 educational games for kids and 100 various handheld models along with an extensive collection of electronic toys. You can even play most of the consoles on display, including Computer Space, the first coin-operated arcade game.
The Seneca Park Zoo is especially popular among families. It opened in the late 19th-century with only a few birds and some deer, but today, there are 90 different animal species n this small zoo, including polar bears and sea lions that visitors can watch underwater, white rhinos, Bornean orangutans and elephants. The highlights for many are the Step Into Africa and Lion exhibits. Just recently the zoo began offering special giraffe feedings, allowing visitors to get up close to its three Masai giraffes on the feeding deck.
Gaze up at the stars by catching a show at the RMSC Strasenburgh Planetarium. It offers a variety of shows using a star projector to accurately depict the sun, planets, and more than 8,000 stars just as they appear to the naked eye when skies are clear after dark. The planetarium also provides hands-on space simulations, free public telescope viewing and world exploration through giant-screen films. There are laser shows on Saturday nights too, which features choreographed beams of light in tune with the music.
Susan B. Anthony Museum & House is located on the west side of Rochester and is where the activist lived for the last 40 years of her life, when she wasn’t campaigning around the country for women’s right to vote that is. While she lived in the home her guest list included some impressive historical figures like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Frederick Douglass.
In 1945, Anthony’s house was transformed into a museum, and 20+ years later it was declared a National Historic Landmark. It features a variety of artifacts from the period, some that are associated with Anthony like a desk that was given to her and Station when the pair started their newspaper, and a church pew she and her family sat in at Rochester’s First Unitarian Church. Perhaps most intriguing is her alligator-skin purse that she frequently carried, eventually inspiring the famous jump-rope rhyme that begins, “Call for the doctor! Call for the nurse! Call for the lady with the alligator purse!”
Known as the “Largest Guitar Store in the World,” the House of Guitars opened back in 1964 and has attracted countless celebrities since then, from Metallica band members to “Weird Al” and Garth Brooks. It made a name for itself by carrying the type of amplifiers, Vox, that Beatles’ musician George Harrison used. At the time, no other store in the country had them. Today it hosts a recording studio, a music school, music equipment, memorabilia, a repair shop and even its own stage that local and touring bands use for free concerts. It’s worth visiting just to see the countless signatures and messages written on the walls by traveling acts.
Art enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the Memorial Art Gallery of Rochester City, founded in 1913. Part of the University of Rochester, it occupies the southern half of the university’s former Prince Street campus. The institution showcases some 12,000 different objects from across the globe, including everything from the relics of antiquity to contemporary movements and 21st-century artwork. It also hosts tours, concerts, lectures and temporary exhibitions.
The Rochester City Public Market, run by the city since 1905, is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays year-round. It hosts more than 300 vendors selling everything from fresh produce to specialty items and general merchandise in both covered outdoor vendor sheds and an indoor shed which allows it to remain open throughout the year. It’s a great place to pick up breakfast or lunch with cafes, food stands, coffee shops, breweries and more all right on the grounds.
Frontier Field is located right downtown and is the home of minor league baseball’s Rochester Red Wings, five-time division title winners and the top minor league affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. If you’re here for a home game during the season, from April to September, coming out to the stadium to cheer on the team always makes for a good time. Mingle with the locals and enjoy a slice of history too, with the current franchise playing in Rochester since 1899, when it was known as the Rochester Bronchos.