(Note: Rochester, New York hooked my family up with accommodations, a stipend, and passes/tickets to various attractions, in exchange for me writing about my experience in the city. The opinions given are my own, unbiased thoughts. Enjoy!)
Around my neck of the woods, Rochester is a city that gets slept on. Even though it is only about a two and a half hour drive away, it’s basically considered a “tournament city”; that is, it’s the type of place which, unless you have family there, you only ever go to it for your kids’ hockey or basketball tourneys, or whatnot. You get a hotel for a couple of nights , go to the games, maybe eat out at a restaurant or two, and then come home Sunday.
I’ll tell you what, though. After spending three jam-packed, fun-filled days in the ROC, it’s actually a great little town. One that is worth taking a vacation to, with your family!
Shoot, The Strong National Museum of Play alone is worth the drive, and somewhere you could devote a day to. The Strong is an interactive museum devoted to the history and exploration of play. It’s also home to, amongst other things, the National Toy Hall of Fame, and the World Video Game Hall of Fame. Basically, it’s is two floors of cool collections and exhibits that will entertain kids of all ages. B and J both loved the Wegmans Super Kids Market, a spot-on, kids sized replica of a grocery store, complete with the items having barcodes and prices that could be scanned at cash registers (side note – B cruising the aisles with his cart, grabbing only a pizza, and two cartons of chocolate ice cream is pretty much the most bachelorific shopping ever.) J also enjoyed the Bear Country (Berenstein Bears) and Can You Tell Me How To Get To Sesame Street exhibits, while B totally dug playing the retro arcade games.
Another place which you could make a day out of visiting is Seabreeze Amusement Park. It has over 70 attractions (including a waterpark) many of which are family and/or kid friendly. B, who’s seven years old and of average height, was able to go on most of the thrill rides alone, for example. The Park is also laid out well. Navigating it was easy, and didn’t require a lot of walking, to get around. When you’re pushing a stroller and chasing after two other kids, I can’t stress the benefit of this enough!
The comparable amusement park near me is the similarly priced Canada’s Wonderland, in Toronto. I much preferred Seabreeze to it, in terms of the all-around family experience.
Speaking of experiences, since our family are big baseball fans, you know that we had to check out a Rochester Red Wings game. The Red Wings are the Minnesota Twins’ AAA minor league affiliate, and they happened to be playing the Toronto Blue Jays’ AAA team, the Buffalo Bisons, when we were in town.
I gotta give the Red Wings credit. They create a great atmosphere, for their fans. Their stadium, Frontier Field, is pretty cozy. As far as I could tell, every seat had a good view. The concourses were nice and wide (re: so minimal crowding, again key when pushing a stroller). Tickets are very reasonably priced, as was parking. The food/beer prices are average, but there is a wide selection of concessions/brews, to satisfy every craving, anyway. We went on a Saturday, so we were treated to an extravagant, 1990s-themed fireworks show afterwards, too.
Three other random points:
1) An underrated perk of attending a minor league game is the good chance of getting a baseball. B somehow ended up with three. He kept one for himself, gave one to J, and gave one to a nice gentleman behind us, who was thrilled to get it.
2) The Red Wings have two mascots, Spikes and Mittsy. I’ve never seen a female mascot before, and neither had J. She’s normally indifferent to mascots, but she immediately took a liking to Mittsy, as did many of the other little girls in attendance. Why more teams don’t incorporate female mascots should be a think piece for a more scholarly website than this one.
3) B and J were the play ball kid, and honorary coach, respectively, for the game. Sweet!
We were also fortunate enough to be in town during Wickham Farms’ Sunflower Spectacular event. The farm planted about 85,000 sunflower seeds in the spring, to cover five acres of land. Seeing thousands upon thousands of sunflowers is one of those things that sounds neat in theory, but really needs to be seen in person. Just a beautiful, breathtaking sight!
The farm also had a bunch of other family activities, like a corn maze, mini-golf, hayrides, batting cages and a jumping pillow, to name a few. Little KJ loved the train ride. B and J had a blast shooting apples from the apple cannon (now there’s a sentence I’d never imagined ever writing). The eats in their barn were tasty, too, especially the fresh donuts.
For the animal lovers, Rochester is also home to the Seneca Park Zoo, which is a pretty dope spot. While not huge, it still housed a lot of different animals and exhibits.
Each area was very educational and informative, while the staff was all super friendly and knowledablge. Even better, it looked like the animals were very well maintained by them, too. Not gonna lie, though – this owl and it’s Excorist-esque spinning head had me bugging out, for real!
Along the same educational tip, a visit to the Rochester Museum and Science Center was an exciting place to get our learn on. I believe there are more than 200 hands-on exhibits and collections, with just enough of them age appropriate for my kids, which kept them engaged the whole time. The Lake Ontario Dive Simulator Ride, in particular, was a hit with the fam, but pretty much anything that the kids could interact/play on, went over well.
B also tried his hand at doing the weather there. Watch out, Brick Tamland (word to Anchorman)!
Finally, in terms of accommodations, we stayed at the DoubleTree By Hilton Hotel Rochester. I highly recommend this hotel. It’s newly renovated, and our room was very ‘modern’ and spacious. The lobby area had a resort-like feel to it, which was cool. It also was well located; we only had to drive 15-20 minutes, maximum, to any of the places I’ve mentioned.
The best part?
The warm, chocolate chip cookies that they give you on arrival (or, you know, any other time, if you ask nicely)!
So that’s Rochester, in a nutshell, from my experience. It’s a city with a nice vibe, and lots of fun, affordable, entertainment options for a family. Plus, if you’re in the Greater Toronto Area, it’s not that far, either. The ROC is definitely worth a visit, and exploring, my friends.
Until next time, peace!