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Fun things to do in Rochester in winter? Really? Yes, really! From great places to ski, snowboard and snow tube, to cool museums and fun family spots, this city has a lot to offer.
Rochester started out as a town focused on industry. But it has grown and now is better known for festivals, great art, historic sites, and plenty of outdoor spaces to relax.
What kinds of spots can you take advantage of in the colder months, or when the weather isn’t ideal?
Ski or Snowboard at Bristol Mountain
Bristol Mountain is about 30 miles from the city of Rochester. It offers families the opportunity to get out and actually enjoy the cold and the snow. The slopes here range from beginner green trails to double black diamond. Everyone can feel comfortable on the right run.
Lessons are available both individually or as a group. The resort allows guests to learn for part of the day and then ski for the rest so you can practice what you were taught. The staff knows the mountain, many have lived in the area for years, and they have a genuine fondness for the place.
Bristol Mountain has 38 slopes and trails, 138 acres of skiable terrain and a 1200-foot vertical rise. It’s the highest of any mountain between the Adirondacks and the Rocky Mountains. There are two terrain parks for snowboarders, one for beginners and a new park that’s more advanced.
The advanced park (called High Point) features a “pro-sized” jump permanently set into the ground that’s built to the specifications required to host some of the winter Olympic games. That means the mountain can serve as the training ground for many athletes from beginner level all the way up to Olympians. In fact, there are six US Ski and Snowboard team members who came out of the Bristol Mountain Freestyle Program.
One of the things I appreciated was that the trails were very wide and well groomed. Even on a busy Saturday during peak ski season, the mountain did not seem crowded. Passing skiers and boarders were far enough away to be nice company, but not a nuisance.
The mountain also offers nice long trails. I skied several of the green trails that were a mile or more long. They also offered great views, which is not always the case for the easier trails. It gave me a chance to ride the lift, ski for a nice amount of time, and enjoy the views and the scenery a little before I had to do it all over again. There’s nothing more frustrating than short trails where you spend a ton of time in lift lines, so it was nice that this wasn’t the case here.
Bristol Mountain offers a variety of food options. You can buy items on site or bring food from home and dine there. There was a nice amount of space to hit the lodge and relax, eat, regroup, and then head back out again, which will appeal to families with members who may not like to ski for long stretches. The mountain was a great way to get out and be active with friends or family, and was close enough to the city to be back in no time.
Looking for fun ski trips with the family? We have you covered.
Hit up Rochester’s Museums
Strong Museum of Play
Kids and adults love the Strong Museum of Play because it’s filled with tons of toys and activities from the past and present. Kids can wander from section to section to experience what interests them most. Have a gamer? There’s a section full of video games. Have a bookworm? There are books everywhere! In addition, the museum has a rotating, interactive section dedicated current pop culture, like popular TV shows, movies, or characters.
While adults may think a museum about toys isn’t really for them, that goes away when they pass a display of vintage toys from their childhood. You’ll hear parents say “Wow, I had that toy! I haven’t seen one of those in ages! That’s amazing!” Before long, the grown-ups’ memories are off and running.
It’s the perfect way to enjoy a cold or rainy day. It’s especially fun to take a spin on the vintage carousel at the entrance of the museum.
Rochester Museum & Science Center
Visit a place the Rochester Museum & Science Center and you’ll quickly remember why science is so fascinating. With more than 200 hands-on/minds-on exhibits and activities here, you won’t be left searching for something to do.
As if that isn’t enough, the museum is also home to a planetarium. Hearing and learning about space is certainly relatable, even if space isn’t your thing, since we do share the universe with plenty of comets, planets, and stars. Little scientists will especially like this venue. Most kids are curious and their curiosity rubs off on us, so we get to learn something we didn’t know, which is always good for the soul.
George Eastman House
This home is open to the public. It highlights the accomplishments of George Eastman and all that he did for the art of photography. He’s responsible for making the camera more user-friendly and accessible. Present generations owe him a lot since the camera is now a huge part of all of our lives.
Even if you’re not particularly interested in photography, its still pretty cool to see the George Eastman House and experience the evolution of images and the equipment used to capture and preserve them. If you have the opportunity, visit during Dutch Connection in February. The sight and smell of beautiful fresh Spring flowers was incredible, and such an uplifting surprise for me.
Susan B. Anthony Museum and Home
It’s easy to forget that women in the United States have not always had equal opportunities in areas like education, work, pay, and of course – voting. Visiting the Susan B. Anthony House offers a great educational opportunity to show kids that women really had to fight to get where they are today, and how women continue to do so.
Adults will be humbled to see all that this women and those who worked with her did to make life for women better and more equitable. The museum has artifacts from when she lived here. Visitors can imagine what it would have been like to stop by for a visit and see her. The museum is a great lesson in women’s history, and it’s certainly worth visiting this important place.
Mt. Hope Cemetery
Nearby, in Mt Hope Cemetery, is Susan B. Anthony’s grave. This turned out to be another inspirational place to see. Susan B. Anthony’s grave saw a huge uptick in visitors during the 2016 Presidential election when a woman was the first candidate for a major political party. Many came to place stickers stating “I Voted” on her gravestone. They served as a sign of just how far things have come since her important work began, and that her work carries on.
Ready to come back in the other seasons? Check out our recommendations for the Top 10 things to do in Rochester with kids.
*Disclosure: I was hosted in Rochester as part of a press trip to the region. The opinions stated herein, however, are my own.
Lead Photo by: Flickr/runneralan