As someone who has lived in Rochester all her life, it can get pretty dark and boring here after the fun happenings of the November and December holidays. Take the time this semester to explore one (or more!) of my many suggestions for winter activities in and around Rochester. As long as you’re okay with the potential loss of sensation in your extremities, there are plenty of fun outdoor activities to keep you entertained.
Explore one of Rochester’s many parks
Genesee Valley Park, as you’ve probably noticed, is within walking distance of the River Campus and offers beautiful paved hiking trails along the Genesee River and the Erie Canal if you walk further south. Mount Hope Cemetery is also nearby, which has many paved trails, a beautiful church and the fallen down of some famous Rochesterians, including Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.
About a half hour walk from campus is Highland Park, which is admittedly at its best during lilac and cherry blossom season, but offers more paved paths and good tobogganing hills, as well as a reservoir. and the Sunken garden.
If you have a car or are willing to spend some absurd time on a bus, head to Cobb’s Hill for great views of the Rochester skyline, a short walk around the other Rochester Reservoir, and a quick hike up to two abandoned covered in graffiti. About 20 minutes southeast of campus is the Parc des étangs de Mendon which has, as you can imagine, a few ponds, hiking trails and a nature center called wild wings where you can see birds of prey.
I would also recommend Turning Point Park with its long boardwalk on the river, Durand Eastman Park which has a few small glacial lakes, and visiting one of the Lake Ontario beaches. Ontario Beach State Park is close to good restaurants (Abbott’s for custard) and has a small pier that leads to a lighthouse. There is another small pier with a lighthouse on the water near the Seabreeze amusement park, called Irondequoit Bay Beach, which is near a popular seaside bar called Marge’s Lakeside Inn. You can’t swim (unless you’re the kind of person who does polar dives for fun), but I still think it’s fun to be around water, especially if it’s been cold enough to form pieces of ice.
If you’re up for a day trip, head to Letchworth State Park, billed as “the Grand Canyon of the East,” and only about 45 minutes from campus. Having seen the Grand Canyon a few years ago, it really doesn’t compare, but it’s still a must see in Rochester. The best spots are Upper Falls, Middle Falls, and Inspiration Point, which give you great views of the gorge.
Another great day trip is Niagara Falls, about an hour and a half near Buffalo. The Cave of the Winds is now open during the winter and I wrote about my experience to visit in January of last year. I would also recommend checking out edge of the canal in Buffalo, which offers a lot of ice-related activities.
WCSA offers free snowshoe rental to students every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at Common Connection. You can take the snowshoes anywhere, but they must be returned by 7 p.m. the next day.
Skiing (alpine and cross-country) and Snowboard
If you already own a pair of cross-country skis, two great places near Rochester are Mendon Ponds Park and Tinker Nature Park.
Otherwise, I would recommend going down to Bristol Mountain. It’s almost an hour but offers cross-country ski rental at the top of the mountain, as well as two trails. You can also rent regular downhill skis and snowboards at the bottom of the mountain for a more exciting outing. There are 38 slopes and trails, two high-speed quads and plenty of lighting for night skiing.
Check out CCC for hours of free skating at the Wilson Quad rink. The other outdoor ice rink nearby is the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park, about a 10-minute walk from the Eastman campus. For a slightly warmer and definitely less windy ice skating experience, there is a indoor ice rink at the Genesee Valley Sports Complex, about a 15-minute walk from campus. Both rinks will cost you $6 ($3 admission plus $3 skate rental).
Despite the weather, the Rochester Public Market remains open year-round! Go get fresh produce and discover all the cafes and restaurants in the area. It is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. You can drive or take the Green line when it runs on Saturday.
Also, if you want to volunteer, Flower City Pickers meets every other Saturday during the winter at the public market to sort donated food for distribution to various organizations in the city.
I hope this list inspires you to get out and do something fun in Rochester this winter!