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Rochester

george eastman house 2 - christine weiFrequently a stopover on the way to the Niagara Falls, the town of Rochester in upstate New York deserves a few days of exploration, especially in fall. The city’s history as the birthplace of the Kodak company has paved the way for an under-the-radar but robust art scene, while a wealth of college campuses keep the dining and entertainment options fresh. And in October, there are endless opportunities for foliage peeping. Here’s what to do over a weekend in town.

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ooey gooey butter cake - christine wei - 620 copy

There’s no excuse like being on vacation to indulge in decadent dishes that you’d feel guilty about tucking into at home, right? Plus, eating local is part of the cultural experience of any destination. Here, five bizarre and over-the-top regional eats — and where to try them if you so dare:

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strong-national-museum-of-playThree years ago I called Rochester’s Strong National Museum of Play the best kids museum you never heard of and I’m betting that, until a few seconds ago, you still hadn’t heard of it.

And that’s fine, because after recently reassessing the museum, I’ve revised my opinion. The Strong is not the best kids museum you never heard of; it is perhaps, the best kids museum ever.

Parents Play, Too
During my nearly 14 years of parenting, I have grown to dislike children’s museums. I had just assumed I was burned out, as most kids museums these days try to do the right thing. Most have engaging exhibits as well as play areas scaled for younger children. And in many cases, these museums have subdivided spaces so that toddlers, preschoolers, and tweens can enjoy age-appropriate activities.

While at the Strong with my family a couple weeks ago, I realized soon after arriving what my problem was with most children’s museums: They don’t encourage the parents to play, too, and the Strong takes a decidedly more inclusive and integrated approach to family play.

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Around this time last year I suggested a family vacation to Rochester’s Strong National Museum of Play, “the best kids’ museum you never heard of” (to quote myself) and also noted briefly that the Finger Lakes region packed plenty of appeal for outdoorsy families.

It’s the latter idea that gets our attention this week, as New York State’s Ontario county – zestily rebranding its nine thousand square miles of goodness as “Nature’s Health Club”– is suggesting families try out a fitness trail studded with several local points of interest.

The trail in this case can be framed more realistically as a loose driving tour. The sites on the route – an historic site, creperie, sailboarding shop, water park, and apple orchard – lie south of U.S. 90, spanning a 25 mile area that bridges the Canandaigua and Seneca lakes. So the way I’d approach this trip is first spending a day or two in Rochester and then driving the 20 miles southeast to Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor, NY, in whose vicinity you’ll find more than half a dozen inns and chain hotels hugging the south side of US 90 if you want to add an overnight or two to this tour. Read more

Squeeze out the last bit of summer or take in the fall foliage in laid-back Rochester, New York, the “photography capital” that’s home to a number of surprising attractions. Check out the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the legendary George Eastman House, take a tour of one of the Finger Lakes nearby wineries, or experience Rochester’s blossoming food, art, and festival scene.

Kids will love the National Museum of Play at Strong (Rochester’s world-famous interactive children’s museum), as well as Ontario Beach Park which boasts soft-sand, a beautiful hand-carved carousel, and plenty of playgrounds and picnic areas. The centrally-located Rochester Plaza Hotel makes it easy with the Stay and Play Plus package that bundles accommodations, four attraction tickets (including the National Museum of Play and George Eastman House), and a pizza dinner starting from $139. Additional nights can be added for $89.

THE VALUE: Depending on where you choose to spend your tickets, the added value of this package can total as much as $70.

THE CATCH: The second day doesn’t include all the extras for $89, but you can opt to purchase the package again.

THE DETAILS: This offer is valid through October 16. Visit Rochester Plaza to book, or call 585-546-3450. Use promo code SSP. (Insider Tip: Head to the Owl House for a taste of the city’s up-and-coming restaurant revolution).

WE’VE GOT MORE:

See why the Finger Lakes, located just outside of Rochester was voted a Top Ten Lake Vacation.

Grab a flight to Rochester on the cheap using our Travel Search tool.

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