Speaking as someone who has lived in Rochester their whole life, it can get pretty bleak and boring here after the fun holiday events of November and December have passed. Take some time this semester to explore one (or more!) of my many winter activity suggestions in and around Rochester. As long as you’re okay with potentially losing feeling in your extremities, there are lots of fun outdoor activities to keep you entertained.
Explore one of the many parks in Rochester
Genesee Valley Park, as you’ve probably already noticed, is within walking distance of River Campus, and has some nice paved walking trails along the Genesee River and the Erie Canal if you walk farther south. Also close by is Mount Hope Cemetery, which has a lot of paved trails, a beautiful church, and the graves of some famous Rochesterians including Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.
About a half hour walk away from campus is Highland Park, which is admittedly at its best in lilac and cherry blossom season, but offers more paved trails and good sledding hills, along with a reservoir and the Sunken Garden.
If you have a car or are willing to spend an absurd amount of time on a bus, head over to Cobb’s Hill for a great view of the Rochester skyline, a short walk around the other reservoir in Rochester, and a quick hike down to two abandoned ones covered in graffiti. About 20 minutes southeast from campus is Mendon Ponds Park which has, as you can imagine, a few ponds, some hiking trails, and a nature center called Wild Wings where you can see birds of prey.
I’d also recommend Turning Point Park with its long wooden boardwalk over the river, Durand Eastman Park that has some small glacier lakes, and visiting one of the beaches on Lake Ontario. Ontario Beach State Park is near some good food (Abbott’s for custard) and has a small pier that leads out to a lighthouse. There’s another smaller pier with a lighthouse out on the water near Seabreeze amusement park, called Irondequoit Bay Beach, which is near a popular beachfront bar called Marge’s Lakeside Inn. You can’t swim (unless you are the type of person who does polar plunges for fun), but I still think it’s fun to be near the water, especially if it’s been cold enough to form some ice chunks.
If you are up for a day trip, head out to Letchworth State Park, advertised as “the Grand Canyon of the East,” and only about 45 minutes away from campus. Having seen the Grand Canyon a few years ago, this really doesn’t compare, but it is still a must-do when in Rochester. Top spots are Upper Falls, Middle Falls, and Inspiration Point, which gives you a great view of the gorge.
Another great day trip is Niagara Falls, about an hour and a half away near Buffalo. The Cave of the Winds is now open during the winter, and I wrote about my experience visiting in January last year. I would also recommend checking out Canalside in Buffalo, which offers a lot of ice-related activities.
WCSA is offering free snowshoe rentals 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 following day.
Skiing (downhill and cross country) and Snowboarding
If you already own a pair of cross country skis, two great spots near Rochester are Mendon Ponds Park and Tinker Nature Park.
If not, I would recommend heading down to Bristol Mountain. It’s nearly an hour away but offers cross country ski rentals at the top of the mountain, along with 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 open skate hours at the Wilson Quad ice rink. The other outdoor ice rink nearby is at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park which is about a 10 minute walk from the Eastman campus. For a slightly warmer, and definitely less windy, ice skating experience, there is an indoor skating rink at the Genesee Valley Sports Complex, about a 15 minute walk from campus. Both rinks will cost you $6 ($3 entrance fee plus $3 skate rental).
Despite the weather, the Rochester Public Market stays open year round! Go get some fresh produce and check out all the cafes and restaurants in the area. It’s open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. You can either drive or take the Green Line when it runs on Saturdays.
Also, if you’d like to do some volunteering, Flower City Pickers meets every other Saturday during the winter at the Public Market to sort donated food for distribution to different organizations around the city.
I hope this list inspires you to go out and do something fun in Rochester this winter!