Rochester, the third-largest metro region in New York state, is easy to get to and even easier to navigate once a group tour arrives. The gateway to the Finger Lakes, Rochester is located on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, and is within a day’s drive of one-third of the U.S. population.
“When we say ‘limitless,’ we really mean that the list of things to do in Rochester is limitless,” says Diana Keating, director of tourism and marketing at Visit Rochester. “From our world-renowned attractions and historic museums to our internationally recognized festivals, Rochester has everything a major metro city has to offer from a cultural standpoint, with all the fun and beauty of a four-season adventure destination. With something for everyone, we know that you will be surprised with everything you can see and do within the hidden gem that is Rochester, New York.”
Additionally, Rochester can serve as the perfect base for a hub-and-spoke tour to western New York. Keating points out the city is close to Niagara Falls (90 minutes), Corning Museum of Glass (90 minutes), Letchworth State Park (45 minutes), Finger Lakes Wine Country (45 minutes), and Seneca Falls (60 minutes).
The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester is the ultimate play destination for all ages. Explore upstate New York’s largest year-round cultural attraction and experience two floors—more than a city block long—of hands-on, dynamic interactive exhibit spaces. Discover the world’s largest collection of toys, dolls, and games. Play your way through video game and pinball history, leap into the world of American comic book superheroes, and move like a playing piece on a giant game board. Enjoy a 1918 carousel, an indoor tropical butterfly garden, and more. Meet history’s playful side in The Strong’s three halls of fame. The Strong offers group experiences and VIP/behind-the-scenes tours, if coordinated in advance.
Head to the George Eastman Museum on the Rochester estate of George Eastman, the pioneer of popular photography and motion picture film. There is always something new and different to engage, educate, or entertain visitors at the museum. Find temporary exhibitions on photography and cinema, contemporary works, and the History of Photography Gallery, and on the second floor of Eastman’s historic mansion and gardens, see how the entrepreneur and philanthropist lived for almost 30 years during the early 20th century. Whether your group is interested in photography, motion pictures, history, gardens, architecture, or historic houses, tours can be customized just for you.
History comes alive at Genesee Country Village & Museum (GCV&M), the largest living history museum in New York. Step back in time with costumed interpreters to explore the 19th-century historic village, including the working brewery, blacksmith, pottery, tin shop, and baby animals on the farm. GCV&M is also home to the John L. Wehle Gallery, Genesee Country Nature Center, and Silver Baseball Park. Open seasonally with special events all year long, GCV&M offers several guided tours for groups, plus options for an on-site lunch.
Mount Hope Cemetery’s landscape features high hills and deep valleys, winding eskers, and deep kettles. America’s first municipal Victorian cemetery is spread over 196 acres where you will find stately mausoleums dug deep into hillsides and many examples of Victorian funerary art. In summer, a high 1875 Florentine fountain cascades water from lions’ mouths down through three basins held up by cast-iron caryatids. Group tours are available and customizable by theme, including birdwatching, fall foliage, Civil War, the Underground Railroad, and more. Mt. Hope Cemetery is also the final resting place of civil rights icons Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony.
Casa Larga Vineyards and Winery was established in 1974 with the first vines planted over 2 acres. See winemaking from graft to glass at Monroe County’s only winery, named for the founder’s grandparents’ vineyards in Italy. Private group tours and tastings are available. Casa Larga is home to the New York State Ice Wine and Culinary Festival every February and the Purple Foot Festival every September.
Credit: Jim Montanus