Off the Beaten Path: Unique Places to Take the Grandkids

Whether you’re having the grandkids for your usual Sunday afternoon visit or they’re flying in from across the country…. Is your first thought, “What are we going to do this time?” Here are some fresh ideas for places to go within 60 miles of Rochester.

You’ve probably already taken your grandkids to Rochester’s premier children’s meccas: The Strong Museum of Play, Seneca Park Zoo, Genesee Country Village and the Rochester Museum and Science Center. But there’s a lot more that you and your grandkids can explore and enjoy—all within an hour or less from home. 

Military History Society Museum Display

For kids who love history, the Military History Society Museum is a hidden gem. Did you know that some of Rochester’s Civil war troops went to battle in the exotic uniforms of the Zouaves—with flowing pantaloons, short jackets, and sashes? They’ll learn about that and more from a large collection of Civil War items, as well as uniforms, muskets, rifles, and carbines from the Revolutionary War through WW II. Other displays show Rochester’s military contributions up to the present day. The volunteers will provide great stories for your grandkids, and maybe you have a few of your own to share.

An artistic experience that defies the imagination is what you’ll find at ArtisanWorks. Nearly 500,000 pieces of artwork from the strange to the spectacular are displayed on walls, floors, and even ceilings.  Antique automobiles, old cameras, gigantic super-realistic wood sculptures of everyday objects, all sorts of artwork and oddities—even a Fire House, complete with truck and pole. There’s nothing like it anywhere in the world and one visit is never enough.

Giant wooden pencil sharpener sculpture

Take them shopping—but not at the Mall. The guys from the show American Pickers found deals here and you will too. Routes 5 & 20 from Darien in the west to Canandaigua in the east have more antique shops and flea markets than just about anywhere else in the state. Show your grandkids the stuff of your childhood that’s now considered “retro” or even “antique.” See how far a dollar or two can go here and maybe you’ll even hook them on a lifetime of collecting.

“All aboard” at a railroad museum—actually, four railroad museums. All feature special seasonal train excursions, exhibits of antique railroad artifacts, photographs and old railroad cars and trolleys that kids can climb aboard and see how people traveled in the old days. The Arcade & Attica Railroad, the New York Museum of Transportation/Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum, and the Medina Railroad Museum are all fun rail destinations.

Take an inside tour of Letchworth Dam

For outdoors and science-loving kids, a visit to Letchworth State Park and a tour of the Mount Morris Dam will excite future civil engineers and curious adults alike. On a free 1-1/2 hour inside-the-dam tour you’ll learn about the floods that used to ravage the area and how they built the dam and saved us all from a world of trouble! The dam tour itself is level and has elevators, but the walk down to the dam is a bit steep for those with walkers or wheelchairs. Once you’ve taken the tour, relax with a picnic lunch under the pavilion and watch the kids cavort on the expansive playground, overlooking the dam. Afterwards, a trip into the quaint village of Mount Morris for ice cream at Zeppo’s or candy from Jane’s Pantry is sure to bring smiles. 

Jane's Pantry

When the weather warms up, beat the heat with a visit to Stony Brook State Park. It’s located along Highway 390 near Dansville and features fascinating rock formations, three waterfalls with natural swimming holes, and real rock waterslides within the gorge. Three different depths from 2’ to 8’ make for swimming fun for all ages. Bring a picnic and spend the day!

There’s so much more to discover within 60 miles of Rochester… So, get out with your grandkids and explore somewhere new!

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Connie Herrera is the author of 60 Fun Things to Do Within 60 Miles of Rochester and 60 Great Places to Go With Kids Within 60 Miles of Rochester, as well as travel guides for Buffalo, East Aurora, and Palm Springs, CA.  “My goal is to help people rediscover where they live and see it with new eyes. So, if you’re new to the area, I want you to be astounded at your luck in moving here. If you’re here for a visit, I hope you’ll want to come back again to do more. And, if you’ve lived here all your life, I hope you’ll be surprised at how many places you haven’t yet explored and how many you want to visit again!” You can find out more at my website: 60funthingstodo

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