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2005 survey results: Top 20 Places to Take Kids in Greater Rochester

For the updated 2011 survey results, click here.

In 2005, 1800 Rochester-area parents were asked to vote on their Top 3 Places to take their kids in the greater Rochester area, from which we were able to compile this terrific list of the Top 20 places. Each of the Top 20 places features a description and a photo, as well as (shortly) links to a comment page supplied by readers.

Of course, there are literally hundreds of wonderful places to take your kids in this area, so the venue ranked #20 is not last, it's simply the 20th most popular place per our survey. For other fantastic places to take kids, just click on any of the links that interest you on the left-hand navigation bar, or the subject links on the bottom of each KOA page.

Strong National Museum of Play

1. Strong Museum. Strong Museum, which was ranked by Child magazine as one of the top 10 children's museums in the country, certainly deserves the #1 spot in our poll. Strong Museum far outranked everything else on the list in terms of "number of #1 votes." In fact, Strong received more than four times the number of "first choice" votes than the next highest garner of #1 votes (which was the Rochester Museum & Science Center). In addition to the many traveling exhibitions that make their temporary home at Strong Museum, the Museum features Can You Tell Me How To Get to Sesame Street?"; a restored carousel, a Wegmans Super Kids Market; and a Kid to Kid section.

Seneca Park Zoo

2. Seneca Park Zoo. Seneca Park Zoo strikes the perfect balance for many of us parents: It's small enough to "do in a day" -- you can spend enough time in each area that the kids can really learn about the animals -- but it's inexpensive enough that you don't necessary feel the pressure to do "do it all" in one visit. So we can spend a couple of hours (a toddler's maximum) and then come back another day in the same season to focus on a different area. Another reason we speculate that the Zoo made the #2 spot is that it's enjoyable both in summer and in winter. The warmer seasons are unquestionably more popular with zoogoers, but we always go at least once in the winter: There are a several indoor areas that are popular with kids, especially if they love snakes.

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3. Seabreeze. Seabreeze is the amusement park "closest to home," located right on the shore Lake Ontario at the top of Route 590 to the East. Seabreeze has both thrilling adult rides such as the Jackrabbit (the fourth oldest operating coaster in the country), classic family rides such as the Carousel and Train, and some great rides for the under-8 set such as the Kiddie Swings. The waterpark section of Seabreeze, "Raging Rivers," has "liquid fun for everyone." It's not too big, and not too small, and it's a very good price (rates vary per ticket type; click here for current rates.

4. Rochester Museum & Science Center. Interestingly, the Rochester Museum & Science Center got the second-highest number of "#1" votes, which means that with the parents for whom this is a popular place to take their kids, it's really popular with them. This suggests that this venue is a somewhat underutilized resource in the greater Rochester area. Certainly in the last few years it has really stepped up the quantity and quality of its exhibits, hands-on activities, camps, classes, shows and festivals. The museum features traveling exhibits as well as permanent ones; the newest traveling exhibit (through July 4, 2004) is "Body Carnival: The Science and Fun of Being You."

5. Lollypop Farm. Lollypop Farm is maintained by the Humane Society of Rochester and Monroe County and located in Fairport (actually the Hamlet of Egypt) off of Route 31. It provides a special (and free) opportunity to introduce kids of all ages to all kinds of farm animals and pets. The Humane Society at Lollypop Farm is committed to building lifelong bonds between people and animals through education, community outreach programs, and the prevention of cruelty. Inside, Lollypop Farm houses dogs, cats, and other small animals that are ready for adoption, as well as a Family Learning Center where families can learn about pet care together. Outside, take a walk through the Farm's pastures of horses, llamas, goats, deer, geese, ducks, and chickens. Stroll to the nearby playround and have a picnic lunch!

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6. Brown's Berry Patch. We were surprised, albeit delighted, that Brown's Berry Patch made the Top 10 list of favorite places to take kids. We were only really surprised because of its distance from the city relative to other venues. (Located to the west of Rochester near the shores of Lake Ontario in Waterport, NY, Brown's Berry Patch is about 50 minutes from Fairport.) But apparently the "delicious fun" of the place triumphs over travel time for lots of families, including ours -- it's definitely in the Top 10 in our house in summer and fall. My kids' favorites? The huge slide that parents and kids go down together. And the pedal carts (grown-up and kid-sized) that you can pedal through the corn maze.

7. Seneca Lake State Park Sprayground. Combining water fun with the safety of a cushiony surface and reduced risk of water emergencies, "spraygrounds," in which water jets creatively spray from fountains on the ground and delightful structures, have become the new summer rage. There's a beautiful one at the north end of Seneca Lake State Park in Geneva, about 40 minutes east of the city, south of the Thruway. One low price ($7 per carload last summer) gets the whole family in for the day. There is a terrific playground adjacent to the Sprayground area. It does get crowded on hot summer days, though...so additional monitoring of young children may be necessary. You can also enjoy the beautiful, breezy view of Seneca Lake as you picnic on the nice grounds.

Darien Lake Resort

8. Darien Lake. We suspect that one of the reasons that Darien Lake didn't make the Top 5 in our list is because it is a bit of a hike (about an hour west of Rochester, south of Batavia), a bit more expensive than closer amusement parks, and targeted to a slightly older crowd than the average KOA reader's kids. But there's no question that for a day or two (overnight accommodations are available in a hotel and campground) of excitement, stimulation, and variety, nothing beats Darien Lake.

9. Springdale Farm. Springdale Farm is one of the most simultaneously fun, educational, and inexpensive experiences to be had in the greater Rochester area. Located to Rochester's west in Ogden (by Spencerport), it combines the experience of a petting zoo with agricultural education. The farm is free and open to the public Monday - Saturday 10am-4pm, and Sunday 12pm-4pm. Activity fees may apply on festival and theme days such as their Sheep Shearing festival in the spring and their corn maze events in the fall. Springdale Farm is owned by Monroe County and operated by Heritage Christian Services, Inc., a non-profit agency that supports individuals with developmental disabilities.

10. Genesee Country Village & Nature Center. Genesee Country Village and Nature Center is located about a half-hour to Rochester's southwest in Mumford. The Village features 59 restored houses, businesses, and places of worship from the 19th century. A stroll through the village (especially on one of their event days such as Highland Gathering, War of 1812 Encampment, and Civil War Reenactment) brings parents and kids alike back to the 1800s. The GCV's Silver Base Ball Park is the only place where you're likely to hear "Fine hurl, sir!" meant as a polite compliment.

11. Mendon Ponds Park. Mendon Ponds Park is the largest Monroe County Park with 2,500 acres of woodlands, ponds, wetlands and glacially created land forms. Its unique complex of glacial features helped to make it a National Natural Historic Landmark in 1969.
There is a 550 acre nature preserve, with seven miles of self guided trails, full of wildlife, plants, and hand fed chickadees. Parents take their kids there both winter (great sledding, nicely groomed cross-country ski trails) and summer (we always bring a kite).

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12. Erie Canal hiking. Enjoy the great outdoors! There are all kinds of great activities all along the Erie Canal, with wonderfully maintained trails for both hiking and biking. Here we have provided a link to the New York State Canals web site which can help you identify terrific places for a family mini-trip. The Rochester area is part of the Erie Canal Heritage Trail - a 100-mile segment of the Trail between Tonawanda in the west and Newark in the east.

13. Rochester Red Wings baseball. There's nothing like a baseball game for great, inexpensive, family fun. The Red Wings may be a minor league team, but Frontier Field--a
deluxe and nicely contained facility--is a major league hit with parents. The Rochester Red Wings are the Triple-A team for the Minnesota Twins. A Red Wings game is not only great baseball, but it's an event that involves many different organizations in the community, as sponsors of inter-inning contests and fun. Click here for a KidsOutAndAbout.com article detailing all of the family-specific fun to be had at the Rochester Red Wings.

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14. Long Acre Farms. Long Acre Farms is best known in this area for their Amazing Maize Maze in the fall, but they have all kinds of events and activities throughout the year, and many of us parents take a seasonal "Long Acre Farms" trip out to Macedon with the kids. Long Acre Farms is a working, family farm that focuses on outdoor entertainment and weekend festivals. There is a goat pen and petting area. There is a 5-acre Play Area--filled with a wooden pirate ship and playground equipment, a tire climb and Pumpkin Land in the fall--as well as a farm market store, an ice cream shop, and a bakery.

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15. Ontario Beach Park. Taking your kids to Ontario Park in Charlotte affords a wide range of inexpensive family fun. Located at the end of Lake Road in Charlotte, Ontario Park features a lighthouse, restaurants, and ice cream. There is a nice playground with a wood chip base and a beach. Great children's festival in the summer, and a terrific "Cold Rush" festival in the winter.

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16. Rochester Children's Theatre. The Rochester Children's Theatre provides great professional children's theater during the fall, winter, and spring, and camps and workshops in the summer. Their home is at Nazareth College Arts Center. Shows are for all ages of kids, from toddlers through teenagers, and their troupe also features traveling shows that visit local schools. Their season runs September through May, and they run workshops in the summer.

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17. Rochester Public Market. A Daytrip to the Public Market is a fun and frugal outing with the kids. Children love the hustle and bustle of the Market, where customers barter with vendors and visitors enjoy an assault on the senses. The Market consists of three sheds: two open air and one enclosed shed, housing approximately 300 vendors. In addition to produce, vendors sell food staples as well as country crafts, sportswear, and gift items. Their fall Harvest Festival is not to be missed.

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18. Perinton Park. Perinton Park, located on the Erie Canal in Fairport off of Route 31, has a good playground, tennis courts, and picnic areas. There are always ducks congregating by the dock, there are nice (though a little squeaky) family swings that are great for summer evenings gazing at the boats and ducks on the canal and people-watching on the canal path. Most important for some of us parents, the park has bathrooms. It's a nice walk into Fairport for ice cream. (This particular park may have received many votes because many of the KOA parents who voted in this poll come from the east side.)

Cumming Nature Center

19. Cumming Nature Center. Although the Cumming Nature Center is officially part of the Rochester Museum & Science Center, it is regarded by Rochester parents as a different kind of experience, and is somewhat of a long drive if your kids are small (though worthwhile!), so we felt it was important to list it separately. The Nature Center is located to the southeast of Rochester in the Bristol Hills, seven miles north of Naples, NY and seven miles south of Honeoye. The Nature Center features six miles of walking trails that are open winter and summer (though note! it's weekends only from 9am-5pm).

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20. Local Library. Although "my local library" was not actually listed as a choice in our poll, the library system from the greater Rochester, NY area actually got enough "write-in votes" to put it in the top 20! And as a comprehensive resource for fun, education, and stimulation, it's certainly true that many of the local libraries in the area can't be beat. Favorites that were mentioned included the children's room in the Central Library in Rochester; Brighton Public Library; Webster Public Library; and Fairport Public Library.

Indoor recreation places that are not on this list but may soon be (as soon as we re-survey you!):

Adventure Landing
Bounce-It-Out
Horizon Fun FX
Jump Club
Kango Play Center
The Clubhouse Fun Center


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