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Don't Miss Out on Rochester, NY

Rochester is a smaller city in New York that sits along the coast of Lake Ontario. If you haven't heard of the town, you'll be surprised to know it's a nexus for international festivals and cultural centers. While many cities are famous for being cultural melting pots and hosting international events, you'll be surprised by the unorthodox festivities in Rochester. After a busy day of learning things you'd have never expected to learn, you can treat yourself to the unique delicacies of Rochester cuisine.

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01 Learn everything at the International Center for the History of Electronic Games

Whether you've been playing games since Pong, stay up all night playing the latest hit, or love to relax playing Sim City, you'll adore the International Center for the History of Electronic Games. It contains an impressive collection of all things video games, including a game library numbering in the tens of thousands! The ICHEG also has information exhibits dedicated to the history of games throughout human history. You're sure to learn all sorts of fascinating things about the roles that games have played in human history. It goes without saying that there are plenty of interactive exhibits!

02 Take a stroll to the Strong Museum of Play

The ICHEG adjoins the Strong Museum of Play. While the ICHEG focuses on gaming, the Strong is dedicated to all the ways people entertain themselves. The interactive exhibits are sure to be a hit for the whole family. You'll be learning while you have fun, too; one of the major goals of The Strong Museum is to illustrate the ways unique cultures play can teach you a ton about those cultures.

03 Enjoy a plate of hot garbage

Now now, it's not literal garbage. The popular local restaurant Nick Tahou Hots invented and serves a now-iconic Rochester dish that's been nicknamed a 'Garbage Plate.' It consists of fried potatoes, baked beans, and a spicy meat sauce that's equally delicious and hard to describe. It earned the name because guests had no idea what to call it and often asked for 'the plate filled with garbage.'

04 Rock out at the largest guitar store in the world

This destination has attracted all sorts of musical talent to Rochester since The Beatles made it somewhat famous, although it was not the largest guitar store in the world then. The store has a massive collection of guitars, sound systems, accessories, and memorabilia. It even has its own stage; if you check out their website and time your visit right, you can enjoy a free concert by a live band.

05 Get a taste of Upstate New York's local wineries

Rows of Grapevines Leading to Seneca Lake arlutz73 / Getty Images

Each year, Experience the Finger Lakes takes thousands of visitors on its popular Seneca Lakes Wine Tour. There are dozens of wineries in the area, and you can take a full-day tour or a half-day tour to visit some of the best. You'll learn about the wine-making process from the experts themselves and taste all sorts of vintage wines. The full-day tour comes with lunch, but the shorter tour is good if you're facing a time crunch.

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06 Explore the abandoned subway of Rochester

This activity isn't for the faint of heart. Rochester city officials blocked off this abandoned subway over half a century ago, but don't let that stop you. There are gaps by which you can enter, and the gates are often unlocked or broken. If you enter the old subway, you'll notice it—the city attempted to turn an abandoned canal into a subway route! Before that, though, you'll see the area is decked with countless works of graffiti art. If you'd like, no one will stop you from adding your own piece to this communal mural.

07 Visit monuments in honor of America's most famous suffragette

historical figures statues File Photo

Everyone in America knows of Susan B. Anthony, the Civil Rights hero who helped to kickstart the Suffragette movement. There's a beautiful, simple monument to her illegal ballot cast in the 1872 election; a bronze ballot box left in the historic spot in question. Additionally, Susan B. Anthony's Rochester home now stands as a museum dedicated to her life and the Civil Rights movement. Everyone owes it to themselves to learn about such an important figure in the fight for equality.

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08 Enjoy the St. Stanislaus Festival in August

traditional Polish dumplings Pierogi Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

Every August, the local Polish population descends on Rochester to enjoy the festival of Saint Stanislaus. It's a great activity for anyone with Polish heritage, but anyone will have a great time there. A glass or three of beer while watching the polka dancers is a fun time for everyone, and you'll get to try Polish cuisine. Grab a few Polish dumplings and fill the pierogi-shaped hole in your life you didn't even realize you had.

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09 Watch the annual Soapbox Derby in June

soapbox derby racing RichVintage / Getty Images

In the early days of June, Rochester holds a delightful event for participants and spectators. The city invites kids to put together vehicles in their backyards and clears a course for them to race. If you don't live too far and have your own kids, they might love to participate. If you're in Rochester at the right time, it's always fun to watch the kids compete for first place in their homemade hotrods.

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10 Visit the Cobbs Hill Park

Visiting Cobbs Hill should be a priority in any season. In the summer, you need to climb the hill and enjoy the view. The lush greenery in the forefront and the city skyline behind the trees make for a great sight. Then, you can relax on the soft grass and spend the warm summer night stargazing. During the winter, sledding down the Cobbs Hill snowdrifts is a joy, no matter how old you are.

11 Discover the George Eastman Museum

Grounds of George Eastman House James W. Porter / Getty Images

You'll be the envy of the town after returning from the George Eastman Museum — the world's oldest to focus solely on photography. Within its historic walls, you'll discover several million objects related to film, cinema, and photographic technology. Three temporary exhibitions are showing at all times, and you can tour your way through the elegant mansion and gardens to learn more. Over 300 films are shown annually in the Dryden Theater, and you can participate in a variety of engaging workshops to experience history hands-on.

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12 Experience the Rochester Museum & Science Center

With over 1.2 million permanent objects on display and a revolving schedule of exclusive exhibits, the Rochester Museum & Science Center is an engaging way to spend an afternoon. Enter Expedition Earth for an immersive journey into Rochester's ancient landscape. Discover 400 years of Native American/European relations in "At the Western Door," experiment with light and optics in Illumination, or catch a laser show at the planetarium. View a diorama of Rochester as an 1838 boomtown, power cities in the Inventor Center, or explore space — this museum is a science lover's heaven.

13 Attend a performance at the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra

The Rochester Philharmonic has set the bar for passionate performances since 1922, and that tradition continues today with over 150 events every season. Experience a full program of beautiful tunes played by a star-studded lineup of experienced musicians, and watch the magic of music spring to life. From Mozart and Beethoven to modern masterpieces and free concerts, there's always a sweet tune coming from the Eastman Theatre — the symphony's home base.

14 Explore the public art of Rochester

Wherever you are in Rochester, you're bound to find bright, colorful, and vibrant murals to take in. Breathtaking public art pieces are a joy to explore, and you can easily find hundreds. Discover the 3,000-square-foot photorealistic creation of Representative John Lewis just minutes from City Hall. Follow the huge whole-building displays that are part of the Her Voice Carries campaign, which celebrates female creatives. "Rock, Paper, Scissors" is situated in the South Wedge, and a Martin Luther King Jr. mural takes over Manhattan Square. Keep your eyes peeled and prepare to fill your Insta feed with color.

15 Relax at the Highland Park

This 150-acre oasis hosts events and activities year-round, so there's always something to see and do. Travel back in time to the storybook Warner Castle and Sunken Garden, a gothic residence filled with beautiful plants and flowers. Memorials are situated throughout so you can relax and reflect, including an AIDs Memorial, Victim Rights Memorial, and a Vietnam Veteran's Memorial honoring nearly 30,000 souls. Get active with ice skating, rugby, or geo-caching. When the weather's right, the Highland Bowl delivers power-packed musical performances.

16 Savor a meal in the Park Avenue neighborhood

If you're ready for some tantalizing treats, head to Park Avenue for mealtime. This vibrant part of town is brimming with mouth-watering restaurants, cafes, bakeries, bars, and coffee shops, so goodness awaits around every corner. Whether you're craving locally made favorites or international cuisine, there's something for every appetite in this neck of the woods.

17 Visit the Seneca Park Zoo

If you want to experience animal interactions up close, head over to the Seneca Park Zoo for a day filled with fun and adventure. Zoo staff are actively involved in helping reverse extinction internationally, so you can learn about different species and the efforts to save them from experts. Habitats of focus range from the Arctic Circle to South Africa, so you can spot animals ranging from polar bears and penguins to elephants, orangutans, lions, cheetahs, and lemurs. Giraffe feedings and savannah safari tours offer unforgettable times for the whole family.

18 Take a cruise on the Erie Canal

Cannel Boat on the Erie Canal-Rochester NY. William Reagan / Getty Images

Capture the captivating beauty of the Erie Canal from a luxurious boat cruise. These cruises take off from May through October when weather permits, and they last up to 3 hours so you can learn, laugh, and have a wonderful time along the way. The captain will explain the intriguing stories behind the vessel, the area, and the canal itself. Themed cruises are tailored toward varying experiences, so you can savor a delectable dinner for two or party the night away at a murder/mystery excursion.

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19 Participate in the Rochester Lilac Festival

This world-famous festival has been celebrated for over 120 years, and it's the largest free festival of its kind on the continent. Spend one (or all 10) days of this annual event viewing 500+ unique varieties and nearly 2,000 bushes. A craft beer expo, live musical entertainment, 5K and 10K runs, art in the park, a lilac parade, and festival food round out the festivities.

20 Discover the history of photography at the Visual Studies Workshop

Current Project Space Artist Resident Priya Kambli at work on, “Baba, I am working hard Instagram / visualstudiesworkshop

If you want to enhance your artistic skills, the Visual Studies Workshop is the place to go. Engaging in 3-5 session workshops teach you valuable skills on an assortment of topics, including Handmade Film, Book Making, and Virtual Photo Critique. Learn more at the research collection that features over 40,000 books and one million still images.

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