Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Rochester, NY

  • Published 2022/11/09

Take a trip back when you visit Rochester in Monroe County, New York, where history and culture come alive!

This city is sprawling with historical landmarks and museums, which is no surprise once you learn more about its history.

Located in Monroe County, Rochester has experienced many changes and progressions.

It has transformed from ‘Young Lion of the West’ to ‘Flour City’ and, eventually, ‘Flower City.’

It went from its rapid and fast population growth to international attention for its horticulture industry.

In addition to having lovely gardens and parks, Rochester is the site of numerous civil rights milestones that shaped the history of the United States.

If you want to familiarize yourself with some of the most significant moments in the history of America, this is the best place to visit.

The most impressive part is that you can explore the city and familiarize yourself with its culture without spending any money.

Here are the free things to do in Rochester, New York:

Enjoy the Breeze around Ontario Beach Park

Welcome sign of Ontario Beach Park

TarnPisessith /

Make unforgettable memories under the sun with your friends and loved ones at Ontario Beach Park.

Situated by the stunning Lake Ontario on Beach Avenue shores, Ontario Beach Park is one of the city’s best beaches with natural sand.

This beach park spans 39 acres and features a stunning pier, an iconic amusement ride, and panoramic ocean views.

If you’re looking to relax, head to the beach and listen to the sound of the waves.

Sunset at Ontario Beach Park

Matthew J Mayer /

However, if you’re lazy, bring a towel to nap on the sand.

You can also bring along your loved ones and roam around while taking pictures of the sights the area offers.

Check out the Dentzel Menagerie Carousel, an excellent antique ride that dates back to 1905.

You can even ride it if you have a little bit of money!

A gazebo at Ontario Beach Park

Andre Carrotflower, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Reconnect with Nature at the Genesee Riverway Trail

Daytime view of Genesee Riverway Trail

Wirestock Creators /

See some of the best sights and outstanding destinations the city offers for free when you follow the path on the Genesee Riverway Trail.

This trail is 24 miles long and follows through numerous scenic attractions in Rochester.

The city has officially recognized it as a National Recreation Trail.

You can access the Genesee River, pedestrian bridges, waterfalls, and historical parks.

Benches along Genesee Riverway Trail

Paul Brady Photography /

Although it is surrounded by nature, most of the portions of the trail are paved and open to visitors of all ages.

Take a break from walking or hiking and observe fishermen by the Lower Falls.

You can also climb up to the higher portion of the trail and take pictures at the Lower Falls Overlook.

The Genesee Riverway Trail is the perfect place to deepen your appreciation and love for the beauty of nature.

View of a marina from Genesee Riverway Trail

debra millet /

Remember a Civil Rights Legend at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park is the perfect place to commemorate and honor one of the iconic leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.

In 1974, this park opened to the public under Manhattan Square Park.

In 2013, it was renamed in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Located in the heart of Rochester, this park is a popular destination for tourists and locals.

This park welcomes everyone, from those who want to take a spin on the ice rink to locals who want to grab some lunch in peace.

Here, you can roam around and take pictures of the stunning structures in the park, like the cascading artificial waterfall or the beautiful murals all around.

If you visit during the colder months, you can sit by and relax as you watch people glide through the ice on the skating rink.

Your kids can also have fun when you visit this park because there is a vibrant playground and a spray park where they can splash around or cool off during the warmer months.

Roam a Colorful Wonderland at Highland Park

Conservatory at Highland Park

Debora Truax /

Take a stroll through Highland Park and discover why Rochester is the “Flower City.”

You should add Highland Park to your list of places to visit for several reasons.

One of them is that it’s the home base for the Lamberton Conservatory and Lilac Arches.

The Lamberton Conservatory is a picturesque greenhouse home to a wide range of plants and flowers from all corners of the world.

Flowers for sale at Highland Park

JWCohen /

You can also find numerous gardens and memorials within the park’s premises.

Explore this stunning 150-acre paradise located on Reservoir Avenue.

Feast your eyes on the luscious greeneries and breathtaking flowers throughout the park.

Highland Park is the place to go whether you want to take a peaceful walk or take memorable pictures.

Remember Garden at Highland Park

Andre Carrotflower, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Marvel at Stunning Works of Art at ARTWalk

With more than ten majestic sculptures and numerous other artworks on display, ARTWalk is the perfect place to go for inspiration.

Located between the George Eastman House and the Memorial Art Gallery on University Avenue, ARTWalk is an outdoor museum that features various interactive public art.

ARTWalk is a permanent urban trail to find unique art pieces all over the Neighborhood of the Arts or NOTA.

Stroll along paths adorned with beautiful designs and rich colors as you take in the incredible sights of impressive metal structures.

If you need a break, there are plenty of benches to sit on that are part of the art display.

These pieces are stylish and unique, with bright colors and unique structures.

If you want a one-of-a-kind walking tour that will take you around an artistic area, come to ARTWalk and satisfy your needs for free.

Admire the Majestic Architecture of the Sacred Heart Cathedral

Exterior of Sacred Heart Cathedral

DanielPenfield, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit one of the best examples of the Gothic Revival architectural style at the Sacred Heart Cathedral.

The church first opened as the Sacred Heart School in 1911.

Since then, the Sacred Heart Cathedral has become a majestic church with a parish that has existed for more than 110 years.

This church on Flower City Park is a cornerstone of Rochester’s Catholic community.

With its breathtaking architecture and magnificent interiors, it is no surprise that this church won the Faith & Form Religious Architecture Merit Award in 2009.

Interior of Sacred Heart Cathedral

DanielPenfield, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

No walking tour of the city would be complete without stopping by the Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Feast your eyes on the impressive detailing of its facade and the two towering structures on each side of its entrance.

You can also roam around and be amazed at its glorious altar.

Whether you are religious or an architecture enthusiast, this is a great place to visit.

Bike around the Erie Canalway Trail

Cure your cabin fever by cycling around the Erie Canalway Trail and taking in some fresh air and beautiful scenery.

This trail is 14 miles long and goes from the south of Rochester up to Fairport.

While most of the trail is paved, there is a stone dust section at least five miles long.

This trail is excellent if you want to break a sweat or feel the breeze as you bike around.

You can also enjoy the scenic views whenever you stop and rest from paddling on your bike.

Take in the sight of the canal and the lush greeneries around the trail.

While on land, you might even see a boat gliding through the waters and racing against it.

This is the perfect spot to come for a leisurely bike ride or a more challenging run, depending on your preference.

See the Natural Sights at Pont de Rennes Bridge

Aerial view of Pont de Rennes Bridge

Debora Truax /

See the city from a new perspective by visiting Pont de Rennes Bridge.

The overlook was built in 1891 and has become a popular spot for getting fantastic views of the river.

This bridge is named after Rochester’s sister city, Rennes, France.

Standing 100 feet tall over the Genesee River, this place is a must-visit if you want to snap the best pictures of the waters.

View of a waterfall from Pont de Rennes Bridge

Debora Truax /

See the Genesee River in all of its glory and the beautiful greeneries all around the city when you come to this pedestrian bridge.

You can also sit down by the benches and take in all of the stunning panoramic views of Rochester.

Bring a companion and enjoy a peaceful walk on the Pont de Rennes Bridge.

Structure of the Pont de Rennes Bridge

Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Find Your New Favorite Book at the Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County

Satisfy your literary cravings at the Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County.

Located on South Avenue in Downtown Rochester, this library has served students, bookworms, and even researchers for over 80 years.

This library comprises the Rundel Memorial Library Building and the Bausch & Lomb Public Library Building.

Whether you want to browse the extensive collection of books and literary works or to get copying and faxing services, go to the Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County.

Architecture lovers will also love this spot due to the great pillars that line its facade.

You can also meet up with your friends or colleagues in one of the numerous meeting rooms or join its educational programs.

Explore the Trails and Attractions in Durand Eastman Park

Redbud trees at Durand Eastman Park

Debora Truax /

Drive to Durand Eastman Park, one of Rochester’s best parks, and embark on an adventure to explore its famous sights.

Durand Eastman Park spans 977 acres and features a stunning waterfront view of Lake Ontario.

Here, you can marvel at the numerous sights, including flowering trees, breathtaking valleys, and the enchanting lake.

If you’re feeling daring, follow one of the park’s many trails and see if you can find the White Lady’s Castle at the far end of the park.

Legend says this castle is haunted by the ghost of a woman who went crazy after her daughter’s tragic death.

On the other hand, if you only want a bit of relaxation, you can sit by the lake and meditate.

Whether an outdoor enthusiast or a laidback individual, you will find something to love in Durand Eastman Park.

Check Out Iconic Statues at the Susan B. Anthony Square Park

Take pictures with one of the legendary pioneers in the women’s suffrage movement at Susan B. Anthony Square Park.

Situated on Madison Street near the home of celebrated suffragist Susan B. Anthony, this park features a sculpture made by Pepsy Kettavong.

The bronze sculpture “Let’s Have Tea” portrays Susan B. Anthony and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, iconic leaders of the early Civil Rights Movement.

The Susan B. Anthony Square Park is a great place to rest after roaming around the sights nearby.

You can sit down and admire the tall trees and flowering plants or take memorable snapshots with the statues.

See Extraordinary Monuments at Mount Hope Cemetery

A monument at Mount Hope Cemetery

Jon T. Powers /

Explore Mount Hope Cemetery and see some of Rochester’s most beautiful and unique monuments.

This cemetery, founded in 1838, is the final resting place for many prominent individuals, such as Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, and John Jacob Bausch.

The gravestones in this cemetery don’t only have stories to tell, but they also have eye-catching designs to captivate any visitor.

Grave marker of Susan B. Anthony at Mount Hope Cemetery

Steven Bodnar /

From simple granite monuments and limestone markers to towering obelisks and majestic winged angels, Mount Hope Cemetery houses numerous gravestones that will amaze you.

Find the Filon Monument, a large family monument with detailed architecture and two life-size statues representing hope and sorrow.

You can also try to find Clarence L. Conklin’s monument, which features a statue of a dog lying on a sloped surface, looking upwards to where his owner has gone.

A chapel at Mount Hope Cemetery

DanielPenfield, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Keep Active at Cobb’s Hill Park and Washington Grove

Thanks to their challenging trails and sports areas, Cobb’s Hill Park and Washington Grove are ideal for a cardio workout, whether running or walking.

Located in the southeast portion of Rochester, this park features numerous recreational areas and scenic trails sprawling over 109 acres.

This park is popular among runners who want a challenge to their daily workouts.

It also features areas where you can play basketball, baseball, and soccer.

You can also find stunning lilacs and other local trees planted around the park.

Whether you want to stay active, have a picnic, or take pictures of the gorgeous views, this is the right place.

Live Your Fairytale Fantasy at the Warner Castle

Exterior of the Warner Castle

debra millet /

Feel like royalty as you pose and take pictures at Warner Castle.

The Warner Castle, a private home built in 1854 for Horatio Gates Stone, is in Highland Park, which belongs to the Warner Castle Estate Gardens.

Before Rochester acquired the property, it was a sanitarium for at least 20 years.

While the castle’s interior is not open for free tours, you can freely roam its sunken garden.

Facade of the Warner Castle

Liudmyla Palagitska /

With its architectural style and structure, you will feel like you’ve stepped back into the medieval period.

Take numerous pictures and pose along the staircases or against the walls of the sunken garden.

Bring along your friends and have a mini photoshoot session at the Warner Castle grounds.

Sunken gardens of Warner Castle

debra millet /

Pay Homage to the Nation’s Heroes at Washington Square Park

Statue at Washington Square Park

Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Washington Square Park, located right in the center of Rochester, is a small and quiet park with great significance.

It is dedicated to the veterans who served in the armed services and fought for the country.

You can find a majestic monument that features Abraham Lincoln at Washington Square Park.

This is an excellent spot for those who want to take a peaceful moment alone and have a quiet stroll.

Many individuals come here to rest or grab a bite during lunchtime between work hours.

You can also take pictures of the monument or the luscious greeneries that surround the area.

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of things to do in Rochester, New York, that won’t cost you a penny.

Whether you want to explore the city’s history and pay homage to historical icons or take selfies at stunning locations, this city has everything you need.

Check out these free things to do in Rochester, New York!

© All rights reserved.