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STUDENT SURVIVAL GUIDE '12: Off-campus fun

Feel like a kid again: Blow off some academic steam and have a blast with these off-campus outings

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You're finally in college. You've gotten a taste of that independence you've been craving your entire teenaged life. Feels good, huh? Well, most of the time it does. Sometimes all the stress of college exams, being away from home, and making new friends makes you wish you were a kid again. While City Newspaper hasn't yet discovered the secret to time travel, we have come up with a list of fun, care-free things to do that will make you feel like you've turned back the clock a bit. Sometimes we all need to just go out and play. Whenever you get that itch for adventure, try these 10 ways to have childlike fun in Rochester.

1) Rochester has one of the only museums in the country that is completely dedicated to play. The Strong National Museum of Play (1 Manhattan Square, 263-2700, museumofplay.org, $11-$13) has collections of toys, creative play areas, and even a carousel on which you can ride. If you feel a little too old to ride the choo-choo train, you can check out the video-game and comic-book exhibits (the video-game one even includes a bevy of working, coin-operated arcade games from the 1980's). The museum has extended hours on Fridays and Saturdays (until 8 p.m.), so you can even play at night. There is also a butterfly garden (additional $4 charge) and a food court in case you're sick of campus food.

2) If you want to unwind but still feel guilty doing something completely un-educational, try the Rochester Museum and Science Center (657 East Ave., 271-4320, rmsc.org, $11 with student ID). The museum has an optics exhibit , a "how things work" exhibit, and an exhibit that's sole purpose is to let you build stuff with K'nex. You can also see Saturday-night laser shows or science movies on the enormous domed screen at the Strasenburgh Planetarium (an additional $6 with student ID).

3) Leaving campus to feel like a kid again can also be a good excuse to get some exercise. If you're tired of the treadmill, try rock climbing; it's a great full-body workout. You're so determined to get to the top of that wall you don't even realize how hard your arms and legs are working. Rochester Institute of Technology has a 32' high rock wall at the Red Barn (1 Lomb Memorial Drive, 292-6571, rit.edu, $20-$55). Rock Ventures (1044 University Ave., 442-5462, rockventures.net, $12) has some great walls as well. Note that most rock climbing places require that you do a short training session on your visit, and an additional fee may be involved.

4) There's nothing like staring up at an elephant to make you feel incredibly small. Ooohing and aaahing at a lion could also make you forget about exams for a while. Rochester's Seneca Park Zoo (2222 St. Paul St., 336-7200, senecaparkzoo.org, $8-$10) has lions, rhinos, baboons, polar bears, and pretty much any other favorite animal you could have. Never heard of an ocelot or a white-handed gibbon? Go see them at the zoo. See? Now you can say it's educational.

5) What's better than bowling? Discounted bowling! Many of Rochester's bowling alleys have discounted college nights for students. Bowl-a-Roll (1560 Jefferson Road, 427-7250, bowl-a-roll.com) offers students from MCC, Nazareth, RIT, U of R, St. John Fisher, and Roberts Wesleyan $1 bowling games on Sunday and Monday nights 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Clover Lanes (2750 Monroe Ave., 244-1484, cloverlanes.com) also has late-night bowling deals on Fridays and Saturdays.

6) Remember all of those violent video games you weren't allowed to play as a kid? You probably played them anyway, right? That makes our generation experts at things like paintball and laser tag. Put some of that practiced hand-eye coordination to use (and by use I mean shooting at your buddies). For some painless fun try laser tag at Laser Quest (2833 Ridge Road, 225-0505, laserquest.com, $8.50 per game). Or if you're feeling more courageous, try paintball at N'Vasion (1046 University Ave., 473-7529, nvp-paintball, $20 per player) or Performance Paintball (1250 Scottsville Road, 328-0250, reaperpb.com, $20-$60).

7) Take it from a 90's kid: roller-blading used to be a big thing. Yes, it's dorky. Yes, it's difficult to look attractive while wearing giant wheeled shoes on your feet. But it's also fun. Although rollerblading is not as popular as it used to be, there are still a couple of places you can go in Rochester. At Horizon Fun FX (675 Ling Road, 865-0493, horizonfunfx.com, $4 blade rental, $3 to skate) you can skate around a rink to music. There is also an arcade and laser-tag arena on premises. N'Vasion (see above) also has a roller-skating rink.

8) Winter is coming -- it will last for most of your school year in Rochester -- and that means ice skating. Bundling up in scarves and jackets to wobble around an ice rink can be a fun day with friends, or a romantic date with that cute guy/girl down the hall. Many local colleges open their skating rinks to the public during the semester. If you're itching to get off campus, try the ManhattanSquarePark rink (428-7541, cityofrochester.gov/manhattansquarepark, $5, $3 skate rental) or the Genesee Valley Park Sports Complex (131 Elmwood Ave., 428-7888, cityofrochester.gov/GVPSC).

9) You may not have enough time to sit around and play video games anymore now that you're in college. But what you have lost in quantity you can make up for with quality at the Cyberstorm Lounge (3047 West Henrietta Road, 287-6287, cyberstormgaming.com). You can play PC and console games on giant flat-screen TVs, right next to your friends. A $20 year-long membership let's you game for $1 per hour. Playing your favorite video game in a nice leather chair in front of a giant screen will make you grin like an 8 year old.

10) Alright, these are some pretty fun ideas. But by now your wallet may be a bit too light. No one wants to go back to the moneyless aspect of being a kid. Rochester has a ton of parks, and you can use them to run around and play some freeze tag or just lay in the grass for free.Highland Park (corner of Elmwood and Highland), EllisonPark (395 Richs Dugway Road), and Genesee Valley Park (131 Elmwood) are all good options. But those are only three of more than a dozen parks in the MonroeCounty parks system. Visit monroecounty.gov/parks for more park info.

How do you blow off steam (legally) in Rochester? Tell us by commenting, below!

In This Guide...

    STUDENT SURVIVAL GUIDE '12: Introduction

    Totally radical
    I was never a math major, but if my calculations are correct, 18-year-olds starting their freshman year at college this fall were born in or around 1994. Which means you whippersnappers might not fully appreciate the super-cool concept for the cover of this Student Survival Guide, because you weren't alive for any of the 1980's. Which means I feel sad for you. So for your first college assignment, I task you with (legally) downloading music by Duran Duran, The Go-Gos, Culture Club, Erasure, and their contemporaries. You will thank me later.

    STUDENT SURVIVAL GUIDE '12: Education

    Make the most of your education: Why easy A’s and a light course load might rob you in the long run
    I first came in contact with that daunting, incomprehensible piece of paper in elementary school. The vast combinations of letters and numbers seemed like a language I would never decode.

    STUDENT SURVIVAL GUIDE '12: Art Gallery Guide

    Broaden your palette: Get off campus and out into Rochester’s vibrant art scene
    In case you didn't know, Rochester is a city practically bursting with art and creativity. Whether you're an artist yourself, an art enthusiast, or just in need a break from your studies, the Rochester art scene is home to many popular venues -- as well as exciting hidden treasures -- that will open your mind to new ideas, and possibly give you a new perspective on how to view the world.

    STUDENT SURVIVAL GUIDE '12: Volunteering

    Helping others, helping yourself: Why college is the perfect time to get involved in the community
    All those hours of community service in high school paid off: you've been accepted into college. You did your good deeds for the world -- and let's be honest, to brighten up that application -- and you're done.

    STUDENT SURVIVAL GUIDE '12: Health Services

    Take care of yourself: Make the most of campus health and safety offerings
    You have arrived at college, your new home away from home for about 10 months out of the year. Everything is new, especially if you're living on campus.

    STUDENT SURVIVAL GUIDE '12: Food and Entertainment

    More than a meal: Stretch your dollar by grabbing food and entertainment off-campus
    I remember my first week at college, when the dining hall seemed like some heavenly, endless supply of food I could just pick up and eat at any time. That feeling didn't last.

    STUDENT SURVIVAL GUIDE '12: Special events calendar

    COMPILED BY ANTOINETTE ENA JOHNSON As incoming students will soon discover, the Greater Rochester area is absolutely bursting with special events -- this town loves its festivals -- and there's never a shortage of interesting things going on in the region.

    STUDENT SURVIVAL GUIDE '12: Advice for freshmen

    Go to your professors' office hours. They may seem scary at first, but most of your professors actually do want to talk to you.

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