If there is one constant theme to greater Rochester, it's that the area is a great place to raise kids. There are countless opportunities for kids to kick back and be themselves, and lots of venues that bring out the kid in everyone.
The internationally recognized Strong National Museum of Play is the granddaddy of all kid-friendly venues in Rochester, if not the entire country. The Seneca Park Zoo is another go-to if you have a youngster in tow. Those places need no introduction.
But there are plenty of lesser-known, budget-friendly gems that provide a backdrop for hours of family fun. Here are a few possibilities worth exploring.
Altitude Trampoline Park
What are your kids to do with all that energy? Altitude Trampoline Park has more than 24,000 square feet for families to get their jump on. A seemingly endless number of trampolines, as well as a dodgeball arena, basketball hoops, a rock wall, and a good ol' foam pit await your hop-happy little ones. Altitude also makes for a novel place for birthday parties.
3333 West Henrietta Road, Henrietta
Edgerton Model Railroad Room
Within the city's Edgerton Recreation Center is an historic model train room that bedazzles kids of all ages. The display deftly depicts Rochester and many of its natural and man-made landmarks in all four seasons. The model railroad room was launched in October 1950 when then-Governor Thomas E. Dewey officially opened what he called "model railroad heaven" with the driving of a ceremonial miniature golden spike into the exhibits track.
41 Backus Street, Rochester
Lilac Adventure Zone at Highland Park
Highland Park is a perennially picturesque place to take a stroll with the family and enjoy the fresh air when the Rochester weather allows. But it's the park's Lilac Adventure Zone on Highland Avenue that's an especially ideal spot for kids to play in an open-air setting. The rugged, natural wood construction — with ingenious use of felled trees — is something you don't see that often with modern-day playgrounds, and gives the Adventure Zone even more charm. A great place for an on-the-fly play date or even small family gatherings.
249 Highland Avenue, Rochester
"Lilac Adventure Zone at Highland Park" on Facebook
Olcott Beach Carousel Park
Olcott Beach Carousel Park is located about an hour's drive west of Rochester in the heart of Niagara County's fruit belt — and it is worth every second in the car if you're looking to entertain youngsters under 7 years old. The park is a vestige of a bygone era with bygone ticket prices, whose lovingly restored pint-sized attractions recall the heyday of homey seaside resorts before sprawling theme parks drove them to the brink of extinction. The half-dozen rides, including a 1928 Hershell-Spillman carousel, a 1940s-era Hershell "sky fighter," and a tiny Ferris wheel that would give any toddler at the top a feeling of euphoria, cost a quarter apiece. In the background, a 1931 Wurlitzer band organ toots out tunes as repetitive of the Lake Ontario surf.
5979 East Main St., Olcott (Niagara County)
Ontario Play + Cafe
Ontario Play + Cafe combines the casual fun of an indoor playground with convenient, kid-friendly food options and ample table seating. Activities include slides, merry-go-round, a station for sensory water play, and even a pedal-car "Autobahn." Whether you're planning a pizza party or just a low-key weekend hangout, Ontario Play + Cafe is a blast for children under eight in particular, though all ages are welcome.
1861 Scottsville Road, Scottsville
The Fish Hatchery at Powder Mills Park
This medium-sized fish hatchery nestled in the middle of 380 acres of parkland maintained by Monroe County is a year-round favorite destination for families. Its six, huge water-filled basins and nearby pond provide a unique opportunity to view and get up close and personal with several varieties of fish in various stages of development, from trout to salmon and perch. You can literally touch their slimy scales as they breach the water hoping for snack. Bring a fistful of quarters for the kids to plunk in to the vending machines dispensing fish food pellets, sit back, and watch the wonder wash over their faces. One note of caution: The basins are shallow, but deep enough and easy enough for a fearless little one to tumble into. Be on your guard.
154 Park Road, Pittsford
Seabreeze Amusement Park
Seabreeze is synonymous with summertime family fun in Rochester. Established way back in 1879, this classic destination is the fifth-oldest amusement park still in operation in the United States. The park has expanded significantly since then to include a full-fledged waterpark — complete with a wave pool, tubing, and the Looney Lagoon for little ones — as well as classic rides for kids of all ages. Speaking of classic: The Jack Rabbit, the oldest continuously functioning roller coaster in the country, will have its 100th anniversary this season. Throw in the Cirque En Vol acrobatics show, an arcade, a nostalgic ride on the carousel, and you've got a full day's worth of excitement, close to home.
4600 Culver Road, Rochester
Schottland Family YMCA
The YMCA of Greater Rochester has 11 different area branches, and the organization has long provided plenty of opportunities for families with young children to enjoy activities ranging from year-round swimming, rock and wall climbing, basketball, day camps, and more. The newest Rochester location, Schottland in Pittsford, has really upped the ante. The facility's family-friendly amenities are impressive: a large recreational pool area, including a lazy river and splash pad; the three-story, climbable playground; a family gym for kids 12 and under, with an interactive projector for fitness activities; a turf gymnasium and climbing wall; licensed child care for infants to kindergartners; and a family lounge. And if all that activity leaves you looking for a pick-me-up, refreshments (including complimentary coffee) are available at the in-house Java's.
2300 West Jefferson Road, Pittsford
Wild Wings Inc. at Mendon Ponds Park
The non-profit bird sanctuary Wild Wings has been a staple in the community since 1995, promoting environmental preservation by educating visitors about the injured birds of prey that live there and are unable to be released back into the wild. Located in bucolic Mendon Ponds Park, kids and adults alike can see such animals as ravens, falcons, eagles, owls, and more. Tours can be booked, and demonstrations are regularly given by the knowledgeable caretakers and staff at Wild Wings. A great way to get in touch with wildlife.
27 Pond Road, Honeoye Falls
Other kid-worthy spots
Perinton Community/Aquatic Center
1350 Turk Hill Road, Fairport
RocVentures Climbing Gym
1044 University Avenue. Rochester
Seneca Park Zoo
2222 St. Paul Street, Rochester
The Strong National Museum of Play
One Manhattan Square, Rochester