Disclaimer: This is my own experience and personal opinions. I am not sponsored or compensated in any way by these destinations.
Summer is right around the corner. My family and I usually take one vacation a year so we pack that puppy full of awesome activities. Just by doing my own research online I found some must see Western NY vacation spots for families. There are some great places to see in this area and a ton of stuff to do as a family.
Let me tell you a little about my family and why we picked this spot. We live in Eastern Massachusetts and usually go on a road trip vacation within a 10-12 hour drive. Our drive from Boston to Rochester was about 7.5 hours, including few stops. For lodging we stayed in a VRBO rental home in an area outside of Rochester named Brockport. Brockport itself is a nice little city with some beautiful homes. This area was close to Rochester (about 20 minutes) and about an hour and 20 minutes away from Niagara Falls. Our kids were 6-17 when we went on this vacation, so we usually choose places that will (hopefully) appeal to kids of different ages. Here are some of the places we enjoyed on our trip to Western New York.
This is a great, smaller sized amusement park that also includes a water park. Although this park isn’t overwhelming, it is definitely manageable in about 4- 6 hours. They have some family rides, a kiddie section and a few thrill rides including the Jack Rabbit. The Jack Rabbit is a wooden coaster that is the oldest continuously operating roller coaster in America.
The included water park was amazing, even my teenager (who usually hates waster parks) liked this one. My family could easily spend 6 hours just in the water park alone. There is a lazy river, spray park for younger kids, a wave pool, quite a few slides and a spray park for the older kids too.
The great thing about this park is that it was not packed and the lines moved pretty quickly (at the end of June). The prices are pretty reasonable as well. One tip is to enter at the back of the park and rent a locker early in the water park because they sell out quickly. We had to have a family member sit with our stuff since the lockers were all full.
This place was the winner for our family. We have never been to a museum like this one. If you happen to encounter a day of not so nice weather, head over to this museum! We had so much fun here, and I mean ALL of us! My teenager wants to go back to NY just to visit this place again! I definitely thought they would not have as much fun as they did here, and guess what? My kids actually got along and played games together!
There is so much to see and do here. A kid sized grocery store where you can really shop, a Pinball Machine hall, a super fun game room with different games, A Bernstein Bears Exhibit, Sesame Street replica of the actual stoop and Big Birds Nest- I could go on and on. So many great things to look at and do together as a family, which is always the goal of family vacations! If you are anywhere close to this museum – GO! You won’t regret it!
I’m not sure if it just me, but I cannot get over how beautiful the state parks are along Lake Ontario. There is an inactive lighthouse here that is really cool to see, especially for lighthouse lovers. The park itself is beautiful with great views of the lake and a bunch of great places to picnic and a great playground for the little ones. Plus plenty of space to run around and get some energy out.
There are quite a few state parks in this area. They are very well taken care of and most offer great views, a ton of open green space, picnic tables and playgrounds.
Hamlin Beach State Park is beautiful. A great spot to take the kids after dinner if you are in the area.
Lakeside Beach State Park in Waterport, NY. Not too far from Rochester.
Durand Eastman Park in Rochester.
Genesee Valley Park is a great place to picnic.
This beautiful animal safari was about an hour south of Brockport. There are around 400 different animals and 40 different species of animals here. It is one of those safari rides that the animals come up to the truck and eat right from your feed cup. The nice thing about this park is they take you through on their safari truck. I’ve done the ones you drive through…in a rental car. Yup- It was terrifying!
One of my daughters was not a fan of this because she is a neat freak and did not want to feed the animals because they would leave slobber on the cup! But my other two kids had a blast! We would definitely go here again if we got the chance. They provide you a cup of feed and drive though areas with different animals. It is really interesting to see all these animals up close and be able to feed them. They also have a smaller petting zoo where you can feed the animals as well. The grounds of this place are beautiful and they have a nice restaurant right on the grounds.
This trip was about an hour and 20 minutes from the Rochester area. If you have never been, this is definitely a bucket list type of place. The Falls themselves are absolutely breath taking and are worth the visit alone. I was kind of surprised the area around it was not more built up considering it is such a tourist attraction.
We took the Maid of the Mist boat out into the falls. There is a deck underneath that is great to utilize especially if you have young ones in strollers or young kids who need a little shelter.
I was nervous my little one who was about 6 would not be able to handle the boat, but she had a great time. We stopped at the Aquarium of Niagara which was cute. It was not a huge by any means, but a nice break for the kids. The discovery center is quite interesting and can help answer questions the kids have about the falls. If you can – visit at night to see the falls illuminated!
There is plenty of beauty to see just by walking around the park and visiting the sister islands if you can. We did not do the Cave of the Winds tour, but heard it was a lot of fun if your kids are able to walk independently. Do yourself a favor and get the trolley pass, especially if you are visiting different attractions. The walk around is longer than you think, especially with little ones in tow. If you are planning to visit all of the attractions, check out the Discovery Pass to save some money.
While in the area we went to the The Great American Arcade just outside of Niagara Falls State Park. It was a nice little arcade, not huge by any means. Pretty cool prize selection. There is a big lawn chair out front for photo ops. My kids are just obsessed with arcades so we had to stop by.
I know, I have a thing about State parks. I personally love being able to experience nature and not spend a ton of money making memories with my kids. We loved this park that was right on the water. There is an amazing carousel and a few playgrounds at this park. You can bring a picnic lunch, walk on the pier or even swim on the beach there. The day we went it was windy and the waves on the lake were insane! While this was one of the busier parks we went to, it is a great place to watch boats and have the kids just burn off some energy. Be sure to stop by Abbott’s Frozen Custard while you are there.
This was a last minute idea for us because the weather was not cooperating. My kids had fun at this science museum and really like the hands on exhibits. It didn’t take too long to get through, but had an array of informative exhibits. They had some really interesting regional info, especially about Lake Ontario and the Erie canal. If you have older kids, they would really enjoy the laser light show as well. My younger daughter and I skipped it, as she has a seizure disorder. She really enjoyed the Inventor Center exhibit. It is a great place to visit especially if the weather is not cooperating and you need an indoor activity.
We had planned to go to Darien Lake Amusement Park (which is now Six Flags Darien Lake) in Corfu, but didn’t have time because of the weather. It looked like a really fun place to go, so maybe on our next trip we can check it out. If you are looking for another theme park in the area, this looks like a ton of fun about an hour south of Rochester.
I hope these places helped you plan your Western NY Vacation. Let me know if there are any great places in the area I missed!