Rochester, New York, might as well be called Museum Country. Its most well-known museums, the George Eastman Museum, the Rochester, NY Museum and Science Center, The Strong National Museum of Play, and the Memorial Art Gallery, are located in downtown Rochester, NY.
However, there are scores of other off-beat museums in the Rochester, NY, area. Many are within a 50-mile radius of the city center and are well worth the day trip. Here are 17 museums near Rochester New York you’ll love.
Book ahead so you don’t miss out on the top tours in Rochester New York.
Rochester’s Big Four Museums
Table of Contents
- Rochester’s Big Four Museums
- 1. The George Eastman Museum
- 2. The Memorial Art Gallery
- 3. Rochester Museum and Science Center
- 4. The Strong National Museum of Play
- Historical Museums in Downtown Rochester
- 5. Susan B. Anthony Museum & House
- 6. Rochester Contemporary Art Center
- Museums Near Rochester, New York
- 7. The All Things Oz Museum
- 8. JELL-O Gallery and Museum
- 9. The Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum
- 10. Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park
- Living Museums in the Rochester Area
- 11. The Corning Museum of Glass
- 12. Old Fort Niagara
- 13. Genesee Country Village & Museum
- Rochester Street Art
- 14. The El Camino Trail
- 15. The City of Rochester Public Market
- 16. Fedder Industrial Park
- 17. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park
- Final Thoughts on Museums near Rochester New York
Don’t plan to explore the museums outside Rochester, New York, without first visiting these four famous museums. You could spend a whole day in any of these, immersed in arts and culture.
1. The George Eastman Museum
The George Eastman Museum is a world-class museum of photography and film. Since 1949, this Rochester, NY, institution has amassed an incredible archive of cinematic and photographic images.
This 1905 structure is the former home of George Eastman, the founder of the Eastman Kodak Company. The property exemplifies Georgian Revival and one of Rochester’s most treasured historic buildings.
The George Eastman Museum programs screenings of classic cinema in the adjacent 500-seat Dryden Theater. It is also home to Louis B. Mayer Conservation Center, a laboratory that restores motion pictures.
The Eastman Museum is open seasonally from May through to September. Its hours are Tuesday through to Thursday from 1 am to 5 pm.
Reviews commend the docents who provide information about the exhibits, the museum’s exquisite old camera collection, and the beautiful, well-kept grounds
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–Rochester weekends away
2. The Memorial Art Gallery
The Memorial Art Gallery has an extensive, balanced art collection that ranges from antiquities to twenty-first-century masterpieces.
Many local festivals and musical events are featured at this Rochester, NY landmark, including an annual Memorial Art Gallery outdoor clothesline art fair.
This interesting place is also home to the Centennial Sculpture Park, which features many outdoor sculptures, totems, and mosaics.
Memorial Art Gallery Hours are Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 11 am to 5 pm. On Thursday, hours are extended from 11 am to 9 pm.
Reviews of this Rochester area gallery note the lovely landscaping around the building, the discounted admission for students, and the live music in the atrium.
3. Rochester Museum and Science Center
The Rochester Museum and Science Center is also the home of two other historical sites: the Strasenburgh Planetarium and the Cumming Nature Center and Preserve. It is located on the outskirts of Rochester near Naples, New York.
The museum offers unique exhibits that feature historic photographs of the Rochester area. It is a great place for the whole family to learn more about the stars and the natural world.
Both adults and children can enjoy a simulated ride in a submarine at the bottom of Lake Ontario. Light frequencies from Tesla coils also produce a fascinating “musical lightning” show.
The hours of this Rochester, NY attraction are Monday to Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm, and Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm.
Reviews rave about the innovative Tesla Coils show and praise the interactive digging for fossils activity.
4. The Strong National Museum of Play
The Strong National Museum of Play is a play destination for kids of all ages. It boasts 100,000 square feet of interactive exhibit space in downtown Rochester, NY.
The Strong Museum is an interesting place with two floors of accessible archaic games, pinball machines, and exhibits of American comic books.
A kiddie train transports tired toddlers through the Strong museum building. There is also an indoor tropical garden with many species of free-fluttering butterflies.
Strong Museum hours are from 10 am to 3 pm Monday to Thursday; Friday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm; and Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.
Reviews of this Rochester, New York attraction praise the butterfly garden, trip down Sesame Street, and programs for preschoolers.
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–Best Views of NYC
Historical Museums in Downtown Rochester
Many smaller museums in Rochester, NY, are housed in historic buildings and are well worth the visit while you are there.
5. Susan B. Anthony Museum & House
The Susan B. Anthony Museum is the famous civil rights leader’s home. It is adjacent to Anthony Square Park. Since she died in 1906, the famous Arts and Craftsman style dwelling has been both a meeting place devoted to the history of education reform and a memorial exhibit space.
The Susan B. Anthony museum is open every day from 11 am to 5 pm.
Reviews of this Rochester, New York museum are very positive, praising the guides and informative hour-long tour.
6. Rochester Contemporary Art Center
The Rochester Contemporary Art Center was founded in 1977 as an alternative exhibition space. It is an artist-run center located in downtown Rochester’s East End neighborhood.
Admirers of performance art and avant-garde photography will enjoy this Rochester area gallery. It is also located in an architectural gem: a 1924 building designed by developer John McMaster.
RCAC hours are Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 5 pm.
Reviews of this downtown Rochester gallery praise the eclectic exhibitions, little works in the lobby, and video paintings.
Museums Near Rochester, New York
The following museums and unique historical attractions are within a 100-mile radius of downtown Rochester.
7. The All Things Oz Museum
This volunteer-run museum near Rochester, NY, owns over 15,000 pieces of Wizard of Oz memorabilia. This includes original props, costumes, and editions of Frank Baum’s books.
Near the Chittenango River, the All Things Oz Museum is a one-hour and forty-five-minute drive from Rochester. Chittenango is Frank Baum’s birthplace and one of the prettiest cities in NY.
This museum has limited hours and is only open Wed and Saturdays from 11 am to 3 pm.
Reviews of All Things Oz are positive, with visitors mentioning The Yellow Brick Road sidewalk, the collectible plates, and the tour.
8. JELL-O Gallery and Museum
The Jell-O Gallery and Museum is located 30 minutes southwest of Rochester, NY.
Exhibits are devoted to America’s most famous dessert and include displays of original advertising, recipe books, packaging, toys, and collectibles.
Museum hours are every day from 10 am to 4 pm except for Sunday when they are 1 pm to 4 pm.
Reviews noted the amazing collection of Jell-O molds, artwork ads, and friendly staff.
9. The Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum
The Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Museum is part of the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, NY. Jamestown is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Rochester, New York.
This unique museum pays homage to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the stars of I Love Lucy. They also produced Mission Impossible, Star Trek, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show, and many more programs.
Lucille Ball’s legend lives on in this museum filled with mementos from her fifty-year career as a performer and producer.
Hours are daily from 10 am to 5 pm except Tuesday and Wednesday.
Reviews are very positive, especially regarding the interactive video display that allows you to “make your own” vitameatavegamin commercial.
10. Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park
The Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historical Park is just a half hour from Rochester, NY, at Canandaigua Lake.
This beautiful 50-acre site features a spectacular Queen Anne-style mansion built in 1880. Both kids and adults can explore the surrounding formal and informal gardens, designed between 1902 and 1920.
Be sure to visit the Finger Lakes Wine Center, also on the premises. Enjoy featured tastings from local wineries and fine dining among the heritage flowers and trees.
The hours are Thursday to Monday from 9:30 to 4:30 pm.
Reviews are positive, with visitors expressing admiration for the Japanese gardens and the golf carts used for transportation.
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Living Museums in the Rochester Area
A “living museum” features daily reenactments from a bygone era or live demonstrations from any era of artists practicing their craft.
11. The Corning Museum of Glass
The Corning Museum of Glass is 90 minutes away from downtown Rochester. The drive to Corning is worth seeing such interesting exhibitions as Paperweights of the World and Glass in Nature.
It also presents massive survey exhibitions such as 35 Centuries as Glass and interactive glass blowing demonstrations and instruction.
Museum hours are 9 am to 5 pm every day.
Reviews noted the beautiful gift shop, the glass-blowing demonstrations, and the blue glass collections.
12. Old Fort Niagara
Old Fort Niagara is an original 18th-century walled stone structure near Rochester, New York. It is situated at the point where the Niagara River joins Lake Ontario.
Visitors can walk along its old stone paths and walls, witness artillery fire demonstrations, and see artisans from a bygone era hard at work.
Experience reenactments of the War of 1812 and learn from the performances about the French, British, Indigenous, and American soldiers that lived here in the 18th and 20th centuries.
The fort is open from 9 am to 4:30 pm every day.
Reviews appreciated the firing of the musket demonstration and great views of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario.
13. Genesee Country Village & Museum
Genesee Country Village and Museum is a “living history” museum in Mumford, New York, about 20 miles from Rochester.
This authentic recreation of a 19th-century village features 68 relocated homes and businesses. The place bustles with actors giving cooking and agricultural demonstrations from that bygone era.
The Genesee Country Village property is also the John L. Wehl Art Gallery site, a nature center, and several heirloom gardens.
The Village hours are from 10 am to 4 pm, Wednesday to Sunday.
Reviews praised the food at the breakfast buffet and the craft beer-making demonstrations.
Rochester Street Art
Not all the art in Rochester, New York, is housed in a museum. Rochester streets are galleries filled with all kinds of images that are free to view.
Some of it is ephemera that is painted over within a few weeks or days, and some of it is works that the city has commissioned that are more permanent.
14. The El Camino Trail
The street art along the El Camino Trail in Rochester, NY, was created during an event called Wall Therapy and features large-scale colorful murals in various styles.
You can find these fun works of street art clustered at the north end of the El Camino trail, near Ridge Road in Rochester.
The trail is created from an old railroad at Conkey Park, a playground decorated with murals.
15. The City of Rochester Public Market
The City of Rochester Public Market features unique commissioned art, including many mystic and futuristic images and a painted carpet stretching along the market stalls.
The city-run Rochester public market boasts over 300 vendors. It has been in operation since 1905 and, although somewhat gentrified, is well worth visiting.
16. Fedder Industrial Park
Fedder Industrial Park boasts the largest and tallest murals in Rochester, New York.
Massive portraits and fanciful scenes have been painted on the facades of old water towers and crumbling brick buildings.
17. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park at Manhattan Square is a great place to see massive portraits of freedom fighters and musicians.
Located right in the center of town, the Memorial Park murals include portraits and quotes by Martin Luther King and Frederick Douglass.
Final Thoughts on Museums near Rochester New York
It is easy to plan day trips from Rochester, New York. Whether your interest is photography, old cities, or different things like toys or glass blowing, that interest is in a nearby small town. This is why it makes a lot of sense to make Rochester, New York, your home base if you are on vacation.
New York state is home to kitsch collections, folk art, re-enactments, and living museums that present special events. Rochester, New York, is at the center of it all.