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A Day in Rochester, NY: Seneca Park Zoo, Strong Museum of Play + Dinosaur BBQ

This month, we flew for the first time since moving to Texas! We traveled to Upstate New York for a wedding; for us, the most central location to fly in and out of ended up being Rochester, NY.

To be honest, I've never really been a 'tourist' in Rochester before. I have cousins that live there, so I've been in the area to visit family many times, but I don't recall ever going to Rochester to "sight see".

We had an extra day on the end of our trip, so we decided to see what we could find. I want to thank Visit Rochester, specifically Rachel and Chelsea, for all their recommendations and setting us up for the day!

In the morning we started at Seneca Park Zoo.

2222 St. Paul Street

Rochester, NY14627

The stroller rental (left) and polar bear (right) at the Seneca Park Zoo: Rochester, NY

We came unprepared and were relived to find the stroller rental at the zoo! We made it from the entrance to the end of the zoo in about an hour and a half. It was really hot while we were there (high 80's and humid) so we definitely could have spent more time here, had it been a bit cooler.

Several areas of the zoo were under construction during our visit and we later found out that the zoo in is the middle of a multi year transformation. The most significant change we could see was the "Tropics Adventure Zone" being completed near the park entrance; this giant playground is set to open up in 2022 where you can "swing like a monkey" and "leap like a lemur" - a great space for kids to burn some energy.

The zoo flows in a linear path, so you don't have to backtrack, which I liked. They also have a tram at the end if you'd like to skip the walk back...(which we did...).

Our favorites at the zoo were the wolves, polar bear, elephant and giraffes. You can preview the lineup of animals here.

Loved watching the River Otters swim from below and admiring the African elephant at Seneca Park Zoo

After the zoo, we went to The Strong Museum - which was a nice transition from the heat into an air conditioned space!

1 Manhattan Square

Rochester, NY 14607

Initially, I only had Seneca Park Zoo on the agenda and thankfully, the crew at Visit Rochester suggested we make time for The Strong.

I'm not much of a museum person, so I was skeptical about going to a museum, especially with a toddler. But I was completely wrong.

This is by far, the COOLEST museum I've ever been to. When I think of a museum, I think of lots of reading and looking at things from a far; this museum is VERY hands on, and with COVID still in the midst, I felt bad for the staff who were diligent sanitizing everything.

Some of the interactive exhibits at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY

If you make a visit here plan for at least a few hours - we spent 3 hours in there and could have stayed much longer!

So what is The Strong?

The Strong "explores play and the ways in which it encourages learning, creativity, and discovery and illuminates cultural history". "The Strong owns and cares for the world’s most comprehensive collection of toys, dolls, board games, video games, other electronic games, books, documents, and other historical materials related to play".

Above the apparent value of the museum, the Strong offers public programs, publications, and research opportunities. They also partner with community groups to make the museum more accessible, which I think is so wonderful.

You can go online to see the current list of exhibits, etc. - I think my favorite part of the museum was the collection of gaming systems they had, many of which you could play for free (I spent way too much time playing Pac-Man!). They also had an extensive arcade with games that required tokens.

At the Pinball Playfields and the Wegmans Super Kids Market exhibit at The Strong Museum

If you're from the Northeast, you may be familiar with the grocery store, Wegmans. The museum has a Wegmans Super Kids Market exhibit - a mini Wegmans filled with products and shopping carts. Kids could take a cart around to "shop" and then ring themselves out at the register, which printed a real receipt. I thought this was adorable.

There is so much to see I can't name it all. If you're intrigued, take a virtual tour of The Strong online. I cannot say enough about this museum, it's no surprise it's listed as the #1 Top Attraction in Rochester on TripAdvisor.

The 2nd floor hosts the Toys Hall of Fame at The Strong Museum in Rochester, NY

To top the day off, we made a stop at Dinosaur BBQ to satisfy my inner foodie.

99 Court Street

Rochester, NY 14604

First thing I'll say is make a reservation! We visited on a Monday night, and it was packed. We had to park quite a distance from the restaurant, and if we hadn't had a reservation, the wait was running at an hour.

Indoor dining at Dinosaur BBQ: Rochester, NY - they also have outdoor seating and carryout options, too!

Dinosaur BBQ originated in Albany, NY and started out as a mobile barbecue stand. They established their first brick and mortar in Syracuse, NY and grew from there. Dinosaur BBQ has been nationally recognized for their food, sauces, rubs and even their cookbooks in media sources such as Men's Health, Eating Well, Good Morning America, Food Network and the Travel Channel. Since Syracuse, Dinosaur BBQ has opened six more locations including: Harlem NY, Troy NY, Newark NJ, Brooklyn, NY, Buffalo, NY and of course, Rochester NY.

Although the place was packed, the service was excellent and everything came quickly. I loved that they had local beer on draft and a meal option called "Tres Ninos", which had a smaller portions of all 3 meats - the brisket, ribs and puled pork. If you know me, I'm super indecisive, so this made my selection much easier! Although the menu described the portions as a "petite sampling", I felt like it was a large portion altogether!

Tres Ninos entree at Dinosaur BBQ: Rochester, NY and in the background, the kids chicken tender meal

Living in Texas, I've had lots of BBQ - and I have to say, this is at the top of my list for best BBQ. Everything we ate was delicious. All of the meats were really tender and not over sauced. I ordered the cajun corn and tomato cucumber salad as my sides, which were fresh and tasty, too.

Although short, we loved our time in Rochester. My only complaint is that many of the restaurants were closed on Monday's, so that is something to consider if you visit! To top it off, as we were leaving from the Rochester airport, we found some holdings from The Strong Museum, including an oversized Pong machine, which helped us kill some time before our flight!

Jumbo pong game from The Strong Museum located in the Frederick Douglass - Greater Rochester International Airport

If you're traveling to Rochester, you can request or download the visitor guide or visit their webpage for more ideas, info and special offers!


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