Spring Is Sweet in Rochester, NY
Please be aware that events and locations may be closed due to growing health concerns. Please consider take-out dining, purchasing a gift card for the time being, or visiting for future events.
Spring is right around the corner in Rochester! It’s nearly time to get outside in the warmer weather again, and on the warmer days, we Upstate New Yorkers love to let loose after months of winter blues. Lots of places and events will be ready to invite us out into the sunshine, and the family will be able to get out for lots of fun. This list of upcoming spring excitement will be sure to find something for anyone who wants to get outdoors as the winter snow melts and the grass gets back to growing.
The Lilac Festival
If you have yet to go to the Lilac Festival, this year is your chance to enjoy North America’s largest free festival from May 8-17, 2020. This festival features Upstate New York at its finest time, with spring flowers in full bloom. The scent of lilacs in the air perfumes the streets in sweet, warm aromas alive with music, parades, laughter, and fun. Ten days of events feature the famous Highland Park gardens, which are a must-see. Lilacs, tulips, and pansies line the walkways of this historic garden, planted in 1890. Highland Park has the largest collection of lilacs in the US, and is a truly magnificent display of nature’s finest beauty. The Lilac Festival has been an annual event since 1898, when the first festival happened spontaneously around the natural beauty of the spring blooms.
Spring of 2020 promises to provide a vast array of events, from The Great Dubois on May 13, a two-person circus show featured in Hugh Jackman’s The Greatest Showman, to festival food from around the world, for every kind of eater, even vegan and gluten-free. On May 12, Blues Traveler will be featured on Sahlen’s Center Stage at 7 pm. Fans know how much fun this show will be! Art in the Park will take place on both weekends of the festival, during the day on Saturday and Sunday, and other special events will take place at specific times.
The Lilac Parade kicks off the whole event on May 9 at 10:30 am, wine and beer tasting events will happen on May 9 and 16, the Lilac Run and the Donut Dash take place on May 17, and a special event called Garden Battles will take place on May 9. Don’t miss this event—participants will create gardens with the help of master gardeners from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, and it promises to be what festival planners are calling Better Homes and Gardens meets Chopped! Check the festival website for detailed information about events, parking, and more.
Seneca Park Zoo
If you haven’t been to the zoo in the last couple of years, you may be pleasantly surprised by the changes in progress. A new project to increase the zoo’s footprint by 20%, add new animals and habitats, and build new facilities is well underway. The Seneca Park Zoo has been open since 1893, designed by the Frederick Law Olmstead landscape architecture firm. Since then, the zoo has gone through many additions, including the new plans which should be completed by 2022. Families have been visiting the zoo for over a century to learn about and enjoy the animals, and with age, the zoo has grown more conscious of conservation and providing comfortable, interesting habitats for the species in residence.
Two new habitats recently completed are Cold Asia and Animals of the Savannah. The Cold Asia habitat features extraordinarily rare snow leopards, which are known for being secretive and hard to find in their natural environment. Seneca Park Zoo is fortunate to host two snow leopards on site, as well as a red panda from China, an endangered animal. The Animals of the Savannah habitat is five acres of expansion, which includes an outdoor area for giraffes, zebras, and the rare white rhino, also endangered. Many new smaller species have been added, including birds. Of course, visitors can still enjoy the unchanged portions of the park, and remember that the zoo is open all year long. Opening times remain the same at 10 am all year. Learn more on the zoo website.
Established in 1926, Ellison Park is Monroe County’s oldest park. Located along Irondequoit Creek, visitors have the bounty of 200 acres of land to enjoy for the many options of recreation on the grounds. The park is open all year round, with winter activities like sledding and snow-shoeing, but with spring around the corner, visitors will soon be able to view the budding leaves and returning wildlife. For those more interested in a natural, secluded escape from the noise of the city, Ellison Park has plenty of quiet hiking trails and wooded areas away from the crowds.
Park activities like disc golf, horseback riding, tennis, and fishing might come as a surprise even to Rochester natives, but this park is packed with hidden gems of recreation for all palates. A lovely off-leash dog park is available for those with the need of a place for their four-legged friends to run. Geo-caching, pickleball, and even kayaking can also be found on the grounds. For large parties or events, visitors can rent one of six pavilions, or even one of four lodges available year-round. Whether cycling, playing water sports, or enjoying activities on foot are your interest, Ellison Park is a treasure of the Rochester area. For trail maps, reservations, or other information, go to the park website.
Seabreeze Amusement Park
Located in Irondequoit, a suburb of Rochester, Seabreeze has been a family-oriented amusement park in operation for 100 years. Aside from the many attractions the park offers, North America’s oldest operating roller coaster, the Jack Rabbit, is a crowd favorite. This park was once part of the amusement park boom in the early 1900s, when trolley parks were first popularized in most US cities. Seabreeze is one of only 13 such parks left in the nation. One of the most enticing qualities of this park is the atmosphere, with large pavilions for picnics, a great combination of old-time and new rides, freshly-cooked food options, beautiful views of Lake Ontario, and a water park for hot days.
Visitors to the park often rave about the cleanliness, the historic value of the carousel and the Jack Rabbit coaster, and the obvious care taken in maintaining the facilities. For families on a budget, bringing your own cooler of food is always welcome, and parking is free. Whatever age of child or adult, Seabreeze has rides to accommodate, from the gentle ride on the scenic train around the park to the thrill of the many coasters or the Screamin’ Eagle, which takes riders 70 feet in the air…upside down. An acrobatics show starts in June, showing seven days a week at specified times of day. Both arcade games and traditional carnival games are available, as well as the carousel museum, gift shop, and surf shop. The park opens for the season on May 16, 2020, at 11 am, and stays open until 6 pm. To find out more details, go to the park website.
Upstate NY has so much to offer both visitors and natives alike, and we love to feature local content about the beauty of the Rochester, NY area. Get outside and celebrate the return of green!