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Note: Visit Rochester kindly hosted me for a long weekend in exchange for coverage. As always, all opinions are my own and it’s my main priority to write honestly about my experiences.
For years, I’ve associated Rochester with … well, school! After all, this city is home to the selective University of Rochester. Not to mention, two of my closest high school friends continued their education there, so, of course, this was an easy connection for me to make.
As a travel writer, though, I never truly thought about Rochester as a tourist destination in its own right until I had an opportunity to visit in September.
By that point, I had already fallen in love with upstate New York after a wonderful solo trip in the Finger Lakes. I couldn’t resist another visit to the area, especially one as historically rich as Rochester.
But what about solo travel? Is Rochester a good city to do a weekend getaway entirely alone? Is there enough to see and do to keep a solo traveler occupied? Um, yes!
In this post, you will learn about all the best things to do alone in Rochester NY. Of course, you may need to adjust some of these items based on your own personal interests and the time of year (can we say snow?), but I promise that with enough advance planning, you will have an amazing solo adventure in Rochester.
13 Things to Do Alone in Rochester NY
For this list, I’ve included some of the highlights from my long weekend in Rochester. I hope you can experience some (or all) of them for yourselves. Honestly, Rochester and the surrounding area offer plenty of things to see and do for independent travelers.
As always, though, this list isn’t meant to be all inclusive. You’ll also have to consider the time of year that you’re visiting Rochester. Like I said, I went to the city in September and winter time in Rochester is a completely different scene, haha.
Attend a Festival
Believe it or not, Rochester hosts quite a few festivals that are also enjoyable for solo travelers. So, do yourself a favor and double-check to see if any events are happening on your trip. You won’t regret it, I promise!
For example, on my own solo trip to Rochester, I had the pleasure of seeing two wonderful performances at The Rochester Fringe. Bandaloop and Shotspeare were amazing. A. Maz. Ing.
Bandaloop took my breathe away. In this show, talented (and brave!) aerobats performed for an enthusiastic crowd at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park. The performers danced and soared across the face of the impressive 21-story Five Star Bank Building. Honestly, I started to cry, because I was so enthralled at how nimble they were, haha. So bring a blanket and be amazed, friends.
Another excellent performance for solo travelers to enjoy is the hilarious Shotspeare.
Okay, so I wrote my Masters thesis on Shakespeare, and teach the Bard every single year, and I have to say that Shotspeare was one of the funniest, most enjoyable performances that I’ve ever seen in my life. I appreciate Shakespeare even more now if you can believe it.
Bawdy and hilarious Shotspeare is a great time for anyone traveling to Rochester alone (that is, if you’re over 21). I promise you will make a lot of friends in the audience, and laugh until your stomach hurts (trust me). The venue is beautiful too. Just keep in mind that, even though Shotspeare is a bawdy and wild experience, you cannot photograph or film the performance (my own photos were taken immediately after the show). Still follow the rules, folks.
Without a doubt, the Fringe Festival is one of the best things to do alone in Rochester NY. Don’t worry about standing out. You’ll make new friends.
Check Out a Quirky and Artsy Venue
Have you ever thought about visiting a wedding and event venue just for fun? Probably not, haha. However, when you go to Rochester, you simply cannot miss ARTISANworks, which is seriously one of the coolest buildings I’ve ever visited in my life.
ARTISANworks hosts weddings, corporate events, and more, but they also give guided tours to anyone who wants to feel inspired. And I felt SO inspired.
Each space is so thoughtfully decorated that the art transported me to other worlds. Bourbon Street made me feel as if I was strolling through New Orleans. Casablanca made me feel as if I were an extra in the acclaimed movie. And the main entrance? Was super, duper cool.
So, if you’re a solo traveler who likes art museums, don’t miss ARTISANworks! Taking a tour here is one of the coolest things to do alone in Rochester NY.
Drink Wine from the Finger Lakes (And Beyond)
I’m a huge fan of wines and women-owned businesses, so when those two are combined, I’m a very happy traveler. Thanks to its location, Rochester has plenty of local wines, and what better place to go than Living Roots Urban Winery and Tasting Room.
I loved the trendy and modern atmosphere inside this Urban Winery. No joke, I seriously could’ve sat there all day, eating cake and sampling wines.
But what’s really cool about Living Roots is its international twist. Living Roots is owned by Seb (who is from Australia) and Colleen (who is from Rochester). Which means they also have a winery in Australia! My suggestion is trying a flight that includes both types of wine.
Everyone who works here is so knowledge and kind, and I wish I lived in Rochester just so I could go to this winery more frequently. You ought to visit even if you’re traveling by yourself. I promise you won’t feel alone.
Eat at Rochester Public Market
Who doesn’t love a good public market? Rochester’s city run market has been thriving since 1905, and is open every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday year-round. Rochester Public Market has so many local vendors that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but at the same time, the energetic and bustling atmosphere is so much fun for a traveler to explore and “get lost” in the action.
Prices are reasonable too. For example, I ate an entire Polish breakfast that kept me full most of the day, and this scrumptious meal only cost about six dollars. Yup. Six dollars.
As an important side note, make sure that you bring cash to Rochester Public Market, because many of the establishments, including the coffee shops, are strictly cash only. You’ll find a lot of ATMs, but it’s honestly easier to just have cash ahead of time.
Embrace Your Inner Child
Who doesn’t love that warm and fuzzy nostalgia when thinking back to their childhood days? I mean, I think about the 1990s all the time, haha!
In Rochester, I highly recommend visiting The Strong National Museum of Play to embrace your inner child. I promise this amazing museum isn’t just for families with children, but adults will deeply appreciate the exhibits too.
This iconic Rochester museum is named after Margaret Woodbury Strong who was a collector of toys (especially dolls), and I am so glad her expansive collections led to this museum. As for me, I spent over two hours wandering this magical place, because I recognized so many toys and video games from my childhood.
It’s easy to understand why The Strong National Museum of Play is one of Rochester’s top attractions. I especially loved the short-term exhibit Millennial Madness, since the toy commercials and displays took me back to simpler times. I also liked that you could even play video games and pinball games here. I seriously could’ve played on The Lord of the Rings pinball machine all day long.
If you like to go to museums alone, then The Strong National Museum of Play is for you. You can enjoy whatever toys you want without another person rushing you along, haha. Win/win if you ask me.
Explore an Iconic Cemetery
For a lot of people, cemeteries are peaceful places to reflect on life and death, and to take long leisurely walks. I’ve honestly seen some gorgeous cemeteries on my travels, and even though the mournful atmosphere feels heavy at times, I completely understand why these places of eternal rest would feel peaceful to some people.
Another one of the historically significant things to do alone in Rochester NY is a drive to Mt. Hope Cemetery. This scenic Victorian cemetery takes up 196 acres of lush green land that’s made only more beautiful by its many rolling hills.
Mt. Hope Cemetery is also the final resting place for both Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. Complete your historical pilgrimage by paying your respects at both graves.
Your credit card is bound to dislike you, because one of most enjoyable things to do alone in Rochester NY is to embark on a shopping spree. I … did a little too much shopping on my own visit to Rochester.
As a solo female traveler, I do my best to support women-owned and local businesses on my travels. So, even if you don’t have plants of your own, I still suggest a visit to Stem Rochester. This gorgeous plant shop specializes in rare house plants and is very fun to explore. You feel as if you’re visiting a museum rather than a shop.
Additionally, historic Pittsford near the Erie Canal has plenty of shopping options too. More on those later!
Indulge Your Sweet Tooth (Without Judgement!)
Everyone who knows me already knows that I love dessert. Sometimes I want to go out to a restaurant just to order dessert. What can I say. My sweet tooth consumes me.
As a solo traveler, you’re able to eat as much dessert as your heart desires without any friends or family judging your calorie intake, haha!
In nearby Pittsford, I suggest a visit to Pittsford Dairy Farms where I had some of the best ice cream in my entire life. I’m not even exaggerating. This ice cream cone was larger than my head, and tasted so, so, so rich. How could I say “no” to fall flavors with pumpkin and Halloween-colored Oreo cookies?
On the other hand, if your heart is set on chocolate, make sure to visit Stever’s on Park Avenue. This candy shop opened its doors in 1946 and still produces fresh candy each day.
Learn about American History
Are you a history buff? Then you’ve come to the right place, my friend. Rochester is home to so much rich history much like nearby Auburn NY, which was Harriet Tubman’s home. Here in Rochester you can learn all about two prominent figures: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.
My favorite historical stop was the Susan B. Anthony House and Museum which hosts guided tours of one of the most famous suffragists in US history. The tour guides are passionate and knowledgeable about Anthony’s life, and allow plenty of time for questions. It was such a cool and eye-opening experience seeing where Susan B. Anthony lived and worked, and as I walked through her home, I was reminded of how much work still needs to be done today.
I highly recommend solo travelers go to the Susan B. Anthony House for a top-notch education. The shop was also really cool! Be sure to check their website ahead of time for specific hours.
Sample Craft Beer at Breweries
Okay, so I can’t talk about Rochester without discussing the wonderful brewery options in this city. All the breweries that I visited were friendly toward solo travelers. Without a doubt, a brewery tour is one of the best things to do alone in Rochester NY.
My favorite brewery on my visit was Strangebird Brewery, which was centrally located and had plenty of indoor and outdoor space. Strangebird has plenty of locally brewed beers to choose from, and even if you’re not a huge beer drinker, you’ll probably find the perfect one for you.
Not to mention, the food was absolutely fantastic. I could seriously eat their BBQ Cauliflower Sandwich every single day of the week, and not feel tired of it.
Solo travelers ought to sit at the large bar which is super friendly and a wonderful spot to make new friends.
Study the History of Photography
I’m a photographer at heart. Unsurprisingly, I was very excited to visit the George Eastman Museum, and I know that you’ll love it too. As a solo traveler, I really enjoy wandering through museums, because I’m able to spend as much (or as little) time as I want in each exhibit.
The George Eastman Museum is a very unique place to go, since not only is the museum located on George Eastman’s estate, but it’s also the oldest photography museum in the world. Travel and photography are inherently linked, so I can honestly say that most independent travelers will fall in love with this museum.
Once in the museum, you’re able to explore George Eastman’s home (be sure to listen to the audio guide; it’s quite good), as well as see exhibits that beautifully display a variety of historical cameras and rooms filled with contemporary photography.
Treat Yourself to a Solo Dinner (or Breakfast)
Let’s talk about Rochester’s food. Oh my god.
You will eat so much delicious and diverse and incredible food. I swear I gained five sizes in Rochester, but every single bite was so worth it.
As a diner, I sometimes feel nervous eating alone, but in Rochester, I was welcomed as much as families and couples and groups of friends. Of course, do your own research, but I still wanted to share some wonderful dining options with you.
Food Suggestions for Rochester NY
- Locals Only: A bright and fun place to eat a memorable breakfast. The staff is so kind and welcoming, and I seriously cannot think of a better place to start your day than Locals Only. I personally recommend the Chef’s Choice. You’ll be surprised and delighted at the same time. Trust the chefs. I’m serious.
- Park Avenue: You’ll discover so many food options on this trendy street. Walking down Park Avenue is a lot of fun, especially for foodies. As for me, I had a swanky dinner at Roux for a delightful French dinner with some autumn-inspired mocktails. Yummy!
- Radio Social: Without a doubt, Radio Social is one of the coolest brunch spots that I’ver ever gone to. I love their Middle Eastern brunch menu. I mean, their breakfast hummus is to die for. The spices and egg on top are scrumptious. And if you’re feeling active, you can make reservations for bowling! Yes, you can bowl here.
Walk Along the Erie Canal
Do you want to escape into nature? Don’t worry! It’s easy enough to do in Rochester. Drive to nearby adorable Pittsford for an adventure on an iconic 200 year old canal.
I loved walking along the trail near the water and seeing all the private decks for the locals. I can simply imagine sitting outside under the trees with a good book on a crisp fall day. If you’re a solo traveler who loves the outdoors, feel free to rent a bike and go as far as you want along the canal.
Furthermore, remember how I said that going to brewery and spending money at shops are some great things to do alone in Rochester NY? Whelp, you can discover both at the Erie Canal and historic Pittsford. For example, I had delicious pumpkin beer at Lock 32 Brewing Company and ate a fall-inspired turkey crepe at Simply Crepes.
Pittsford is also home to many lovely independently-owned stores. Cleo + Kin is a sustainable woman-owned boutique with all vegan products, so you’re guaranteed that anything you purchase is cruelty-free. Adobe Rochester is perfect for anyone seeking to redecorate their home or apartment.
Solo Travel Tips for Rochester
Last but not least I wanted to include some solo travel tips for Rochester.
Rochester is the third largest city in New York State. As a woman traveling alone, I never felt unsafe or uncomfortable in Rochester, although usual “city smarts” apply here. In Rochester, you’ll find that most people are welcoming and helpful, and I personally appreciated everyone’s friendliness and insights about the city!
These tips will make your trip even easier.
How to Get Around Rochester
Rochester isn’t too hard to navigate. I personally love their airport, which is small and manageable, compared to other airports in the country (hey, EWR, I’m looking at you).
For the most freedom, I suggest that you rent a car and drive around Rochester and surrounding area. Driving in Rochester is relatively easy, especially if you live in a city or densely populated area, and all of the major museums have plenty of parking available for visitors.
Downtown Rochester is also quite walkable during the day. I felt very safe in well-populated areas, such as Park Avenue, and didn’t mind walking when necessary.
Where to Stay in Rochester
Rochester has a variety of accommodation to choose from. On my visit, I stayed at The Courtyard by Marriott Rochester Downtown, and had a wonderful experience here. My room was large and clean and comfortable, and even though I was alone, I felt completely at home here.
Additionally, I LOVED talking to the hotel staff here. They were SO welcoming and fun, and did whatever they could to make my stay memorable.
Not to mention, this hotel offers a free shuttle around downtown Rochester, which is perfect if you want to have a fun night out at the breweries and festivals!
I hope you enjoyed reading all about the best things to do alone in Rochester NY. As always, feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns about your trip. Have a wonderful adventure in Rochester!