Only the keen-eyed adventurers know that winter is the best time to appreciate Rochester’s cozy warmth and beautiful snowscapes! The city comes to life with winter events, exciting activities, and family-friendly spots. Use our guide to find exciting winter events in Rochester, NY, before and after the holidays!
Ready to embrace winter in Rochester? Explore our available apartments for a welcoming home in the heart of the city.
Enjoy Snowscapes & Winter Recreational Activities
Snow-lovers rejoice! Each year, Rochester transforms into a winter wonderland thanks to the beautiful snowfall that frames the local parks. Of course, the natural spots on our summer list are particularly Instagram-worthy during the colder months, making them perfect spots for winter recreational activities. But we wanted to include a few other noteworthy contenders. Here are our top picks for snowy landscapes!
Winter Hiking Trails at Cumming Nature Center
Owned by the Rochester Museum & Science Center, Cumming Nature Center is a 900-acre reserve in Naples, NY (about an hour from Downtown Rochester). The center features more than 15 miles of hiking trails, ski spots, and seasonal events. All winter activity equipment is available for rent at the visitor center.
- Take cross-country ski lessons and explore the trails
- Go for a gentle stroll on classic snowshoes
- Rent a sled for a fun family outing or date
Bristol Mountain Ski Resort
If you’re looking for more of an adrenaline rush, head to Bristol Mountain Ski Resort, located in South Bristol, NY (about an hour from Downtown Rochester). The resort has ski trails for all ski levels, though you should check the surface conditions on their website to see which trails are open for skiing. If you’re not into skiing, you can still enjoy the resort’s many local restaurants, breweries, and weekly events.
Mount Hope Cemetery Winter Tour
Mount Hope Cemetery is a picturesque historical site that serves as the final resting place for several notable figures, including Susan B. Anthody, Frederick Douglass, and more. Visitors enjoy wandering the cemetery on self-guided tours and can learn about the people buried on the grounds.
For a real treat, register for a guided winter tour courtesy of the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery. Or request a private winter tour for a more intimate experience!
Ice Skating at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park
Several arenas in Rochester offer ice skating, but none are as iconic as the skatepark in Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park. Located in the heart of Downtown Rochester in Manhattan Square, the skating rink offers several free skate days throughout December to commemorate the ROC Holiday Village event. The space remains a popular ice skating spot for the remaining winter months.
Get Into the Holiday Spirit With Festivities
You can’t make a guide about winter events in Rochester, NY, without including holiday festivities! Locals and visitors alike look forward to the annual holiday traditions this time of year. Our list of festive activities includes a little bit of everything for a well-rounded experience!
ROC Holiday Village
The ROC Holiday Village is an annual month-long community event presented by Five Star Bank. Starting in December, the village overs several festivities, such as:
- Rent a “cozy winter igloo” for a memorable visit (rentals sell out fast by November!)
- Visit Santa for a photo, meet and greet, or story time
- Participate in kids crafts
- Shop local vendors for holiday gifts
- Purchase food and drink from local vendors at the lodge
- Ice skate at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park
Lakeside Winter Celebration
At the start of each February, the Ontario Beach Park Program Committee hosts the Lakeside Winter Celebration. It’s a two-day celebration with family activities, live music, and more. Some of the top winter events include:
- Horse-drawn carriage rides
- Dog sleds
- Ice and snow sculptures
- A chili challenge where tasters can vote on the city’s best chili
- Polar Plunge fundraiser for the Special Olympics
Christmas Light Displays
Rochester is home to several Christmas enthusiasts who take light displays to a whole new level. Kids Out and About has done a great job compiling houses to visit each year, which they keep up to date. There are also city light events, such as the holiday laser show at the RMSC Strasenburgh Planetarium and the light show at Victor Hills Golf Club.
Cookie Contest Public Market
We’ve talked about how the Public Market features amazing local produce and live music before. But did you know there’s also an annual cookie contest? This winter event in Rochester, NY, features local bakers as they showcase their best holiday cookies for prizes and, more importantly, bragging rights! Judges include local bakers, food bloggers, and food critics. For non-bakers, there are still several holiday activities to enjoy.
George Eastman Museum of Art
The George Eastman Museum of Art hosts a range of holiday displays each year from early November to late December. One of the most beloved exhibits is the Sweet Creations Gingerbread Display. The exhibit features gingerbread houses, structures, and sculptures from local artists. If a particular piece catches your eye, you can purchase it through an online auction!
Escape the Cold With Rochester’s Art Scene
Not privy to the cold? (Don’t worry—there are dozens of us!) Rochester has several cozy coffee shops and eateries to weather the winter blues. But our preference is to explore the city’s cultural scene through the local arts community. Check out our favorite spots below!
Watch a Show at the Theatre
Rochester’s bustling theatre scene sets the stage (no pun intended) for an active performing arts community! When you’ve had enough of the snow and want to socialize indoors, these theatres are the place to be.
- RBTL’s Auditorium Theatre – The Rochester Broadway Theatre League is the go-to place for captivating off-Broadway tours. Also known as the Rochester Auditorium Theatre, the nonprofit’s goal is to offer the best in live entertainment.
- Eastman Theatre – The Eastman Theatre is the pride of the nationally-renowned Eastman School of Music. Faculty artists, student performers, and impressive musicians showcase their talents to an eager public!
- Geva Theatre – This historic theatre was built in 1868 and has since produced 350 Wilson Stage productions, 52 Fielding Stage productions, and 16 Improv productions.
Strong Museum of Play
Contrary to popular belief, the Strong Museum of Play is not a children’s museum. It’s a historical museum that explores the evolution of play and our relationship to toys, games, and more. That being said, there are several interactive exhibits to explore and even special events for adults looking to reconnect with their inner kid! Local retailers and restaurants in the neighborhood make the Strong Museum a perfect spot for indoor fun.
Cooking Classes & Crafting Workshops With Rochester Brainery
Shared experiences are the best way to get to know people (and yourself!). That’s why we’re choosing Rochester Brainery to close out our list. Rochester Brainery partners with local Rochester artisans to host intimate classes and workshops across various subjects. Browse classes on:
- Cooking classes (e.g., pasta making, international cuisine, etc.)
- Arts & craft workshops (e.g., woodcarving, blacksmithing, printmaking, etc.)
- Cottage goods classes (e.g., candle making, cookies, cakes, etc.)
Classes change depending on participating instructors, so check their classes to see what’s new!
Experience the Winter Beauty of Rochester, NY
You’re always going to find the best winter events in Rochester, NY! The city offers a unique blend of natural landscapes, festive activities, and creative artists—which makes for an exciting season for tourists and residents. This winter, use our list to discover new ways to have fun!
If you’re ready to make Rochester home, browse our available apartment floor plans to find your perfect match!