Got kids? You've come to the right place! Year-round in Rochester, there's plenty of family-friendly fun to help you forget that your days of romantic candlelit dinners are pretty much over.
Springtime is when the skies along LakeOntario darken with something other than snow clouds: birds of prey. Braddock Bay Raptor Research hosts Bird of Prey Week, April 15 through 23, at BraddockBayPark in Greece. Coinciding with the spring school recess and culminating in the Hawk Out celebration on April 23, this event features free activities for kids, live birds of prey, owl prowl hikes, and hawk banding demos. Info at www.bbrr.org, 321-1616.
Garage sales: another harbinger of spring. Rochester Public Market's season of Greatest Community Garage Sales and Super Fleas kicks off on April 23 and 30 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. What kid doesn't love buying stuff? Lots of cool sights, sounds, and taste sensations, too, at this 100-year-old market off North Union Street. Go to www.ci.rochester.ny.us or call 428-6770.
Blow off the stink of winter with a romp through MendonPondsPark. Hand-feed chickadees on Birdsong Trail. Race up hills big enough to tire kids out, but not big enough to make parents sweat. At least not profusely. Learn about the park's glacial features at the RochesterMuseum and ScienceCenter's new exhibit, Expedition Earth: Glaciers and Giants. Visit www.rmsc.org or call 271-4320.
The festival season kicks off with the Lilac Festival, May 12 to 21, in Highland Park. The biggest summer fests are the Corn Hill Arts Festival, July 8 and 9, and the Park Avenue Festival, August 5 and 6. All three have plenty of activities for families, but the huge size of these fests can be overwhelming. You know how kids hate to see their parents cry.
The Ganondagan Native American Dance & Music Festival in Victor on July 22 and 23 is fun, educational, and manageable in size. See Native American dance styles from across the country. Way across. This year, Halau O'Aulani, a performing group from Hawaii, will be featured, as well as singing and powwow drumming by SilverCloud Singers. Native American art market and Family Drum Jam, too. Visit www.ganondagan.org or call 742-1690.
Road trips. They're still fun even when you have kids. At the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York, enjoy spectacular art glass exhibits, then create your own sand-blasted drinking glasses, sun catchers, and flowers at the Walk-in Workshop (reservations recommended). Go to www.cmog.org or call 1-800-732-6845. Leave time to visit the Rockwell Museum of Western Art and the Gaffer District's eclectic shops and restaurants.
ARTWalk Alive! breaks down barriers between artists and observers with free interactive art on September 17 from 12 to 4 p.m. along University Avenue in Rochester's Neighborhood of the Arts. Enjoy music, spoken word performances, and visual arts in a family-friendly atmosphere. Visit www.rochesterartwalk.org or call 234-6670 for info on ARTWalk, Rochester's outdoor art museum.
In October, drive out to WayneCounty to score some cheap pumpkins, then swing by the Museum of Wayne County History in Lyons. Check out excellent local history exhibits and a two-story 19th-century jail, the site of WayneCounty's only execution. See a chair made with wood from the gallows used in the 1860 hanging. Stop by the Haunted Jail event, October 27 and 28, for more authentic Halloween atmosphere you can't find at farm markets. Go to www.waynehistory.org or call 315-946-4943.
On the second Saturday of the month, from October through May, visit working artists in their studios from 1 to 4 p.m. at Anderson Alley Artists' Second Saturdays, 250 North Goodman Street next to the Village Gate. See what they're working on. Learn about their creative processes. Free. Info at www.andersonalleyartists.com or call 473-0070.
The specter of spending winter cooped up with kids can be a little daunting. As you'll learn, sometimes global warming is our friend. When the mercury hits 45 degrees, head to Seneca Park Zoo. Cooler weather equals smaller crowds and frisky polar bears. Go to www.senecaparkzoo.org or call 336-7200.
Escape reality in a socially acceptable manner at Rochester Children's Theatre's productions. These high-quality, professional shows bring to life well-loved characters from children's classics. RCT's final show in the 2005-2006 season, The Secret Garden, runs May 20 and 21 at the NazarethCollegeArtsCenter. Visit www.rochesterchildrenstheatre.org or call 385-0510.
On the other hand, if you're going to live here, you might as well embrace winter weather. Lack of experience and finances aren't impediments to enjoying winter sports. Bristol and Swain offer discounted family ski nights on Saturdays courtesy of Wegmans. Info at www.bristolmountain.com and www.swain.com
Remember, kid-friendly events in Rochester aren't just fun. The memories you make can help you kill time waiting for a table at a family restaurant, too.
--- Read more of Linda's writing at www.junkstorecowgirl.com.