During our precious summer months, Rochester offers a plethora of rich activities for children of all ages. Be it along the various waterfronts, or in the city itself, amusements abound. I tend to navigate towards the neighborhood approach when planning excursions for my two children, ages 6 and 11 — we play, eat and explore in one general area. This enables you to achieve a certain intimacy with a place, plus it cuts down on gas expenses, travel time, and frankly, headaches.
Let's start with the lake. The smallest of the great lakes, Lake Ontario is not always clean enough to swim in, but what kid doesn't love to dig in the sand, feed seagulls the crusts from their PB&J, and take on the challenge of consuming an ice-cream cone before it drips all over those sweaty little hands? So pack up the picnic basket and the sand toys and take the kids to Charlotte Beach. Let them dig and splash, then cross the street to Abbott's Frozen Custard at the corner of Lake and Beach Avenues.
This is the original Abbotts, built in 1926. You can now find the cold, creamy treat in more than 40 franchises throughout the states. Your kids will want the sprinkles (jimmies for some out-of-towners), but be forewarned, the custard melts faster with sprinkles — they increase the surface area. After custard, walk the Charlotte Pier. It stretches 721 meters out into the lake and has a structure that resembles a miniature light house at the end. There are always a handful of people fishing off the huge rocks lining both sides of the pier. Just hold the little ones' hands as they crane to watch.
Before you go home, let them ride the Dentzel Menagerie Carousel, built in 1905. Your kids will love choosing amongst the rabbits, cats, ostriches, pigs, mules, lion, tiger, goat, giraffe, deer, and of course horses. Hours of operation vary. Go to Nca-usa.org/psp/Rochester/ for more information.
Kershaw Swim Beach at Canandaigua Lake (2 North Main Street) is another great choice for a hot summer day, especially for younger children. The sandy beach is enclosed, the water is calm, and lifeguards keep close watch of your little ones. When they tire of getting sand in their bathing suits, there are even grassy patches, outdoor showers to rinse off under, and a snack bar. If you don't live in the city of Canandaigua, admission is $5 per adult, $2 per child ages 6 to 18, and no charge for children under 6. Call 396-5000 for park hours.
There is a playground next to the beach, stretches of grassy bank to skip stones from, and seafood and soft-serve ice-cream within walking distance. Before you head back to Rochester, stop at Unique Toy Shop at 120 S. Main Street in downtown Canandaigua. Their unique, imaginative, high-quality toys have delighted my kids for years. Make sure to sign up for birthdays discounts.
There is fun to be had along the historic Erie Canal. Schoen Place in Pittsford is a canal landing and shopping area with several kid friendly restaurants and is set alongside the canal's towpath — a great starting or finishing point for a bike ride or walk. Feeding the ducks, geese, and fish crowding below in the water have entertained generations of Rochester's children. But don't risk the birds' health by feeding them bread. Bagged waterfowl pellets are available for a dollar near the landing dock. The Sam Patch tour boat also operates from here on Sundays in the summer. After feeding the ducks take your kids to one of the restaurants clustered nearby. My kids love eating at the Coal Tower, a diner located in — you guessed it — an old coal tower. Awesome shakes and burgers.
When it gets too hot, seek the coolness of the Rundel Memorial Library at 115 South Avenue by the Genesee River. If you're lucky there will be a spot available on Court Street and your kids can peer over the Court Street Bridge at the roaring waters below. Then round the corner and enter the Bausch and Lomb Public Library Building across the street from the historic old Beaux-Arts original building. Climb the stairs to the Children's Room and let the kids discover a secret room by pushing against a certain book shelf that swings open. Real Harry Potter stuff; they'll eat it up. Inside is the George W. Cooper Doll Collection showcasing dolls from around the world.
By the way, the original building is said to be haunted and last year it was featured on an episode of "Ghost Hunters." Employees have reported seeing shadowy figures in the stacks and heavy doors opening and closing by themselves. Take a stroll through with the kiddies in tow — if they dare. Finally, cross back over to Court Street and have a meal at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. Delicious barbecue (and lots of it) at reasonable prices. You can even sit outside. But be prepared for a wait.
There are a multitude of Rochester spots that will delight your children this summer. So take away the remotes and get your children out and about. They'll thank you for it.
Do your kids have a favorite summer activity? Leave us a comment below this story at Rochestercitynewspaper.com.