Anyone who complains about the traffic in Rochester has never driven in Boston or New York or Cleveland or Pittsburgh. Granted, more traffic means more population and more opportunities for diversion within those metropolises. The positive corollary is that leaving Rochester is a relatively painless experience. I know, I know, you just got here. But I'm talking about a daytrip, not migrating to a warmer climate. Let's face it --- the Bronx is a daytrip in New York City, so we are truly blessed. The compass rose presents four big choices for daytrips out of Rochester, but only three will work well.
GriffisSculpturePark is the primary destination. Take the Thruway to Exit 55 (Route 219 South) and then follow the directions that you found at www.griffispark.org before you departed. Plan on being in the car for longer than an hour and a half.Griffis is 425 acres of outdoor art, 250 sculptures surrounded by beautiful gardens.
In 1966, Larry Griffis purchased 100 acres of Ashford Hollow in the Southern Tier of Western New York and placed some of his own gigantic steel pieces on a hillside. Since then, more and more pieces have appeared. A fee box requests admission from visitors, $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and students (children under 12 get in free). After exhausting yourself at the park, continue south on 219 to Ellicottville and turn left on Monroe Street, which should put you in the perfect place for a great meal at Ellicottville Brewing Company.
"Did you know they have a butterfly place over there?" our mailman said, referring to the Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservatory. Head for the Lewiston-QueenstonBridge and follow the directions at www.niagaraparks.com/nature/butterfly.php. Plan to be in the car about an hour and a half. Admission is $11 for adults, $6.50 for ages 6 to 12 --- that's in Canadian dollars --- and free for 5 and under. While you're there, plan to visit a variety of attractions lined up like dominoes along the falls, which are worth a look-see also.
You could try the Aero-Car, the Maid of the Mist, or the walk behind the falls. Public transportation has been set up all along the route and can save the agony of parking on warm summer days. After you've been overwhelmed by nature's beauty, head down to Clifton Hill near the Rainbow Bridge and overload on pop culture with more wax museums and name-brand restaurants than could possibly be healthy.
Get on the Thruway and head for the city of your choosing. Canandaigua offers lake swimming and a goofy boardwalk ambiance. Junk food is easily available and the beach is delightful. Geneva offers the Seneca Lake Whale Watch in August, which is worth attending if only so you can tell distant relatives where you're going. Syracuse is home to the original Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. Not too far away on James Street, the Palace Theatre is a grand repertory cinema, which is being manhandled into the modern era. Across the street is the Books End, always worth a peek.
If you're an early riser, you could make Cooperstown in a daytrip, but I don't envy you. In addition to the Baseball Hall of Fame (along with a baseball-heavy downtown), the Farmers' Museum is pretty cool. And at least once in every life, the Cardiff Giant should lie at your feet.
Face the facts: A lake is due north. It's really big. Don't drive into it. And if you have a boat, then just go out on the water. That should be enough of a daytrip.