Family traditions are so important to me. Some of them are big like annual vacations, but some of them are small like day trips and weekend getaways. We like to plan family day trips from Rochester, NY (our home) to reconnect and create family fun memories.
Starting family traditions are a great way to connect with your kids and create special moments for your family. I love that these traditions are something that are special to us and help us build strong family bonds.
One of our favorite family traditions are Mystery Days. Mystery Days are basically a day of family day activities. The best part is that they are a mystery!! Every stop is a surprise for the kids. My husband and I plan the itinerary and don’t give any hints. Mystery Days are so great because they are an easy family tradition that you can start this year.
When I first started writing Five for the Road all of my kids said I must write about mystery days. My son said “They are a day full of surprises!” We started doing them in the summer of 2013 and have tried to do at least 1-2 a year. Sometimes they turn into an overnight but most of the days are one day filled with surprises.
The best part about Mystery Days is that they become a family tradition that you will remember for years to come. They offer new insight into places you may have visited before and are a quick and easy way for some quality family time.
Planning a Family Day Activities Mystery Day
- Start with one destination/attraction you want to visit and work out from there.
- We like to include a lot of local places within 1-2 hours of where we live. While planning these days we have discovered so many really cool things around our state. A lot of times the best places are little doughnut shops or ice cream stops.
- We also pack snacks and one meal to keep the cost down. We try to do a loop so we are not spending the entire day in the car and have lots of stops.
- On a few trips we have added mystery guests. Our families are spread out throughout the state so we always try to add a cousin visit at a local park or museum as an added surprise.
We live in Western New York so most of our Mystery Days are Rochester day trips. To find inspiration for your own area google “Top Ten Activities for Families in (Your State)” or visit your cities visitors bureau website. Also check out this post 52 Inspiring Ideas for Family Time to get you started.
Day Trips from Rochester, NY
1 Central New York/Seneca Lake
1. Rosamond Gifford Zoo: Syracuse, NY
2. Geneva Community Lake Front Playground: 41 Lake Front Drive Geneva NY 14456
3. Seneca Lake State Park: Spray Park and Playground
4. Joe’s Hots: 521 Exchange St, Geneva, NY 14456 (Currently Closed)
5. Long Pier Ice Cream: Geneva, NY
This was our first ever Mystery day and the kids were 5, 3, and 1. We really packed a lot into this first trip. Our driving accounted for afternoon naps too!! My favorite part of this trip was walking along the lake and finding an impromptu drum session. They had all sorts of instruments and invited our kids to join in! So much fun!!
2 Olcott Beach (Niagara County)
1. Olcott Beach Carousel Park
2. Krull Park
3. Bye’s Popcorn
Olcott Beach Carousel Park is perfect for children under 5. All the rides are .25 cents!! They are mostly flat rides that go in a circle but have a certain nostalgia that makes for a fantastic day. We also spent a lot of time at the Krull Park. It has a spray park that is awesome and a playground. The Carousel Park and Spray park are about a 5 minute car ride from each other.
3 Sterling/Rochester Area
1. Sterling Renaissance Festival
2. Chimney Bluffs State Park
3. Helluva Good Outlet Store (Currently Closed)
4. Orbakers Drive-In
5. Parkside Diner: Mini-Golf
There are so many great things about this road trip!! The Renaissance Festival was not really for me but it was filled with incredibly talented artists. Walking around and taking in the art and costumes was really interesting. The kids loved the joust match that had real horses, knights, and princesses.
Next we went to Chimney Bluffs State Park. If you live close to this place you have to go. It is along the lake and has amazing rock formation. You can hike the top or the bottom. We walked along the lake because there is not a guardrail or fencing and the kids were too little to walk freely. If you have a baby carrier or older children the top would be a great hike too.
From there we went to the Helluva Good Outlet store for a picnic and to try some chip dips. Sadly this place has closed. Orbakers Drive-In has ice cream cups for $1!! This is a great deal for a family of 5…or really anyone! It even comes with toppings!
Our last stop of the night was mini-golf at Parkside Diner. The diner claims to be the oldest mini-golf course in the USA. It has seaside charm and is a fun course. My kids LOVE mini-golf so we frequent them a lot.
Usually my husband and I don’t golf and just help the kids. This saves money and keeps the game moving so golf balls don’t end up off the course. My 2 year old at the time, threw his ball off the course. It bounced through the fence and into the street where it then rolled into the sewer. That was the end of his game! Another great thing about this place is if you eat dinner at the diner each kids meal includes a round of golf.
4 Toronto/Niagara Falls (Canada)
- Tim Horton’s for breakfast.
- LEGOLAND Discovery Center
- Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls
This trip involved a lot of driving and you may want to make it an overnight. The nice thing is that Niagara Falls is about half way between Rochester and Toronto so it gave us a great stopping point.
The drive to Toronto is about 3 hours so it was 6 hours total in the car. We broke it up to make if feel easier. We also brought pajamas to change into at the end of the day. It was a long day but really fun.
Related Post: Our Overnight Overlooking Niagara Falls
5 Niagara Falls(Canada)/Buffalo
- Paula’s Doughnuts
- Prophet Isaiah House
- Dinosaur Adventure Golf
- Rainforest Café
- Undergrounds Coffee
- Buffalo Harbor State Park
- Canal Side
- White Rabbit Frozen Yogurt
This was a great day trip from Rochester, NY because the driving was short but we had multiple stops. I wrote an entire post about our day because we planned so much.
Read the Post: Mystery Day: Niagara Falls & Buffalo
6 Hershey, Pennsylvania
- Hershey Chocolate World
This was our first overnight surprise day. Although it is not technically a day trip from Rochester, I included it becuase it is a great family destination. The drive to Hershey is about 4 hours from our house. We visited during the Christmas event and I suggest visiting for the weekend during this time. Read more about Hershey: Hersheypark and Hershey Chocolate World.
7 Corning Weekend Getaway
- Corning Museum of Glass
- Staybridge Suites
- Winterfest Corning
- Rockwell Museum
The drive to Corning is about 2 hours and this could have been a day trip. When we planned the trip we needed some time away to connect as a family so we made it an overnight. My full post on our weekend is here.
There is something special about staying in a hotel for a night but being close to home. The kids enjoyed the pool and we enjoyed the easy drive. Also Corning Museum of Glass is awesome. Don’t be scared off by the glass part and think it is not for kids. Read my full post about our visit to Corning: Corning Museum of Glass and A Weekend in Corning NY
8 Rochester Fall Fun
- Rochester & Genessee Railroad Museum
- Lunch at Lovin’ Cup
- ZooBoo at Seneca Park Zoo
This surprise day we didn’t travel far outside of Rochester but we still treated in like a mystery day. We planned fun destinations and made it a special day. Read our full post: Halloween Inspired Fun in Rochester, NY
You can plan a lot of great day trips from Rochester, NY to Ithaca especially in the fall. It is perfect for families and offers so much to do! I loved hiking and the gorgeous scenery.
- Tim Hortons
- Museum of the Earth (Ithaca)
- Ithaca Children’s Garden
- Lunch at The State Diner
- Hike at Taughannock Falls State Park
If you live in Rochester I hope you get inspired to plan some day trips from Rochester NY with your family. If you don’t live here I hope you are inspired to plan a family day out in your own city or town.
Read Next: Things to Do in Buffalo with Kids
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