Leah Caraher has been documenting travel tips since 2016 on her blog, Five for the Road. Originally from Buffalo, Leah grew up taking day trips with her family and now continues that tradition with her husband and three children.
Sharing her love for travel and family, Five for the Road is a way to document her family’s adventures while inspiring others to get out and explore with their own families. Especially as her kids get older, Leah cherishes time spent connecting, making memories, and experiencing new places together, whether it’s an extended vacation, a short weekend getaway or a quick day trip.
Located 4 ½ hours from Rochester, Hershey is the perfect weekend getaway for all ages. With three on-site hotels, a theme park, water park and plenty of chocolate, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Home to Hersheypark, this is a destination full of sweet treats and ample fun. If staying on-site, you can choose from Hershey Lodge (best mid-range option), Hershey Hotel (luxury option), or Hersheypark Camping Resort (budget friendly option).
When there, Leah and her family enjoy staying at Hershey Lodge to take advantage of the waterpark in addition to visiting the Hersheypark theme park for the rides and roller coasters. Visitors may stay off-site, but perks to staying on-site include seasonal specials, bundle deals, and early park access.
Be sure to check out Hershey Chocolate World for the gift shop, chocolate making classes, 4D show, and free Factory Tour with a chocolate treat at the end. Other nearby attractions include ZooAmerica as well as Hershey Gardens where you can see the butterfly observatory and botanical gardens.
Another getaway just over 4 hours away is Pittsburgh, PA. Leah loves the “wow factor” of driving into the city, with its over 400 unique bridges, beautiful rivers, and breathtaking mountains creating a memorable view.
Jam-packed with some of the best museums in the country, there is no shortage of things to do in Pittsburgh. There is a must-see museum on just about every subject, so there is definitely one (or a few) your family would enjoy, including the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh Children’s Museum, Phipps Conservatory, and the Andy Warhol Museum.
When Leah and her family go, they like to stay in the Southside Works area as it is centrally located to all the museums, has multiple hotel and restaurant options, and is within walking distance to many local attractions. While there, she says you must also take a ride up the mountain on either the Monongahela or Duquesne Incline to see incredible city views.
If you still need more for your itinerary, check out the rides at Kennywood Amusement Park, visit the National Aviary, enjoy a Pirates Game at PNC Park, or grab an iconic sandwich at Primanti Brothers.
If you are looking for something a bit closer to Rochester, Corning is a great option for a quick overnight or weekend trip just 1-1/2 hours south.
While there, a visit to the Corning Museum of Glass is a must and great for kids of all ages – including little ones! With special events, shows, classes, and even a scavenger hunt, you will be amazed by all the museum has to offer. You can even purchase a bundle with the Rockwell Museum, which highlights the American experience through art.
In addition to museums, Corning itself has many great shops and restaurants. Known as the Gaffer District, a few of Leah’s favorites include Slammin Jammin BBQ, Dippity Do Dahs Ice Cream, Main Street Coffee, and Main Street Brewing Co. The town is especially festive when Santa comes to visit amongst the beautiful Christmas light displays.
While there, Leah stays at the Staybridge Suites, located near the Chemung River and within walking distance to the Gaffer District and the Corning Museum of Glass. She also suggests checking out the National Soaring Museum (about 20 minutes away) to explore the evolution of flight and the Spencer Crest Nature Center, which boasts seven miles of trails and two ponds. Located in the Southern Finger Lakes, there are also plenty of wineries to explore within a short driving distance from Corning.
One of Leah’s favorite unique spots for a getaway is Jamestown, just over two hours from Rochester. She highly suggests adding this quaint town to the list as it is the perfect place for an easy-going, slow-paced family weekend.
One of her family’s favorite things to do while in Jamestown is to visit the National Comedy Center. Upon arriving, fill out a brief questionnaire and your experience is tailored based on your responses. You can even film yourself being part of skits as you experience the unique center. Leah’s family stayed at Chautauqua Harbor Hotel, located on the lake about 15 minutes from the Comedy Center.
When visiting Jamestown, you can also walk around or enjoy a ferry ride at Bemus Point, which is a beautiful village on the lake. You can also take a brief drive over to Panama Rocks Scenic Park, a top-rated attraction in Chautauqua County where you explore caves, rocks, and passageways in an ancient forest – an unforgettable experience that won’t disappoint!
Out for the Day
If you just have a day free, Leah shares these local day trips that are less than 2 hours away:
There is so much to do here, from visiting the ever-changing blooms at Sonnenberg Gardens and checking out the wine trail to spending the day at Roseland Waterpark, experiencing the Bristol Mountain Aerial Adventure courses, or playing on the new Motion Junction Inclusive Playground, there is something for every age to enjoy.
Watkins Glen Park
One of Leah’s favorite places is visiting the falls at Watkins Glen. Although she admits it is not the easiest hike, unfit for strollers, and including a lot of steep stairs, the breathtaking view at the top can’t be beat!
This is another great, short trip, featuring Robert H. Treman Park, Ithaca Children’s Garden, and Taughannock Falls, which is a unique spot great for young kids!
Just a short drive from Rochester or Buffalo, the American side of the Falls makes for a great day trip. Visit Niagara Falls State Park, ride the Maid of the Mist, or check out Niagara Power Vista; there is plenty to pack into a day here.
Chimney Bluffs State Park
Located near Sodus, this secret spot is incredible, as you walk along the cliff of Lake Ontario to see beautiful, carved out sand dunes. A great place to hike in a beautiful state park, this is a great spot for adults and older children, but not well-suited for little ones, Leah warns.
Leah's Travel Tips
• Tailor the experience to your family: “Be realistic and flexible. Your kids aren’t going to be different people when traveling, so when planning make choices that consider each person’s needs, interests, and personalities to be sure everyone has a good time.”
• Incorporate surprises along the way: “Pick a destination and then research surrounding areas to find fun/unique stops and places to eat. Whenever I plan day trips, I put the location into Google Maps and zoom in to find different stops along the way. No one likes being in the car for a long time (especially young children), so we look for mystery stops to incorporate.”
• Plan the trip together: “I always include my kids in the planning, even when they were small. We used to go to the library and get books about where we were visiting and have them be a part of the plan we make. Some kids don’t like surprises, so we build the excitement and let them choose parts of what we do so everyone feels invested in it and has something to look forward to.”
• Explore reciprocal memberships: “Before you go, be sure to check out local memberships to see if there is a reciprocal for the city you will visit. Many zoos and museums have reciprocals in other cities, so paying for an annual membership here not only gives you benefits to use at home, but can save money when you travel as well.”