Spending a Day in Rochester, New York
Rochester is a wonderful place full of art, music, and upstate New York culture. The city is a mere 10 minutes from the shores of Lake Ontario, and a train ride from New York City. There is an overabundance of history, such as the history of photography and film, and the suffragette movement. The city personifies a kind, cool and carefree ambiance. If you’re looking to visit the Flower City, here’s a local’s suggestion of what to do and where to go.
Where to Go
George Eastman House
Stop and take a tour of the George Eastman House, where the famous pioneer of modern photography lived from 1905 until 1932. In the late eighties, a second building was constructed beside the house to store climate controlled collections, libraries, vaults, galleries, and film preservation labs. All of this is on display for the public to browse and learn the history of the beginning of photography and film as we know it. There is also the small and charming Dryden Theater, which shows different movies and silent films throughout the year.
National Museum of Play
If you are traveling with kids, the National Museum of Play is the perfect Rochester destination. This museum has a multitude of interactive areas for children, including a drama stage and a miniature shopping center. The museum also houses the largest collection of historical items of play, and includes the National Toy Hall of Fame, the World Video Game Hall of Fame, a library and archives of play, and the International Center for the History of Electronic Games. This is the perfect place to spend an afternoon, especially is you visit the adjacent butterfly museum.
In the warmer months, don’t miss out on a trip to Seabreeze! This is a small water and amusement park located slightly north of Rochester, in Irondequoit on the shores of Ontario Lake. It is one of thirteen existing trolley parks in the United States. The park has a wave pool, several crazy water slides and roller coasters, and it is down the street from Abbott’s and a charming pier along the lake, and a wonderful little lakeside bar called Marge’s. There is lots to do and enjoy in the park and around it!
Memorial Art Gallery
Head over to the neighborhood of the arts and browse art installations at the memorial art gallery. The surrounding area is filled with statue installation’s, and sidewalks are embedded with art designed by local high-schoolers. Inside the MAG there are numerous art collections and exhibits all year long, and in the summer the galley holds Clothesline Festival. The MAG has been a cornerstone of Rochester art culture since 1913, and will continue to inspire residents and visitors for years to come.
What to See
Rochester has its own miniature version of Niagara Falls. They are located along the Genesee River, about 2 miles upstream from the lower falls. High Falls gave early settlers access to power during times of industrial development. The falls are beautiful and flowing most of the year, save for deep wintertime from November until January. Word for the wise, winter can be extreme for Rochester because of the lake effect, so plan accordingly.
Finger Lakes Wine Country
If you have time to venture outside of the city center of Rochester, the surrounding Finger Lakes Region is well-known for its wine. Take a Saturday or Sunday and tour Seneca or Cayuga Lake, visiting several wineries along the way. Some of the best wineries include Wagner Vineyards and Lamoreaux Landing. If you have time, you could even stop in Seneca Falls, where the first Women’s Right’s Convention took place in 1848.
If you plan to take a trip to Rochester in the spring, Highland Park is a must-see. You won’t want to miss the hundreds of blooming lilacs all across the hillside, in every shade of purple, blue and white. Take a long walk past the reservoir, or visit the Lamberton Conservatory, filled with exotic tropical and desert plants. In the evening, bring a blanket and see a movie or two at the Highland Bowl.
Where Locals Eat
If you like barbecue wings and the best cornbread in the city, visit the Dinosaur Barbecue. This is one of the hotspot local destinations, and although it is usually busy, and has more of a rough biker atmosphere, it is well-worth it. There are several locations across New York, the first was Syracuse and the second was Rochester, but it all started in 1983 in a little mobile concession stand near Albany. It is now a chain restaurant, but will always feel culturally relevant and important in Rochester.
Welcome to the home of the garbage plate! Nick Tahou’s was the very first home of the famous Rochester garbage plate, a meal with everything stacked together on one plate. It can include beans, macaroni salad, hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, and vegetarian options. This restaurant is located in a rougher neighborhood, so there are garbage plates available at other locations, the next best being Dog Town on Monroe Avenue. Don’t leave the city without having tried this all star Rochester grub.
Genesee Brew House
The brew house is one of the best beer companies in Rochester. The Genesee Brewery is one of the biggest and oldest continually run breweries in America. The brew house itself includes interactive exhibits about the brewery history, a gift shop, a pilot brewery, and a pub-style restaurant. Their food and beer is out of this world good, and the experience is one to match!
This is one of the more hip nightclubs in Rochester. It is smaller than the others, and sometimes charges a cover for drag shows, but on most nights its a fairly quiet place to hang out. There is a small dance floor, great cocktails, and a wonderful outside area with chairs, a hammock, and a fire pit. For a night out with friends, this is a perfect, cozy and unique bar.
If you plan to visit Rochester, come and explore the many more things the city has to offer!