Rochester is full of surprises – the city centre and its surrounds have an abundance of fun and entertaining things to do and see all year round. If you’re planning on visiting Rochester NY, expect to be overwhelmed with countless activities to keep you busy. Pick from over 140 festivals and events held each year, or discover some of the 12,000 acres of parkland. Better yet, make use of the premier golf courses, or head out to the Eerie Canal and picturesque Fingerlakes. There’s even the opportunity to learn about the local craft beer and wine scenes, and do some sampling along the way. Whatever your inclination, Rochester is sure to deliver.
Back to Nature
Rochester, aka ‘Flower City’, is seemingly always in full bloom. The city is filled with many stunning gardens that offer visitors a sensory mélange of flora and fauna. A horticultural hub, Rochester is a big hit with those who have green fingers or simply like to enjoy the surrounds of picturesque parks and fragrant floral shows. If you plan on visiting, there are a few must-see gardens and public parks for budding gardeners.
Firstly, Ellwanger Garden on 625 Mt. Hope Ave is both a striking ‘living museum’ and Rochester’s very own secret garden. Named after its creator, famed nurseryman George Ellwanger, the garden holds over 80 different kinds of plants and flowers, including beautiful collections of roses, peonies and lilies. Another key landmark is the 150-acre Highland Park. Home to the annual Lilac Festival in May, and Lily Pond, which doubles up as an outdoor ice rink over the winter months, Highland Park serves as both a cultural hub and a quiet urban retreat. If the weather is good, take a picnic along and soak up the lush surroundings and tranquil atmosphere. A trip to the Genesee Garden and Museum also makes for a great family day out. You’ll think you’ve travelled back in time when you step into the grounds, which have been transformed into a 19th century country village. Roam the historic buildings on a guided tour or book in for high tea at the historic Hosmer’s Inn.
If you’re looking for culinary delights, it’s worth seeking out some Rochester specialities. Grab a Zweigle's white hot dog, a variation on the classic, which contains uncured and unsmoked pork, beef and veal – hence the more natural, paler colouring. Or why not treat yourself to some Abbott's Frozen Custard, a tasty recipe that originates from Rochester and dates back to 1926.
If you’re more partial to a glass of ice-cold beer or crisp chardonnay then Rochester is somewhat of an upstate haven. Beyond the hum of the city are some premier breweries and wineries that will keep beer fanatics and wine connoisseurs occupied for days. Genesee Beer offers comprehensive free Brew House Tours, where visitors are schooled on age-old brewing techniques and can sample some of the exclusive beers they produce. Once you’re done you can kick back on their rooftop deck and take in the panoramic views of Rochester or indulge at the restaurant, which serves up satisfying burgers, hots (red or white hot dogs), buffalo chicken wings and plenty of other delectable plates. Rohrbach’s, situated near the Public Market offers $5 tours on the weekend, and Roc Brewing Co also offer regular tours that provide a first-hand look at their special brewing process for making a truly unique beer.
Venture to the scenic valleys of the Fingerlakes and you’ll have arrived in New York’s biggest wine producing region; home to over 100 wineries. Here the wines rival some of the best from their Californian counterparts. You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting which wine or beer tour to go on – whether you choose to go by land or water, take a few days to hide out in the hills or want to do it all in a day, there’s something on offer for all itineraries.
Arty Thrill Seekers
Sightseers wanting to immerse themselves in arts and culture won’t be disappointed either. There are plenty of top-quality museums and galleries dotted around the city that provide a window into Rochester’s rich history. Visit the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film - which is the world's oldest photography museum and third-largest film archive in the United States - to discover its vast collections. Modern Art buffs will want to drop by the Rochester Contemporary Art Center to glimpse their extensive exhibitions of works from renowned and emerging artists from all over New York State. Rochester natives are ardent moviegoers, so why not catch a flick at the Art Deco-style Little Theatre down on East Avenue, which specialises in American and foreign indie films.
Down to a Tee
If there’s one sporting activity that Rochester is synonymous with, it’s golf. If you’re a golfing fan visiting Rochester NY, you’ll have your pick of impeccable golf courses and resorts. Start by visiting Durand-Eastman Park, one of the oldest public courses in Rochester. Looking for something plush? Try Ravenwood Golf Club; situated just south of Rochester, the course previously hosted prestigious tournaments such as the 2004 U.S Open qualifier and the NYS Amateur Championships. Oak Hill is another course that avid golfers will want to make a pilgrimage to as the site of numerous high profile tournaments, including The Ryder Cup and the U.S. Open.
Shop Til You Drop
Rochester’s shopping scene is full of variety. Suburban malls like the one at Greece Ridge in Greece offer the convenience of everything under one roof and within easy reach. But for those looking to seek out smaller boutiques and independent stores, you’d be better off heading towards the notable Erie Canal locale, near the affluent Pittsford area. Here you can delve into the historic past of Rochester whilst picking up some nice mementos of your trip. Another great destination is Rochester’s Public Market, which has been running since 1905. The market has everything from locally grown foods to one of a kind speciality items. Friends of the Market regularly organise tours that delve into the history and evolution of Rochester’s oldest market. The city also has a number of fine antiques stores worth checking out if you like scouting for unusual and period items.
Header photo: Erie Canal © James Bates/Flickr
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Written by Chantelle Symester
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About the author: ChantelleChantelle Symester
Chantelle Symester is a writer and editor based in London. When she’s not chained to her laptop working she can be found hopping on a plane to far flung places across the globe. Trips so far include adventures to Mexico, South America and North Africa and she now has her heart set on discovering the East. You can find her @csymester