Rochester (New York)

Big-city culture and small-city charm combine in Rochester, a mid-sized city on the shores of Lake Ontario. The birthplace of amateur photography, Rochester has long been known as Kodak Town, but its fame was established well before George Eastman came on the scene. Today, its historical treasures complement modern family-friendly attractions that rival those found in much larger communities.

In Rochester, you can find the only museum in the world dedicated to play; award-winning music, dance, and acting ensembles; a dense festival calendar covering nearly every weekend of the year; minor-league sports of the highest caliber; and a trio of majestic waterfalls right in the middle of the city. The gateway to the scenic and culinary delights of New York's Finger Lakes region, Rochester is the perfect place to begin your exploration of Western New York.

Understand

With more than 200,000 residents, Rochester is the third-largest city in the state of New York, after New York City and Buffalo. Lake Ontario lies to its north, with the Genesee River flowing northward through the city and over a set of three waterfalls. The historic Erie Canal also runs along the city's borders.

But Rochester is much more than just its waterways. The city loves to celebrate its long history of industry and invention, taking pride in the many innovators and social reformers that have made their marks here. It also looks to the future, to the new places to which today's innovations will lead. And when it's time to relax, few cities of its size can compare when it comes to the variety and quality of its cultural and recreational events.

Above all, the city's primary trait may be perseverance. Epitomized by the yearly collective slog through another snowy winter, this perseverance also manifests itself in the way Rochester has reinvented itself over the years. Even today, as the city tries to chart its course through the 21st century, its people plunge forward with that same determination, carrying with them not just the hope, but the certainty that springtime will arrive and with it, growth.

History

Rochester has always been defined by water. It was born in the early nineteenth century as a small village on the Genesee River, a few miles south of Lake Ontario. The village was constructed around flour mills that took advantage of the three waterfalls on the river for power. When the Erie Canal was built a few years later, it was routed through Rochester, and the small village became America's first boomtown, a major trade center for grain being shipped east and goods being shipped west. It soon garnered the nickname "The Flour City", and its products were known as far away as England.

As time went on, and farmland opened up in the Great Plains, Rochester's flour industry faded, to be replaced by a succession of others, including clothing, shoes, boats, and horticulture. By the middle of the nineteenth century, Rochester's nurseries and gardens had led to a new nickname: "The Flower City", celebrated each year with the famous Lilac Festival each May. Rochester also became a center for social progressivism. The great abolitionist orator Frederick Douglass made his home here for many years, and suffragist Susan B. Anthony was a lifelong resident.

In the early 1900s, the modern city began to take shape, molded in large part by the philanthropy of George Eastman, whose Eastman Kodak camera company became the area's largest employer. The Eastman School of Music, the Eastman Theatre, the George Eastman Museum, and numerous other buildings and institutions remain today as testaments to his influence and generosity.

Since World War II, Rochester has seen a decline in population but has also seen periods of urban renewal funded by industry. In the 60s and 70s, the city became known as the leading jazz town in upstate New York, a legacy recalled today by the annual Rochester International Jazz Festival in June. Around the turn of the century, Rochester started calling itself "The World's Image Centre", based on the local prominence of imaging giants Kodak and Xerox and optics company Bausch & Lomb. Those "Big Three" have all downsized in the years since, however, forcing yet another Rochester reinvention.

The recent industrial decline has been painful, but it has been countered by a rise in world-class historical and cultural attractions as the city learns to take advantage of what makes it unique.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°F) 31 33 43 55 68 77 81 79 71 60 47 36
Nightly lows (°F) 17 17 25 35 46 55 60 59 51 41 33 23
Precipitation (in) 2.3 2.0 2.6 2.8 2.8 3.4 2.9 3.5 3.5 2.6 2.8 2.7
Sunshine (hrs/day) 9 11 12 13 15 15 15 14 12 11 10 9
Sea (°F) 38 36 36 38 44 56 67 70 66 56 48 41

Rochester is unashamedly part of the Snow Belt of the United States, competing every year with its upstate neighbors for the "coveted" Golden Snowball Award (for most snowfall). Snowfalls in Rochester were once legendary, although lately the lake-effect snow has favored Syracuse, and Rochester has started to fall behind.

Visitors are often surprised by the sheer amount of snow Rochesterians will put up with. It takes multiple feet of snow or biting cold frostbite-in-ten-minutes temperatures to close schools; anything less and you just put another layer on and grab the shovel. And forget about work or college being canceled; unless the governor has declared a state of emergency, you'll find commuters dutifully plunging forth across barely-plowed roads and highways. And sometimes, even then...

Simply stated, snow is a daily fact of life in Rochester winters, and the traveler must be prepared to deal with it as the locals do: with a hearty grumble of resignation, the assertion that "at least we don't have earthquakes, tornadoes, or hurricanes", and the knowledge that better days lie ahead.

An illustrative anecdote

Rochester astronomer Lewis Swift (18201913) once attended a conference in California. Invited to gaze through the telescope there, he expressed amazement.

"What do you see?" he was asked.

"Stars!"

"Well what did you expect to see?"

"Clouds!"

Fortunately, those "better days" are truly gems, and few cities appreciate them more when they arrive. "The weather is beautiful" headlines can often be found in the news media when a wave of pleasant weather hits. July and August can be very humid at times, but relief is rarely more than a few days away. May, June, late August, September, and early October have the most comfortable temperatures. Outside of those months, partly sunny days alternate with overcast conditions and heavy precipitation, ranging from light fluffy snow to heavy wet glop to cold damp drizzle.

But all this emphasis on winter should not overshadow Rochester's short but beautiful springs, mild summers, and very colorful autumns. Rochesterians make the best of winter, but they really take advantage of every nice day the rest of the yearand so should you.

Visitor information

The High Falls Interpretive Center and Museum (see #Neighborhoods, below) focuses on the High Falls district, but it has information on the rest of the city as well.

Talk

Rochester is part of the "Inland North" dialect region of the United States, with only a few minor local variations. There is, though, one language issue that separates Rochester from the rest of the region: American Sign Language. Rochester has one of the highest populations of deaf people (per capita) in the United States, so sign language is not an uncommon sight around the city. Now, it's not a given that you'll see ASL being used if you visit Rochester (unless you drop by the Rochester School for the Deaf, or the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology), but you never know.

For deaf people, few cities in the world are as accommodating as Rochester. Most businesses, especially in Henrietta and Brighton, are accustomed to working with deaf customers and often have teletype machines and dedicated TTY phone numbers (or, the modern era being what it is, the ability to receive SMS text messages). Open-captioned films are regularly shown at the local multiplexes (in particular, at Regal Henrietta), and many major events will be interpreted. At RIT, nearly all events have both captioning and interpreters. Wherever the event is held, a quick phone call to the venue or sponsor is often all that is needed to ensure the presence of an interpreter.

If you encounter a deaf person but don't know sign language, remember not to shout. You can raise your voice slightly, but it's most important to speak clearly and directly, being careful not to hide your mouth with your hand. If all else fails, find a piece of paper and write back and forth. If an interpreter is available, be sure to address the deaf person, not the interpreter. The deaf person will watch the interpreter, but you should be looking at the deaf person and listening to the interpreter.

Get in

By plane

Greater Rochester International Airport and vicinity.

Greater Rochester International Airport (IATA: ROC), 1200 Brooks Ave (I-390 to Exit 18B or I-490 to Exit 6; follow signs) is located just southwest of the city proper, 6 miles southwest of downtown. It is a very nice medium-sized airport, with three runways and two concourses. The airline with the most passengers is Delta, but most of the major domestic carriers and low-cost airlines have multiple daily scheduled flights between Rochester and their hubs. There are direct flights to and from Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Minneapolis/Saint Paul, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Tampa, Toronto, and Washington, D.C. (Make sure you book your flight to Rochester, NY (ROC), not Rochester, MN (RST)!)

To travel to/from the airport:

By car

Because Rochester is so close to Lake Ontario, the New York State Thruway (Interstate 90) doesn't pass through the city; it actually runs a few miles to the south, through the southern suburbs. It still provides the quickest route into the area from the east and west, though. Whichever way you're coming, you'll take I-490 to get into the city proper; it leaves the Thruway eastbound at Exit 47, passes through downtown Rochester, then rejoins the Thruway at Exit 45.

Exit 46, between them, is for I-390, the primary route into Rochester from points south. I-390's south end is at I-86, and it also connects with U.S. Route 15 out of Pennsylvania.

From the northeast, if you don't want to head south to the Thruway, most drivers will take State Route 104, a former federal route that constitutes the main rural drag through the northern part of Western New York. 104 also works if you're coming from the northwestthe northern part of the Niagara Frontierbut an alternative is the Lake Ontario State Parkway, which starts 35 miles northwest of downtown and follows the lake shore to the Rochester harbor.

By train

The Amtrak station, Greyhound/Trailways station, and vicinity

Amtrak operates from a temporary terminal building at 320 Central Ave (Inner Loop to N Clinton Ave, quick right onto Central), operating daily scheduled service on three lines. The Empire Service heads east to Syracuse, Albany, and New York City (with some stops along the way), and west to Buffalo and Niagara Falls. The Maple Leaf is the same but keeps going past Niagara Falls across the Canadian border to Toronto. The Lake Shore Limited from Chicago to Boston or New York also stops in Rochester.

The station is in a seedy part of town, so don't try to walk there at night. The station itself, and its parking lot, are well lit and quite safe, though. Be prepared for delays and be aware there's really nothing to do to kill time in or around the station. A permanent station with enhanced traveler amenities will be opening in the fall of 2017 on the site of the previous 1970s station.

A few taxis will often be waiting at the station around the scheduled arrival times, or you may want to arrange for a rental agency to pick you up.

By bus

By boat

With the Erie Canal, Genesee River, Lake Ontario, and Irondequoit Bay, waterways are a rare but not unheard-of method of getting to Rochester.

Coming from Lake Ontario, your best bets for mooring are at the mouth of the Genesee (the Rochester harbor) and in Irondequoit Bay. If you're entering from Canada, you must call in your arrival to U.S. Customs, using their Videophone Inspection Program. There is a VIP booth located at Shumway Marina, 40 Marina Dr., on the east side of the river; call +1-800-827-2851 if the videophone is out of order.

If you're on the Erie Canal coming from points east or west, you can often moor in one of the villages along the way, including Pittsford, Fairport, and Brockport, although these are all a few miles outside of Rochester. You could also take the canal to the river, then turn north; you can tie up at Brooks Landing near the University of Rochester, or at Corn Hill Landing just south of the I-490 bridge. Both Landings are on the west side of the river.

Get around

Rochester and immediate suburbs. A map showing the Downtown area in detail appears below.

Most people will tell you that a car is a virtual necessity for getting around Rochester. Although largely true, especially taking into account the suburbs, the adventurous can manage to see a lot of attractions on foot or bicycle, and the patient can take advantage of the municipal bus system to traverse the entire county.

Of course, in winter all bets are off. Driving becomes potentially hazardous, biking becomes impossible, and walking is very much hit-or-miss.

Rush hours in Rochester are approximately 7AM8:30AM and 4:30PM6PM on weekdays.

By car

Six major rental agencies have desks at the Greater Rochester International Airport: Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty. Most also have locations scattered throughout the city and surrounding towns, and they will usually come pick you up if you're coming in from, say, the Amtrak station. Contact your preferred agency for details and locations.

Those who balk at needing a car to get anywhere in the Rochester area can at least take heart that it is a very drivable city. A common local maxim is that the travel time between any two points in or around the city is twenty minutes. The expressway system was designed in the 50s, when Rochester's population was booming; this growth slowed to a stop soon afterward, leaving a network of high-capacity roads that rarely see congestion. You'll encounter some mild rush-hour slowdowns, especially on Interstates 390, 490, and 590, but visitors from more populous areas will scoff at what Rochesterians call "traffic".

Construction and severe winter weather can disrupt Rochester's normally placid roads, however. In winter, pay close attention to traffic advisories, and if they say "no unnecessary travel"they mean it. Most of the time, though, drive slowly and carefully and you'll be fine. It takes locals a snowfall or two to remember this every November, so be extra-cautious early in the season.

Outside of downtown, any place you want to go will have its own parking lot of some sort. Downtown, you'll find a mix of dedicated lots, street parking, public lots, and parking garages. Most surface lots are $5/day or thereabouts, with higher prices near the Blue Cross Arena on game/concert nights. The garages are generally priced reasonably as well.

Expressways

The highway system is designed as two loops, the unofficial "Outer Loop" and the official "Inner Loop", with feeders coming in from the west, east, and south. (North is Lake Ontariono highways there!) As of November 2014, the Inner Loop is no longer continuous; this urban expressway used to circumscribe the nominal downtown area, although some "downtown" attractionsFrontier Field, High Falls, and most of the museums, for examplelie outside the Inner Loop. The portion of the loop that remains is now a fairly straightforward spur off of I-490, a convenient way to access the northern side of downtown.

I-490 runs east-west right through the middle of the city and formed the bottom portion of the once-complete loop. It is the feeder expressway that connects the Outer and Inner Loops on both the east and west sides of the city, eventually connecting up with Interstate 90, the New York State Thruway, on both ends (several miles out).

The Outer Loop runs very close to the official city limits. I-390 comes up from the south (where it connects with the Thruway), then turns sharply west at a junction with I-590, which heads east. The two spurs curve out and up to the north to form the bottom part of the loop, until they each reach I-490 on either side of the city. Their Interstate designations end there, but the highways each continue north as State Routes 390 and 590. 390 passes State Route 104 and continues north as an expressway to the Lake Ontario State Parkway, just west of the Rochester harbor. 590 also passes Route 104, but then becomes an unnumbered surface boulevard for the rest of its run to the lake, at Seabreeze near Irondequoit Bay.

New York State Route 104 is a major east-west route and forms the northern part of the Outer Loop, although it's only an expressway on one side, from the river east. It's also the main feeder route from the northeast and northwest.

Surface roads

While driving downtown, keep an eye out for these directional signs; they're color-coded by quadrant and provide directions to parking and attractions.

The expressways will get you close to your destination, but navigating the surface streets is necessary as well. Rochester's early founding as a milling village means that its major avenues were laid out to facilitate traffic to outlying and neighboring settlementsnamely, in a radiating pattern. In general, "avenues" radiate outward from downtown and "streets" connect the avenues, but this is not set in stone and there are almost as many exceptions as there are examples.

The only place it's really tricky to drive is downtown. There is a small selection of one-way streets, just few enough to confuse you when you encounter one. There are also some turning restrictions on weekdays, especially for turning onto Main Street; watch the signs carefully. Outside of downtown, you shouldn't have any problem navigating the surface streets; most are well signed.

By bus

The area bus system is the Regional Transit Service (RTS), run by the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA). While the buses are clean, efficient, comfortable, and cheap, the service has often been criticized as inconvenient.

The bus routes are designed as a hub-spoke system, optimized for travelers headed to and from downtown. The hub is downtown, so travelers trying to get from one suburb to another often have to ride one bus all the way into the city, then another all the way back out. The system works great for getting to the center of downtown, but the typical rider will be faced with a walk or another bus ride to get the rest of the way to his or her destination.

If the bus routes are convenient for you, though, RTS service is hard to beat, especially when the roads get slushy in winter. Every RTS bus has a bicycle rack on front, which can provide some flexibility if you're willing to bike to a bus stop. Fares are $1.00 per ride, or $3.00 for an all-day pass. $14.00 gets you a 5-day pass and $56.00 allows you to ride freely for a full month. Discounted fares are available for children and seniors (although you'll need a Medicare or RTS low-fare card for the senior discount). The $1.00 fare is valid for an hour so you can change buses without paying again; be sure to ask the driver for a transfer ticket.

Bus schedules are available online and throughout the city, especially at transit hubs and information centers.

By foot

Downtown Rochester is very walkable, at least for eight months out of the year. Traffic is light outside of rush hours, and crosswalks are plentiful. The Rochester Skyway is a system of enclosed elevated walkways and underground tunnels that connect numerous buildings downtown, including hotels, office buildings, and parking garages. It's especially useful in the winter, but the network only covers the east side of the river, and its continuity was severely disrupted when Midtown Plaza closed in 2008. Still, it provides a relatively warm, traffic-free route around the area. Look for the blue Skyway logo to find your way.

On the surface streets downtown, most areas are relatively safe, but be careful in the northeastern area (bounded by E. Main Street, East Avenue, the Inner Loop, and N. Clinton Avenue), especially at night.

Outside of downtown, there are a number of pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, including Park Avenue and the South Wedge, but they are not well connected to each other, or to downtown. Safety and navigation become issues the farther out you get from tourist attractions and recreation areas. Especially at night, you'll want vehicular transportation available.

One exception to the general lack of walkability is the Genesee Riverway Trail, an almost-completed walking and biking route along the river. Once completed, this trail will take you from the Erie Canal on the south edge of the city all the way to Lake Ontario at the harbor. It also connects with other trails, especially the Genesee Valley Greenway south of the city.

Outside of the city, the inner suburbs are similarly hard to walk in, but there are pockets of village-like atmospheres where walking can be pleasant, such as Twelve Corners in Brighton and the Titus-Hudson area of Irondequoit.

By bicycle

Much of the advice above for pedestrians applies to bikers as well, although bikers won't be able to make use of the Skyway. The Genesee Riverway Trail is fully accessible for bicycles, and they're a common sight all over the area in the summer, especially on the Erie Canal towpath. The low traffic in Rochester is a boon for cyclists, allowing brave ones to take to the highways (but stay off the expressways!). Also, as noted above, all RTS buses have bike racks mounted on the front, which can be a great convenience.

By taxi

You can hire a taxi, but you'll need to call ahead to have one pick you up unless you're at the airport or the Amtrak station. Prices are set by the city at $0.50 per 1/6 mile, plus $2.00 per additional passenger ($2.50 to/from the airport). $10.00 minimum to/from the airport; $5 minimum otherwise. Local limousine companies can provide more luxurious transportation for a somewhat higher fee.

By boat

Most boating in Rochester is exclusively recreational in nature, but you may find it a convenient way to travel between destinations.

The Genesee River is not navigable through downtown; you can go downstream from the south (Erie Canal) as far as the Anthony-Douglass Bridge (I-490), or upstream from the north (Lake Ontario) as far as the Lower Falls, but the three waterfalls and the downtown area are no-go. That still leaves some options, however. Mooring is available at the harbor near Lake Ontario and at Brooks Landing and Corn Hill Landing between the canal and downtown. The Erie Canal passes along the southern city limts, providing access from points east and west to the upper river. It's doable, but be sure to plan for the additional transportation you'll need once your boat is docked.

Note that the Erie Canal is drained every November and not refilled until the end of April.

See

Downtown Rochester and surrounding areas.

Rochester may not be the most popular place for sightseeing, but the Genesee River gorge and its three waterfalls are certainly worth a trip. For nature lovers, the most scenic of the city's parks is probably Highland Park, although Genesee Valley Park has more recreation options.

Where Rochester shines is in its selection of cultural attractions; the variety and quality compare favorably to cities twice its size. The most prominent of these is the Strong National Museum of Play, absolutely a can't-miss attraction if you have young kids with you or enjoy a sense of nostalgia. The Rochester Museum and Science Center also has fun hands-on exhibits and an adjacent planetarium. History buffs will want to stop by the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House, one of the most important sites in the country for students of the women's rights movement. And fans of photography will be awe-struck by the collections at the George Eastman Museum.

Parks

Famed landscaper Frederick Law Olmsted designed Rochester's first public parks, which today comprise Highland, Genesee Valley, Maplewood, and Seneca Parks. Each remains a popular destination for locals and visitors alike.

Museums and galleries

George Eastman lived here.

Neighborhoods

High Falls at night

Do

You might sometimes catch residents complaining that there's not much to do around Rochester, but a little research reveals a wealth of opportunities, even during the long winters. Nearly everything is family-friendly, too; Rochester is consistently ranked one of the best cities in the world for visiting with kids. In addition to the many parks and museums, kids will have a great time at Seabreeze Amusement Park in Irondequoit, near the mouth of the bay (see listing, below).

Festivals

Once May rolls around, snow becomes less likely, and Rochester's renowned festival season begins. Pretty much every weekend from May through October, there's at least one festival of some sort going on in Rochester or its suburbs. Rochester's festivals run the gamut, focusing on such diverse subjects as horticulture, music, crafts, and foodand admission is free for almost all of them!

The flagship festival is, of course, the Lilac Festival, which has been drawing visitors from out of town to Highland Park for over a century. Newer, but no less popular, is the Rochester International Jazz Festival, which has quickly grown into one of the world's top music festivals. Less well-known outside of Rochester is the Park Ave Fest, but it epitomizes the local festival scene and shouldn't be missed if you're in town the first weekend of August.

Among the suburban festivals, be sure to check out Fairport Canal Days in early June. Of the many festivals centered on the Erie Canal, this may be the best, and it's held in the quintessential canal town.

The closest Renaissance Festival is in Sterling, Cayuga County. It's about 45 minutes away, but it's worth the trip. It's open weekends from July through mid-August every year.

There are many cultural festivals around the city and the local areas, including Greek and Turkish Festivals.

The listings below are only a sampling of the top festivals.

May

June

July

August

September

October

Spectator sports

A true hometown team

The Red Wings used to be owned by the St. Louis Cardinalsthat's how they got their name, in fact. But in 1956, the Cards decided not to continue that relationship. Rochester businessman Morrie Silver organized a drive in which 8,222 shareholders each purchased a share of the team, saving it from relocation or folding. Rochester Community Baseball owns the team to this day.

It may not be the first city people think of when it comes to sports, but few other cities have as wide a variety, or as long a winning tradition, as Rochester does. The city is consistently ranked among the best cities in the country for minor-league sports, which means you can see some very talented players in some great, intimate venues for a very reasonable price.

Film

As befits the home of Eastman Kodak, Rochester is a major destination for film buffs. It's no New York or Los Angeles, but no other mid-sized city can compare. The centerpiece of the film festival schedule is the High Falls Film Festival (see Festivals, above), but there are also GLBT, Jewish, Polish, and short-film festivals.

Rochester is also home to several charming cinemas, where the atmosphere is almost as important as the films.

Live theatre and music

The prominence of the Eastman School of Music means that some of the world's best musicians have passed through Rochester during their school years, and many have stuck around to enrich the city's cultural life.

Several of the city's bars and clubs also present live music frequently. Of particular note in this respect are The Bug Jar and the Montage Grill. See Drink, below.

Golf

For whatever reason, golf is very popular in Rochester. That's reflected not just in the world-class Oak Hill Country Club, host to numerous national and international tournaments over the years, and in the always-fantastic turnout at the yearly Wegmans LPGA tournament, but in the number of high-quality public and semi-public golf courses. Most of them are in the rural suburbs, of course, but there are a few close in to the city:

Beaches and boating

For a city with so many waterways, it's surprising that waterfront activities are so far down the list for most visitors. True, neither the river nor the canal is suitable for swimming (and the lake only barely so), but boating can be a great way to spend an afternoon.

There are two beaches in the city proper:

Boats can be launched at the Port of Rochester where the river empties into the lake; on Irondequoit Bay; or along the canal in many surrounding suburbs like Pittsford and Fairport.

If you don't have your own boat, there are a couple of nice cruises available, including the Sam Patch replica packet boat in Pittsford. For boats departing from the city:

Hiking

Three major (albeit under-improvement) multi-use trails pass through the Rochester area, and they all meet up inside Genesee Valley Park.

Aside from the trails, there's not much hiking to do without heading for the suburban parks, though Cobb's Hill Park might tide you over:

Winter Sports

Winter sports are not as popular in Rochester as one might think given the climate, but there are plenty of opportunities. The nearest downhill ski resort is Bristol Mountain, north of Naples in Ontario County; it's a popular day trip for Rochesterians.

Several ice rinks around Rochester offer public skating sessions, in particular Ritter Arena on the RIT campus and the Webster Ice Arena in Webster. In good (meaning cold) weather, the city maintains an outdoor rink at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Square Park, near the Strong Museum.

Other

Ride the Jack Rabbit!

Learn

Buy

The great, great House of Guitars (the basement, at least)

Shopping around Rochester is dominated by the major suburban commercial strips: Route 104 (Ridge Road) in Greece, and Route 252 (Jefferson Road) in Henrietta. You'll also find major big-box retailers along Route 104 in Irondequoit and Webster, Route 31 (Monroe Ave) in Brighton and Pittsford, and Route 96 in Victor. The three area indoor shopping malls are The Mall at Greece Ridge in Greece, The Marketplace in Henrietta, and Eastview Mall in Victor. Pittsford Plaza is an upscale and very large strip mall on Monroe Avenue in Pittsford.

Within the city proper, you won't find many large chains, but rather a wide array of independent shops and boutiques. Park Avenue is a particularly rich location for such shops, as well as great dining options. You'll also find quaint shopping districts in Charlotte near the harbor, along Exchange Boulevard on the east side of Corn Hill, and all along Monroe Avenue.

Also in the city is one of the nation's best public markets:

One unique space you won't want to miss is Village Gate Square on North Goodman Street between University Avenue and East Main Street, part of the "Neighborhood of the Arts". It doesn't look like much from the outside, but on the inside it's an old industrial space filled with small independent retail shops and eclectic restaurants. The upper floor also houses space for artists' workshops, so it's almost like a free art gallery up there. Among the many shops on the lower floor:

Some other places of note for shoppers:

While the usual generic liquor stores abound, there are specialty shops that are worth a second look:

There are several bookstores on Monroe Ave and East Ave which sell new, used, and rare books.

Eat

A white hot garbage platetwo local specialties in one!

Dining in Rochester is typical of most mid-sized American cities. The immediate suburbs are crawling with large chain restaurants, but you can find more original fare in the city proper, and in outlying areas away from the biggest commercial strips.

There is one mainstay of local cuisine that travelers with a large stomach and no fear of cholesterol should absolutely try: the famous Garbage Plate of Nick Tahou's Hots. For a few dollars, a "Plate" comes with your choice of meat served on top of macaroni salad, home fries, and onions, topped with "hot sauce" and ketchup and/or mustard. Most suburbs of Rochester have a local "Hots" (Penfield Hots, Empire Hots, etc.); each of them, not to mention nearly every other burger joint and diner around town, has its own variant on the "Plate"but the original and most authentic is found at Tahou's. Steve T. Hots and Potatoes is the former second location of Nick Tahou's, and run by a different branch of the Tahou family; it's an acceptable second choice, mainly because the original is only open until 8PM these days. Late-night "plate runs"a college tradition in Rochesterthus usually end up at Steve T.'s.

A "hot", by the way, is simply a hot dog, but they come in two varieties: red hots (traditional hot dogs) and white hots. White hots are filled with uncured and unsmoked meats, which causes the color difference. The flavor is similar to a mild sausage. Zweigle's is the local brand; don't even bother with any other brand if you're going to try a white hot. "Hot sauce", rather than the expected mouth-scalding pepper blend, is usually a mildly spicy meat sauce to put on hots, especially on garbage plates.

Of course, if you do want mouth-scalding sauce, Buffalo-style chicken wings are almost as popular here as they are in Buffalo. (Surprisingly, Buffalo's Anchor Barthe inventor of the dishfailed in its attempt to establish franchises in Rochester; now their chief competitor, Duff's Famous Wings, is working on entering the market themselves.) Most any bar, bar-like establishment, or pizza joint will have "wings" on their menu (no need to specify "Buffalo wings"; it's assumed). Everyone has a favorite location for wings, but Jeremiah's Tavern has some awards to back up their claim.

If you're looking for something a little more traditional, Rochester's beaches spawned a great set of local burger joints (most of which don't call them burgers; they're "ground steak sandwiches"). The two big local chains are Bill Gray's, with their flagship location at Seabreeze, and Tom Wahl's, which started south of the city in Avon. Tom Wahl's is famous for their root beer floats and homemade ice cream, while Bill Gray's has incorporated Abbott's Frozen Custard into several of their locations. Both have great burgers and classic old-time atmospheres.

Speaking of Abbott's, it's the place to go for ice creamonly it's not ice cream; it's frozen custard, which is richer and creamier than regular ice cream. With about thirty locations around Rochester, you have no excuse not to drop in and try some.

DiBella's is a chain of local sub shops that locals swear by, despite some inroads being made by Subway. DiBella's restaurants have a classic 1950s atmosphere, with lots of neon, chrome, and checkerboard patterns. The sub rolls are made fresh in-house each morning, and they're solid and big enough to hold all the toppings you could want. The "Godfather" and "Dagwood" subs are quite popular. You can order them hot; it takes a few minutes, but it's well worth it. Don't forget to pick up one of Grandma DiBella's chocolate chip cookies; they're also baked fresh in-house and have almost as many fans as the subs do.

For pizza, everyone has a different favorite. The local style is somewhere between New York thin-crust and Chicago deep-dishnot surprising considering Rochester's location. The oldest local chain, dating from 1947, is Pontillo's, but quality varies widely from location to location. The best Pontillo's pizzas are truly outstanding, but the worst are truly bad. More consistent quality can be found at another large local chain, Salvatore's, though pizza aficionados may be disappointed. Mark's Pizzeria is also popular, and Cam's is expanding and popular with college students. True New York-style pizza is hard to find, though the Pizza Stop on State Street downtown probably comes closest.

It's not just pizza, either. Rochesterians love all sorts of Italian food; it seems like around every corner is another favorite neighborhood Italian-American restaurant, at least in the suburbs. You'll also find a lot of places owned by Greeks, from greasy spoons like Nick Tahou's to classy family restaurants, although they usually toss in plenty of Italian and traditional American entrees as well. A staple at local Greek- and Italian-American restaurants is Chicken French. It's a breaded chicken breast sauteéd in a lemon-wine sauce. It's so popular that veal and even artichokes can be found "Frenched" on local menus.

All this focus on the lower end of the dining spectrum shouldn't obscure the upscale dining available, mostly in the downtown area. The options are neither as exclusive nor as pretentious as those in other, bigger cities like New York, but that doesn't mean you won't want reservations, and you will want to dress up a bit.

Finally, no trip to Rochester is complete without stopping in to a local Wegmans supermarket. No joke: residents frequently take their out-of-town guests to Wegmans, not necessarily to buy anything, but just to see the place. "Wait," the guests say, "you're taking us to a grocery store?" But Wegmans is something special, and Rochesterians are justifiably proud of their hometown grocer. Customer service is paramount at Wegmans, consistently ranked one of the best companies to work for in the U.S. The stores are attractive, clean, well-stocked, and open 24 hours a day. They also each feature an amazing "Market Cafe", where a wide variety of prepared foods are available for purchase (eat-in or carry-out), all made in-store from Wegmans-branded grocery items. Don't miss the very good subs; Wegmans' sub shops were modeled after DiBella's and rival Rochester's favorite sub shop in quality.

There's only one Wegmans left in the city proper, but the suburbs are loaded with them. The flagship location is on Monroe Avenue adjacent to Pittsford Plaza.

Budget

This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget up to $10
Mid-range $8$20
Splurge $15+

Rochester's cheapest options are epitomized by the burger joints that sprung up along the lake shore in the middle of the 20th centuryBill Gray's, Vic & Irv's, and Don's Original at Sea Breeze near Irondequoit Bay; and Schallers west of the river. The greasy spoons like Tahou's are also easy on your wallet (if not your arteries).

Mid-range

The middle ground is where most of Rochester's restaurants lie. A variety of ethnic cuisines are available, if you're willing to look around a bit. In particular, Rochester's barbecue scene is better than you might expect.

Barbecue

Bring your hog to the Dino; everyone else does!

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que on Court Street is where everyone you ask will send you for barbecue; it's a small Syracuse-based chain that Rochesterians have adopted as their own. But there are some other very good options that might even surpass the Dino in one way or another.

Splurge

Rochester's reputation as a staid company town is slowly dissolving, and more and more restauranteurs are opening upscale establishments to cater to a growing taste for more adventurous cuisine and more personalized service.

Drink

The big local brew is Genesee, along with its label-mates Genny Lite, Genesee Cream Ale, and the Dundee line of lagers (especially The Original Honey Brown). Don't believe the wags who tell you the beer is "brewed from the waters of the Genesee"; although the river is clearer than it used to be, you won't find its influence in the local beverages. Genny isn't as popular around town as you might expect, but it's working at making a comeback, and few locals would turn down a Cream Ale or Honey Brown if offered one. As the saying goes: if a bar doesn't serve Genny, even if no one you know drinks it, it's not a real bar. As of late summer 2012, the brewerythe eighth-largest in the U.S.has finally opened a visitor's center (see the Do section).

Several Rochester area restaurants have their own craft beer made by Custom BrewCrafters, which is a local microbrewer. Additionally there is the Fairport Brewing Company, Naked Dove Brewing Company, Roc Brewing Company and Rohrbachs microbreweries that all have their own beers. Rohrbachs in particular can be found at events like baseball gmae and soccer matches.

Sitting as it does at the edge of the Finger Lakes, Rochester is also a good place to get some high-quality wine. Finger Lakes wines can be found in many restaurants throughout the city and its suburbs, although just as many forgo the local stuff in favor of the same old Californian and European selections. If you can, seek out the places that serve local wine; it gives you a better taste of the region and is better for the environment to boot.

Bars & clubs

There are several districts to party in around Rochester. They include the St. Paul Quarter, the East End (Area around Alexander St. and East Ave., also referred to as "East & Alexander."), High Falls Entertainment district, and Monroe Ave. Even during the cold winter evenings, people can be seen on the street, hopping from one bar to the next.

Each district has an array of diverse bars, from trendy, to sports bars, to dive bars you can find a bar you will like in each area. Rochester is known for it wide selection of martinis and micro-brewed beers. Visit any mid-range to upscale bar/restaurant and they will probably have a great selection. Ask for their martini menu!

The East End Festival is a great opportunity for bar hoppers and pub crawlers to hear all sorts of music and try all sorts of drinks. Outdoor stages are added to the usual indoor venues, and the East End becomes packed (more packed than usual). The 2015 festival date will be September 13.

The Pythodd Club

In the 1950s and 60s, a ramshackle three-story house on Clarissa Street, in the Corn Hill neighborhood, was a popular waypoint on the jazz circuitthe clubs across the country where the biggest stars of jazz could drop in and always find an appreciative audience. Anyone who was anyone in jazz during that era played the Pythodd stage. The name was a portmanteau of the two fraternal organizations that previously resided in the building: the Odd Fellows and the Knights of Pythias. The Pythodd closed in 1972, but its legacy is remembered every year during the Clarissa Street Reunion festival in August.

Wine bars

A recent innovation in the Rochester market, a handful of excellent wine bars have popped up in the last few years.

Cider

With so many apples grown in Western New York, it was only a matter of time before craft hard cider started being produced locally. Now there's a cider-only bar in the city:

Spirits

Despite the fact that there's a popular local bar+grill chain called The Distillery, Rochester hasn't had a real distillery within its boundaries since before Prohibition. That changed starting January 25, 2014.

Coffeeshops & cafes

See? Chevrolet.

Rochester has its share of Starbucks locations, although that mega-chain's presence is relatively recent and not yet overwhelmingly ubiquitous. Much more popular around Rochester is the coffee at Canadian donut shop Tim Hortons.

But venture beyond the big chains and you'll find a number of cozy little coffee shops perfect for lounging around and meeting new people... or mooching the free Wi-Fi.

Sleep

Soaring over Rochester. That's Lake Ontario in the back there.

There are only nine hotels within the Rochester city limits, including three downtown high-rises. (Okay, ten, if you count the Hotel Cadillac. But please don't.) The city hotels aren't cheap, but most travelers will be staying in one of the numerous suburban hotels. No matter where you stay, though, you probably won't be far from an expressway, which means you can get pretty much anywhere you want to go in 20 minutes or less.

Manymaybe even mosthotels in the area offer free shuttle service to and from the airport. Several of them even have "Airport" in their names, but pay attention to the map; they may be miles away in reality.

Within the city limits

If you look around, there are also a number of bed-and-breakfasts in the city, but they don't publicize themselves much.

In the immediate suburbs

The innermost suburbs are loaded with chain hotels of every size and shape; here are a few of particular note.

Connect

The area code for Rochester and the surrounding area is 585. You don't need to dial the area code locally.

Despite Rochester's strong technology base and highly educated citizenry, you won't find much in the way of public Internet access. Perhaps that's because so many residents have access right in their homes. For public access, your best bets are coffee houses (for Wi-Fi connections) and libraries (for public terminals and Wi-Fi). There are very few, if any, dedicated Internet cafes.

The area's main post office is actually south of the city, in Henrietta:

Stay safe

Like most other cities, Rochester is generally safe but there are areas that are more prone to crime than others. Potentially dangerous areas exist in the northeast and southwest city neighborhoods. However, there is nothing in these neighborhoods of any particular interest to non-residents so it is unlikely that the average visitor would encounter these areas. Use common sense and situational awareness and crime will not be a problem.

The suburban areas of Rochester generally enjoy a low crime rate.

The US Border Patrol has a significant presence in Rochester (arguably more so than Buffalo, which is physically located on the US-Canadian border) and regularly patrol public transit and long distance buses and trains. Persons approached by an officer will be asked their country of citizenship and if not a US Citizen, for their passport, I-94 card or visa (if applicable.) Having these documents handy will prevent delays, see United States of America#Border Patrol.

The presence of the University of Rochester Medical Center means the Rochester area enjoys access to very high-quality health care. If you need medical assistance, there are several local hospitals:

The region also has several urgent care facilities, open during business hours, that can handle minor medical needs to relieve pressure on the hospital emergency rooms.

Call 911 in case of emergency. If you're on Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile, you can also text 911 (other carriers will be added by the end of 2014); be sure to provide a very specific location, as the dispatcher won't automatically receive location information.

Cope

Print media

The local daily newspaper is the Democrat and Chronicle. $1 daily, $3 Sundays. On Thursdays, they publish a special section called ROCWeekend with extensive entertainment listings for the next several days. The D&C also publishes Rochester Magazine, a monthly glossy with feature articles on local events, culture, food, and home.

The local alternative weekly is City Newspaper, while Post is a bimonthly magazine with stories that seek out people around Rochester who are dreaming big and making things happen, usually under the radar.

(585) is a bimonthly glossy magazine covering the entire Rochester region, a broader geographic focus than Rochester Magazine.

Broadcast media

When a blizzard arrives, or other significant news hits, Rochesterians turn en masse to radio station WHAM, 1180 AM. George Eastman himself came up with the catchy call letters for Rochester's 50,000-watt clear-channel station. It remains the local gold standard for school closings and other emergency information. In calmer times, WHAM runs a lineup of syndicated and local conservative talk programs, including Rush Limbaugh from 1PM-4PM.

For the morning drive-time, locals who want some strong radio with their coffee turn to WAIO (95.1 FM), and listen to long-time radio personality Brother Wease, the outspoken, liberal host of one of the longest (and longest-running) morning shows in America. Some of Wease's former colleagues from his many years at WCMF (96.5 FM) are still on their morning show, known as the Break Room. Those looking for less intense morning fare go with the WHAM Morning News, or Tony Infantino on WRMM, Warm 101.3 FM.

WGMC, Jazz 90.1 FM, is one of the last remaining full-time jazz stations in the country, although on the weekends they mix in some ethnic flavor.

For specific genres of radio:

Libraries

Libraries are your best bet for public Internet access, unless you can find a Wi-Fi hot spot elsewhere. Fortunately, the city and its suburbs have an excellent network of libraries, the Monroe County Library System. There are a total of eleven library branches in the city, and more than twenty in the suburbs.

Note that if you want to check out any materials, there's a $30 annual membership fee for non-residents of the county.

Places of worship

Rochester has many places of worship of different religions and denominations. The Interfaith Chapel at the University of Rochester sits on the banks of the Genesee River; it houses servicesof different religions and denominations. There are many others to be sure in Rochester as well as surrounding towns and suburbs

Here are a few of the many worship places within the Christian Community; If you're looking for a lively Protestant church in the heart of downtown, Bethel Community Fellowship on 321 East Avenue and Broad Street which seats a good number of worshipers. New Song Church, which meets in an auditorium at Monroe Community College because it lacks a building of its own, offers a very modern and youth-oriented service. Both of these churches are popular with college students. A bit down the street from Bethel, you'll find a more traditional service at Asbury First United Methodist Church (1050 East Ave.), recognized for wonderful formal music. Speaking of music, Pearce Memorial Church features many musicians from the Roberts Wesleyan College community. Take 490 way out west to the North Chili exit, and follow the signs right for Roberts Wesleyan. Tucked almost in the heart of downtown, Lutheran Church of the Incarnate Word is a cozy place 597 East Avenue. Walk across the street afterward for lunch at the Spot. Also downdown, next door to the Geva Theatre is St. Mary's catholic church. This church has beautiful architecture to behold. Across the street is the Universalist church which also is interesting to visit. A popular Catholic Church, St. Pius X, is located on 3000 Chili Avenue, which is the western continuation of Main street (take the expressway to avoid lights; it's between the airport exit and Chili Center).St. Stanislaus on Hudson Avenue preserves Polish culture and European architecture. A few miles west of downtown, visible from 490, is an exhuberant Spanish congregation: Iglesia La Luz Del Mundo, 200 Child Street Also within the Christian community are two messianic congregations: Petah Tikvah on Doncaster and Shema Yisrael. If you follow 590 North up to the Webster exit, turn right at the first street. Shema Yisrael is on 1326 North Winton Rd. Other houses of Christian worship include, Baptist, Christian Science to name just two.

Within the Jewish community there are more than a dozen welcoming synagogues and communal services available within a few miles of downtown: If your hotel is in Henrietta, check out Temple Beth Am, a conservative congregation on 3249 E. Henrietta Rd which has interesting modern architecture. The largest conservative synagogue is Temple Beth El on South Winton Road. The largest Reform synagogue is Temple B'rith Kodesh on 2131 Elmwood Avenue in the Town of Brighton which is adjacent to Rochester and minutes from downtown. It too has very interesting design. Temple Sinai is a reform congregation on Penfield Rd. also a hop and a skip on East Avenue from downtown. It has a beautiful sanctuary with a wall of glass looking out to the natural beauty outside. Beth Sholom, Rochester's largest modern orthodox and zionist synagogue, is located at 1161 Monroe Avenue, near downtown. Light of Israel, Rochester's only sephardic minyan, is presently located within Beth Sholom at 1161 Monroe Avenue and welcomes all. It preserves the distinctive beauty of ancient mizrachi (mideast) worship. Chabad 1037 S. Winton Rd is located in the heart of Brighton at 12 Corners and has branches at the University of Rochester and in Pittsford. Other Synagogues are: Congregation Etz Chaim (reform) in Fairport, about 15 minutes from downtown, Beth Hamedresh-Beth Israel (Conservative),on East Avenue, Temple Beth David (Conservative); Beth Hakneses Hachodosh (Orthodox), Temple Emanuel (Reform) and there are others. The Jewish community is also served by Kosher food restaurants :Abba's Pizza, locate in Chabad, Geula's Cafe at the Jewish commnity Center (1200 Edgewood Avenue), the Jewish Home (2021 Winton Rd S), Malek's Kosher Bakery(1795 Monroe Avenue), Lipman's Kosher Market (1482 Monroe Avenue) and several grocery stores such as Wegmans on Monroe Avenue and Tops on Clinton Avenue. Beth Hatvilla, the mivkvah, is located off Monroe on St. Regis. For more information on Jewish Rochester, contact the Jewish Community Center, Jewish Federation or Jewish Bureau of Education.

There are also Hindu, Islamic, Bahai communities in Rochester.

Go next

First and foremost, you'll want to check out the many attractions in Rochester's immediate suburbs, especially the canal communities of Fairport and Pittsford on the east side and Brockport and Spencerport to the west. There's also much to be seen in suburbs such as East Rochester and Victor.

Rochester is also the perfect jumping-off point for forays into the incredible Finger Lakes region of New York. Several destinations in that region stand out:

Only about 90 minutes away from Rochester is one of the world's greatest natural attractions, the spectacular Niagara Falls; if you've never been, you owe it to yourself to take this easy day trip. You could also swing by Buffalo, the state's second-largest city and home to historic architecture, major league sports, and plenty of Buffalo wings. To the east, Syracuse is also 90 minutes away.

For onward travel, New York City and the scenic Adirondack mountains are both a six hour car trip to the east. Cosmopolitan Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is even closer by and can be reached by a three hour drive around Lake Ontario.

Routes through Rochester

Buffalo Depew  W  E  Syracuse Albany (Rensselaer)
Cleveland Buffalo (Depew)  W  E  Syracuse Albany (Rensselaer)
Buffalo via Le Roy  W  E  Victor Albany via
END  N  S  Henrietta Corning via
Lewiston Waterport  W  E  END
Niagara Falls Spencerport  W  E  Palmyra Vernon
Buffalo Batavia  W  E  END
END  N  S  Victor Ithaca
Niagara Falls Childs  W  E  Williamson Oswego
Tonawanda/North Tonawanda Spencerport  W  E  Henrietta Rome


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