Rochester has a special place in my heart because it’s where I spent four years going to college, making some of the best friends I have, and learning to do what has now become my career.
For all its goodness, Rochester often gets a bad rap; it’s gray, it’s boring, it’s “in the country,” it’s too cold, etc. While some of these things are true to some degree, I can tell you that there’s one I’ve never agreed with – it is most certainly not a boring place.
The good ‘ol Roc is a place of artists, colleges, young professionals, and a relatively happening food scene, if you know where to look. Despite graduating 3 years ago, I still find myself running back there several times a year because I love it and its people. So if you ever find yourself there, here’s what you should check out to get the best this city has to offer:
- The Public Market – Voted one of the best public markets in the US, you can find almost anything here, from fresh produce to hot food to coffee to baked goods to scarves.
- The Wine Trail - If you have some time and don’t mind getting about 25-40 minutes outside of the city, Canandaigua, Geneva, and Victor have many gorgeous vineyards and some delicious wines.
- High Falls – An enormous waterfall, which can be viewed from a promenade. Eat lunch at the Genesee Brewery and take a stroll here afterwards!
- Park Ave/East Ave – Two very nice streets in the downtown section of Rochester. Park Avenue is filled with shops and restaurants. On East Ave you’ll find museums, a couple of cafes, and many old mansions and gorgeous residences.
- Chimney Bluffs – Another great spot to visit if you have the time is the Chimney Bluffs, located about 45 minutes outside of Rochester, overlooking Lake Ontario.
- Dogtown ($)- every type of hot dog known to man, including vegan and vegetarian options.
- Henrietta Hots (Garbage plates) ($) – a delicious local artery clogger that is worth at least one taste. Garbage plates are local to Rochester, and while each town has several spots that serve it, with Nick Tahou’s being the original, this one is my preference. A plate consists of your choice of two hamburger patties or hot dogs (red hots or white hots), mac salad, meat sauce, onions, and mustard, all smothered together to look like garbage and taste like heaven.
- Wegmans ($-$$) – Anyone that has ever lived in a town with a Wegmans knows the nature of its glory. Wegmans was founded in Rochester and has the best of everything, including an amazing buffet.
- Aladdins ($) – Delicious Mediterranean food in a pleasant setting. There are several locations but the best one is in Pittsford and overlooks the Erie Canal.
- Simply Crepes ($$) – Self explanatory, but the variety and taste is phenomenal.
- Good Luck ($$-$$$) – A huge, trendy restaurant in the Village Gate section of downtown, this place has amazing cocktails and delicious plates for sharing. Reservations highly recommended!
- Flight ($$) – an adorable wine bar in the Corn Hill section of Rochester. The area has several restaurants too, and you can take a walk by the water with a view of the city after!
- Acme ($) – This is more of a local dive bar, but has the cheapest drinks you have ever heard of, ever. Their claim to fame is also their enormous, delicious slices of pizza, which are only 2 bucks.
- The Bug Jar ($-$$) – Coined “the hipster bar” by my friend and I, this place features indie bands, dancing, and relatively cheap drinks, as well as a pool table and some seating. On Thursdays this place is packed with college kids, which is when we went when I lived there. Fridays are a good night to get away from the college scene but still have a good time.
- Murphy’s Law ($$) – This place can get pretty packed on weekends, but it’s large and is located on the “party” strip of Rochester, called East and Alexander. There are a bunch of other places right around there if you decide this one isn’t for you!
- Park Avenue – A beautiful strip of downtown Rochester, lined with small shops, restaurants, and cafes.
- The Lilac Festival – If you come in the Spring, you might encounter this fest, which is a gorgeous event at Highland Park, featuring food vendors, local artists, and of course, lilacs!
- Schoen Place – This area of restaurants and shops is located in Pittsford, a suburb of Rochester. It’ll take you along the Erie Canal, out to a cute main street, and features the Pittsford Dairy, where if you don’t get ice cream, you will regret it.
- Artisan Works – Better than just any museum, Artisan Works is a cozily lit, large space with all forms of art EVERYWHERE. The ceiling, the walls, the floors. You will not get bored. Call ahead to make sure they aren’t closed for an event but definitely try to go!
- Come in the fall, spring, or summer. Winter sees a ton of snow and does generally look gray all the time, so it isn’t the best time to leave with a positive impression.
- Rent a car. The public transportation is unfortunately horrible and the taxis are ridiculously expensive.
- There is a large concentration of hotels in Henrietta, so look there for deals. If you want a view, downtown Rochester has some fancier hotels and Pittsford has a couple of B&B’s and inns.