Travel the world and you will find cities of every possible flavor. What will you find in Rochester, N.Y.?
As U.S. communities go, the Flower City is midsize—210,000 people live in the city and 1.1 million in the Greater Rochester metro area. Over the years we’ve developed a reputation as a cosmopolitan arts town with lots of excellent restaurants and festivals. Pro sports are easy on the wallet. We have hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails and some of the most beautiful terrain in the United States.
What makes this city unique is its friendly vibe. Rochester blends the magic of a larger metro area with the neighborliness of a small town.
On the town
For a night out in the city, Rochester bars and restaurants present options for a variety of tastes.
Right downtown, the former factories in the St. Paul Quarter house Water Street Music Hall, bars and restaurants—including Tapas 177 and its after-dinner salsa dancing.
Across town, the East End is infused with music and theater. It’s home to Eastman School of Music, Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, the historic Little Theatre movie house and jazz clubs. Cafes and some of Rochester’s most popular restaurants are located here.
On East Avenue and Alexander Street, sometimes called Upper East End, you will find late-night clubs, British-style pubs and a variety of nice restaurants. In Corn Hill, Rochester’s oldest neighborhood, restaurants and a wine bar light up a mixed-use development on the river.
The Neighborhood of the Arts is home to Village Gate, a former factory complex that houses restaurants and shops, as well as nearby bars, eateries and many art studios.
Monroe Avenue has a number of small international restaurants, sports bars and unique shops. In Park Avenue, a bustling neighborhood of beautifully restored homes, you’ll find al fresco dining, coffeehouses, boutiques and prime people-watching. The South Wedge is another city enclave with small restaurants, lively bars and gourmet specialty shops.
Excellent restaurants are everywhere in Rochester. There’s no shortage of cuisine that spans the globe—northern and southern Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Italian, Chinese, Ethiopian, French, German, Turkish, Puerto Rican, Caribbean, Japanese, steak and seafood, barbecue, vegetarian and fusion-everything. Try something new while you’re here.
To the symphony
Our top music school and philharmonic orchestra are at the center of Rochester’s cultural offerings. Visitors often remark on the level of sophistication evident in our music, which ranges from operas staged at Eastman Theatre and Lyric Opera Theatre to jazz trios in cozy clubs. There is music every night of the week in venues all over town.
The Eastman School and Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra anchor the East End, where the annual Rochester International Jazz Festival fills clubs and streets with 200,000 music lovers over nine days in June. Grace Potter, Erykah Badu, Chick Corea and Chris Botti are set to headline in 2016. Musicians play solo and in ensembles in all kinds of venues, from cafes to museums to acoustically perfect performance halls.
For live theater, Geva Theatre Center has earned a reputation as one of the best regional theaters in the country and leads the state in attendance. Other local theaters include Blackfriars Theatre, Downstairs Cabaret Theatre and CenterStage at the Jewish Community Center. Traveling Broadway shows are staged regularly at the Auditorium Theatre.
Rochester’s own Garth Fagan Dance, an award-winning modern dance company, sells out shows around the globe. The company is based downtown. Rochester City Ballet has a distinguished presence and brings talented choreographers and performers to Rochester. Push Physical Theatre’s cutting-edge blend of dance and theater draws raves, and FuturPointe Dance is winning fans with its contemporary fusion dance.
Dance festivals at Nazareth College and the University of Rochester celebrate their programs and bring performers to the area.
The literary arts thrive in author readings and book festivals for all ages, led by Writers & Books in the Neighborhood of the Arts. The literary center celebrates its 35th anniversary this year.
The visual arts are booming in Rochester. Graduates of the painting, sculpture, photography, metalworking and woodworking programs at area colleges and universities—particularly RIT—work and exhibit here.
The Memorial Art Gallery’s public art park features works by Albert Paley, Wendell Castle and Tom Otterness. Affiliated with the University of Rochester, MAG has one of the most comprehensive collections in the country. The massive collection at ArtisanWorks also is a visual treat. The unusual museum has transformed 60,000 square feet of former warehouse space with 15,000 original works. First Friday open houses, held at city galleries on the first Friday of every month, make it easy to catch art exhibits at dozens of venues. Studios in the Anderson Building and Hungerford Building are open on second Saturdays of the month.
Eastman Kodak Co. rose to prominence in Rochester, so it’s no surprise that photography and film are so popular here. Many talented photographers call this area home. No matter when you visit, check out exhibitions at galleries and at the George Eastman Museum, the estate of Kodak’s founder and an internationally renowned museum of film preservation. We celebrate film with nearly a dozen well-attended festivals, including High Falls Film Festival, Rochester Jewish Film Festival and ImageOut, the lesbian and gay film and video festival.
It’s lovely out
Make sure your visit includes time to enjoy the outdoors. The Rochester region has more than 260 miles of multi-use trails and at least 70 neighborhood trails. Bicycle routes and lanes are marked clearly, and transit buses are equipped with racks.
The Genesee Riverway Trail runs from the Erie Canal through downtown all the way to Lake Ontario along the Genesee River. See three waterfalls, the river gorge and 11 parks along the way. Go for a run along the Erie Canal, or take a self-guided tour of Rochester’s historic downtown. Rochester’s center is in the midst of massive change as residential units, new offices and retail are added. Favorite sights are the Powers Building, the world headquarters of Eastman Kodak Co., Xerox Tower, Tower 280 and the Central Library. Be sure to see the Broad Street Aqueduct beneath Broad Street; it once carried the Erie Canal across the river.
Hit the slopes at Bristol Mountain Ski Resort in the Finger Lakes, or try some cross-country or snowshoe on trails in area parks. Downtown has a beautiful rink in Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park with skates available to rent.
Three Rochester parks were designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted: Seneca Park, Genesee Valley Park and Highland Park. All of Monroe County’s parks offer a quick getaway to recharge. Or take a stroll just outside of downtown on East Avenue and adjacent streets; it is one of the most picturesque parts of town.
If you have time, take a drive to the Finger Lakes and visit some of the 100 wineries that are putting this fast-growing wine region on the world map. Wine Enthusiast has named the Finger Lakes one of the world’s top 10 wine destinations.
When the weather turns warm in May, Rochester launches into one of the busiest festival seasons around. (We rank high for the number of festivals per capita.) Some of the most popular are the Lilac Festival, Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, Corn Hill Arts Festival, Park Ave Summer Art Fest, Clothesline Festival and First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival.
A little history
Susan B. Anthony, women’s rights pioneer and a force to be reckoned with, lived at 17 Madison St. with her sister. Today the house is the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House, filled with photos and mementos of her life. Tours take visitors through all the rooms, including the parlor where Anthony was arrested for voting in 1872.
Frederick Douglass and his family lived in Rochester for many years. He published the North Star here (a plaque on the Tallman Building downtown marks the spot) and traveled the world to speak out against slavery. His grave, along with that of Anthony and many other Rochester notables, is in Mount Hope Cemetery.
Genesee Country Village & Museum is one of the three largest living-history museums in the country, with 70 restored 19th-century buildings and costumed interpreters. The Strong museum ranks among the top 10 children’s museums in the country. Rochester Museum & Science Center has a planetarium and three floors of interactive exhibits on science and technology, nature and the region’s cultural heritage.
Rochester’s prominent role in the history of film takes center stage at George Eastman Museum. It holds the personal film collections of Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee and Kathryn Bigelow.
Rooted in innovation
Eastman, John Jacob Bausch, Henry Lomb, Hiram Sibley and others made a name for Rochester. As industries grew up around the businesses they built, manufacturing ruled the local economy for generations. The sector still employs thousands. But a new energy of innovation and creativity is shifting our city’s course: Companies are emerging in biotechnology, imaging and optics, and energy research, all new strengths born from established capabilities in higher education, health care and manufacturing.
Education has become a prime economic driver. The University of Rochester is the area’s largest employer, and RIT is growing rapidly to meet industry demand, along with a dozen other local colleges. More than 80,000 students attend colleges in the area.
Rochester has long had thousands of small, fast-moving businesses. Many have grown into far-reaching firms: Paychex Inc.; Constellation Brands Inc., the largest wine company in the world; and Wegmans Food Markets Inc., which takes a gourmet approach to groceries and consistently ranks among Fortune’s top places to work. In fact, Rochester companies have ranked No. 1 in the magazine’s small-, medium- and large-firm categories.
The region is a national patents powerhouse with at least 1,000 granted each year to area inventors.
Welcome to Rochester!
For official tourist information and visitor guides, go to these sources.
45 East Ave., Suite 400, Rochester
(800) 677-7282 or 279-8300
Downtown Information Team
Finger Lakes Visitors Connection
25 Gorham St., Canandaigua
(877) FUN-IN-NY or (585) 394-3915
2/26/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email email@example.com.