My friend Howard (of Backroad Planet) and I took a whirlwind tour of upstate New York, discovering Rochester on our way to a Travel Media Showcase conference in Niagara. The lure of Rochester for me was the exciting beer culture, a raved-about food scene and a waterfall that runs through the middle of town. It certainly lived up to the expectations, and I found my 24-hour visit just a teaser. It left me wanting more of this industrial-chic upstate New York city. Here is what we found fun and memorable on our hosted trip to Rochester, New York.
Wegmans: A World-Class Food Market
The iconic and highly successful Wegmans grocery stores started in Rochester, New York. While in the area, drop by the flagship store located at 3195 Monroe Avenue. Here you will find a high-end grocery store and a food emporium with impressive hot and cold, domestic, and international food stalls serving a plethora of enticing meals. The prepared foods and grab-n-go items are equally as remarkable. Take your food with you or visit the second-story dining area with free WiFi that is relaxing and family-friendly.
Wegmans is a family-owned business that started in 1916 that has almost 100 stores across the mid-Atlantic.
An Amazing Waterfall
The beautiful Genessee River flows through Rochester’s city in a series of falls, with the most glamorous and well-known being the 96 ft High Falls. Two miles away are the Lower and Middle Falls, its counterparts. The water is relaxing to look at and beautiful for photographs, but also an excellent source for hydroelectric power.
We viewed the falls from the Pont De Rennes pedestrian bridge, and I recommend seeing it at night when the lighting is sensational! Along with the dazzling falls are rock formations made of shale, sandstone, limestone, and iron ore.
A Cool Open-Air Market
Those interested in locally-produced goods should check out the Brighton Farmers’ Market, an outdoor market that caters to the best of the best in the food industry. The market has a great selection and a good turnout from the locals. A few of my favorite booths at the market were K&S Bischoping (amazing apples), Bolton Farms (micro-greens and lettuces), and Wohlschlegel’s Naples Maple Farm (everything maple—be still my beating heart!)
Foodies, like myself, appreciate that the market’s vendors are all practicing best sustainable agricultural practices. The products they are selling are grown organically and free from added hormones or antibiotics.
Women’s Rights Sites
Learn more about how the women’s rights movement began in this part of the country by visiting the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House. Anthony was arrested for voting in the 1872 election while living in this house and also died here 34 years later. She is buried (along with lifelong friend Frederick Douglass) at the Mount Hope Cemetery. Anthony’s grave is sure to be adorned with flowers, trinkets, and plenty of “I Voted” stickers to pay homage to her paving the way for women of our country to have that right.
The Most Awesome Museum
The Strong Museum of Play is an enormous creation dedicated to, yep, you guessed it, all things related to playing. Opened to the public in 1982 from a massive collection of toys shared by Margaret Woodbury Strong, the Strong Museum is full of toys, games, interactive and hands-on exhibits, video arcades, and anything you can think of that sparks creativity and a desire to feel like a child again. Think “use your imagination” meeting Mister Rogers invites Barbie welcomes Monopoly.
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The retro arcade is where I found the most action in the Strong Museum of Play, with classic favorites such as PacMan, Dig Dug, Galaga, and Donkey Kong. An archival hand-held video game collection was on display. Several young kids were hee-hawing at how old-fashioned the arcade was for us back in the day.
Besides the hundreds of cool things to see and do at the Strong, here are some of the popular exhibits:
- Carousel and Train
- American Comic Books: The Battle of Good Vs. Evil
- Build, Drive, Go
- Reading Adventureland (my favorite!)
- Toy Halls of Fame (a must-see!)
- Pinball Playfields
- Wegmans Super Kids Market (a must-do!)
- Imagination Destination
- Game Time!
- America at Play
- Doc McStuffins: The Exhibit
- Can you Tell me How to Get to Sesame Street?
I was in heaven browsing the huge Barbie collection and how their fashions have changed over the years. Each display case was filled with toys from a specific genre (say games) or a decade. It was a fun walk down memory lane, with each toy sparking a new and vivid memory from childhood. The Strong Museum of Play is a do-not-miss thing to explore in Rochester, New York.
Tantalizing Spirits, Beer, and Wine
Beer plays a vital role in the city of Rochester. Enjoy drinking delicious brews at Rohrbach Brewing Company’s Craft Brewery & Tasting Room, at the Railroad Street Beer Hall location, which has been serving the community since 1991. The beer sampling is a perfect way to try several of the delicious brews on tap. Among my favorites were You’re a Wizard, Harry, Oktoberfest, and Vanilla Porter, truly one of the best porters I’ve ever had. Rohrbach’s Premium Draft Hard Cider was quite tasty, too. They have delicious Rohrbach Root Beer for the non-drinkers.
We enjoyed classic cocktails from the beautiful rooftop bar (Center City Terrace) at the Hyatt Regency Rochester Hotel in the heart of downtown Rochester. This is a great place for dynamic photo-ops and killer adult libations. Try Bitter Honey, right beside Rohrbach’s for a stellar Mezcal-inspired cocktail list including standout margaritas and sangria.
Simply Crêpes is a favorite place to enjoy sweet or savory crêpes, plus a host of other fresh items. The restaurant is located in Pittsford, facing the picturesque Erie Canal Park. It has a charming New England feel to it. The combination of upscale locally-sourced ingredients and delicious flavor combinations make this restaurant a do-not-miss foodie spot. Go with the Pommes Brie Crêpe (smoked ham, brie, bacon jam, caramelized onions, and fresh apple slices) or the Chicken Tarragon (chicken, broccoli, mushrooms, parmesan, tarragon cream sauce).
Indulge in high-end Mexican food at Bitter Honey, a newer restaurant with a simple menu concept and flavorful food combinations. I love a good flight, whether it be beer, wine, rum, or whatever, but Bitter Honey is the only place where I have seen a Chips & Salsa flight (picture me clapping my hands at how cool this is). Try Roja, Verde, árbol, and Amarillo salsas for dipping your warm and crisp tortillas. Don’t miss the classic guacamole either; it is way too tasty to pass up.
While the menu at Bitter Honey has plenty of tacos and Mexican dishes, I vote to order the nachos. They are prepared with fresh pinto beans, cilantro, jalapeño, radishes, crema, a mix of Oaxacan and Cotija cheeses, and avocado Verde. The flavor is spectacular!
A Sophisticated Rochester Sleep
You’ll be needing a place to stay during your Rochester travels, and we found the perfect spot. An outstanding choice for luxury accommodations and location is the Hyatt Regency Rochester. This gorgeous hotel is freshly remodeled and located near downtown Rochester and the photogenic Genesee River. Rooms are plush and fashionable, with plenty of lighting, plug-ins, and space. They have a 55″ flat-screen HDTV, which was great for watching from the comfort of my Hyatt Grand bed.
Also at the Hyatt Regency Rochester are an indoor heated pool and sun-deck (the only hotel in the city with one!), 24-hour gym, and two full-service restaurants (Morton’s and The Street Craft Kitchen and Bar). You can also enjoy cocktails, wine, beer, and tapas at the swanky Center City Terrace and Lounge, located on the hotel’s 4th floor. The firepits and seating areas offer a sophisticated adult hangout with exceptional views that I adored!
Rochester: Your Gateway to the Finger Lakes
Rochester, New York is a beautiful place to visit, with a sense of pride that can’t be put in words. There are many cool things to see and do in Rochester. I hope you get to experience them for yourself.
You can learn more about beautiful Rochester, New York, by visiting the tourism board.
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