A Rochester transplant’s guide
New to the (585)? Welcome! Let us show you around.
After Rochester, like many cities, experienced “white flight” (the socioeconomic phenomenon of people moving out of the city into surrounding rural areas, forming suburbs) during the baby boom in mid-twentieth century America, the greater Rochester area saw a volatile relationship with economic and cultural vitality in the decades following, concurrently resulting in a decline of population and future population projections after the 1960s.
Lately, however, Rochester is seeing a resurgence of commerce, culture, development, visitors, and ultimately, population, aptly dubbed the “Rochester Renaissance.”
Whether you’re a recent hire, college freshman, or doing your residency at Strong, abide by the following lifestyle suggestions and get to know your new home.
Oh, the humanities!
There’s a running joke that Rochester has two seasons: winter and construction. While that’s not entirely untrue, “festival season” could be used interchangeably with “construction season.”
The Rochester Xerox International Jazz Festival and Rochester Lilac Festival (Highland Park) are the two largest and most popular events in the city, attracting tourists from all around the world. With similar international acclaim, Eastman School of Music (Gibbs and Main Streets) is a good place to catch sometimes-free shows from world-class musicians, including our own Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.
For vinyl-heads, there is a handful of physical record stores, including Record Archive (East Avenue), Lakeshore Records (Park Avenue), NeedleDrop Records (Gregory Street), and Bop Shop Records (Monroe Avenue).
The city’s main library is located at 115 South Avenue. Rundel Memorial Library sits between the Court and Broad Street bridges, perching along a roaring Genesee River, serving as central library of Rochester and Monroe County. It was built in 1932 and is a great space to ramble, study, and access over one million books, newspapers, magazines, and DVDs, and learn about local history and genealogy.
Four of the city’s biggest museums come with international acclaim. The Rochester Museum and Science Center (East Avenue), Strong National Museum of Play (Chestnut Street), and Memorial Art Gallery (University Avenue) for fine arts and the George Eastman Museum (East Avenue) for film and photography are all great spots to find archives, touring exhibits, performances, and film screenings.
For the cinephile, the Little (East Avenue) and Dryden Theatre (part of the George Eastman Museum) show imported cinema, indie films, and hard-to-find gems on the silver screen and host screenings and discussions coinciding with local events and festivals.
Looking for theater? Try Geva Theatre Center (Woodbury Boulevard) or Downstairs Cabaret Theatre (Windsor Street), both nestled on the shoulders of the East End neighborhood; both are great places for local productions, a concert, or a TEDx event.
For the foodies
The 585 is spoiled with good pizza—Pontillo’s, Salvatore’s, and Mark’s are some favorite local chains. The Pizza Stop on State Street has garnered cult status since opening in 1986 and was recently renovated.
Outside of the Owl House, Red Fern, or Magnolia’s (where there’s a menu item named after President Obama—he stopped for lunch in 2014), Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Dog Town, DiBella’s, Bagel Land, or even Wegmans are great places to try regional eats or just dig favorite local establishments. Of course, you must eat a garbage plate; just go anywhere with “hots” in the name. Nick Tahou Hots on Main Street is the birthplace.
We’re also well caffeinated. Java’s (Gibbs Street), Glen Edith Coffee Roasters (Somerton Street), Boulder Coffee (Alexander Street), Joe Bean (University Avenue), and Fuego (Liberty Pole Way) have garnered local success as “second- and third-wave cafés,” offering local beans, local baristas, and local salon culture at multiple locations.
Now that you’ve spent the day on the town, get out to the nighttime watering holes. Lux Bar on South Avenue is a favorite dive, Cure offers sophisticated diversity in its Public Market location, and both are great spots to meet up with pals. The Daily Refresher is one of many stylish spots on Alexander Street in the East End, and Good Luck (Anderson Avenue) is a nice hideaway in the Neighborhood of the Arts. Or grab a brew and catch a view of the stunning waterfall on the river that bisects our fair city from the Genesee Brewhouse at High Falls. No matter where you find yourself, you’re likely to find at least one of many local beers on tap, and our microbrew scene is exploding. Three Heads just opened a new, giant location on Atlantic Avenue, and there are scads more: Lost Borough just up the road, Swiftwater on Mount Hope Avenue in the South Wedge, and the Roc Brewing Company on South Union Street are just a few.
Recreation: the suburbs,
the sports, and the outdoors
Spring in Rochester is something not unlike the Garden of Eden.
Rochester’s suburbs are your friends. Despite what your high school friends or yuppie cohorts have mesmerized you into believing, the suburbs are a great place to get your dose of upstate New York’s regional features (not to mention most of our colleges, Marketplace Mall in Henrietta, and Eastview Mall, in Victor).
Additionally, just about every township has its own cinema—Pittsford Cinema showcases indie films alongside blockbusters. Public parks are plentiful, as are townships’ walkable village areas, bars and pubs, and, of course, your choice of many, many Wegmans locations.
Powder Mills Park, home to the must-see Mushroom House, Mendon Ponds Park, Letchworth Park, the Erie Canal, Durand Eastman Park, and Bristol Mountain Resorts for winter sports are a just few in a large list of public recreation spaces, all within an hour’s drive from Rochester.
Seabreeze Amusement Park (Irondequoit), as well as Darien Lake (formerly a Six Flags Amusement Park in the town of Darien) are great places to spend a summer day. Incidentally, one of the first mini-golf courses in the country is right by Seabreeze—Parkside Whispering Pines Miniature Golf Course.
The Red Wings play at Frontier Field on State Street. Seeing a game is a great way to spend under twenty bucks on a high-quality minor league baseball game, a couple of red hots, and a good view of the Kodak Building and railway.
The Rochester Americans (hockey) play at Blue Cross Arena, as do the Rochester RazorSharks (basketball). Our lacrosse team, the Rochester Rattlers, and soccer team, Rochester Rhinos, play at Sahlen’s Stadium on Oak Street.
Public parks within city limits include Charlotte Beach Park, Highland Park, Genesee Valley Park, and Cobbs Hill Park.
Freelance writer and musician Sunny Zaman also works in creative production in New York CIty. hzaman.com