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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. (less...) (more...)
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Points of Interest in Rochester
Rochester isn't the most popular place for sightseeing, although 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.
Rochester does have a good number of cultural attractions, though, especially for a city of 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. History buffs will want to stop by the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House, a mecca for students of the women's rights movement. And fans of photography will be awe-struck by the collections at the George Eastman House.
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.
- Genesee Valley Park, Moore Rd (take Elmwood Ave or E River Rd west from Mt Hope Ave). 7AM-11PM. Located at the confluence of the Genesee River and the Erie Canal, the park is a great place to step off onto the Genesee Riverway Trail, the Genesee Valley Greenway, and the Erie Canalway Trail (see below).
- Highland Park, Highland Ave at South Ave, ☎ +1 585 753-PARK. 7AM-11PM. Most famous for its hundreds of lilacs, Highland Park is the site of the annual Lilac Festival. Even when the lilacs aren't blooming, though, there are countless other examples of Rochester's horticultural tradition. There is a Sunken Garden behind the Warner Castle, and the Highland Park Bowl, a natural amphitheater, hosts concerts and films during the summer. The park also hosts the county's Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the AIDS Remembrance Garden.
- Lamberton Conservatory, 171 Reservoir Ave, ☎ +1 585 753-7270. 10AM-4PM. The conservatory holds a number of more exotic plants that wouldn't survive outside in Rochester, including desert and tropical species. Open year-round and a wonderful refuge from the stark winter landscapes. Adults $3, youths/seniors $2, under 6 free.
- Mount Hope Cemetery, 1133 Mt Hope Ave. Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and other historical figures are buried in this beautiful Victorian cemetery. Also a great place for running. Guided tours are available periodically throughout the year; the Halloween tour is particularly popular.
Museums and galleries
- Artisan Works, 565 Blossom Rd. F-Sa 11AM-6PM, Su noon-5PM. A non-profit organization housed in a huge warehouse, Artisan Works comprises a labyrinth of hallways and levels where every square inch is covered with art in all media (but mostly painting and sculpture). Everything is for sale. The gallery provides studio space to dozens of artists, some of whom may be working when you visit, and all of whom are happy to chat about what they're making. Also within is the Triangle Theater, a 30-seat movie theater which features films by student and local filmmakers. Adults $12, students/seniors $8.
- Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse, 70 Lighthouse St (Lake Ave to Latta Rd, go SE 400 ft, turn left before river), ☎ +1 585 621-6179. May 1 - Nov 28, F-M 1PM-5PM. If, when you get to the lighthouse, you wonder where the shore is, it's half a mile northeast. That's how much land has been added to the northern shore of New York since the lighthouse was built in 1822. Museum on the first floor has a lot of displays on Rochester's harbor history. Adults $3; under 18 free.
- Frederick Douglass Resource Center, 36 King St (in the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Orator Frederick Douglass lived in Rochester during his most productive years as a speaker and abolitionist, publishing his famous newspaper North Star here, but efforts to create a memorial or museum have only recently come to fruition. This resource center is still working to fill its space, but for now offers a glimpse at Douglass' time in Rochester.
- Gallery r, 100 College Ave, e-mail: email@example.com. W-Su 1PM-5PM. A small gallery (just moved to its new location) featuring the work of RIT students. Free.
- George Eastman House (International Museum of Photography and Film), 900 East Ave, ☎ +1 585 271-3361, fax: +1 585 271-3970. Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM, Th 10AM-8PM, Su 1PM-5PM. This mansion was built by the founder of Eastman Kodak and has been restored to appear much as it did when he was alive. It could be considered three museums in one: first, the building itself and its living areas, which illustrate the life of Rochester's elite in the early twentieth century; second, exhibits highlighting the history of photography and film; and third, the museum's enormous photograph and film archives, among the largest in the world. Films are often presented in the museum's Dryden Theatre (see below). Guided tours of the house and the exhibits are available. Adults $12, seniors $10, students $5, under 13 free.
- Image City Photography Gallery, 722 University Ave (in the Neighborhood of the Arts), ☎ +1 585 271-2540. W-Sa 11AM-7PM; Su 12 noon - 4PM. A gallery devoted to photography with a new show every four weeks.
- Memorial Art Gallery, 500 University Ave, ☎ +1 585 276-8900. W-Su 11AM-5PM; Th 11AM-9PM. The premier art museum in the area, with over 12,000 items, from artists both obscure and renowned. A real Baroque Italian organ resides inside. The Centennial Sculpture Park on the grounds is open 24/7. Adults $10, students/seniors/military $6, children $4, under 6 free. Th 5PM-9PM, $6.
- Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum  & New York Museum of Transportation , 6393 East River Road, +1 585-533-1113, Sundays 11AM-5PM. Railroad- and transportation-themed exhibits, track car and trolley rides between museums, locomotive and caboose rides on selected dates (including some Saturdays).
- Rochester Medical Museum and Archives, 333 Humboldt St, ☎ +1 585 922-1847, fax: +1 585 922-0018, e-mail: VACArchives@rochestergeneral.org. M-F 9AM-4PM. Several different collections, for both exhibition and research, are combined here to document the public health of Rochester and Monroe County.
- Rochester Museum and Science Center, 657 East Ave (+1 585 271-4320). M-Sa 9AM-5PM, Su 11AM-5PM. A science museum filled with hands-on exhibits and activities. Fantastic for kids, but a lot of it is fun for parents, too. Kids will love the Adventure Zone, full of active and creative play opportunities. Don't miss the enormous mastodon skeleton in Expedition Earth, or the musical Tesla coils in Electricity Theater. Other permanent exhibits focus on the people of the Haudenosaunee, nineteenth-century Rochester, the Underground Railroad, and more. The Strasenburgh Planetarium is next door. Adults $12, seniors/students $11, children/teens $10, under 3 free. Admission plus a planetarium show: adults $17, students $13.
- Seneca Park Zoo, 2222 St Paul St (Rt 104 to Clinton Ave; follow signs for zoo), ☎ +1 585 336-7200. Apr-Oct daily 10AM-5PM; Nov-Mar daily 10AM-4PM. Rochester's zoo is nestled inside the Olmsted-designed Seneca Park. While small—the entire zoo can easily be enjoyed in an afternoon—a lot of value is packed into the small area. Genny C and Lilac are the only African elephants in the state; the zoo's three orangutans are also unique in New York. The Rocky Coasts exhibit, with polar bears, sea lions, and penguins, is a definite highlight. Apr-Oct: Adults $9, seniors $8, youths $6, under 3 free; $2 discount Nov-Mar.
- Stone-Tolan House Museum, 2370 East Ave. Apr-Dec: F-Sa noon-3PM; closed Jan-Mar. The oldest remaining building in Monroe County, parts of which were built as early as 1792. The house later served as a tavern for travelers along East Avenue; it's now been restored and serves as an excellent example of the era. Adults $5, children $5.
- Strasenburgh Planetarium, 657 East Ave, ☎ +1 585 271-4320. The planetarium adjacent to the Rochester Museum and Science Center offers a variety of large-format films and weekly planetarium shows using their state-of-the-art star projector. Saturdays during the summer feature laser-light shows set to music. Show times and prices vary; tickets that include admission to the RMSC are available.
- The Strong - National Museum of Play, 1 Manhattan Sq, ☎ +1 585 263-2700. M-Th 10AM-5PM, F-Sa 10AM-8PM, Su noon-5PM. This downtown children's museum, the only one in the world with a specific focus on play, is the place to visit if you have kids from 1-12. This museum focuses on learning through play and features tons of interactive exhibits, including some focused on well-known themes like Sesame Street. One nice feature is that most exhibits have information for adults to read (such as on how fairy tales have changed with the times) while the kids do things like climb on a pirate ship. Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden is a new addition, but it costs $3 extra to get in. The museum also houses the National Toy Hall of Fame; the toy archives are less interactive but might bring back a lot of memories for older visitors. If you have kids, you can easily spend a whole day here, or visit a couple of times to enjoy everything. Adults $13, seniors $12, children $11, under 2 free. Butterfly Garden $3.
- Susan B. Anthony Museum & House, 17 Madison St, ☎ +1 585 235-6124. Sep-May W-Su 11AM-4PM; Jun-Aug Tu-Su 11AM-5PM. This is the house where the women's rights activist lived for many years, and where she was arrested after voting illegally in 1872. The museum highlights Anthony's influences, the many reforms she worked for (suffrage, abolition, temperance, education, and a purse of her own among them), her friendship with Frederick Douglass, and her trial for voting. Adults $6, seniors $5, students/children $3.
- Wall\Therapy (Public Market, South Wedge, El Camino). Public art came to Rochester in a (literally) huge way in 2012, in which Wall\Therapy invited urban artists from all across the globe to come and use the city's blank walls as canvases. It started in the Public Market neighborhood, then in 2013 moved to El Camino and the South Wedge. No admission needed; just stroll around and gawk. It's rapidly becoming a major event in the street-artist community, so look for it to continue in the years ahead.
- East Avenue. One should not miss a drive down historic East Ave; with the mansions of Rochester's past barons still mostly intact, you can really see a history lesson of the Rochester area. Another great place to see off of East Ave is the Sandringham/Ambassador Drive neighborhood; some of the greatest residential architecture in Rochester can be viewed here.
- Corn Hill. Most famous for its annual Corn Hill Arts Festival, this area can be nice to walk around any time of the year. As Rochester's oldest residential neighborhood, there are lots of beautiful historic homes. Corn Hill Landing, on the river, has shops and restaurants.
- Grove Place. Small residential neighborhood in downtown Rochester. Full of beautiful 19th century townhouses. Several good restaurants are in the neighborhood and it is in easy walking distance to Eastman Theater and the Eastman School of Music as well as the Memorial Art Gallery.
- High Falls. The majestic High Falls of the Genesee are what attracted settlers to the area in the first place. A 96-foot (29 m) waterfall in the center of downtown is certainly a unique sight; viewing is best from the Pont de Rennes pedestrian bridge. But also take a walk around the old warehouses on the west bank between the bridge and the falls; this is the area known as "High Falls" and home to a very nice museum/visitor's center and some very old milling equipment.
- Neighborhood of the Arts. An eclectic neighborhood along University Avenue, near the Village Gate and the Rochester Museum and Science Center. Lots of public artwork (thanks to ArtWalk), some small shops and eateries, and beautiful Victorian homes. Very walkable.
- Park Avenue. There are a lot of great trendy shops in this district, and it's serviced by the RTS service. However, it's definitely not an entire day activity, and things close relatively early.
- South Wedge. A triangular neighborhood bordered by the Genesee and Interstate 490. The South Wedge is what some may call an "up and coming" neighborhood. Many night life options and a growing number of shops and businesses. Located close to Alexander street as well as the University of Rochester and Mt. Hope Cemetery.
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 variety 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 life-long 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 House, 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. Since the turn of the century, Rochester has called itself "The World's Image Centre", based on the local prominence of imaging giants Kodak and Xerox and optics company Bausch & Lomb.
Rochester's recent industrial decline has been painful, but it has been countered by a rise in world-class historical and cultural attractions.
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 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.
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 year—and so should you.
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 brewery—the 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 2013 festival date was June 14.
- Bug Jar, 219 Monroe Ave, ☎ +1 585 454-2966. The walls display various works of art created by local artists, and the stage area/dance floor has an entire roomful of furniture arranged on the ceiling. Drink specials and live entertainment are featured here nightly, presenting popular local and national musical artists.
- The Daily Refresher, 293 Alexander St, ☎ +1 585 360-4627. Tu-Th 4PM-midnight, F Sa 4PM-2AM. The founders of this newspaper-themed tavern (with a speakeasy feel) call their establishment a "gastro-lounge", with a focus on custom cocktails and artisan foods.
- The Distillery, 1142 Mount Hope Ave, ☎ +1 585 271-4105, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 11AM-?, Su noon-?. This popular sports bar and grill is expanding and now has four locations around Rochester. The food—including steaks—is quite good for a place known mostly as a sports bar. Also worthy of note are the specials: Before 10PM, there is a different draft beer on sale every day of the week. After 10PM, the beer sale ends, but all appetizers are half off. Naturally, the best time to arrive is 9:45PM. $3 draft/bottle beers, $6 well drinks; entrees $8-21.
- 3010 Winton Rd S, Henrietta, ☎ +1 585 339-3010, e-mail: email@example.com.
- 300 Paddy Creek Cir, Greece, ☎ +1 585 621-1620, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The fourth location is in Victor.
- Jeremiah's Tavern, 1104 Monroe Ave, ☎ +1 585 461-1313, fax: +1 585 461-1766. daily 11:30AM-2AM. The epitome of the neighborhood bar, Jeremiah's is best known for its award-winning wings.
- 2200 Buffalo Rd, Gates. New location in Gates, opened June 2012.
- Lola, 630 Monroe Ave. Lola Bistro & Bar is a popular destination for happy hour and the pre-bar rush. Lola offers a full bar, a food-friendly wine selection, and an eclectic selection of appetizers, entrées, salads, soups, and sandwiches.
- Lux, 666 South Ave, ☎ +1 585 232-9030. Lux is something of an alternative bar in Rochester and trades on being in the South Wedge to add cred to the atmosphere. Lots of tattoos and piercings and a good PBR special. The back yard is great. They have hammocks in the summer time and a huge wood burning stove for the winter. This place is something you would expect to find in Brooklyn not Rochester.
- Marge's Lakeside Inn, 4909 Culver Rd, Irondequoit (across from Hot Dog Row). W-F 5PM-2AM, Sa-Su 7PM-2AM. Once a speakeasy during Prohibition, this joint was one of the first in the area to get a liquor license after it was repealed. Today, it's a wild and raucous neighborhood bar; there's no food, but folks come for the drinks and the atmosphere. The deck extends out onto the beach for a great view of Lake Ontario. Parking is non-existent; you'll have to jockey for a spot on the south side of Culver. 21+ only.
- Mex, 295 Alexander St. A Mexican restaurant and bar, known for its frozen drinks and Cinco de Mayo parties.
- Montage Grill.
- Monty's Korner, 363 East Ave. M-W F 4PM-2AM, Th 4:30PM-2AM, Sa 7PM-2AM, Su 8PM-2AM. Rochester's "soccer friendly" sports bar. Large selection of single malt scotches and port wine, beer with an emphasis on Belgian drafts.
- The Old Toad, 277 Alexander St, ☎ +1 585 232-2626, e-mail: email@example.com. M-F 11:30AM-2AM, Sa noon-2AM, Su 5PM-2AM. Great English beer, poor English food, friendly English staff. A unique atmosphere with reasonable prices, the Toad is an excellent place to get sloshed. $4 draft/bottle beers, $6 well drinks.
- Pearl (Upper East End, East Ave). A retro contemporary lounge with nightly house music DJ's spinning.
- Rohrbach Brewing Company, 3859 Buffalo Rd, Ogden, ☎ +1 585 594-9800. Although Rohrbach's is a bit out of the way, their beer is worth the trip. Certainly the highlight is the Scotch Ale, and if you don't want to travel all the way to the actual brewpub, any number of establishments in the city will have it on tap, including Frontier Field. However, if there, do try as many of the beers as possible, as it is some of the best craft-brewing in upstate NY. You can get a sampler of 3 oz. glasses before you decide. The food is also quite good and leans toward German fare such as sauerbraten and bratwurst.
- Scotland Yard Pub, 187 St Paul St. A new English-style pub has replaced the Table 7 lounge.
- Tapas 177, 177 St Paul St. Where the martinis are as big as the day is long.... so kick off your heels, and loosen your tie.
- Tilt Nightclub and Ultralounge, 444 Central Ave. This place is the closest Rochester has to a NYC style club. Posh and dramatic the club spins dance/house music on one side with chill/down tempo beats on the other. The club is gay friendly, with Friday night being straight night.
- Vibe Lounge, 302 N Goodman St (at Village Gate Square), ☎ +1 585 442-8423, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Su-W 5PM-midnight, Th-Sa 5PM-2AM. Just opened in May 2012, Vibe is bringing jazz, blues, and comedy shows to the Village Gate.
- Sheridan's Pub, 1551 Mount Hope Ave, ☎ +1 585 271-7777. M-Sa 11AM-2AM; Su noon-2AM. This small pub tucked away on Mount Hope Avenue away from the hustle and bustle of the East End and Monroe Ave is truly a hidden treasure. It has some of the nicest staff you will find in the city and an overall friendly atmosphere. They also know how to pour the finest Guinness in the city. Although located near the U of R, Sheridan's is hardly a college bar attracting a diverse crowd. The food is also excellent, especially the fish fry that is served on Friday night.
- Wall Street Bar and Grill, 330 East Avenue, ☎ +1 585 319-5696. M-Sa 11AM-2AM, Su noon-2AM. You can get meals here—with waitstaff, no less—but the drinks are the attraction at this spot that just opened in August 2012. In keeping with the name, drink prices fluctuate based on popularity... just like stock prices. Keep an eye on the price ticker; buy low and sell high!
A recent innovation in the Rochester market, a handful of excellent wine bars have popped up in the last few years.
- Chocolate and Vines, 757 University Ave, ☎ +1 585 340-6362. M-F 4PM-11PM, Sa-Su 2PM-11PM. The name is apropos, as this bar does indeed specialize in chocolates and wines—the former moreso than the latter, some would argue. Still, the wine selection is expertly paired with the desserts, making this a very popular place for ending an evening on the town. Housed in an historic century-old house, the bar has a summer patio that looks out on the lovely Neighborhood of the Arts, a great place for people-watching.
- Flight Wine Bar, 262 Exchange Blvd (Corn Hill Landing), ☎ +1 585 360-4180. Tu-Th 4PM-10PM, F Sa 4PM-?. Dressy, sophisticated, and urbane, Flight might be the most well known wine bar in the city. As you might guess, they specialize in wine "flights"—tastings of a selection of wines based around a theme. You can try three different wines made from the same grape, or perhaps three different grapes from the same region. It's not just wine, either: cheese, chocolate, and even olive oil are presented in flights of three. Flights $13-20.
- Solera, 647 South Ave, ☎ +1 585 232-3070, e-mail: email@example.com. M-Th 5PM-11PM, F 5PM-midnight, Sa 7PM-midnight. A small but high-quality wine bar in the South Wedge. Some people find the service a bit off-putting, and the lack of seating can be a deterrent, but the wine list is well curated. Also consider heading up the stairs to Cheshire, a classic cocktail bar, which tends to get even better reviews. Glasses $5-9, bottles $20+.
- Veritas Wine Bar, 217 Alexander St, ☎ +1 585 262-2336. Tu-Sa 5PM-11PM. The owners of Veritas left Rochester for New York City, where they developed their love of wine. But years later, they returned to raise their family in a more affordable city. In 2012, they opened this wine bar, which, in their words, aims to be "casual, warm and educational". This is achieved through a constantly changing menu of wines presented in a calm but cozy atmosphere. The owners are happy to talk about wine with anyone, novice or expert, and it's quickly becoming a destination for wine-lovers who enjoy company while they indulge. Glasses $5-10, bottles $18-30 (and up).
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 changes starting January 25, 2014.
- Black Button Distilling, 85 Railroad St (near the Public Market). Tu-F noon-6PM, Sa 9AM-4PM, Su noon-4PM. While distilling has started to grow in the otherwise wine-mad Finger Lakes region, its production has not been seen in Rochester in quite some time. Black Button uses local ingredients to make corn whiskey, wheat vodka, and gin at their new distillery. Tours and a tasting bar are the amenities available for visitors.
Coffeeshops & cafes
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.
- Boulder Coffee Company, 100 Alexander St (at Clinton Ave), ☎ +1 585 454-7140. M-Th 7AM-11PM, F 7AM-midnight, Sa 8AM-midnight, Su 8AM-11PM. An independently owned coffee shop with regular live music. Their web page lists upcoming acts. Drinks and snacks are typical coffee shop prices. Free WiFi on the premises.
- 960 Genesee St. M-Th 7AM-7PM, F 7AM-8PM, Sa 8AM-8PM, Su 8AM-7PM.
- 1 Public Mrkt. Sa 6AM-2PM, Th (May-August) 8AM-1PM.
- 739 Park Ave. M-F 7AM-10PM, Sa-Su 8AM-10PM.
- Dark Horse Coffee, 274 N Goodman St (Village Gate), ☎ +1 585-730-8035. M-Th 7AM-6PM, F 7AM-8PM, Sa 8AM-5PM. Pet-friendly coffee shop in the Village Gate.
- Easy on East, 170 East Ave, ☎ +1 585 325-6490. Laid-back lounge-type bar aimed at young professionals.
- Equal=Grounds, 750 South Ave, ☎ +1 585 242-7840. This coffee shop opened in May 5th 2006 and is fairly new to the South Wedge area. It has a great open minded atmosphere and has a GLBT gift shoppe. The coffee, smoothies, and pastries are temptations.
- Java's Cafe, 16 Gibbs St (next door to Eastman Theater/Kilbourn Hall). Another downtown coffee shop, more popular with the art house crowd. Java's prices and products are similar to Spot. They also sell a variety of large homemade cookies in a variety of styles for about a dollar. At lunch time, an adjacent cafe-style restaurant serves for soup and sandwiches. Local art adorns the walls and local bands of questionable quality occasionally perform.
- Jembetat Cafe, 645 Park Ave (Near Berkeley), ☎ +1 585 442-8960. A tribal arts importer orders select creations from area bakers, inviting guests to dine among large African statues. Take in a coffee while you wrestle with desires for an amber necklace.
- Joe Bean Coffee Roasters, 1344 University Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607, ☎ +1 585 319-5279. M: 8AM-6PM, T-F: 8AM-10PM, S: 9AM-10PM, Su: 9AM-5PM. A coffee roaster and full service coffee and espresso bar located near the Neighborhood of the Arts. They serve some food as well.
- Spot Coffee, 200 East Ave (next to the Little Theatre). A trendy, popular hangout housed in a former Chevrolet dealership, people come here to relax and socialize while enjoying a cup or two of the brown brew. It's quite acceptable to spend hours here while only buying a single small cup of coffee; students do it all the time. Local art of various sorts is often marked for sale on the walls. Drinks $2-3, light meals around $5.
- Starry Nites Cafe, 696 University Ave (one block north of East Ave), ☎ +1 585 271-2630. A funky space named after Van Gogh's famous painting, near many of Rochester's museums. Along with the required drinks, they make their own soup, salads and sandwiches. Free WiFi.
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.
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:
- Mood Makers Books, 274 N Goodman St (Village Gate), ☎ +1 585 271-7010, toll-free: +1-877-223-1730, fax: +1 585 271-2313. M-Sa 11AM-6PM. Books, gifts, and artwork with a focus on African and Afro-American themes. Special events including performances and workshops are often hosted here.
- OUTlandish Videos and Gifts, 274 N Goodman St (Village Gate), ☎ +1 585 760-8383, e-mail: Outlandish@frontiernet.net. M-Sa 11AM-9PM, Su noon-5PM. GLBT items of every sort from T-shirts and greeting cards to leather and fetish wear. They sell GLBT-themed videos, too, both mainstream films and more "adult" fare.
- Pair-A-Dice Games, 274 N Goodman St (Village Gate), ☎ +1 585 442-8506, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-F 2PM-9PM, Sa 11AM-9PM, Su noon-6PM. Priding themselves on friendly service, Pair-A-Dice has plenty of room for gamers to set up and play, in addition to the shelves of supplies and games of all sorts. Although somewhat new on the scene, it's already attracting a lot of gamers away from the older game stores around Rochester.
Some other places of note for shoppers:
- Rochester Public Market, 280 N Union St, ☎ +1 585 428-6907. Tu Th 6AM-1PM, Sa 5AM-3PM. Established in 1905, the public market features over 300 stalls where independent sellers ply their wares, from cheap locally grown produce to handmade crafts and other curiosities. Great fun to just walk around, but good luck getting out without buying anything. Open Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturdays.
- Archimage, 668 Monroe Ave, ☎ +1 585 271-2789. 11AM-7PM. Great gift shop with a very unique selection. They sell children's toys, cards, jewelry, incense, stones, chimes, housewares, unconventional clothing items, and more...
- The Bop Shop, 1460 Monroe Ave, Brighton, ☎ +1 585 271-3354, e-mail: email@example.com. Tu-Sa 11AM-8PM, Su noon-5PM. The legendary Bop Shop made its name at the Village Gate but has now set up shop at a larger location on Monroe Avenue. The shop is still crammed to overflowing with vinyl records, cassette tapes, and compact discs covering every era and every style. True music-lovers can spend hours pawing through the racks and uncovering treasure after treasure—albums they either never knew existed, or haven't seen in decades. The staff are all highly knowledgeable collectors and they love to talk music with customers. Often hosts jazz concerts; see web site for schedule. $0.50-20 and up.
- Comics Etc., 1115 East Main St. Door 8 (Village Gate), ☎ +1 585 473-7150. M noon-6PM, Tu Sa 11AM-6PM, W F 11AM-6:30PM, Th 11AM-7:30PM, Su noon-5PM. There are a few good comic shops in Rochester, but Comics Etc. has long been one of the best. Recently booted from the Village Gate, the shop still has legions of loyal customers who tout the extensive back-issue selection and dedicated service.
- Craft Company No. 6, 785 University Ave. Housed in a converted firehouse, this is probably one of the most unique stores you will ever go to. Everything is handmade and for sale. Very artsy and not mass marketed.
- d. Kent & Co., 145 Culver Rd (Culver Road Armory), ☎ +1 585 766-8801, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. An upscale "lifestyle" boutique, bringing some of the fashion-forward flavor of New York City to Rochester. d. Kent sells a number of high-end brands and labels that you can't find anywhere else in the region. They also have spa and salon services in-store.
- Greenwood Books, 123 East Ave (near the Little Theatre). A nice selection of new and used books, with some older items that one simply can't find in large chain bookstores. Of particular interest is the selection of books covering both historical and modern Rochester.
- House of Guitars, 645 Titus Ave, Irondequoit, ☎ +1 585 544-3500. M-Sa 10AM-9PM, Su 1PM-5PM. The "Great, Great House of Guitars" has a huge selection of new and used records, CD's, and cassettes, most of which you won't be able to find anywhere else. The store is also a shrine to music and musicians, with an extensive collection of instruments for sale. Some of the biggest music groups in the world (Metallica, Ozzy, "Weird Al", etc.) go out of their way to come to this store, because of the selection and the knowledgeable, well-connected staff.
- Lori's Natural Foods, 900 Jefferson Rd, Henrietta (in the Genesee Valley Regional Marketplace), ☎ +1 585 424-2323. M-Sa 8AM-9PM, Su 10AM-6PM. An organic and natural-food superstore; incredible selection and very good service.
- Parkleigh, 215 Park Ave, ☎ +1-800-333-0627, fax: +1 585 244-7773, e-mail: email@example.com. M-F 10AM-8PM, Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 10AM-5PM. The most typically Park Avenue of all the Park Avenue stores, Parkleigh is a gift shop par excellence. One of the oldest retailers of MacKenzie-Childs ceramics, they also specialize in gourmet coffee and tea.
- Record Archive, 33 1/3 Rockwood St, ☎ +1 585 244-1210. M-Sa 10AM-9PM, Su noon-5PM. A Rochester icon with probably the biggest selection of used vinyl records in the city. It doesn't have a great selection of newer records, but it will wow you with its extensive collection of used records. The Record Archive also hosts many concerts on a stage located in the middle of its spacious warehouse. Famous among locals for the dancing-record-guy commercials.
- Simply New York, 4364 Culver Rd, Irondequoit (Sea Breeze Dr to Durand Blvd, W to Culver, turn right), ☎ +1 585 413-0895. Tu-Sa 10AM-7PM. This friendly boutique sells nothing that was not manufactured or assembled in the state of New York. You'll find foodstuffs of all kinds, of course, but also fine silverware, musical instruments, backpacks, and licensed puzzles and games from Buffalo Games. A great place to go to get gifts and souvenirs, or even just for your regular shopping.
- Thread, 654 South Ave, ☎ +1 585 232-7110, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 11AM-7PM, Su noon-4PM. Hip clothing and gift boutique in the South Wedge.
While the usual generic liquor stores abound, there are specialty shops that are worth a second look:
- Beers of the World, 2599 E Henrietta Rd, ☎ +1 585 334-0034, fax: +1 585 427-0524, e-mail: email@example.com. M-W 10AM-7PM, Th-Sa 10AM-9PM, Su 11AM-4PM. A huge selection of both macro and micro brews from all over the world, plus home-brewing supplies. Also has a large display filled with good cigars. Word to the wise: the owners are quite stand-offish, especially to first time customers and some of the beers are not that fresh. Watch out for dust!
- Century Liquor and Wines, 3349 Monroe Ave, Pittsford (Pittsford Plaza), ☎ +1 585 248-0931. M-Sa 9AM-9PM, Su noon-6PM. In the highly regarded Pittsford Plaza, Century Liquor has a very large selection of wine and liquor, including vintage. Receives tour buses from the nearby vineyard- and winery-laden Finger Lakes, which is the second largest wine producing area in the U.S.
- East Ave Liquor and Wine, 1667 East Ave (Across the street from Wegmans), ☎ +1 585 271-5119. M-Sa 8:30AM-9PM, Su noon-6PM. Wide selection of imported, domestic and New York wines and very helpful staff. Off-street parking.
- Wine Sense, 749 Park Ave, ☎ +1 585 271-0590. Located near numerous other small shops and cafes, this wine dealer has a very friendly staff and carries many quality wines from the Finger Lakes region.
There are several bookstores on Monroe Ave and East Ave which sell new, used, and rare books.
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