Just ninety minutes across the border from Toronto, and a half-day’s drive from Montreal, Rochester offers a bustling city break close to the magnificent lakes, gorges and over one thousand waterfalls of this picturesque part of New York State. Rochester is a perennial favouorite for affordable family fun, bargain shopping and quaint villages. There are more than 140 festivals and events in the Rochester and Finger Lakes region, it is packed with family activities, and it is renowned for its fine food and wines.
A mid-size city that maintains a small-town feeling, Rochester is easy to get around by car or public transportation (all city buses have bike racks) and it offers big city amenities without the big city hassles.
Rochester is the North Western gateway to New York's Finger Lakes and New York State’s third largest city – with museums, spas, charming neighborhoods, shopping, antiques, cultural adventures and sporting activities. Cruise, bike or hike on the original Erie Canal path, while visiting great restaurants, shops and quaint historic villages along the way. Within a 100‐mile radius of Rochester, tour boats provide cruises including lunch and dinner cruises as well as “low‐bridge” cruises where passengers on the top deck of some boats must sit down to go under a bridge. The peaceful waterways around Rochester also provide great canoeing and kayaking.
The Erie Canal caused the first great westward movement of American settlers, making New York City the busiest port in the United States, and turning Rochester into the first boom town in the US. Built just a few years before Ontario’s Rideau Canal, one of the most amazing facts in the canal’s history is that it was constructed without the aid of a single fully trained professional engineer!
For family water fun – visit the Roseland Waterpark in Canandaigua in the Finger Lakes region. All summer there’s a millions gallons of outdoor fun. The water is heated for ideal conditions and kids never grow tired of the wet and wild adventures, while parents love the friendly, safe setting.
Three of Golf Magazine’s “Top 20 Public Courses” reside in the region, and there are more than 60 golf courses in all! Rochester native and golfing legend Water Hagen reminded us to “stop and smell the flowers along the way”. No better place than Rochester, dubbed “the flower city” for its stunning gardens and beautiful blooms! You can enjoy hiking in more than 12,000 acres of parkland.
Festivals abound all year round. In summer there's the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival and the Lilac Festival in Highland Park, celebrating the world’s largest Lilac collection. In fall the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival attracts visitors from around the globe each September. It is 10 days of all-out, no-holds-barred, multi-disciplinary visual and performing arts festival. And the High Falls Film Festival in November celebrates the cinematic achievements of women. As one of the longest running women's film festivals on the east coast, it has fostered many career successes for women filmmakers.
There is no shortage of activities in Rochester for arts lovers, thanks in part to endowments from founding fathers such as George Eastman who created the Kodak company. Music lovers will appreciate concerts by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and at the Eastman School of Music. Rochester also boasts The Rochester City Ballet, a contemporary ballet company, and the Hochstein School of Music and Dance has a recently renovated and historic Performance Hall that provides an elegant venue for the School's free concerts. The Memorial Museum of Art has a permanent collection that is well regarded for its breadth and quality, and it is also known for the beautiful Centennial Sculpture Gardens.
Venture just outside of Rochester to the New York Wine and Culinary Centre in Canandaigua, where there is ample opportunity to sample the delicious cuisine and wines of the Region with a Bistro, Tasting Room and a packed program of culinary events.
Rochester was originally referred to as the “Flour City” because of its flour milling Heritage. But in 1859 its nickname became the “Flower City” due to its burgeoning nursery and seed industry – and these horticultural roots, as it were, are reflected everywhere in the city today.
The city’s earliest horticultural pioneers were George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry and thanks to their skills and research Mt. Hope Garden and Nurseries in Rochester became one of the largest nurseries in the world by 1840.
By 1855 half of all New York State’s nurserymen were from Rochester and more fruit trees had been raised in Rochester by 1856 than the rest of the entire United States. Over one‐third of the Rochester area was in nursery cultivation by the 1880's.
The legacy of this green industry today is the magnificently‐landscaped historic parks and world‐famous gardens of the Rochester area.
Here are just a few of the floral delights awaiting garden lovers in Rochester:
Highland Park was designed by famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted - who also designed New York’s Central Park. This historically significant landscape features the world’s largest public lilac collection and it is home to the annual Rochester Lilac Festival. More than 1,200 lilac shrubs representing over 500 varieties are planted on 22 of the park’s 155 acres.
Highland Park is also noted for many other horticultural displays. In early May its flowering pears and tulips are in bloom; in mid‐May the dogwoods and crabapples flower; and in late May the azaleas, horse‐chestnut trees, pansies, spirea, wisteria, and tree peonies blossom. Highland Park's famous Rhododendron and Azalea collection bloom from May into mid‐summer.
Within the glass walls of Lamberton Conservatory are many plants that are not hardy outdoors in Rochester's temperate climate.
In Highland Park’s historic Scottish‐style Warner Castle you will find Rochester Civic Garden Center ‐ a non‐profit group chartered by the State University to provide horticulture information. The Castle's Sunken Gardens have recently been restored and other display gardens include a Shady Border, a Rock Garden, a Courtyard Garden, an Iris and Daylily Bed, an Old‐Fashioned Rose Bed, a Miniature Rose Bed, a Fern Bed, and a 13th Century Herb Garden.
A restored historic landscape, this beautiful site consists of a colorful perennial garden planted by George Ellwanger of the world‐famous Mt. Hope Nurseries in the 1800's. Rare peonies, tulips, and iris can be found here. The gardens are open to the public during the Lilac Festival in May and Peony Weekend in June.
Featuring Kodak founder George Eastman’s restored mansion and four restored or adapted gardens (terrace, library, rock, and sunken west gardens); this historic 12.5‐acre site is planted with over 300 historic varieties of perennials, bulbs, groundcovers, trees, and shrubs. Hundreds of flowering bulbs are displayed in the Conservatory of the restored mansion, recreating Mr. Eastman's bulb orders for his home. Hyacinths, tulips, and orchids are a welcome treat for the eyes and nose in the midst of winter.
Home of the annual Maplewood Rose Festival each June, this historic park displays more than 5,000 rose blossoms in 300 varieties during its summer blooming season.
An historic Victorian Garden Estate and Mansion, Sonnenberg Gardens is the former summer home of Frederick Ferris and Mary Clark Thompson. About a 30‐minute drive from Rochester, this 50‐acre property features a 40‐room stone mansion built in 1887, a Lord & Burnham conservatory, and nine theme gardens: Italian, old‐fashioned, rose, rock, pansy, sub‐rosa, moonlight, blue‐and‐white, and Japanese.
The gardens feature more than 20,000 annuals, 2,600 rose bushes, waterfalls, caverns, rock formations, wildflowers, and trees. They are open to the public May through October with guided tours available.
Ten recreated historic gardens dot the landscape of this restored 19th Century village approximately a half‐hour drive from downtown Rochester; they trace the evolution of the horticultural tradition in the Genesee Valley. On display is a rudimentary pioneer’s garden, as well as an elegant Victorian garden.
The village’s orchards, fruit, herb, and vegetable gardens furnish fresh produce for the village’s working kitchens. Also on site are the Nature Center - an area of ecological interest with native plants in the heirloom vegetable seed garden and the Shaker garden of medicinal plants
The Greater Rochester Area has a lot to offer whenever you visit - with fascinating historic sites, captivating, hands‐on museums for children and families, exciting attractions and busy nightlife. So whether you are looking for a girlfriend’s getaway, a family trip or a couple’s escape - there is always something going on.
Here are just a few of the things to do and see:
George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film
The National Historic Landmark home of the founder of Kodak, George Eastman House combines the treasures of the world’s leading museum of photography and film with tours of the Colonial Revival mansion and gardens. Features include exhibits on photography, film and Eastman, plus a hands‐on learning center for children.
Strong National Museum of Play
Rated one of the nation’s “Top 10” children’s museums by Child Magazine, Strong National Museum of Play is also home of The National Toy Hall of Fame®. Kids can step onto Sesame Street, Adventureland, Field of Play and more in interactive learning environments. Kids of all ages will delight in the museum's world‐renowned collection including dollhouses, miniatures, home furnishings, and the world’s largest collection of toys, dolls and play‐related objects. The Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden is a hit with young and old.
Genesee Country Village & Museum
Genesee Country Village & Museum is the largest living history museum in New York State and the third largest living history museum in the country. The 19th‐century village's 68 historic structures include Greek Revival businesses, Italianate mansions, places of worship, an octagonal‐shaped house, businesses, a town hall, tavern and other buildings from all around western New York. Costumed villagers interpret the trades, farms and lifestyles found during 1800s America. Genesee Country Village & Museum also includes the Genesee Country Nature Center, with five miles of interpreted trails, and the John L. Wehle Gallery.
Susan B. Anthony House
This National Historic Landmark home tells the story of the American legend who paved women’s way to the ballot box. Anthony lived in the Victorian home during the most politically active years of her life - including when she was arrested for her illegal vote. An Education and Visitor Center features interpretive exhibits. Anthony and her close friend, Frederick Douglass are among the famous Rochesterians with burial sites at Mt. Hope Cemetery, one of the first great Victorian municipal cemeteries
Memorial Art Gallery
The MAG offers a visual journey through 5,000 years of art, with relics of antiquity to works at the vanguard of contemporary movements. The treasures include works by Monet, Cezanne, Matisse, Homer and Cassatt. Families with children will enjoy interactive exhibits that explore ways of looking at art. With more than 9,500 pieces in its permanent collection, this gallery has one of the most balanced collections of any New York State museum outside metropolitan New York City.
Rochester Museum & Science Center
The RMSC offers family‐oriented interactive activities that make science fun and bring Rochester’s heritage to life. The Strasenburgh Planetarium unites the worlds of science and theater in a unique environment. Visitors to the Cumming Nature Center in Naples experience and enjoy miles of thematic trails, nature films, and seasonal activities. Children and adults celebrate and discover Rochester as they explore the worlds of science and technology, the natural environment and the region’s cultural heritage.
Center at High Falls
Featuring a spectacular view of the Genesee River’s waterfall, “a hundred feet of rolling thunder.” Inside the exhibits - which nclude a 240‐foot replica raceway of running water, a large restored water wheel and the Triphammer Forge archaeological site - introduce visitors to all that makes Rochester unique.
Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
One of America’s finest professional orchestras, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra presents world‐class symphonic music with a spectacular array of classical, pops and family concerts.
Eastman School of Music
In 1921, George Eastman founded the Eastman Theatre “for the enrichment of community life.” The Eastman School of Music, founded soon afterwards, has for eight decades enhanced the lives of Rochesterians with education and entertainment. Each year the Eastman School offers hundreds of world‐class orchestral, wind ensemble, chamber music, jazz, and opera performances - many of them free and all of them featuring America’s finest young musicians.
Hochstein School of Music and Dance
Hochstein School provides excellent music and dance opportunities for students and audiences, alike. Hochstein's recently renovated and historic Performance Hall provides an elegant venue for the School's free concerts and a variety of outside presenters.
Rochester City Ballet
The Rochester City Ballet (RCB) is a contemporary ballet company based in Rochester, NY. It boasts a growing reputation for excellence, versatility and singular repertoire which includes award winning ballets and masterworks. Many productions are presented with live music and artistic collaborations of musicians and ensembles.
The Little Theatre is a not-for-profit cultural and arts organization showing the finest in American Independent and Foreign Films on 5 screens, a café, an art gallery, and free music five nights a week. Come out and enjoy a unique evening with plenty of atmosphere.
Geva Theatre Center
Rochester's premier regional professional theatre presents productions September through June, drawing from the same talent seen on Broadway, films and television.
Casa Larga Vineyards
Monroe County’s only winery. Started as a hobby, Casa Larga Vineyards has grown into a forty‐acre estate winery producing more than 15 wines and champagnes. Since 1974, Casa Larga Vineyards has won over 150 awards. Year‐round tours offer a peek at the wine making process from “graft to glass.”
Seneca Park Zoo
Get up close and personal with polar bears, sea lions and penguins at the underwater viewing areas at the Rocky Coasts exhibit - the newest addition to the zoo. Visitors will also meet African elephants, Bornean orangutans, wolves, kangaroos and 300 other exciting animals.
Discover the fascinating Corning Glass Museum, a short drive from Rochester in the heart of the Finger Lakes Wine Country. You will be amazed by 35 centuries of beautiful glass artistry as you take a voyage of discovery through glassmaking history, art and technology.
Housed in unique, award-winning, modern glass architecture - the collections at the Corning Museum of Glass trace glass making from its origins to the modern day.
It’s difficult to single out exhibits from nearly 50,000 objects on display - but just a few of the highlights include:
Watch glass making demonstrations throughout the day as master glassmakers take gobs of molten glass and turn them into beautiful bowls, vases and more in a narrated Hot Glass Show of twirling, heat, sparks, and glassblowing. More than 40 live demonstrations are offered each day (all included in the price of admission), including glassblowing, flameworking and even glass breaking!
Visitors of all ages can also try glassmaking in a hands-on experience with workshops offered every day in a state-of-the-art glassmaking studio. Decorate a sandblasted drinking glass, blow a holiday ornament or fuse a picture frame. Older children and adults will enjoy forming a flower out of molten glass, or flameworking a glass bead. Plus the Museum stages regular special exhibitions.
If you are looking for unique gifts and souvenirs - shop for glass treasures from around the world in the Museum’s eight unique boutiques. The GlassMarket at The Corning Museum of Glass offers jewelry, inexpensive holiday ornaments and gifts, handmade glass art and more!
The Museum’s recent North Wing addition includes a new 26,000-square-foot contemporary art gallery building and one of the world’s largest facilities for glassblowing demonstrations and live glass design sessions. The North Wing expansion features filtered natural daylight using a sophisticated light-filtering system in new galleries which house the collection of contemporary works in glass.
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