This Western New York city also has many sights and activities for visitors, residents and even travelers just passing through. Rochester, New York is the birthplace of companies like Kodak and Xerox and has been the home of famous figures ranging from Susan B. Anthony to Lou Gramm of Foreigner.
Rochester was one of America’s first boomtowns, and rose to prominence as the site of many flour mills along the Genesee River, and then as a major hub of manufacturing. Several of the region’s universities (notably the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology) have renowned research programs.
THE FLOWER CITY
Although the city was formerly known as “The Flour City” for its many mills in the early 19th century, it is now more commonly called “The Flower City”. The current nickname began with several seed companies that grew into international giants from their Rochester roots.
In recent years, the city has ranked near the top of lists of most livable cities (Places Rated Almanac, 2007), best overall quality of life (Expansion Management, 2007), and best city for families (Forbes, 2010 and Kiplinger, 2012).
The nickname continues with the Lilac Festival held every May for more than a century. The festival includes a road race, concerts, vendors and more than 500 varieties of lilacs. It is held in Highland Park and is open to all visitors with shuttles bringing visitors in from additional parking at local colleges.
The festival is started with a parade and frequently hosts concerts and other attractions during the week. The Highland Park arboretum is toured free of charge and is open to all visitors.
The fields surrounding the arboretum host a myriad of vendor’s tents and food stands. The festival ends each year with the annual Lilac 10K road race and 5K Family Fun Run. The 10K Course is USATF certified.
XEROX ROCHESTER INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL (XRIJF)
Another popular annual event is the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival (XRIJF). Starting in 2002, the festival has featured dozens of jazz artists every June. Past headliners include Aretha Franklin, The Blues Brothers Band, Woody Allen, Frank Sinatra Jr. and James Brown.
More than 187,000 jazz fans attended the 2012 event, making it one of the largest jazz festivals in the United States. Tickets are affordable and can be purchased at the door or through XRIJF’s website at www.rochesterjazz.com.
ROCHESTER’S HISTORICAL SITES
History aficionados may be interested in Rochester’s many historical sites. The city’s abolitionist history is apparent with a statue to Frederick Douglass in Highland Park and the Susan B. Anthony House, which can be visited throughout the year for a modest admission.
The Rochester area has been the birthplace to such corporations as Kodak, Bausch & Lomb, Gleason and Xerox that conduct extensive research and manufacturing in the fields of industrial and consumer products
GEORGE EASTMAN MUSEUM
The George Eastman House, originally owned by the founder of Kodak, is among the world’s oldest photography museums and offers audio tours. Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony are among 350,000 people buried at the historic Mount Hope Cemetery near Highland Park.
World-renowned for its photograph and motion picture archives, the museum is also a leader in film preservation and photograph conservation, educating archivists and conservators from around the world.
Home to the 500-seat Dryden Theatre, the museum is located on the estate of George Eastman, the founder of Eastman Kodak Company. The estate was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF PLAY
Visitors with children may be interested in the National Museum of Play, including the National Toy Hall of Fame. The museum has a wide range exhibits ranging from historical to modern as well as many interactive toys and activities. The food court features several popular chains, making it ideal for lunch during an all day trip.
The museum’s event calendar is packed with activities for children. For current hours and prices, visit the museum online at www.museumofplay.org.
Western NY sports are dominated by the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres, less than 90 miles away, but Rochester has nine professional sports teams of its own.
The Blue Cross Arena and Sahlen’s Stadium are the home venue for seven of these teams and may be worth a visit for any sports fan. College sports are popular too, particularly RIT’s NCAA Division I ice hockey teams, which also plays in the Blue Cross Arena.
Rochester is a city rich in cultural and historical diversity with something for everyone. Many activities are free or inexpensive and are family-friendly. New York State Thruway travelers passing by Rochester may want to consider stopping for a few hours to take advantage of what the city has to offer.
The city’s official website, www.cityofrochester.gov, is an excellent resource for finding new adventures for visitors and residents alike.