Subject: Reasons to Visit Upstate NY

About twenty-five years ago, I came to Rochester for a job and have never looked back. For those who think that there is nothing to do in Rochester, I've put together my personal list of places that I would recommend to new visitors.

The first area you see when you get off of the ferry is Charlotte Beach. This area has been undergoing renovation over the past five years. There is a new bridge under construction over the Genesee, roadways have been repaired, walkways added, and a new ferry terminal and dock have been added. The pier to the lighthouse has been fixed and is a joy to walk on a warm summer evening. In the middle of summer, the area is crowded with beach volleyball, picnicking, boating, and swimmers.

About 10 minutes away from the dock is Seabreeze amusement park. Seabreeze is a clean, organized and fun place to take the family without spending a fortune. The typical day pass is about $18 or less. Every year Seabreeze adds another ride, and the ride for 2004 is another roller coaster. The water slides are my favorite part of the park. At the top of one of the slides you get a great view of Lake Ontario before plunging headlong into a dark water tunnel.

Strong Museum located in the heart of Rochester, was rated by Child Magazine and Family Fun Magazine as one of the top ten children's museums in the U.S. Strong Museum's more than 500,000 objects include the world's largest and most historically significant collection of dolls and toys. This Museum has grown every year, and keeps getting better and better. This is a definite stop for families with children - complete with fun, hands on activities to interest a wide range of ages (adults too!)

Rochester has a good selection of ethnic restaurants. Some of my favorite locally owned restaurants are Mamasans (Vietnamese), Joy Luck (Chinese), and Raj Mahal (Indian).

The Little Theatre has renovated and expanded from the landmark Art Deco theater on East Avenue in downtown Rochester to include four more screens, a cafe, art exhibits, live jazz, film festivals, visiting filmmakers and world theatrical premieres. It is the only true independent theatre that offers a venue for film festivals and independent American and foreign films. The theatres are cozy and the atmosphere is chic. Nice place to take a date. Just a few blocks down the street from the Little is The Spot, which is a trendy, chic, coffee shop. The previous car dealership original art deco style was kept and is reflected in the furnishings and accents. The Spot is a very unique and fun place to go for coffee or a light meal.

There are festivals every weekend during the summer in the Rochester area, but the Clothes Line Festival at the beginning of September is the biggest and the best. The works of over 600 artists are displayed on the Memorial Art Gallery's grounds. All exhibitors are screened so the quality of the show is top notch. While you are walking around, you can visit the Memorial Art Gallery that is billed as "the best balanced collection of any museum in the state outside metropolitan New York City."

The Rochester area is home to many fine colleges and universities such as the Eastman School of Music, Nazareth College, Roberts Wesleyan College, Rochester Institute of Technology, National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), St. John Fisher College, Monroe Community College, and the world class University of Rochester. St. John Fisher is home to the Buffalo Bills summer training camp during July and August, which is a great place to see the professional football players up close in the brand new football facilities. You will find everything you ever wanted to buy with a Bills logo here. NTID offers theatre for the deaf where hearing people use headphones to interpret the play. The Eastman School of Music also in downtown Rochester, is one of the world's premier music schools. More than 700 concerts a year are presented in the magnificent Eastman Theatre and the intimate Kilbourn Hall. Many of the concerts are free.

The Genesee Country Museum presents an authentic expression of regional pioneer life over 150 years ago. The museum, comprised of a 19th century village, Gallery of Sporting Art and a Nature Center, is New York's largest, and America's third largest living history museum. The Genesee Country Nature Center features five miles of hiking trails through 175 acres of woodlands, wetlands and meadows.

The Woman's Rights National Historic Park run by the National Park Service, consists of four major historical properties and a state of the art Visitor Center located in Seneca Falls, New York. This is about a 90 minute drive from the ferry dock.

The George Eastman House is a national treasure of photography. The house is nested along mansion lined East Avenue in the museum part of Rochester. They have daily movie showings at the Dryden theatre, which was George Eastman's private theatre. They have maintained the theatre to perfection, and it is a truly unique experience to sit in the balcony seats and enjoy a movie in a 1930's style theatre. They have a Director and Actor speaker series in conjunction with the movies. The photographic collection is world class, and the home is maintained in much the same way it was 80 years ago.

Leaving the George Eastman House, you can walk across the street to the Rochester Planetarium and Science Center I enjoy just meandering around this area with the beautiful mansions. Park Avenue is about six blocks south, with a great assortment of street cafés and interesting shops. Iggy's Frog Pond is a very small cozy Park Ave restaurant that has the best breakfast in town.

The High Falls area is another work in progress by Mayor Johnson. This area was a major blight ten years ago, and has been transformed into a place worth making a special trip to. The High Falls is the centerpiece of the area with a selection of eateries overlooking the falls. The renovation of many abandoned buildings into office space is still in progress. The High Falls Film festival is held every year here. Since there aren't 10 million people to compete with, you can actually get tickets for many of the events.

Across the street from the High Falls area is Frontier Field, a classic styled minor league baseball stadium. The Red Wings, a Minnesota Twins affiliate, play here in what has to be one of the best minor league stadiums anywhere. Watching a game in the clean, new, and friendly family oriented stadium is an enjoyable way to spend a warm summer evening. After the game, you can walk across the street to see the free High Falls laser light show, which runs on weekends during the summer months.

The Rochester Rhino's soccer team usually plays to sold out crowds every home game at Frontier field. Mayor Johnson lobbied for a new soccer stadium that will be built near Frontier field in the High Falls area in the summer of 2004. They expect to obtain a major league MLS franchise within the next two years due to the overwhelming support for the team.

Rochester is a well-educated area, which supports a good selection of college, high school, and local theatre productions. Geva Theatre is the one professional theatre in downtown Rochester. They provide high quality professional plays in a rather cozy setting. All the seats in the house are excellent. Typical cost is about $25-$40 US for the best seats in the house. I've been to Toronto theatre and it is terrific, but this theatre has great shows and close seating for a lot less money.

There are four major malls around Rochester, and Eastview is the biggest, newest, and most upscale of the four. If you are willing to drive about an hour from Rochester, The Waterloo Premium Outlet Mall on Interstate 90 has the best bargains from 100 name brand outlet stores. I love the Black and Decker store there. I got a ˝" drill for about $29 US last summer.

The "Grand Canyon of the East" is located about 90 minutes south of Rochester near Mt. Morris, New York. Writers of Outdoor Traveler have named Letchworth State Park the best of Eigh Great State Park Hikes--calling it "a hiking Mecca for everyone." Activities include guided hiking tours, two swimming pools, hot-air ballooning, white water rafting, kayaking and canoeing. The "Glen Iris Inn" is a quaint inn located right on the middle falls that seems to be booked for weddings every weekend during the summer. The three major falls within the long and winding canyon make for an interesting and scenic day trip.

Millions of dollars has been spent in making the historic Erie Canal accessible to bikers and hikers. You can navigate 524 miles of the Erie Canal by waterway, biking, or walking. There are numerous boat tours on the canal. For about $2500 a month, you can rent a two-bedroom canal houseboat and have a unique get-away-from- it- all vacation. One of the more scenic canal areas is in Pittsford NY, just 20 minutes from the ferry dock. The canal park area, called Schoen Place, has quaint shops, ice cream stores, bike rentals, canoe rentals, canal boat rides and restaurants overlooking the canal. This is one of my favorite places to walk or ride a bike.

Rochester is located at the top of the Finger Lakes Wine District. There are 60 wineries in the Finger Lakes, and the countryside around these lakes is pristine and beautiful. The closest winery, Casa Larga, is only about 40 minutes from the ferry dock. Check out for a list of wineries that you can reach while driving through some of the most scenic roads in the U.S.

Golfing is a passion of mine. If you follow professional golf, you may remember the Oak Hill golf course that is also located in the nearby suburb of Pittsford. This was the site of the Ryder cup a few years back, and the PGA in 2003. It is rated as one of the top 10 courses in the U.S. Unfortunately, You won't be able to see the course until the next PGA tourney in about three years. Fortunately, you have access to about 84 other public and semi-private courses. See for a complete list of courses you can play in the Rochester area. I have heard that the typical round of golf in Toronto costs about $100 CDN. In Rochester, Saturday and Sunday AM golf times are the most expensive with the best courses charging $35-$60 US for cart and green fees. If you can tee off after 1pm the rates are usually lower. Mill Creek will be opening in late summer 2004, and is expected to be a top regional golf course. There are some excellent courses for a bargain, and tee times are readily available.

The Pittsford Wegmans is a unique grocery store that I shop on a regular basis. It is a destination for visiting friends and relatives. It has a Sushi Bar, pizza, wings, and hot gourmet dinners available to take home or eat in their dining room. There is also a gourmet restaurant located next to the grocery store. The selection of fresh fruits and vegetables from around the world is amazing. It was also voted one of the best places to work in the U.S.

If you are interested in snow skiing, Bristol Hills is the largest resort in the area. It is located about an hour south of Rochester. It has a 1,200-foot vertical rise on top of a 2,200 summit with 32 slopes and trails and a 2-mile run. It is a scenic area with beautiful valley views from much of the mountain. Bristol has been expanding this large and well-organized facility to be a year around resort area.

As you can see, there is plenty to do in Rochester all year around.