If an out-of-town visitor asked you what’s the No. 1 thing to see or do in Greater Rochester, what would your answer be?
We posed that question to readers of the Rochester Business Journal’s Daily Report (to sign up for the Daily Report, click here). Hundreds of them responded, offering a wide range of suggestions—great tips for those who are visiting Greater Rochester or who live here and want to explore the region.
Also, since 2012 the Rochester Business Journal began what has become an annual poll asking readers to name their favorite fine-dining restaurant in the Rochester-Finger Lakes region. RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll respondents appear to really enjoy Rooney’s Restaurant. The Rochester eatery again in 2015 ranks as readers’ favorite place for fine dining in the Rochester area. Check out the poll on reader's favorite fine-dining restaurants.
Some of the reader favorites: shopping at Wegmans, especially the Pittsford store; visiting top museums like George Eastman House and the Strong National Museum of Play; attending a Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra concert; exploring the Erie Canal and Lake Ontario shore; and touring the Finger Lakes.
Below is a broad sampling of readers’ suggestions and comments. To let other readers know what you think, send us an email.
I'd like to say something cultural. If I am going to say where do I take visitors to a place where they cannot say that they have something to match it.....Wegmans.
Go to the Genesee Brew House and enjoy a great beer, good food and a spectacular view of the High Falls.
—Michael L. Harf
Sea Breeze! Kids (of all ages) love it, and the view of the lake/bay from the waterpark is spectacular!
Come on a Saturday in the summer. Start the day off with breakfast on Park Ave at either Jines or Charlie's Frog Pond. Head over to the Public Market for people watching and maybe even pick something up for lunch/dinner. Don't forget to grab an empanada. Spend the day playing one of our great public golf courses. After golf, enjoy a cocktail up by the lake and take in the sunset. Afterwards, head downtown to one of our many fine restaurants and maybe a night cap at Phillips European with a dessert. You can always come for one of our festivals, but this would be a perfect day as well.
It is a difficult decision. If weather is a factor, I recommend the George Eastman museum or Strong Museum of Play. Most major cities have art museums, but few have one devoted only to photography and to toys. If weather is not a factor, our Finger Lakes vineyards are worth a trip, and I am particularly fond of Letchworth Park. And if someone happens to visit in late June, the Jazz Festival is a must. Who says there is nothing to do in our little slice of paradise?
Durand Eastman Park, Pier at Charlotte and Hamlin Beach. I have family that lives on the West Coast and is used to ocean views. They were shocked by how expansive and gorgeous Lake Ontario is. It is something we take for granted.
In good weather, I'd direct them to the river and its string of Olmstead parks from Highland to Maplewood. Use the River Trail and enjoy this introduction to the heart of Rochester. In less than good weather, I'd send them to the George Eastman House where a unique Rochester experience awaits.
—John Perry Smith
Memorial Art Gallery.
Go shop at Wegman's. There is no grocery experience like it anywhere. Everybody chuckles, until they have been there. Then they want to find one in their home town.
Visit downtown Brockport, the Victorian village on the Erie Canal, especially in the summer when there is canal traffic and the lift bridges are going up and down
A concert by the renowned Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in the beautifully renovated Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.
I think that the National Museum of Play at the Strong is the number one place to take an out-of-town visitor because it's an amazingly playful place and it shows the uniqueness of our community. Everyone that visits leaves with a smile on their face!!! How could you not?
—Joy Ryen Plotnik
Luckily for the Rochester region there isn't only one thing to do, and as per usual for a group of people there are different tastes and priorities. We are surrounded by lakes and great parks, fantastic restaurants, markets, interesting nightlife and our great museums. Add in eight professional sports teams, plus the Bills and the Jazz Festival and you truly have something for everyone.
—Joe Wierzbowski, Plymouth Photo Studio
Depending on their tastes, see a play at Geva, attend a performance of the RPO, or both! World-class quality in both organizations! And of course they must see Wegmans!
Genesee River and Erie Canal cruise on the Mary Jemison.
If you have children, go to the Strong Museum! If not, take advantage of Lake Ontario and go on the catamaran sunset cruise.
—Renee St. Louis Palin
Bike or boat along the Erie Canal!
Rochester International Jazz Festival.
George Eastman House, International Museum of Film and Photography.
Eastman House—one of Rochester’s hidden treasures.
Wegmans supermarket in Pittsford.
—Andrea Jacobs Gallagher
Genesee Country Village & Museum.
George Eastman House - Kodak - Eastman School of Music. The story of how one Rochester man (George Eastman) invented the camera and created a prosperous company employing thousands of people. A man who lived well, had a vision for his company and his community and gave generously to both. Eastman School of Music still remains a preeminent music school that is thriving with talent and innovation.
The George Eastman House/International Museum of Photography.
—Eve Elzenga, Eve Elzenga Design
Wine tasting in the beautiful Finger Lakes.
—Bob Worden, Penn Yan
In warm, fair weather: Highland Park and/or Lake Ontario shore. Otherwise: George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film.
See what used to be Kodak Park to see what used to be 80-plus percent of the world's photographic market.
Go to the Pittsford Wegmans.
Attend one of our many outstanding outdoor festivals: Fairport Canal Days, Park Ave. Fest, Corn Hill, etc.
Go wine tasting and finish off the day at Max of Eastman Place.
—Scott Osborn, Fox Run Vineyards
Highland Park in the spring.
The Public Market.
Visit Hedonist Chocolate in the South Wedge for spectacular truffles with flavors you have never tried, but will love.
Go on a wine-tasting tour. The upstate wineries are multitudinous, and in the past few decades they have learned how to develop wines of distinction.
Visit the Finger Lakes area, wine trails etc.
The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. I take my children every year and also take friends to a couple of shows myself. I really enjoy the atmosphere.
If they have children, no question—the National Museum of Play!
No. 1 - Go to a Red Wings game. No. 1A - Visit the George Eastman House.
See a show at any of our incredible theatres! Our local productions are world-class, and are not to be missed!
—Lou Calarese, Applied Audio & Theatre Supply
The Finger Lakes for some of the most beautiful scenery. Plus wineries, restaurants, cottage rentals.
A visit to Highland Park and the Lamberton Conservatory followed by a walk down South Avenue to the South Wedge for shopping, chocolates, dining, drinking and music.
It depends on the time of year. Spring: the lilacs in Highland Park. Summer: Lake Ontario or the Finger Lakes. Fall: wine country and leaf color everywhere. Winter: all the cultural events, our museums, galleries, concerts and plays. Winter also allows skiing and other outdoor activities, as well as testing your driving skills on all manner of roads. The best thing about Rochester is that it's a good place to be. One has the sophistication of big city living and very easy access to suburban and rural activities as well.
—Frank Orienter, Rochester
Go to a performance at one or more of the four venues at the Eastman Theatre/Eastman School complex, i.e. Kodak Hall, Kilbourn Hall, Schmitt Organ Recital Hall, and the new Hatch Recital Hall; and/or see and hear the Eastman School's Italian Baroque organ in the Fountain Court at the Memorial Art Gallery, the only full-size antique Italian organ in North America.
—Charles and Helen Valenza
I'd tell everyone I know to go to the Seneca Park Zoo!! It's fun and affordable for all ages.
For grownups, I'd say No. 1 is to go to the Eastman House. For kids (or parents with kids), it's the Strong Museum of Play.
There are some really great music and art venues like Hochstein, Eastman Theatre, MAG, but I think the International Jazz Fest is the one I would say you can't miss. I personally can't wait for this year's festivities. What a great lineup!
Mile after mile of beautiful waterfront. And all the stats that point to us as having one of the better economies in the country.
Check out the old subway tunnel under Broad Street and the Public Library.
So many choices! Lilac Festival, Jazz Fest, Eastman House, Eastman School, Geva, National Museum of Play, Seneca Park Zoo, Greek Fest, various art festivals, Canal Days, Schoen Place in Pittsford, Mt. Hope Cemetery, any of our sporting events.
We had visitors from Chicago here last weekend for a wedding shower and while the women celebrated, we (six men) went to Wegmans Pittsford—had lunch at the food bar and took a store tour. This was done in less than two hours and we WOWED our guests. If we had more time we would have gone to the George Eastman House, but Wegmans on a Saturday afternoon did not disappoint us.
—Michael L. Harf
Cruise on the Erie Canal on the Sam Patch or Mary Jemison boats!
Take a two-hour drive in a big circle around Greater Rochester. OFF of the highways. The scenery in our area, from metropolitan, urban, to open fields, vineyards, and orchards, is simply beautiful!
—David W, DeFisher, Apple Country Spirits, Distillery, Williamson
Go to Grinnell's restaurant, followed by Sugar Mountain Bake Shop across the street.
Take a long walk in Highland Park during lilac season and stop by Grinnell's Restaurant for a relaxing meal!
Rochester Jazz Festival.
See High Falls, catch a game at Frontier Field!
—David Lamb, Rochester
Attend the Lilac Festival.
A Red Wings baseball game and the (Strong) Museum of Play.
I think it depends on the time of year. The Eastman School of Music comes to mind. So does Highland Park, Lake Ontario and the Jazz Fest.
—Jason Sumner, Rochester
Go to Pier 45; it's a beautiful place to relax and enjoy a drink. You feel like you are on vacation. —Tracy Pasker
Fairport Canal Days and the other free street fairs and art festivals.
Spend a Saturday morning going to the Rochester Public Market, then get lunch and walk around Park Ave, East Ave, and Monroe Ave.
A tie: Walk through Highland Park, boat in Canandaigua Lake.
Visit the Strong Museum of Play, Eastman House, the zoo, Ontario Beach and Durand Eastman Beach, the Finger Lakes wine area.
Visit the Erie Canal and watch the boats proceeding through locks and under lift bridges. Distinctive to all of America!
Rochester has no "No. 1 thing." No Eiffel Tower, no Statue of Liberty, no Independence Hall. The closest I can come is High Falls, because not many cities have a waterfall of that size downtown. Otherwise, I would try to tailor my recommendation to my guest's interests.
It does depend on whether you have kids or not. With kids, the Strong Museum. For adults, it’s a tossup between Wegmans Pittsford and the Upper Falls at High Falls and soon along Genesee Brewery.
The Lake Ontario waterfront from Sodus to Hamlin Beach, especially Durand Park, and the area where the lake and the river meet.
Walk the pier at Seabreeze.
Eat at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.
The Butterfly Museum (at Strong National Museum of Play).
Garbage Plate (at Nick Tahou Hots).
Brown's Race and High Falls—who else has a waterfall downtown that's so exquisite?!!
Cayuga Lake wine trail. Biking the Bristol Hills.
In the summer, go to Frontier Field for a baseball game. In the fall, visit some wineries on the Finger Lakes. In the winter, visit the George Eastman House. In the spring, walk along the canal in towns like Pittsford and Fairport.
Take them to Wegmans. Take them to Letchworth State Park. Take them to the Brewery. Take them to the Eastman or Geva Theatre. Take them to Susan B. Anthony House. In August, take them to the Park Avenue Festival. Don't take them to get a Garbage Plate (YUCK!).
I like taking foreign visitors to Wegmans' Pittsford store—it's always a HUGE hit with European/Asian/South American co-workers and allows them to get souvenirs in minimal time. For out-of-town friends and relatives, we tend to visit parks (Mendon, Corbett's Glen, Ontario State), Park Ave. for shopping (Stever's!!) and Abbott's!
Go and visit the Genesee Country Village and Museum in Mumford. It is a wonderful return to our past in a quaint 19th century village. The War of 1812 and Civil War reenactments provide a look at memorable historical battles. There is much more to see, taste and enjoy at the Genesee Country Village and Museum.
Lake Ontario. That much fresh water amazes them!
Downtown Fairport at the (Erie) Canal. Including dinner at Joey B's.
Bike or walk the canal trail.
Adults can't miss George Eastman House. Families should definitely visit The Strong musem.
Glen Iris Inn and the Letchworth park.
Wegmans! Each location is a "destination" attraction.
High Falls District.
Spend time on Lake Ontario.
Walk the canal path in the village of Pittsford.
Oak Hill Country Club.
New York Museum of Transportation.
Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.
Local wineries in the Finger Lakes, Geva, Eastman House, Memorial Art Gallery, Niagara Falls, Canada.
When children are involved, they MUST see the Strong National Museum of Play! HOURS of fun!
Depending on the time of year, I would either say Lilac Festival, or Strong Museum.
A pop's concert at the Eastman.
Dinner and cocktails at Hedges, especially in the summer while watching the sun go down over Lake Ontario!
Visit the lakes!
Grinnell’s of course and the view of the city from Cobb's Hill.
Adults can't miss George Eastman House. Families should definitely visit The Strong museum.