Rochester, New York, is located right on Lake Ontario and is a historic city to visit in the state. While most tourists will opt to visit places like New York City or Buffalo instead, Rochester is truly a beautiful place worth visiting.
This city is most famous for its striking flowers that bloom in the spring, and many people even refer to it as the “Flower City,” which it has been called since the 19th century.
There are tons of trendy restaurants, fun and historical museums, and urban wineries and distilleries throughout the city. I just spent three days exploring the city and want to share the gems I found!
Best things to do in Rochester, New York
Bowl and have Sunday brunch at Radio Social
For a fun Sunday, head to Radio Social. While you can visit any day of the week besides Tuesday, the best time of the week to visit is Sunday, so you can have brunch while you bowl! Radio Social is a mixture of many great things, including a restaurant, bowling alley, and bar.
While Radio Social has roots dating back to the 1960s in Rochester, it only became known as Radio Social in 2017. Before then, it was called Clover Lanes. Pricing starts at $36.95.
The portion sizes are rather big, so plan to share!
Interact at The Strong National Museum of Play
One of the best things to do in Rochester is to visit and interact with The Strong National Museum of Play. Founded in the 1960s by The Strong, this museum is entirely dedicated to playing and having fun. What more could you want out of a museum?
Located in downtown Rochester, this museum is relatively easy to get to and has its own parking garage. When you visit, make sure you enter the museum through the entrance on Howell Street. If you’re visiting without a car, you can also take an RTS bus to a stop near the museum.
Grab a bite to eat at Mercantile on Main
The Mercantile on Main is a top-notch food court with mid-range pricing on E Main Street in Rochester. It’s located inside an old department store and quickly became a favorite among locals and tourists visiting the city. They’re open for every meal of the day.
Some of the great restaurants inside include Palermo’s Market, Nani’s Kitchen, and BROTH. There’s lots of seating inside this industrial-style building, and because there are so many food options, even the pickiest of eaters will find something to eat here.
Catch a sunset and drinks at Hattie’s
One of the best sunset viewing spots is at Hattie’s – make sure to come early and get a drink outside.
Indulge at Living Roots Wine & Co.
When visiting Rochester, you absolutely must stop by Living Roots Wine & Co., an urban winery. The winery was found by Sebastian and Colleen, who grew up in Adelaide and Rochester. So, they decided to open up a winery in each location and split their time between their hometowns.
There are many things to do at the winery in Rochester, including going on a tour or trying some delicious wines in the tasting room. Keep in mind that they are closed on Mondays but are open every other day of the week.
Explore Highland Park and Lamberton Conservatory
This beautiful park spans approximately 150 acres and is an ample green space in the city! It’s most famous for being home to the Lilac Festival, which occurs annually in May. Visiting while the lilacs are in bloom is arguably the most beautiful time of year to experience this park, though it is also filled with other flora and fauna.
Within Highland Park is the Lamberton Conservatory, a replica of a greenhouse built in 1911. It’s filled with many different plants and flowers and is often used as an event space for locals, including weddings. There is a small fee of $3 to enter, and children under 5 are free, while the park is free to visit.
Get a famous eggs benedict from Jine’s Restaurant
Are you a fan of breakfast? Then one of the best things to do in Rochester for you is to head to Jine’s Restaurant! Jine’s serves up breakfast the entire day and has a wide variety of dishes. This Greek diner has been a local staple since the 1960s when George Gines opened it.
With indoor and outdoor dining spaces, Jine’s is the perfect place to eat no matter the time of year. One of their most popular dishes is the eggs benedict, which you won’t want to miss. They serve it in a variety of ways, including with chorizo or even lox!
See High Falls waterfall right in the middle of town
In Rochester, you absolutely can’t miss seeing High Falls. This waterfall is located right next to a railroad bridge in downtown Rochester and is a peaceful reprieve from the rest of the city. The waterfall is part of the Genesee River.
From the waterfall, you can also get one of the best views of the Rochester skyline! It has a drop around 100 feet. There are many great spots to get a great view of the waterfall, including from the Genesee Brewery, which is next on this list of the best things to do in Rochester.
Have a pint at Genesee Brewery
This brewery, founded in the 19th century, moved to Rochester back in 1878. It got its name because it’s located right next to the Genesee Brewery and was called the High Falls Brewing Company until about ten years ago.
The brewery is most well known for its delicious cream ale, which was added to their brewing rotation in the 1960s. It’s won lots of awards over the years, and they soon came out with other versions, including lemon strawberry! For a great meal, be sure to stop by the Brew House. You can also go on a tour of the brewery.
A menu on their food item that you MUST TRY is their buffalo chicken pierogis. Thank me later!!
Go on an Erie Canal Cruise on the Sam Patch
The Sam Patch is a replica of a packet boat from the 1800s and now serves as the ideal way to cruise the Erie Canal while visiting Rochester. Tours operate seasonally from May to October and the boat boards in Pittsford.
Adult tickets cost $20, while children’s tickets cost $12. This is arguably one of the more popular best things to do in Rochester, especially in the summer, so purchase tickets online in advance to ensure that this is an activity you can take part in while visiting.
Shop for produce and treats at Rochester Public Market
Open Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, the Rochester Public Market is a big market with vendors selling everything from local produce to sweet treats. You can even find vendors selling items like flowers! This is the perfect way to support locals and their livelihoods.
Throughout the year, the Rochester Public Market also hosts many different events that are free to the public. Some past events include Food Truck Rodeos, community-wide garage sales, and Holidays at the Market. You can learn more about seasonal evens on their website.
Visit Casa Larga Vineyards
Located slightly outside of Rochester in Fairport is Casa Larga Vineyards, a picturesque winery. It opened in 1974 and is run by a local family. The winery is quite large and is exceptionally breathtaking. Plus, this winery is traditionally used often for events in the area, especially weddings.
One of the best things to do at the vineyards is to go on a tour to learn more about Casa Larga’s wine-making process.
Make sure and do a wine tasting and get a wine slushie to enjoy outdoors!
Learn about photography at the George Eastman Museum
Even if you aren’t a fan of photography, one of the coolest things to do in Rochester is to visit the George Eastman Museum. This is the most historical museum in the world that is focused on educating visitors about photography.
The museum itself is located right inside George Eastman’s mansion, an influential photographer and filmmaker 100 years ago. Lots of exhibits are permanent, but some rotate throughout the year. Don’t forget to stop by the Dryden Theatre and the many gardens at the museum when visiting!
Eat a delicious dinner at The Cub Room
The Cub Room is a luxurious American restaurant that serves as the perfect spot to have a romantic dinner in Rochester. This historic spot opened in 1929 and has an Art Deco and trendy vibe to it, which provides a fun and engaging atmosphere while you dine.
With both outdoor and indoor seating, The Cub Room is a great place to eat year-round. Even though the menu is not extensive, it has drool-worthy dishes like Hudson Valley Duck Breast, Alaskan Halibut, and even Tagliatelle Bolognese.
Meet up with friends and at Rohrbach Beer Hall
Another popular spot to grab an alcoholic beverage while visiting Rochester is Rohrbach Beer Hall. It was founded in 1991 and was the first brewery of its kind in the city, named after a small town in Germany. They quickly rose to popularity in the area, and now their drinks can be found on lots of local menus in the Finger Lake area of New York.
The best place to meet up with friends or make new comrades is at Rohrbach Beer Hall on Railroad Street (not to be mistaken with their Buffalo Road location). Their menu is filled with all the eats you’d want to indulge in while having a pint, including wood-fired pizza and pretzels with beer cheese dip.
Have an innovative dining experience at Restaurant Good Luck
Restaurant Good Luck is an American restaurant with an industrial atmosphere and warm lighting. Their entrees are a bit more expensive, but the price is well worth it. In fact, this was my favorite meal of the entire trip!
On their menu, you can find excellent dishes like pizza, seafood, pasta, and salads. They also have an extensive wine menu featuring beverages from all over the world. Not a fan of wines? No worries, they have a long cocktail menu too!
Oh, and don’t skip dessert – they make their own ice cream!!
Find the murals in the city
Explore work by local artists by walking around Rochester to find the best street art! There are tons of great street art pieces throughout the city, but arguably the most famous one is a painting called “I’d rather be in Rochester,” or IRBIR for short. This painting can be seen from Parkleigh and was painted in 2018.
The street art in the city can be found pretty much everywhere: on the sides of buildings, in parks, and even in an old subway tunnel. Besides finding IRBIR, just search around the city and see what you find.
Eat a freshly baked donut from BXCR
BXCR, or Boxcar Donuts, is an absolute must-visit in Rochester. This donut shop serves specialty coffee and, you guessed it, delicious donuts. They have tons of great flavors, including cotton candy, apple peach fritter, and even cosmic brownie for nostalgia!
They aren’t open for long hours, so the best time to stop by is sometime in the morning. This way, the donuts are still super fresh and they aren’t out of any flavors yet. Try to go with a friend so you can split a few donut flavors together.
Tour Black Button Distilling
Last but certainly not least, take a tour of Black Button Distilling. This Rochester distillery has won many awards over the years since its opening in 2012. They are most well known for their great bourbon.
In addition to taking a tour of the distillery, you can also attend happy hour events, try their delicious drinks while enjoying their outdoor seating, or shopping in their store for merchandise. For a unique experience, go to The Distiller’s Library!
Make sure and try the Bourbon Cream with root beer and thank me later!!
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Disclaimer: this post is written in partnership with Visit Rochester. As always, opinions are entirely my own.