With it’s tree-lined streets and classic New York neighborhoods, Rochester is an excellent example of the beauty upstate New York has to offer. And at only an hour and a half drive from Niagra Falls and Buffalo, it’s a much less touristy destination in which to relax while still enjoying the sights.
Free things to do in Rochester
Highland Park: Walk your dog, explore the grounds, have a picnic, play some Frisbee…The wooded and wide-open spaces provide the perfect place to relax in the shade or soak up the sun and the conservatory provides a glimpse of a wide variety of plant life.
Eastman School of Music: Free concerts are a regular occurrence here, so check the schedule while you’re in town and maybe you’ll get lucky!
Festivals: During the spring and summer months there are plenty to choose from. From the lilac festival to the jazz festival there’s always something to look forward to.
Mendon Ponds Park: Trails, hiking, water activities, sledding if there happens to be snow on the ground, and if you happen to have a handheld GPS, it’s a popular geocaching location.
ArtWalk: Between Memorial Art Gallery and the George Eastman House on University Avenue is a unique outdoor art gallery with everything from sculpture to painted park benches on display. Surrounding the walk on cross streets are shops, theatres, galleries and museums for your viewing pleasure.
Rochester Art Center: If it’s art you crave, the exhibits at this gallery should do the trick. Admission is only $5 most of the week, but on Thursdays it’s free!
Rochester Public Market: Produce, meat, cheese, baked goods and a variety of other gifts and goods can be found on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at this popular market. There is often live music on the weekends and special events throughout the year.
Our Favorite Things
Eastman Kodak House: Hit up this museum if you’re film buffs like we are. Admission is $14, but if you happen to have a local entertainment Book there’s a BOGO coupon in there. Learn about the man who built a film empire, go on the included tours of the house and gardens, and take a look at the temporary exhibits and collection of old wet plate, dry plate and film cameras.
Susan B. Anthony Museum: Information about the head of the women’s suffrage movement? Yes, please! Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids.
Ice Skating at Ritter Ice Arena: Located at RIT, the rink offers ice skating for $3-$5 plus a $3 skate rental, but in the off-season the hours are limited, so check the schedule before showing up.
Cinemark Movies 10: Yeah the movies may not be brand new releases, but it may be your last chance to catch that summer blockbuster on the big screen before it goes to DVD. Tickets are only $4 regularly, but on Tuesdays you can get in for $1!
Grab a Bite
Sure, Rochester is no NYC, but there are plenty of places to dine on the cheap, even for vegans and vegetarians!
Joe Bean: A coffee geek’s paradise, this cafe with it’s bar-like atmosphere and flights of beer specializes in espresso. And they do it well. I can’t remember the last time I had such a smooth, rich latte. Even their soy milk is a special barista blend. They don’t do fancy syrups, but from someone who usually likes those fancy syrups, ya don’t need ‘em. Just enjoy the excellent flavor.
Dogtown: You can probably guess what food item is featured on the menu at this restaurant, but the variety will certainly impress you. At least a dozen ways to eat a hot dog are available including a Cincinnati Chili dog and a Golden Retriever. Surprisingly, there are also an impressive number of vegetarian options on the menu including a veggie dog that can be substituted for ten of their listed menu items, a veggie burger and a portabello melt. Prices hover between $3.5-$4.50 for the dogs and sides like vegan baked beans and french fries are $2.
Abbots Frozen Custard: I’m told this is a Rochester staple. They offer several flavors of frozen custard including wild strawberry and summer pumpkin, but also a limited selection of frozen yogurt and other treats like sundaes, Oreo ice cream sandwiches and frozen chocolate-covered bananas. Grab a cone with a scoop or two for under $5.
Brueger’s Bagels: You can’t go to New York without partaking of a New York bagel and this place claims to be the best (though don’t they all?). Drop by for breakfast or an afternoon snack or take some home to enjoy as soon as you roll out of bed (that’s how we like our bagels).
The Red Fern: One of Rochester’s all-vegan eateries, this one is on the higher end of “budget friendly,” but not a bad option for dinner. Vegan baked mac and cheese, a Compost Plate (an answer to another Rochester staple’s meat heavy Garbage Plate), and a killer seitan sandwich. Meals are between $9-$10 for the most part and servings aren’t huge, but they also offer $5 juices and plenty of vegan desserts.
Money Saving Tips
If you’re planning on visiting a fair amount of museums and restaurant chains, it might be a good idea to pick up an Entertainment Book or a Save Around Rochester book for a hefty selection of BOGO coupons. Before you buy one or the other, though, browse through and make sure it’s got the coupons you want (Entertainment has one for the Eastman House but Save Around doesn’t).
Pick up a City Paper, free at many restaurants and cafes, and take a look at the events calendar. You could find free concerts, trivia nights at local bars, even theater and outdoor activities.
College towns always have something going on, so keep your eyes peeled!