I recently travelled to up state New York to run the Rochester edition of the color run. It is becoming an annual thing for me – plan a weekend around a color run and see where it will take me. To be honest, before I set out, I knew nothing about Rochester other than it was in upstate New York and there was a color run! Not much to go on, but a few emails to Visit Rochester and I had a weekend jam packed with things to do. Turns out, there is something for everyone in Rochester and a weekend only skimmed the surface!
Rochester itself is a town best visited with a car. The various attractions can be rather spread out. I lucked out with some super friendly cabbies who were only to happy to share insights into their town, especially what I should do and were I should eat! The one restaurant on the lips of everyone’s mouth was Dinosaur. Right on the banks of the Genesee River, I could smell the sweet and smokey goodness before I even saw the restaurant! With BBQ inspired rumblings in my stomach, it was hard to walk past it my first night in town. There were so many bikers out front – I thought it was a biker bar and was a little put off as I was dining solo. Turns out it is very family, very busy and you need to get there early! The bikers had no bite here – they just knew a good meal when they tasted one. I went back on Saturday night and the wait for a table was over an hour long! Tip: if you are happy to eat at the bar, it is much faster to get a spot and your food! Dinosaur’s pulled pork is totally worth the wait! And of course, don’t forget to check out their sauces – varying degrees of heat and flavour are available from their in-restaurant store! A friendly warning though – you will probably roll out of the place – it is that tasty and the servings are that big!
Looking for more food tips? While I didn’t make it to the Genesee Brew House (another place that came highly recommended), I did make it to the Flight Wine Bar. It was a perfect wind down after my 5 hour drive. Mellow and loaded with cozy atmosphere – I could see myself coming back here for more! (See my review here: Nightlife in Rochester: Take flight at Flight Wine Bar). I also heard the Tapas 177 Lounge is pretty amazing although I never quite made it over. I don’t know where the time went!
My Rochester Bucket List was full of things to do, and I knew there wouldn’t be time. I had to narrow it down and it wasn’t easy. With George Eastman of Kodak fame the major benefactor in town, the arts scene was pretty good. There were plenty of theatres, museums and galleries to explore. While the National Susan B Anthony museum looked interesting (hello women’s rights movement), my interest in photography let me to the the George Eastman House. Now, here is a guy with a fascinating history! Don’t want to give it away, but his life was pretty eclectic, right to the end. He had a love of travel, film and parties – 3 things I can totally relate to! The Eastman House is a sight to see and his gardens are impressive (very popular for weddings too!) I recommend taking the tour – there is literally a story behind every corner and a few twists along the way!
Not far from the Canadian border, the waterways have played an important role throughout history in transportation, commerce and defence. The Erie Canal, when it was built, was considered the Eighth Wonder of the World – an engineering marvel and a means to gain access to the country west of the Appalachian Mountains. It was finally completed in 1825, consisting of 18 aqueducts and 83 locks. Fast forward to today and you will see the canal now serves as a major form of recreation. The bike paths were full of walkers and cyclists as I sat aboard the Sam Patch, a pocket boat replica that took me on a scenic cruise through time. The cruise starts in the quaint town of Pittsford, slowly making its way up the canal to Lock 32. I am not sure exactly what I was expecting, but the passage through the lock was quite smooth as the water levels dropped 25 feet. The captain shared trivia about the canal and let one of the young girls on board drive the boat for a while. It’s a great way to pass a sunny afternoon.
And last but certainly not least – I love to get out and check out the local markets when I travel. In Barcelona, I definitely hit La Boqueria – the local flavours and colour inspire me every time I go. It came as no surprise to me that the Rochester Public Market was recommended to me – after all, it was voted America’s best Farmers Market and there was no question as to whether or not I would be going. I stopped and sampled the best breakfast burritos, wandered further down for some chai (for the coffee lovers – it looked to me like they were roasting their own coffee beans on site – I heard it is pretty good!) and picked up some goodies to bring home with me. The bottle of Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar is burning a hole in my cupboard as I wait for strawberry season to hit!
What really surprised me was when Visit Rochester told me that Wegmans Super Store (or grocery store on steroids), is the #1 tourist attraction in the area! How could this be? Turns out Wegmans won the first ever Food Channel award for the grocery store that most changed the way we shop and has been named to Forbes Top 10 Places to Work for more than 10 years. The prepared food market was out of this world! There was such an abundance of choice, it was hard to know where to begin! After a weekend of indulging in pulled pork, wine and cheese, I opted for the roasted veggies, but I have to say – the fresh baked aroma of Belgium waffles wafting through the air was pretty tough to resist! You need a car to go to Wegmans, but I have to say – it was worth the trip!
They say there are always reasons in every season to visit Rochester – thank you to Visit Rochester for all your help in putting this weekend getaway together. I had a ball!