What Travel Writers Say


Rochester, New York - My Favourites

© by Mike Keenan

A bulky bass ambles by a minuscule piccolo; three violins natter nervously in a corner; an agile cello darts easily around a placid guitar; a tuba, hurried, barely acknowledges the waving trombone and massive bass, wrapped hermetically in its hard, black, plastic shell. They look so young - the students, as I observe their bustling action inside The Eastman School of Music's hectic lobby.

The Erie Canal, employed to transport milled grain and lumber, made Rochester America's first "Boom Town." It was home to many accomplished Americans - John Jacob Baush & Henry Lomb, optics pioneers, Hiram Sibley, co-founder of Western Union, Susan B. Anthony, women's rights champion, and Abolitionist Frederick Douglass who assisted Harriet Tubman to help slaves escape via the Underground Railroad.

However, the person who ultimately fashioned the greatest impact on this gateway to the Finger Lakes is George Eastman who invented the first flexible film camera that made cameras and photography available for the masses.

A wealthy philanthropist thanks to the lucrative Kodak company, his impact resonates even now as a founding benefactor of educational and cultural institutions including the Eastman School of Music, The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the Eastman School of Dentistry and The George Eastman Museum.

Eastman's generosity and wealth were formidable. At the end of one meal, he donated $30 million to several colleges. Unfortunately, well into his seventies and afflicted with debilitating ailments, he ended his life in 1932 with a single gunshot, leaving an eloquent note that read, "My work is done." To qualify for burial at St. Paul's, the death certificate was fudged to indicate "temporary insanity."

Here are my favourite five spots in Rochester -

1. The Eastman House and Museum is a must-see. The area homes are stunningly beautiful, and a sea of yellow leaves glittered in the sun. Along a wall towards the entrance, ivy served as a reddish coat.

One might spend an entire day here, with movies in the evening. A National Historic Landmark, the residence was built between 1902-1905 on 10.5 acres (42,000 m2) of working farm land with formal gardens, greenhouses, stables, barns, and pastures.

The 35,000-square-foot (3,300 m2), 50-room Colonial Revival mansion with a fireproof structure was made of reinforced concrete, and it included modern conveniences such as an electrical generator, internal telephone system with 21 stations, built-in vacuum cleaning system, central clock network, elevator and a great Aeolian pipe organ. Guests entering from the foyer were treated to an amazing glass-fronted striking lounge area with a giant elephant head trumpeting from a wall.

The world's oldest photography museum was founded in 1947 with a collection of over 400,000 photographs from 14,000 photographers dating from the beginnings of the medium (including the largest collection of daguerreotypes outside of France). It also features 16,000 items of camera technology, 26,000 motion picture titles and 3.5 million publicity stills and posters. The museum also boasts one of the world's most comprehensive libraries of photographic books, manuscripts, and journals.

2. The Eastman Theatre and The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra is another must-see, and I was treated to The Eastman School of Music's premier orchestra, the Eastman Philharmonia, joined by four-time Grammy Award-winning soprano and Eastman alumna/Rochester native Renée Fleming. Fleming returned to the Kodak Hall stage to thrill the audience with her sumptuous voice and compelling stage presence.

Under the direction of Maestro Neil Varon, Ms. Fleming and the Philharmonia premiered Letters from Georgia, a new work by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and Eastman alumnus Kevin Puts. Many of the students I had watched earlier racing to classes were now dressed in tuxedos and black dresses performing like pros.

3. The Memorial Art Gallery takes one on a journey through more than 5,000 years of art history. From the relics of antiquity to contemporary movements, the Gallery offers a panorama of the world's art. With the completion of Centennial Sculpture Park, the Gallery's 14-acre campus has been transformed into a spectacular urban space.

What I enjoy most here is the special way in which space compliments the enclosed exhibits. As I enters each gallery I pauses to take it all in, a visual treat, making each gallery exceptional. I love the exquisite marble statues and how they are framed.

Referred to as "the mini MET," the permanent collection of more than 12,000 objects has been called the best balanced outside of metropolitan New York City. Walking through the door, one is greeted by a bronze Henry Moore sculpture, not a bad start!

4. The Geva Theatre is a wonderful downtown easily-accessible venue in which to imbibe more culture. I have enjoyed two plays presented here, and among Geva's notable alumni are 1 Pulitzer Prize nominee, 4 Academy Award nominees, 19 Tony Award Winners, 34 Drama Desk Award Winners, 85 Drama Desk nominees, 11 Emmy Award Winners and 47 Emmy nominees. Kathy Bates, Josh Brolin, Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Pullman, Anna Deavere Smith and Robert Vaughn have all graced the Geva stage. It exudes a warm, inviting atmosphere.

5. Rochester's City-run Public Market at 280 N. Union Street has operated since 1905. Parking is tough, but bargains abound Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 52 weeks a year. Over 300 vendors on the busiest Saturdays offer fresh produce, ethnic delicacies, specialty items and merchandise, all at remarkable prices. An array of nearby independent local businesses - cafés, food stands, coffee shops, florists, specialty food purveyors and breweries can be found on Market grounds and in the surrounding district. A great place to people watch as farmers display their yields.

Rochester Public Market, photo by Mike Keenan  Rochester Public Market, photo by Mike Keenan  Rochester Public Market, photo by Mike Keenan  Rochester Public Market, photo by Mike Keenan

Rochester is located within a 400-mile radius of 14 northeastern states, two of the most populated Canadian provinces, New York's capital, Albany, and the U.S. capital, Washington, D.C. It's only 107 kilometres from Buffalo, NY.

There are a few other items that might be of interest during a Rochester visit. ARTISANworks is where art comes to life in the studio, on the walls, and in your hands. In this large, eclectic studio, resident artists create new works. One may shop at the Elizabeth Collection, a world-class, breathtaking, gallery of paintings, photography, 3-dimensional and kinetic art at 565 Blossom Rd # L, Rochester, NY 14610. Ph (585) 288-7170, website: www.artisanworks.net

ARTISANworks, photo by Mike Keenan  ARTISANworks, photo by Mike Keenan  ARTISANworks, photo by Mike Keenan  ARTISANworks, photo by Mike Keenan

The Genesee Brew House transformed its 9,200 square-foot space into a beer destination, featuring interactive exhibits, multimedia content, gift shop, pilot brewery and pub-style restaurant. The Brew House shares the long history of The Genesee Brewery - one of the largest and oldest continually operating breweries in America. It's busy, loud and fun! Try it at 25 Cataract St, Rochester, NY 14605, ph. (585) 263-9200, website: http://www.geneseebeer.com/brewhouse/

We stayed at Rochester's newest hotel, The Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Rochester. Originally the home of the National Clothing Company, established in 1924, we enjoyed the high ceilings and marble floors as we entered this unique, historical building. An arboretum, heated indoor swimming pool, fitness center with state of the art equipment and a super convenient location in downtown Rochester made it easy to walk to both the Geva Theatre and Kodak Hall.

Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Rochester, photo by Mike Keenan  Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Rochester, photo by Mike Keenan  Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Rochester, photo by Mike Keenan  Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Rochester, photo by Mike Keenan

For more pictures, go to: https://www.pinterest.com/mustang6648/

Mike Keenan is a travel columnist for Troy Media. He produces a travel podcast - http://whattravelwriterssay.libsyn.com/ accessible on iTunes and Stitcher Radio and has been published in every major newspaper across Canada including the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and Toronto Sun. He has been published in National Geographic Traveler, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City, Seniors Review and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. With hundreds of reviews, photos and helpful votes, he has earned Trip Advisor's "Top Contributor Badge" and is considered an "Expert" in both Hotels and Restaurant reviews. Mike posts photos to Pinterest where he has a following of five thousand viewers.

Rochester, New York Skyline
Rochester, New York Skyline courtesy of visitrochester.com

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Mike Keenan

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If you go
Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rochester,_New_York
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Rochester_(New_York)
Wikivoyage: https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Rochester_(New_York)
About.com: http://index.about.com/index?q=rochester&o=40026&qo=aboutSiteSearch&ad=dirN
Trip Advisor: https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Tourism-g48503-Rochester_Finger_Lakes_New_York-Vacations.html
Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=rochester+ny&find_loc=Rochester,+NY

What to See
ARTISANworks: www.artisanworks.net
The Eastman Philharmonia: http://eastmantheatre.org/events/
The George Eastman Museum: www.eastmanhouse.org
The Geva Theatre: http://www.gevatheatre.org/shows/
The Memorial Art Gallery: http://mag.rochester.edu/
The Public Market: http://www.cityofrochester.gov/publicmarket/

Where to shop
The Eastview Mall: http://www.eastviewmall.com Lots of unique shops in nearby Victor, NY including my favorite, L.L. Bean.

Where to eat
Max of Eastman: http://maxrochesterny.com/ Conveniently located across the street from the theatre for easy access, it features upscale, seasonal, American cuisine in a classy atmosphere with excellent service.

Where to stay
Hilton Garden Inn Rochester Downtown: http://hiltongardeninn3.hilton.com/en/hotels/new-york/hilton-garden-inn-rochester-downtown-ROCEMGI/index.html

Recreation, Culture & Faith
Fiction: http://www.inforochester.com/authors.htm
Films featuring: http://www.visitrochester.com/things-to-do/arts-culture/photography-film/
Music: http://rochestermusic.org/
Places of worship: http://www.yellowpages.com/rochester-ny/churches-places-of-worship
Sport: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sports_in_Rochester,_New_York

Travel Aid
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
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