Last week, I packed the kids and a whole lot of luggage into our car and headed upstate to my hometown of Rochester, New York to introduce our newest little addition to family and friends in the Western most regions of New York state (I made a trip to Buffalo as well). Although I don't think I would ever live there again, Rochester has a charm that draws me in every time I return. I am a proud native Rochestarian and a big fan of the city I no longer call home (sorry dad).
There are many things that I love when it comes to Rochester, but for the sake of this post, I'm going to focus on seven things that I look forward to, when I return westward, to Rochester, New York's Flower City.
1) Rochester is a place seeped in history and activism. From its inception, people gravitated to Rochester, New York to let their voices be heard. Historical greats like Frederick Douglass, Emma Goldman, Susan B. Anthony, and many others called Rochester home. The underground railroad was active here, the Quakers thrived here, the creative innovation of George Eastman developed here. Rochester, New York, is a history buff's dream. If you are an appreciator of history, you must visit: The Mount Hope Cemetery (where you'll find the tombstones of both Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony), the Susan B. Anthony House and the George Eastman House.
2) The shops at Village Gate! (274 Goodman St N, Rochester) Rochester is a great place to shop local. Village Gate is a collective of local shops, small businesses, unique restaurants and art galleries, owned and operated by local artists, craftsmen and entrepreneurs. My personal favorite shop is Mood Makers Book Shop and Cafe (I gave my first reading here).
3) The Rochester Public Market (280 N. Union St., Rochester NY) Folks stream in from miles away to visit the Rochester Public Market, which boasts fresh produce, meats, a fish market, crafts and ethnic delicacies from over 300 vendors. The market is massive and can easily become an all day event. There are restrooms and restaurants for those in need of relief and a re-charge. I adore this place. The prices are always reasonable and the service is amazing ( Rochestarians are a friendly bunch). The market is open on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 52 weeks a year.
4) The National Museum of Play (1 Manhattan Square Dr, Rochester). I would go here even if I didn't have kids! This is hands down, my favorite children's museum- EVER! Not only is this a children's museum, but it is a museum dedicated to the art of play. Everything is designed to be touched in this highly interactive museum for all ages. Where do I even begin, perhaps with the old fashioned carousel, or the life sized Victorian dollhouse, or maybe the exhibit dedicated to all things trains and planes (complete with a train you can ride). There's a section dedicated to comic books and superheros, there's a complete arcade showcasing the evolution of video games (this is where a lot of the dads disappeared to and where teens go to play after school), there's a replica of Sesame Street (as in the entire street) complete with a life sized Big Bird. You can find a Bernstein Bears tree house replica, there's a life sized Wegmans supermarket where kids can scan and bag their own groceries, there's a children's garden and so much more. The museum is enormous. You can spend an entire morning and afternoon here and if you're nursing a baby, like I currently am, there are nursing rooms, with cozy rocking chairs, dim lighting, books, and activities to occupy toddlers while their younger siblings are being tended to. Oh, I forgot to mention the quirky 1950's style diner, where you can enjoy a classic lunch. This place is FUN!
5) Abbots Frozen Custard! So, if you read my blog with any sort of regularity, it is apparent that I have a bit of an ice cream obsession. I love the stuff. Wherever I go, I make it my business to see what the locals are doing with ice cream. Here in Rochester, magic has been happening for generations thanks to Abbots Frozen Custard! I'm talking the richest and creamiest custard, bursting with rich vanilla bean flavor (a simple vanilla is a great way to test the virtues of ice cream!) Abbots is a Rochester staple. In the summer time, people sit in the parking lot on their cars or at the communal picnic benches and connect with their neighbors over a creamy cup. My first memory of ice cream was an Abbots cherry milkshake. My mother used to treat me to them after my dance classes on Saturday afternoons. There are Abbots Frozen Custard shops all over Rochester. No visit to the city is complete without a taste.
6) Wegmans!!!!!! Okay, Sojourner, why is a grocery store on this list? Well let me explain. Wegmans is so much more than a grocery store, it's an experience, I tell you. Wegmans grocery stores originated right here in good old Rochester and in my opinion, set the gold standard for the modern supermarket experience. If you're in town for a visit and you need anything, this is the place to go. Want food to bring back to your hotel, go to Wegmans. Interested in a delicious morning coffee and pastry (fabulous bakery), go to Wegmans. Want to grab a few things for a picnic lunch in the park, go to Wegmans. Want to meet locals and get a feel for what makes the community tick, go to Wegmans. I never knew how much Wegmans meant to me, until I moved to New York City and had to search far and wide for a good grocery shopping experience. Nobody curates food like Wegmans. Pair that with a phenomenal bakery, a thorough health food section and a seductively satisfying cafe, Wegmans will seep into your soul and move you in a way that no grocery store should.