Things to do in and around downtown Rochester
Today’s post was written by Amy Skjerseth, a recent graduate of Eastman. Her tips will help you get to know the city of Rochester, and give you the insider view on some fun things to look forward to. Thanks Amy!
Things to do near the Eastman Campus
On the block surrounding Eastman, there is a wide array of restaurants to go to, with options ranging from fast food to upscale. Just around the corner of the school is Moe’s Southwest Grill, a Mexican fast-food place, along with Golden Port Dim Sum, which offers all kinds of Asian cuisine. You can head down Gibbs Street to Tavern 58, a fancier spot that serves up American food. Java’s Café and Spot Coffee are great places to grab coffee with friends, study by yourself, or indulge in a delicious dessert after a concert. Just past Spot is Matthew’s East End Grill, and a few steps beyond Matthew’s is the Little Theatre, one of Rochester’s cultural gems. This independent movie theater has five screens, with an artsy, fun atmosphere and a cute cafe. It’s also a terrific value: $5 tickets for students or a student membership for $35 that covers admission to twelve films.
To get to more restaurants and shops, turn right at the corner of East Avenue and Alexander Street. From Alexander, you only have to walk a little ways until you are at the beginning of one of Rochester’s most trendy neighborhoods, Park Avenue. This meandering, tree-lined street is filled with cafés and restaurants, bakeries, specialty shops, hair salons, a CVS pharmacy, and more. It takes a little less than fifteen minutes’ walk to reach the beginning of Park Ave, but once you’re on it, each block has something to offer. It’s a pocket of Rochester that warrants many outings.
Another popular restaurant destination for Eastman students is Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, just a ten minute walk downtown. The atmosphere is fun and relaxed, and you probably won’t find better mac and cheese anywhere else. Another local barbecue favorite is Sticky Lips, which is a little farther away; it’s more accessible by car.
On Saturdays, many Eastman students make the short walk or take the free shuttle bus from Eastman to the Rochester Public Market. You can supplement your meal plan with fresh produce of every kind imaginable from the Public Market. It’s a larger farmer’s market with indoor and outdoor areas, plus several food carts where you can get breakfast sandwiches and empanadas. When you move into your first apartment, it is a great place to buy groceries, and it’s open on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday year-round.
Speaking of groceries, that reminds me—I can’t forget to mention one of the most talked-about Rochester staples, Wegmans! It’s a grocery store, but believe me, there is so much more to it than that. Rochesterians love Wegman’s, and once you walk into one, we think you’ll instantly understand why. It’s not just grocery shopping; it’s a highlight of the week. Hitch a ride to the Wegman’s down East Avenue (at 45 minutes, it’s just a little too far to walk) and you’ll become an instant fan.
There is also a Wegman’s (the flagship store, which is huge!) in Pittsford Plaza, which is accessible by shuttle from the University of Rochester on Saturdays. Also at Pittsford Plaza is Trader Joe’s, Chipotle, Barnes and Noble, TJ Maxx, Bed Bath & Beyond, Five Guys, and the Cheesecake Factory. You can also take a Saturday shuttle from the River Campus to Marketplace Mall, which is a large shopping area that includes Target, Walmart, and a movie theater.
Take the Shuttle to River Campus
The River Campus is home to the University of Rochester’s College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering. There is a free shuttle bus between the Eastman Student Living Center and the U of R that runs quite frequently and only takes ten to fifteen minutes. The bus drops you off at Rush Rhees Library, an iconic building that houses several study spaces and, of course, extensive library collections where you can check out books with your Eastman ID. You can then go through the University’s tunnel system to get to Wilson Commons, the student center. Many Eastman students visit Starbucks there, but Panda Express, at the bottom level of Wilson Commons, is also popular. Your meal plan is valid at every dining center at the U of R, so there are lots of options!
You can also use the U of R gym free of charge, with just a swipe of your ID. If you are looking for alternate ways to exercise, many students will purchase YMCA memberships because the Y is on the corner of Gibbs Street between the Eastman Student Living Center and the school. The YMCA offers discounted memberships to students. Eastman students often play basketball and Frisbee in the courtyard in the middle of the Eastman Student Living Center, or they’ll head over to the River Campus to play soccer. Many students take advantage of the bike path that runs alongside the Genesee River to get in a run or take a leisurely stroll.
There are many beautiful parks located near the University of Rochester. Highland Park (designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York City’s Central Park) is well worth a visit, especially when the lilacs are in bloom. Genesee Valley Park and Cobbs Hill Park are also within the city limits.
What’s Outside of Rochester? Rent a Zipcar or take a bus or train!
The best kind of car is a friend’s car, of course. But you can also take advantage of the Zipcar service, where you can rent a car from a parking lot near Eastman. The rates are very reasonable, but make sure to sign up for a car about four days in advance for prime availability. Visit www.zipcar.com/rochester for more information.
There are plenty of things to do outside of the immediate metropolitan area of Rochester. The parks mentioned above are just a few of the green spaces that upstate New York has to offer; if you drive north from the city for about twenty minutes, you’ll arrive at Lake Ontario. The Rochester lakeshore boasts several lakeside parks, as well as Seabreeze, an amusement park. The lake is a great place to hang out in the warmer months, but it is hauntingly beautiful in the winter — well worth a visit.
At only slightly above an hour away by car, Letchworth State Park rivals many national parks throughout the United States. In fact, it’s nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the East.” Plan a day trip to walk around its three large waterfalls and explore miles of hiking trails. Don’t forget to bring your camera; this is one of every Eastman student’s favorite daytrips.
Another daytrip that also includes waterfalls is a destination you’ve most likely heard of before: Niagara Falls. It’s only an hour and a half drive from Eastman—the perfect place to go with your family when they visit you.
If you want to visit New York City over fall or spring break, there are several transportation options available to you. Both the Amtrak and bus stations are very close to Eastman’s campus—only a ten minute walk. Many students take the Megabus or the train, and it only takes about six to seven hours to get to the City.
As you can see, there is much more to Rochester than just the block surrounding Eastman. Take advantage of what Rochester has to offer; get out and explore your new city