Rochester, New York, receives its epic wintertime snows courtesy of Lake Ontario’s effect on its weather, but in summer, water sports rule in this Great Lakes city. The Genesee River, which connects with the lake, and the 11 Finger Lakes to the south, provides buoyant fun during the warm months. Located in the western part of the state, Rochester also offers travelers a healthy dose of cultural attractions, historic sites and entertainment options, but is perhaps most closely associated with the Eastman Kodak Company, famous for photographic innovation.
Throughout the 20th century, the name “Kodak” was synonymous with “camera.” George Eastman, a Rochester native, developed the handheld device in 1888, and today, people visit Rochester to explore the history of this game-changing invention.
The George Eastman House, a 1905 Colonial Revival mansion that is now a Rochester museum and National Historic Landmark, displays the earliest Kodak cameras and film and traces the Kodak legacy of the past century. Permanent and itinerant photography collections, including works by such renowned photographers as Ansel Adams, pay homage to Eastman’s groundbreaking products. The popular gift shop is a haven for shutterbugs.
One block from ”camera central,” keep on shopping at a local favorite, Company No. 6, which offers modern jewelry, art, glass and home décor in a renovated Victorian firehouse. Also nearby, antique lovers find treasures at the Bloomfield Antique Country Mile and at the Craft Antique Co-Ops, home to 210 shops.
Rochester is among five New York cities that compete for the Golden Snowball Award, which it won for the greatest snowfall total of 2011-2012 at 59.9 inches. That may explain why outdoor festivals proliferate in summer. Art, food and music take center stage at diverse celebrations that include Rochester International Jazz Festival, the Lilac Festival, and the Park Avenue Festival, an art and music showcase that draws 250,000 people each year.
In between festivals, visit one of Rochester’s famed parks. The Ontario Beach Park (Charlotte Beach to locals) not only has room for taverns, restaurants, and a rock-and-roll bar but also sports basketball, volleyball and bocce ball courts, soccer fields, and guarded swimming and fishing as well. Highland Park’s focal point, a 1911 conservatory, is open to the public, and Genesee Valley Park is bisected by the picturesque Genesee River. Both of these historic parks were designed by notable landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in the 19th century.
Visitors looking for urban activities should head to the 1930 Art Deco Times Square building in downtown Rochester, along with large Federal, Greek Revival, and Victorian homes in east and southeast Rochester. Further east, shoppers will have fun browsing the tree-lined streets of the Park Avenue shops and restaurants.
Culture is likewise on tap here. Take in a show at the Geva Theatre Center, the city’s leading professional theater, or take the kids to the Strong National Museum of Play. Exhibits at the interactive Rochester museum are dedicated to the art and science of play and include the National Toy Hall of Fame.