Why do so many people love Rochester? Maybe it’s because everyone here seems to know some ultra- secret hip place that no one else knows about. Or maybe it’s the more well-known experiences we all share together: the culture, food, music, and film that make Rochester truly one-of-a-kind.
Rochester is known internationally as a thriving music and performance city, and it’s a cultural hotspot for musicians, dancers, and actors.
The Eastman School of Music, one of the top musical institutes in America, is part of the University of Rochester and hosts free events nearly every night open to students and the public. The Rochester International Jazz Festival is a popular annual downtown music event that The New York Times placed as one of the top four jazz festivals in the US. The Memorial Art Gallery, also part of the University of Rochester, houses the only full-size Baroque Italian organ in North America. Visitors can enjoy two recitals every Sunday.
There are also many local music performance spaces like The German House, Main St. Armory, and the Party in the Park outdoor concert series in the summer just a few blocks from the Eastman School.
Rochester is home to the internationally acclaimed Garth Fagan Dance and Rochester City Ballet. Garth Fagan is best known for his Tony-award winning choreography of the Brodway production of The Lion King.
The city collaborates with local colleges including Nazareth College and SUNY Brockport to create a rich culture of classic and contemporary dance and the celebration of teaching dance to the public.
The theatre scene in Rochester is popular and prestigious. The Geva Theare Center is the most attended regional theater in New York State (outside of Manhattan). Alumni from the theater have been nominated for Pulitzer Prizes, Academy Awards, and won Tonys and Emmys. Through student discount tickets and other promotions, 16,000 students will see a show at Geva annually.
The Rochester Broadway Theatre League performs in the historic Auditorium Theatre, the Greater Rochester Area’s home for awe-inspiring touring Broadway productions, including Hamilton.
Rochester has been a first-choice destination for film and photography professionals for over a century.
The Memorial Art Gallery is Rochester’s civic art museum. Since its founding in 1913, the Gallery’s collection has grown to more than 12,000 works of art representing cultures from around the world and across millennia. It is part of the University of Rochester and is open to students free of charge.
George Eastman is also the source of Rochester’s legacy in the film industry; he invented motion picture film along with Thomas Edison.
The city hosts seven major film festivals every year, including the Rochester International Film Festival, which is the world’s oldest, continuously held short film festival. Many of these festivals are held in some of Rochester’s historical theaters, including the 89-year-old cultural hotspot, The Little Theatre.
Rochester is also home to a savvy film-production community, the largest crew base in the state outside New York City, and state-of-the-art facilities.
The city’s photographic legacy began with the Eastman Kodak Company’s founder, George Eastman, who helped to bring photography to the masses by inventing the personal camera. There are several galleries around the city that feature photography exhibitions to further stimulate and broaden the public’s awareness and interest in photography.
The photography collection at the George Eastman Museum, among the oldest and best in the world, comprises more than 400,000 photographic objects dating from the introduction of the medium in 1839 through to the present day.
The City of Rochester has an exciting and celebrated outdoor scene.
In the Greater Rochester Area, hikers, bikers, and outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy over 12,000 acres of parkland (including Highland Park, one of the oldest arboretums in the US, and Letchworth State Park, also known as “the Grand Canyon of the East”), over 100 miles of trails, and numerous rivers, waterfalls, and lakes, including the historic Erie Canal.
Rochester is one of the Northeast’s premier golf destinations; golf.com has ranked Rochester as the #10 Best Golf City in the US, and #1 for Golf Affordability.
Oak Hill Country Club, originally located on Rochester’s rolling campus and the University golf team’s storied home course, is a top-20 golf course and the only club to have hosted three PGA Championships, the Ryder Cup, three United States Opens, two United States Amateurs, the United States Senior Open, and the Senior PGA Championship. It is the site of the 2019 Senior PGA Championship and the future site of the 2023 PGA Championship.
Local golfers could play twice a week from spring through fall and never walk the same course twice. The courses range from well- designed championship semiprivate clubs to heavily-played municipal courses.
The city’s wealth of gardens, flower festivals like the Lilac Festival, and reputation as an entrepreneurial center for horticultural excellence has earned Rochester the title of “the Flower City.” At the Strong National Museum of Play, the Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden provides an enchanting space filled with hundreds of butterflies and tropical plants.
Considered the birthplace of the women’s right movement, Seneca Falls, NY (about an hour out of Rochester), was the site of the first Women’s Rights Convention. Soon afterward, however, another convention was held in Rochester, and a new movement was born, led by Susan B. Anthony, originally from Rochester, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton from Seneca Falls.
The public can visit the Susan B. Anthony House, Rochester’s first national historic landmark, and the hub where Anthony organized campaigns, wrote speeches, and planned strategies as president of the American Woman Suffrage Association. Anthony is also buried in historic Mount Hope Cemetery, and her grave is a popular feature. The University of Rochester is home to the Susan B. Anthony Center, which offers research opportunities, programs and events. Anthony was instrumental in getting the first female student accepted to this institution of higher learning.
The abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, regularly counted as among the greatest writers, orators, and intellects in American history, did most of his work in the 25 years he lived in Rochester.
Rochester honors his legacy with the Frederick Douglass Institute of African and African-American Studies—a 30-plus-year-old intellectual hub for teaching, research, and public events; with the Frederick Douglass Commons, housing a dining center and multiple University organizations promoting intercultural knowledge and diversity; and with the Frederick Douglass Leadership House as a physical expression of Douglass’s principles.
Douglass received an honorary Doctor of Law degree at the University of Rochester’s 2018 Commencement. His degree was accepted by his great-great-great grandson, Kenneth B. Morris Jr.