Four things to do whilst in Rochester, NY.

You might already be asking yourself, why would I visit Rochester? This city on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, with a population of just over 200,000 people might not necessarily be on the top of most people’s travel list, but I’ve found that travelling for travel’s sake is always worthwhile. You’re bound to experience something new and or enrich yourself. 


The main reason why I visited Rochester was to see and catch up with my friend from undergrad, who actually happened to be one of my residents during his first year. I last saw him and his parents in South Africa and wasn’t able to make his medical school graduation, so I figured I’d pay him a visit in Rochester, where he’s currently doing his residency.  While the weather may not have been the best that week, here are four things I did whilst in the area that are worth your time when visiting or passing through.  

 Mount Hope Cemetery:

Yes, a cemetery makes the list and unlike cemeteries in New Orleans famed to be the final burial grounds of Voodoo priestesses, Mount Hope Cemetery is where you will find the final resting place of Fredrick Douglass. He was a 19thcentury former-slave, who, after escaping a life of slavery from Maryland became an important figure in the abolitionist movement in New York. He gained notoriety for his oratory and acute antislavery writings.


Before my visit, I had no idea that he was buried just hours away from New York City and I couldn’t pass a visit to the gravesite of someone so influential to the lives of millions of people, past and present.  Other notable people are also buried there, like Susan B. Anthony, a women’s rights activist who played an important role in women’s suffrage movement.


Ontario Beach Park: 


Did you know that Lake Ontario is one of the five Great Lakes of North America and the 14thlargest in the world? Enjoy a nice afternoon stroll here after your visit to Mount Hope Cemetery. You can either walk the pier and peer into the seemingly infinite waters of Lake Ontario or walk the beach and feel some sand in-between your toes. The lake is safe to swim in, so if you’re looking for a beach afternoon, look no further. 


Niagara Falls: Chances are you’ve heard of Niagara Falls, especially if you live in America or Canada. The Falls consist of three waterfalls that are nestled between the Canadian province of Ontario and New York. Combined, the falls have the highest flow rate of any waterfall in North America, and one of the three falls that make up Niagara, Horseshoe Falls, also called Canadian Falls, is the most powerful waterfall in North America.


The drive from Rochester is about 1.5-2hrs, depending on traffic, so it’s easily doable in a day. I visited the Falls once a few years ago and this time around, I crossed the border over Rainbow Bridge and visited the Falls on the Canadian side. It is an undeniably different visual experience from the Canadian side than on the New York side.


There are lush greens gardens, multiple observation points, zip lining and the Skylon Tower, where you’ll find an observation deck, as well as a revolving dining room! How cool? Be sure to stick around for the evening fireworks. 


Eat: If good food makes you happy, then be sure to try these restaurants whilst in Rochester. 


 The Mad Hatter Restaurant & Bakery: You’ll love the Alice in Wonderland themed decor as much as you’ll enjoy their freshly squeezed orange juice mimosas, eggs benedict, British scrams and my fav, biscuits and gravy. 


Perfect place to begin your day!

The Red Fern: An entirely vegan & gluten-free restaurant, this establishment serves up tasty eats from scratch with plenty of options that are soy and nut-free. Try the Steak Bomb or ABLT. 


 The Pasta Villa: Italian Home-style cooking in a quaint dining setting, friendly wait staff and good portions- what more could you want from an Italian restaurant? Consistently rated as one of the best restaurants in town, The Pasta Villa lives up to its reputation. Try the garlic bread with mozzarella and the ravioli with Alfredo sauce. 


 Bonus: Wineries. 

 It rained most of my stay so I wasn’t able to do any wine tours as I had initially planned, but just south of Rochester you’ll find the Finger Lakes area, which is New York’s central wine region. There are over 100 wineries to explore, many of them with gold medal-winning Rieslings. It’s also the third-largest wine-producing state in the country. It’s been called the “Sonoma of the East” and I for one am looking forward to experiencing the wine region on my next visit.