Staying Downtown? Here’s what to do…

Welcome to Rochester Center City
Like many cities, downtown Rochester has changed quite a bit over the last few years so you may just be surprised at what you can find. Even if you've been here many times before, having the local scoop on things to do can definitely come in handy.

The Inspiration

We’ve all been cooped up for too long over the past year, but it’s a new day. With many people wanting to get out and explore, we figured we give you an idea of what’s in and near downtown Rochester just in case you happen to find yourself there in the near future.

Whether you’re a health-nut looking for some outdoor exercise, a foodie always looking for the best dining or bars, or a caffeine addict looking for the local hot brew, there are plenty of places in ROC downtown that will fit the bill during your vacation and/or business travels. Make sure to check out HOPR, Rochester’s new bike and scooter share in downtown if you’re looking to rent some wheels. While there are way too many places to name concisely in this post, I’ve restricted the places to thinking like a visitor with limited time to explore a city fully. I hope you get some value out of this post, and if you have feedback, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

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When it comes to placemaking and most urban planning circles, the quarter-mile distance is used as a guide for walking just about 5 minutes, and a 10 minute walk is equivalent to a half-mile. I’ll start with the closest things to do near the Hyatt Regency Rochester (pretty darn close to the center of Center City) and then branch out from there, and even include some ideas that, if you’re willing to spend a little on an Uber or you rented a vehicle, you may just find enticing a little farther away.

And just to be clear, these suggestions are all the small, local businesses and things to do – because everyone can trip over the Starbucks within the Hyatt and many of us have the ‘bucks app anyhow. I will mention here that the Hyatt has one of the best rooftop spaces that includes a bar, outdoor seating and fire pits to relax and enjoy amongst the downtown buildings, so make sure to check that out when it’s open regardless of whether or not you’re staying there.

A Word About Safety and Post-Pandemic Guidelines

Safety is always on our minds when it comes to a city we’re not familiar with. No matter what you hear about this city or that city, our downtown is no more/less different than urban centers all across America these days. You have to be vigilant where ever you go, stay well aware of your surroundings, and when at all possible, venture out with a friends, family, or colleagues.

Post-Pandemic: It’s always a good idea to call ahead and check with the local restaurant/shop for accurate open days/hours.

Immediate surrounding area:

1. Drifters
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2. The Mercantile on Main
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4. Bar Bantam
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5. Foodlink Community Cafe
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6. Branca Midtown
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7. He's Chinese and Japanese
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8. Dinosaur BBQ
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9. Tapas 177
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10. Fifth Frame Brewing
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11. St. Paul Proper
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12. Pane Vino on the River
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Food & Drink

  1. Drifters @ the Hilton Garden Inn: 1min walk; Restaurant and bar
  2. The Mercantile on Main: NEW! 3min walk; Food court; coffee & bar; mid-century stylings
  3. DGX: NEW! 3min walk; Mini grocery store featuring grab ‘n go snacks, groceries, and more
  4. Bar Bantam: 3min walk; Restaurant & bar in one of Roc’s iconic hi-rises; Outdoor dining available
  5. ***NEW! Foodlink Community Cafe: 4min walk; a nonprofit restaurant where guests can pay the suggested price on the menu, or what they are able to
  6. Branca Midtown: 5min walk; Restaurant & bar: Outdoor dining available
  7. He’s Chinese and Japanese: 5min walk; Take-out, delivery, and minimal dine-in
  8. Dinosaur BBQ: 6min walk; Restaurant and bar featuring meat, meat, and more meat; take-out and delivery available;
  9. Tapas 177: 6min walk; Restaurant and bar
  10. Fifth Frame Brewing: 6min walk; Small, local brewing company
  11. St. Paul Proper: 7min walk; Neighborhood tavern
  12. Pane Vino: 7min walk; Upscale restaurant on the river; outdoor dining available
1. Rochester Auto Museum
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2. The Liberty Pole
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3. "At the 5"
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4. Central Library
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5. Promenade/Riverway Trail
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6. Roc City Skatepark
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Explore the Area

  1. Rochester Auto Museum: 1min walk; currently open by appointment only
  2. Liberty Pole: 4min walk
  3. “At the 5”: NEW! 4min walk
  4. Central Library: 4min walk; Remember those things called books? They can be found here…
  5. Promenade/Riverway Trail: 7min walk; get your exercise and fresh air;
  6. Roc City Skatepark: NEW! 8min walk
1. Movies with a Downtown View
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2. Events "At the 5"
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3. The Penthouse at One East Avenue
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4. Rochester Fringe Festival
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5. Eastman School of Music
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6. Rochester Red Wings
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If the timing is just right...

  1. Movies with a Downtown View: FREE Movies in the Park with Food Trucks and Giveaways
  2. Events “At the 5”: NEW!
  3. Penthouse on East: 5min walk; Events can be found here;
  4. Rochester Fringe Festival
  5. Eastman School of Music: 8min walk; FREE Events from Top World-Class Musical Student Talent
  6. Rochester Red Wings: 4min drive/22min walk; Rochester’s Minor League Baseball Team at affordable prices

Just down the road:

1. Fuego Coffee Roasters
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2. Native Rochester
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3. Java's Cafe
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4. Ludwig's Center Stage Cafe
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5. Unter Biergarten
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6. Temple Bar and Grille
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7. The Vesper
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8. Side Bar
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9. Geva Theatre
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10. The Little Theatre
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11. Strong Museum of Play
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  1. Fuego Coffee Roasters: 8min walk; one of our city’s best cafes;
  2. Native Rochester: 8min walk; restaurant and bar; outdoor seating
  3. Java’s Cafe: 8min walk; great people watching and outdoor seating;
  4. Ludwig’s Center Stage Cafe: 8min walk;
  5. Unter Biergarten: 8min walk; Featuring sausages, pretzels, and beer (of course!); outdoor patio with firepit;
  6. Temple Bar and Grille: 8min walk;
  7. The Vesper: 8min walk; Restaurant and bar; outdoor seating near the Roc City Skatepark;
  8. Side Bar: 8min walk; food, cocktails, outdoor patio;
  9. Geva Theatre: 9min walk; Regional Theatre; food and drinks available;
  10. The Little Theatre: 11min walk; 
  11. Strong Museum of Play: 12min walk; Toy, Doll, Game Museum, Butterfly Garden, and much more!

Recommended via a long walk, HOPR, and/or Uber

1. Swiftwater Brewing
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2. John's Tex Mex
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3. Genesee Brew House
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4. Roc Brewing Co.
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5. Rochester Beer Park
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6. The Playhouse/Swillburger
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7. Memorial Art Gallery
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8. Boxcar Donuts
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9. Black Button Distilling
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10. Rochester Public Market
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11. Highland Park
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12. Eastman Museum
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13. Activities on the Genesee
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14. Radio Social
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15. Wegmans
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  1. Swiftwater Brewing: 3min drive/23min walk; local craft brewery 
  2. John’s Tex Mex: 3min drive/20min walk; 
  3. Genesee Brew House: 3min drive/14min walk; Rochester’s Brewery since 1878; outdoor seating overlooking the Falls
  4. Roc Brewing Co.: 4min drive/16min walk; Craft beers, local Finger Lakes wines and foods; outdoor seating
  5. Rochester Beer Park: 3min drive; 22min walk; tons of beers on tap;
  6. The Playhouse/Swillburger: 4min drive; 27min walk; burgers, tater tots, pin ball games, and arcade
  7. Memorial Art Gallery; 5min drive; 23min walk;
  8. Boxcar Donuts: 6min drive/30min walk; Handcrafted donuts and specialty coffee
  9. Black Button Distilling: 6min drive/30min walk; Rochester’s first grain to glass craft distillery to open since the prohibition era;
  10. Rochester Public Market: 6min drive/30min walk; local vendors selling their best goods; you’ll find nearby: Cure, Velvet Belly, Rohrbach Brewing Company, Bitter Honey, Katboocha, Fiorella, Juan & Maria’s, Elements on Railroad, and warehouse127.
  11. Highland Park: 6min drive; take a walk, picnic in the park
  12. Eastman Museum: 8min drive; Cameras and Film? See the historical roots in George Eastman’s mansion/turned museum; bonus: the Dryden Theatre showcases unique film screenings old and new;
  13. Activities on the Genesee River: 9min drive/20min bike ride; canoes, kayaks, and more!
  14. Radio Social: 10min drive; bowling, ping pong, skeeball, and more games, restaurant and a couple of bars
  15. Wegmans: Want to experience the BEST grocery store in the world? Wegmans flagship store is right here in Rochester in a suburb called Pittsford, 10min drive/less than 7miles – you’ll also find Trader Joe’s within walking distance to Wegmans.

Popular City Neighborhoods to check out:

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