Student Picks: 36 Hours in Rochester

Eastman students take a break at Java's Cafe on Gibbs Street.

With a plethora of museums and galleries, scenic waterways and parks, eclectic eateries, and a vibrant arts scene, Rochester has something for everyone. Not sure what to do when visiting Rochester during commencement weekend?

Rochester seniors Sean Al-Gattas, Jared Benjamin, Josh Holtzberg, and Rachel Wesley—founders of, a social database that allows people to upload and share activities and experiences in the Rochester area—with help from fellow senior Miriam Frost, have done the research and share their list of activities that they believe will give visitors a small taste of all Rochester has to offer.


Noon Garbage Plate at Nick Tahou’s

Rochester's famed garbage plate—a cheeseburger plate from Nick Tahou Hots.

Rochester’s famed garbage plate—a cheeseburger plate from Nick Tahou Hots.

You can’t visit Rochester without trying a garbage plate, and Nick Tahou Hots is the place to get it! Rochester’s claim to culinary fame may or may not include the following: cheeseburgers, red or white hots, Italian sausage, home fries, beans, french fries, macaroni salad, mustard, onions, and hot sauce. Prepare yourself for a feast of Rochester proportions.

2 p.m.: Lilac Festival, Mt. Hope Cemetery, or Genesee Valley Park

After wolfing down your garbage plate, it might be a good idea to spend some time outdoors. Head over to the Lilac Festival in Highland Park, which includes live music and entertainment, wine and chocolate tastings, arts and crafts, and the largest collection of lilacs in the world.

If you are planning on staying closer to campus, consider strolling around the historic Mt. Hope Cemetery and finding the graves of notables Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. Or head to the beautiful Genesee Valley Park for a scenic walk along the Genesee River.

[Indoor activity: George Eastman House]

In case of rain, check out the George Eastman House, the former home of Kodak founder and Rochester legend George Eastman. Now an international museum of photography and film, this photographic preservation site offers dozens of interesting exhibits.

6 p.m. Dinner at Good Luck

Treat you and your family to a fine dining experience at Good Luck, a shared-plates restaurant on Anderson Avenue. Enjoy the rustic atmosphere and several homemade dishes to share, such as braised oxtail with tripe and tomato sauce, and an assortment of wine and other drinks.

8:30 p.m. Movie Night: movie at the Little Theatre and jazz at the Little Theatre Café or classic film at the Dryden Theatre

A movie after dinner is the perfect way to wind down the evening. The Little Theatre screens independent American and foreign films just a few blocks from the Eastman School of Music. Then, enjoy a cup of post-cinema coffee while listening to live jazz from local groups at the Little Theatre Café.

If you’re interested in something more classic or a little more obscure, the Dryden Theatre at the George Eastman House shows a diverse collection of contemporary and archival films.


10 a.m. Brunch:  Jines Restaurant or the Frog Pond

Start the day off right with Saturday morning brunch on Park Ave at Jines Restaurant or the Frog Pond, two neighbor restaurants that serve up everything breakfast. Jines’s menu showcases omelets, eggs from the grill, and other “eggs with style,” including eggs Alaska and eggs Florentine. Or head next door to the Frog Pond for favorites like cinnamon swirl French toast or the famous sautéed banana pancakes with house-made caramel sauce.

Noon Museum: Strong National Museum of Play, Rochester Museum and Science Center, Memorial Art Gallery

Rochester’s diverse assortment of museums is sure to please anyone on your visit.

Check out the Memorial Art Gallery for “fifty centuries of world art,” including It Came From the Vault: Rarely Seen Works from MAG’s Collection.

If you’re traveling with kids (or even if you aren’t), the National Museum of Play is a fun and interactive museum where you can learn about the history of toys, build a car with Legos, go shopping at the mini-Wegmans market, or even say “hi” to Big Bird at the Sesame Street exhibit.

The Rochester Museum and Science Center also features hands-on exhibits and activities. Explore the middle of the earth, the laws of physics, and the Adventure Zone—complete with rock climbing wall, a tide pool, and more! The Strasenburgh Planetarium is a must-see while you’re there.

3 p.m. Coffee Break: Java’s or Spot Coffee

Time for a coffee break! Grab a cup of joe and do some people-watching in either of these hip coffee shops. Head to Java’s and explore the Eastman School of Music while you’re there. Or check out Spot Coffee and enjoy a pastry with your drink.

4 p.m. Schoen Place

The Erie Canal is a backdrop for Shoen Place in Pittsford. The old coal tower sits among shops and eateries at the popular destination.

The Erie Canal is the backdrop for Shoen Place—a popular summertime destination featuring shops and eateries.

The short drive to Schoen Place is worth it for the beautiful view of the Erie Canal. Browse the shops and rent a canoe or bicycle for a fun afternoon at the water.

6 p.m. Barbecue Dinner: Sticky Lips Pit BBQ or Dinosaur BBQ

Rochester is home to two finger-licking barbecue hotspots. Each has its own take on barbecue—Sticky Lips is 1940s themed, where you’ll find dishes named after classic movie stars and warplanes; Dinosaur BBQ is a colorful rib joint that also features homestyle favorites. Both will fill you up with delicious ribs, mac and cheese, pulled pork and brisket, and a side of corn bread.

8:30 p.m. Cupcakes at Sugar Mountain Bake Shoppe

Save room at the barbecue for your after-dinner cupcake at Sugar Mountain, where you can choose from gourmet flavors like Caramel Fudge Cheesecake, Blackberry Pear Cobbler, and Cookie Dough. The cupcakes are so popular they sell out before the end of the night, so get there early for the best selection!



7 p.m. Dinner: Tapas 177 or Bamba Bistro or Next Door

After a full day of commencement activities, choose from these fine dining restaurants for a delicious meal and a relaxing atmosphere. Tapas 177 features fusion cuisine and the best mojitos in town.

At Bamba Bistro on Alexander Street, enjoy a meal created from fresh seasonal ingredients.

Next Door Bar & Grill is a new upscale restaurant operated by Wegmans that has quickly become a Rochester favorite.

9:30 p.m. After-dinner Drinks: Tap and Mallet or the Old Toad

For the 21+ guests in your party, finish off the evening with a nightcap. Enjoy a glass from the Tap and Mallet’s vast collection of fine craft beers in a comfortable pub-like atmosphere. The Old Toad on Alexander Street is serviced by British students on an exchange program and their extensive drink list and bibial knowledge is sure to impress.


11 a.m. Brunch: James Brown’s Place or Mt. Hope Diner

Ever wanted to meet James Brown? Now’s your chance! James Brown may not have the singing pipes you were expecting, but he can make a mean breakfast over at his place on Culver Road.

For a small-town diner feel, head to Mt. Hope Diner for one of their breakfast specials and a cup of coffee. Insider tip—ask for peppers and onions on your home fries.

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