Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: July 2023

Rochester is located in upstate New York near the southern shores of Lake Ontario. It’s known as both the Flour City (as it was once the largest flour-producing city in the United States) and Flower City (due to its abundance of nurseries and growing seed industry). It has an interesting history in manufacturing and photography and became the first boomtown in the United States when its population doubled in size in the 1830s.

While visiting Buffalo for a few days we decided to take a day-trip to Rochester since it’s reasonably nearby. We had actually booked our accommodations here since it was significantly less cheaper than in Buffalo (largely because we made our reservation a day before our trip). After spending the morning taking a tour through Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin D. Martin House in Buffalo, we returned to Rochester for the remainder of the afternoon. But it turns out that this afternoon coincided with Rochester’s Pride Parade, which made driving through the city quite painful.

Given all the traffic and road closures, we had to prioritize what we wanted to see and do. We started at the George Eastman Museum which contains a museum dedicated to the history of photography and a self-guided tour through the Colonial Revival mansion to learn more about George Eastman.

Our visit to the museum started in the section dedicated to photography and contains one of the oldest film archives in the world. The collection showcases how photography has evolved over time and includes an impressive display of antique photographs and cameras dating back to the 19th century.

We made our way over to the mansion, stopping to first check out the gardens. George Eastman was an American entrepreneur who is famous for founding the Eastman Kodak Company which helped make photography more accessible to the general public through the Kodak camera.

Eastman lived in Rochester for most of his life. He resided in the mansion from 1905 until his death in 1932. The estate was bequeathed to the University of Rochester to be used as the residence of the university president. It was later converted into a museum. The mansion and gardens were restored and the majority of Eastman’s original furnishings were returned.

While we had other attractions on our itinerary, we had to scrap a couple items given the traffic situation from the parade. We headed to High Falls Terrace Park which is reputed to provide the best view of the city. From the parking lot, there’s a viewing platform that provides an overlook of the waterfall with several skyscrapers in the background. There’s a paved path that follows the edge of the gorge to a bridge that leads to the other side of the river. But the bridge was closed for construction at the time of our visit.

Darker clouds were rolling in. We quickly made our way over to Maplewood Park for a view of the lower falls. There’s a few different trails here and we picked the one that follows the edge of the river. Much of the views were obstructed by all the greenery though. There might have been a better viewpoint further ahead, but it started to lightly rain, so we called it quits.

We drove back downtown and made one more stop to check out the Central Library of Rochester. The building is rather unique as there’s a spillway for diverted water following into the Genesee River. We didn’t linger long as it started to rain again.

We took the gloomy weather as a sign to return to our accommodations.


75 thoughts on “Rochester

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Same! The George Eastman museum and mansion was at the top of our list of things to do in Rochester. We made sure to prioritize it given all the traffic and road closures from the Pride Parade. I’m always intrigued to get a glimpse into what life was like for the wealthy back in the day and how they furnished their houses.

  1. kagould17 says:

    Rochester does look like a neat place to visit. Lots of moving water about (falls and rain). The mansion looks beautiful, although I am not sure what I think of the elephant head on the wall. Eastman had a great business going with Kodak, but forgot to progress as digital moved in. Thanks for sharing Linda. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s neat how the falls are the focal point of the city and that many of the buildings have been built around the river. It’s too bad the weather wasn’t the greatest, otherwise we would have loved to explore more of the downtown on foot. I know what you mean about the George Eastman mansion, it’s a nice house, but the elephant trophy was a bit much. I used to use a Kodak camera and Kodak film rolls when I was younger. It’s too bad they didn’t innovate and instead got left behind. C’est la vie, you just have to keep moving forward. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Linda

  2. Mike and Kellye Hefner says:

    Another fantastic New York destination and post, Linda! I will be adding Rochester to my list, as we would love to visit the Eastman Museum, and see the other sights that the lovely city has to offer. By the looks of my list, we’re going to have to move to New York for a year to do it all!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. I know what you mean about New York. We’re hoping to return at some point to explore the Finger Lakes and the Adirondacks. Hopefully we can visit sometime in the fall when the leaves are changing colour. I’m glad we managed to squeeze in a visit to Rochester while in Buffalo, even if our time was limited. It’s always fun to explore new places!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s neat to see how the downtown has been built up in and around the falls. It’s very picturesque and a great way to combine city living with some nature. It was also fun to tour through George Eastman’s mansion and to learn more about the history of Kodak cameras and photography in general. It’s pretty amazing how cameras have come such a long way over the past century or so.

  3. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    I have been to Rochester but have never really toured it. Looks like the museum was interesting. Kodak unfortunately didn’t keep up with the changes in technology and went bankrupt about 10 years ago. I think a UK company bought it. Great photos, Linda. Cheers.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! It was interesting to learn more about the history of photography and to see how much cameras have changed over time. I remember having a Kodak camera when I was younger and using Kodak film rolls. I’m so glad those days are in the past! It’s a great cautionary tale as to what happens when you don’t innovate and change with the times.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That’s one of the benefits about conferences, is being able to travel. Glad you got to see Rochester for yourself. There’s not a whole lot to do, but it’s still worth exploring. And the view of the waterfall within the city is lovely.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I knew nothing about Rochester before visiting, expect that it it’s in New York and by Lake Ontario. There’s surprisingly quite a bit to see and do, but the best part is how the city has been built up around the river and features some beautiful views of the falls.

  4. Diana says:

    That’s a bummer about the weather, but Rochester looks like a lovely city! Pat and I have said before we need to do an upstate New York roadtrip so I’ll be sure to add Rochester to our itinerary!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The weather wasn’t even the worst of it. It turns out visiting Rochester during Pride Parade wasn’t a good call given all the road closures and traffic delays. But, we made do with the time that we had. We’d love to explore more of upstate New York too, especially around the Finger Lakes. And then there’s the Adirondacks. Now we just need more vacation days!

      • Diana says:

        The Adirondacks are lovely, that’s one place I have made it to! Pat and I did a couple long weekend camping trips up to this area back when we lived on the east coast m

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        We’ve only ever been to the Adirondacks in the winter, but I’ve heard it’s even more beautiful in the fall when the leaves are changing colour. Glad you got to spend some time camping there

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        The fall is my favourite time of the year for hiking and travelling. It’s hard to fit it all in before the seasons change and the weather takes a turn. But someday we’ll make it to the Adirondacks for the fall colours!!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We didn’t know what to expect with Rochester. It’s a big city, but it’s not nearly as touristy as Buffalo or NYC. We actually wish we had a bit more time to explore the sights. But I have a feeling we’ll be back to explore more of upstate New York sometime.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. You are too kind. We typically like to spend our summers camping and exploring the trails. But it’s been nice to shake things up and visit some nearby cities that we’ve often overlooked. It turns out you can get the best of both worlds sometimes when nature has been incorporated in and around the city. And Rochester is one of those places.

  5. Bama says:

    I had no idea Rochester looked this interesting! I particularly love the spillway beneath the Central Library building, also the fact that there are waterfalls in the city! Urban dwellers usually have to go out of town to see such thing. But Rochesterians have them right in their front yard.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know, it’s amazing how Rochester was built up around the river and the falls have become a focal point. They’ve certainly found a nice balance between nature and city life. It’s too bad about the weather as we would have loved to explore more of the historic brick buildings downtown. I’m glad we managed to see the library though.

  6. says:

    I love the look of the interior of Eastman’s house, it’s fascinating to see how people who can afford to buy anything they like choose to spend their money. A decent visit despite the weather and the traffic doing their best to spoil it.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We had limited time in Rochester, especially given all the road closures and traffic delays, but I’m glad we made it to the George Eastman mansion and museum. The house itself was beautiful, but there were some questionable decorative choices. Agreed, it’s interesting to see how people with wealth used to spend their money back in the day. To each their own.

  7. Ab says:

    This was a fun tour, Linda. Too bad about the traffic cutting out some of your plans.

    When I was in my early 20s, I did several trips to NYC and to save money, I took the overnight Greyhound bus from downtown Toronto. Rochester was always just a stop on our route that I never thought much of.

    It was interesting to learn about its historical significance for the evolution of photography and the Eastman mansion was nice. A different way of life that we only experience through museum tours! 😆

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      In retrospect we should have dedicated a full day in Rochester instead of half a day. And we probably should have looked up to see what events were happening! Despite the traffic, I’m glad we managed to see some of the city, including the George Eastman museum.

      It’s funny to look back at how we used to travel when we were younger and had no money. The thought of taking an overnight Greyhound bus now does not seem appealing in any way!

      • Ab says:

        Good to know about allocating a full day for Rochester for next time. And for sure, it’s nice to be able to travel with a bit more ease and comfort these days!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        No kidding! I don’t think I could travel the same way as my 20-year-old-self. But, it makes me appreciate staying in a nicer place now and treating myself while on vacation!

  8. leightontravels says:

    Rochester looks like a great city to explore. The Eastman house is amazing, inside and out. Minus that huge elephant head above the door. Love the juxtaposition of the waterfall and the cityscape, that’s a rare sight.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I wish we had a bit more time to more fully explore Rochester. It seems like an interesting city with easy access to many green spaces and viewpoints of the falls. Agreed, the George Eastman mansion is beautiful, but the elephant trophy was a bit much.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Same. The only reason we visited was because we actually booked our accommodation in Rochester as it was so much cheaper than in Buffalo (we booked it the day before we were leaving). I’d say it worked out well as there’s surprisingly quite a bit to see and do in Rochester. I actually wish we dedicated a bit more time to check out the sights.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Same! We only started looking into Rochester when we were booking our accommodations for Buffalo and decided to stay there instead. I wish we dedicated more time to more fully explore the city though, but we had a nice preview. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We didn’t have much time in Rochester, but I’m glad we managed to hit up the highlights. It was interesting how the city was built around the river. If the weather wasn’t so gloomy we would have loved to explore more of the trails and viewpoints of the falls.

  9. Little Miss Traveller says:

    I’d love to explore the Eastman mansion and view all the historic Kodak photographic equipment. The library building is also impressive with the slip water pouring out of the base of the building. Yet another US city that I’d only heard of so I found the post very interesting Linda.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s pretty amazing how much photography and cameras have changed over the past century. I must say, I don’t miss the days of getting my rolls of film developed! The weather wasn’t the greatest for exploring the downtown, but I’m glad we managed to see the library before it started to downpour. It’s such an interesting building with the spillway underneath.

  10. wetanddustyroads says:

    Looking at some of your pictures, cameras (and photography) have come a long way to where they are today! I have to say, I quite like George Eastman’s house (I mean mansion 😉) … and it seems to me he also liked books a lot! And despite the rain, you have quite a few beautiful views and photos to remember your afternoon in Rochester.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      No kidding! I’m so glad cameras have gotten so much smaller and that it’s become much easier to view our pictures. I don’t miss the days of having to get rolls of film developed. I’m glad the rain held off long enough for us to enjoy the view of the falls.

  11. grandmisadventures says:

    The photography museum looks really interesting. Photography has sure come a long way. When you think just in our lifetime how far it has come from the disposable camera that you had to wind every time to our digital cameras in our phones it is pretty incredible. And the mansion with the giant elephant head over the door is impressive. I don’t like trophy hunting, but there’s no denying that the elephant makes a statement in the room.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. I still remember the days of having to buy rolls of film and then taking them in to get developed. And then you’d need some sort of photo album to organize and display them. I’m so glad cameras have gotten more compact and convenient. While there’s something nice about having an actual photograph, it’s so much easier having everything electronically. We didn’t have much time in Rochester, but I’m glad we managed to see the George Eastman mansion. I’ve always enjoyed touring through historic houses like this one.

  12. Little Old World says:

    The photography exhibition sounds fascinating and the Eastman mansion looks an interesting place to visit. Although I’m not sure about the elephant head above the door – I hope it’s not real!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was neat to see how much photography has changed since it was became more widely used in the 1880s. I must say, I’m glad cameras have become more compact these days and how we’ve moved towards digital photography.

      The Eastman mansion is beautiful, but agreed, the elephant head seemed a bit much. Apparently he was an avid hunter and would go on regular safaris to Africa. There were a few taxidermied animals on display in some of the other rooms, but apparently the elephant head isn’t real and is based on a plaster cast of the original.

  13. rkrontheroad says:

    As a photographer, the Eastman house looks interesting, except for the elephant – I see you’ve had many comments about it already. Fortunately today it is more of a thing to photograph the wildlife. Perhaps Eastman would like that if he were still around. The waterfalls are so dramatic in that area.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I hear yah, the trophy head of the elephant wasn’t to my taste either. There were also a few other taxidermied animals on display in some of the other rooms too. But besides that, the house itself was lovely. It was also interesting to see how munch cameras and photography has changed over time.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. It was neat to see how the city was built up around the river and waterfalls. It’s too bad that it started to rain, otherwise we would have loved to explore more of the downtown. Next time.

Leave a Reply