The Flower City – 10 Reasons Why Rochester is Awesome!

The Rochester, NY Skyline

Last Updated on July 16, 2023 by Chris Whitehair

The Flower City, aka, Rochester, NY

I thought I’d take a break from my usual blogging about hot sauces, balsamic vinegar, and other goodies you can find here at Flower City Flavor Company to talk about my home city of Rochester, New York.

Rochester is the third-largest city in New York by population, but just ask any resident, and they’ll be happy to tell you why this city by lake Ontario is indeed the greatest in the state.

Like any city, Rochester has had its challenges over the years.

However, while we are far from perfect, Rochester punches well above its weight class in everything from art, history, and culture to festivals, theater, and fine dining.

So what exactly makes the Flower City so special? We’re glad you asked! 

Flower City or Flour City?

Rochester’s moniker as the Flower City is well known, but did you know it used to be called the Flour City?

After the construction of the Erie Canal, Rochester’s population boomed as manufacturing moved in, particularly flour mills.

By 1834, 20 flour mills were producing 44,000 tons of flour annually.

These factories settled along the waterfalls of the Genesee River in what is now the Brown’s Race area. 

This boom was short-lived; by 1850, westward expansion had moved farming hubs from upstate to the Midwest, and flour milling declined.

At the same time, several seed companies moved to Rochester, including the Ellwanger & Barry Nursery Co, located in what’s now Highland Park.

This nursery was the largest of its kind in the world at the time and spelled a change of the tide for the city.

Rochester became adept at cultivating seeds, training nurserymen, and raising fruit trees.

By 1859, the Flour City had given way to the Flower City, as we know it today!

10 Things that Make the Flower City Great!

1. An Abundance of Festivals


Beautiful lilacs at the Lilac Festival

The changing seasons are no obstacle to having a great time around here.

Rochester boasts an abundance of festivals year-round, from the Holiday Village and Lilac Festival to the Corn Hill Arts Festival, Park Ave Fest, Party in the Park and more!

With a full calendar of events, it’s easy for residents to enjoy the best of what the city has to offer, including a hub of small businesses and local artisans.

Every festival hosts a variety of local vendors with unique finds from artwork to sauces and spices you can’t get anywhere else.

2. Garbage Plates

A Garbage Plate consisting of cheeseburgers, meat hot sauce, home fries, baked beans, and chopped onions


Need we say more? 

This delicious and hearty concoction is a Rochester staple – and everyone has their favorite spot!

Whether you’re a fan of the classic Nick Tahou’s or the ultra-popular Dogtown plates, there’s nothing more Rochesterian than a plate of mac salad, home fries, burgers, and meat hot sauce (you could get hot dogs – we won’t judge!)

FUN FACT – Nick Tahou’s is ultra protective of their “garbage plate” trademark, so other restaurants have name variations like “Junkyard Dog Plates” for Dogtown, “Great Plates” for regional favorite Bill Gray’s or “The 5-Star Plate” from Jimmy Z’s.

3. Strong Museum

The Super Mario Bros. display inside the Strong Museum of Play

This place is not just for kids…

Rochester takes the phrase “work hard, play hard” seriously. How many other cities have an entire museum dedicated to the study and the execution of playtime?

From the history and evolutions of the toys we love to the Video Game Hall of Fame, pinball arcade, and butterfly garden, there are no blues an afternoon at the Strong can’t cure.

You’re never too old to stop by Sesame Street or take a turn through the mini-Wegmans. If you’re looking for a 21+ take on a night of play, they’ve got you covered with the Happiest Hours.

What’s not to love?

PRO TIP – Strong is a great place for a first date…I know from experience 🙂

4. Susan B. Anthony & Frederick Douglass

A drawing of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass

Two of America’s greatest

No Rochester list is complete without mentioning two of the greats – abolitionist Frederick Douglass and suffragette Susan B Anthony.

Both of these pioneers called the Flower City their home, and their legacy is alive and well today.

Stop by the Frederick Douglass Library or visit his statue at the Highland Bowl.

Pay a visit to the home of Susan B. Anthony, and take in the view of the “Freddy-Sue” Bridge during dinner at Corn Hill Landing.

Both Douglass and Anthony are laid to rest in Mt. Hope Cemetery, along with Rochester founder Nathaniel Rochester.

5. George Eastman Museum

Exterior of the George Eastman House

Technically “Museum” now, but I find most people still call it the George Eastman House

The man behind Kodak also called the Flower City his home, and we have Eastman to thank for both the abundance of cameras in modern life as well as the arts and music culture in Rochester.

Stop by the George Eastman Museum for a tour of his living quarters or to catch a special screening in their movie theater.

Eastman’s legacy lives on outside the museum at the Eastman School of Music and the Kodak Theater, both of which regularly host concert and entertainment acts.

6. Rochester Public Market

Flower City Flavor Company Booth at Rochester Public Market

Oh hey, that’s me – a vendor at the Public Market!

Did you know Rochester has one of the oldest public markets in the country?

Opened in 1827, the market hosts a rotating variety of local farmers, vendors, and artisans.

Taste the best in locally grown, seasonal produce, shop unique local vendors, and find sauces and flavors you can’t get anywhere else.

The market hosts weekly events in the summer, from specialty flower sales to food truck rodeos.

You can also browse the surrounding business for locally ground coffee, freshly baked goods, and a well-made drink.

7. Higher Education

Exterior of Rush Rhees Library at the U of R

You gotta love snow if you’re going to school in Rochester, that’s for sure

If you want to learn a new skill, advance your education, or earn a degree, Rochester is the place to be.

The city is host to a number of higher education intuitions, including:

University of Rochester
Rochester Institute of Technology
Nazareth University
St. John Fisher University
Robert’s Wesleyan University
SUNY Brockport
Monroe Community College

Rochester loves to learn!

8. Wegmans

The Exterior of a Wegmans

The hype for Wegmans is real

No list about the greatness of Rochester can leave off the city’s favorite grocery store – Wegmans!

This Fortune 500 best place to work opened its first location in 1930 in downtown Rochester and spread throughout the county before continuing across the state of New York, the Northeast, and now down the East Coast.

Rochesterians know the true value in Wegmans lies in the selection of specialty items and local businesses as well as the exceptional hot food selections.

One of those local businesses? Me, in partnership with New York Chips, you can find Flower City Flavor Company Salt & Vinegar Chips at select locations!

Not sure what to do for dinner? Wegmans can fix that.

9. Arts & Culture

Hamilton Playbill at the RBTL

Only the best for my fiancee, last row!

From museums and theaters to independent cinemas, there’s something to satisfy every taste.

Catch a show at RBTL, GEVA Theater, Eastman Theater, Blackfriar’s Theater, or The Little.

Watch a unique performance at the Bug Jar or see a rotating exhibit at the Memorial Art Gallery.

Don’t forget about the Planetarium at the Rochester Museum and Science Center!

For even more fun, head just outside the city to Genesee Country Village and Museum, the largest living history museum in the state.

10. Food & Drink Scene

A plate of food at Nosh Restaurant

Dinner at Nosh

You don’t have to be a major city with Michelin star restaurants to have a good food scene.

The Flower City has an impressive lineup of a variety of different kinds of restaurants.

Want fancy? Black & Blue is for you.

Craving BBQ? Dinosaur Bar-B-Que for the win.

Lento, The Owl House, The Revelry…there are so many!

And for the beer lovers, there has been an explosion of craft breweries that have hit Rochester in the 2000’s.

Try Three Heads Brewing, Stoneyard Brewing or Rohrbach Brewing.

What’s your favorite part of living in Rochester? Did we miss something important? Let us know!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.