Last Updated on December 31, 2021 by Chris Whitehair
Rochester, NY – The Flower City
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
The changing seasons are no obstacle to having a great time around here.
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
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
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
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
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 House 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
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
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:
Rochester loves to learn!
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.
Not sure what to do for dinner? Wegmans can fix that.
9. Arts & Culture
From museums and theaters to independent cinemas, there’s something to satisfy every taste.
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
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 for the win.
And for the beer lovers, there has been an explosion of craft breweries that have hit Rochester in the 2000’s.
What’s your favorite part of living in Rochester? Did we miss something important? Let us know!