It’s Thanksgiving season, and as yet another year winds down it really is a fine time to reflect on the good things in our lives that we may take for granted in the hustle and bustle of modern life and an increasingly tech-driven world. Specifically, let’s think about all of reasons to be thankful for our beloved city of Rochester, NY.
There are many reasons to be thankful for living in The ROC – from affordable housing to being the launching pad for one of the greatest grocery store chains in the history of the world (and some very good alternatives) – but if I had to count on four fingers and a thumb the five top reasons for living here, I’d do something like what follows. Of course, another day could be another five, but that’s because there are a lot of great options!
First and foremost, the waterways that Rochester has are both natural and human-made wonders that most cities would be thrilled to have one of – and we have four extraordinary treasures. First, there’s Great Lake Ontario . It’s…well…a GREAT LAKE – one of the largest bodies of freshwater on the planet. Boating, fishing, the various beaches – it’s one of the best swimming pools anybody in the world has in their backyard! Next, we have the Mighty Genesee River that helped this city become a thriving metropolis. One of the relatively few major rivers in the world that flows south to north, the river is extraordinary with its stunning Lower and Upper Falls. The Genesee River Trail is a nine-mile path that allows you to enjoy the river by hike, bike, or cross-country skiing – and probably a number of other ways! The third Rochester waterway wonder is the Erie Canal. The heart of this marvel of engineering runs through Rochester and gives birth to so many of the great port towns that make up the Greater Rochester mosaic – Brockport, Spencerport, Fairport, among other fantastic towns that may not end in ‘port’! And the fourth water treasure is that Rochester is part of the Finger Lakes Region. Within thirty minutes to an hour, you will be on the shores of some of the most lovely lakes in the nation.
A second great aspect of living in Rochester is our public parks. We are fortunate to have parks designed by one of the most brilliant landscape designers in history – in fact, he is known as the father of landscape architecture – Frederick Law Olmsted. Designs by Olmsted evolved into four of Rochester’s gems: Genesee Valley Park, Highland, Park, Maplewood Park, and Seneca Park. He also designed some of the smaller neighborhood parks like Brown Square and Jones Square. But beyond Olmsted, we have other excellent public parks. A friend spoke to me in the recent past about Cobb’s Hill being an exemplary park in terms of the economic and cultural diversity of its users. From old to young, hoopsters to soft-ballers to tennis players to hikers to picnickers and beyond, every demographic of our city can be found utilizing the park.
Beyond the parks, I’m going to list the walkability of our city as a fantastic feature. I particularly love the parameters of say University/East Avenue to Monroe Avenue, Culver Road to Alexander Street. I find myself marveling at the beautiful architecture and tree-lined streets and wonder if there possibly can be many better walking neighborhoods in the entire country. Economic and social stratification aside, just the sheer mix of natural beauty and stunning homes in that area really is something to savor. And of course, there are many other great walking neighborhoods throughout the city from the 19th Ward to the South Wedge, from Seneca Parkway and the Maplewood area to Charlotte, with many more in between.
My fourth item on the list is the cultural scene in Rochester. We have world-class museums, galleries, and theatre in Rochester, including – but certainly not limited to – the Strong Museum of Play, the George Eastman House, the Rochester Museum and Science Center, the Memorial Art Gallery, Geva Theatre, and many, many more. The Little Theatre is our art house film gem on East Avenue (and my personal favorite spot) bringing the best independent and foreign films to Rochester, along with a vibrant café and music scene. On top of these standing cultural icons, we also have the festivals that are a rich part of our life – Corn Hill, East End, the Lilac Festival, the cultural celebration festivals (the Greek, Puerto Rican, Oktoberfest, and Italian Festival jump to mind), not to mention the great parades on Saint Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day and others.
I’ll double-dip for my fifth selection because it’s still in the cultural category, but it seems to me that our vibrant musical heritage and current musical scene deserves a selection of its own. In the Eastman School of Music we have (arguably) the greatest music school in the entire world (but it’s really not too arguable!). The crown jewel of our musical menagerie has become the Rochester International Jazz Festival that has attained rarefied air in 15 years. People and performers travel near and wide to be part of this extraordinary event, and it is Must-Be festival for many people in our region and beyond. Additionally, there exists a rich ecosystem of music in the area with our clubs, Parties In The Park, Bands On The Bricks, and concerts at the Blue Cross Area, CMAC, and Darien Lake.
If you drill down on any one of these five things I am thankful for about the ROC, you can open up many more tangents related to each. And the best thing of all is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts! Happy Thanksgiving and here’s to our city: Rochester, New York!