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Rochestera brainy city

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Time Out: Rochester

Genesee River, Richard Cummins/Getty Images

Photo by Richard Cummins/Getty Images

The Genesee River flows through downtown Rochester.

Perched on the southern shores of Lake Ontario, Rochester is the third-largest city in New York and possibly the state’s most underrated. While it gets walloped with snow in the winter, springtime brings the start of warmer temps that average 70 degrees all summer long. The weather lends itself to boating down the Erie Canal, strolling among the 1,200 blooming lilac bushes at Highland Park or lingering at an outdoor café along trendy Park Avenue. The city is steeped in history—it was the country’s original boomtown in 1825—and it remains a desirable place to live today, providing residents with big-city amenities in a know-your-neighbor setting.

Greater Rochester has 11,200 acres of open space. Nearby Letchworth State Park offers 66 miles of hiking trails that pass by three towering waterfalls. Within the city, the Erie Canal Heritage Trail weaves through the historic Corn Hill neighborhood and provides panoramic skyline views. History buffs can explore the Erie Canal by kayaking across its smooth waters. 

Don’t let the name “garbage plate” fool you. This homegrown specialty is a mash-up of all things good: fries, macaroni salad, baked beans, hot dogs and meat chili. The idea came from restaurant Nick Tahou Hots in 1918. Admirers have since concocted their own creatively named versions, including Mark’s Texas Hots’ sloppy plate, Empire Hots’ trash plate and Jimmy Z’s 5-star plate.

The George Eastman House pays homage to the inventor of the camera with 4.5 million photography artifacts on display. Catch a flick at the Dryden Theatre, where some of the 23,000 reels date back to 1893. Finally, view the outdoor art of sculptor Albert Paley, whose acclaimed metalwork can be seen everywhere from the Centennial Sculpture Park to the railing of Main Street Bridge. 

Located an hour’s drive south of downtown, the Finger Lakes region unfolds across the bucolic countryside and boasts more than 100 wineries that specialize in riesling, notably Young Sommer, operated by fourth-generation vintner Herman Young, and the family-run Casa Larga Vineyards. Meanwhile, Apple Country Spirits turns the local fruit into vodka. Spend the night at Geneva on the Lake, an Italian-style villa overlooking Seneca Lake.

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