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Destinations: Rochester, New York

The lilacs are in bloom

Famously known as the home of Eastman Kodak, early film for motion pictures, easy-to-use cameras for everyman, and the first digital camera, as well as birthplace of Xerox and Bausch & Lomb, Rochester is not only an innovative town, but a picturesque one, too.

Noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted developed the city’s Highland Park, 150 acres of rolling hills filled with botanical delights, magnificent gardens, and the largest collection of lilacs in the United States.

Throughout the month of May and into June the city celebrates the park’s beautiful lilacs with the Rochester Lilac Festival and Flower City Days at the Public Market. With the largest free festival of its kind in North America, spring in upstate New York is welcomed here with exuberance.

Rochester is a foodie town with many interesting restaurants as well as breweries and distilleries. Wegmans Food Markets is headquartered here. French’s Mustard and Ragu were also once headquartered here (French’s at 1 Mustard Street). The Genesee River is home to the Genesee Brewing Co., which was established at the waterfalls in 1878. It is one of the oldest continuously operating breweries in the United States. The Genesee Brew House restaurant overlooks High Falls and the Genesee River Gorge.

Locals say you should try the “garbage plate,” a carb-loaded hodgepodge of food that originated at Rochester restaurant Nick Tahou Hots. French fries, macaroni salad, or baked beans are the first layer; these are topped with hot dogs or cheeseburgers or a combination of the two. Then “the plate” is topped with hot sauce, mustard, and raw onions. This is served with day-old Italian bread, which we were told is key. Visit Rochester offers plenty of other eating options (

Located just up the road from the Finger Lakes, Rochester is the metropolitan hub of this photo-worthy area. The 11 lakes—so named because their long shapes look like fingers—boast scenic drives, vineyards, and wineries; seaplane excitement; and the home of aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss (see “Orville and Wilbur Who?” March 2020 AOPA Pilot).

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Julie Walker

Julie Summers Walker

AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.

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