I was a little bummed that I was missing Mother’s Day while on an international trip and wanted to do something special to celebrate my mom when I arrived home which is when I decided to take her to Rochester for a weekend. Rochester is in the Finger Lakes region of New York and my mom is a huge fan of everything “upstate New York” – but I wasn’t prepared for all the “wow” factors Rochester had to offer!
We opted to go up to Rochester for the Lilac Festival (being a huge fan of gardening, this was a huge bonus for my mom!). What’s awesome about Rochester is that they almost always have a festival of some sort going on, from the KeyBank Fringe Festival (think: theater, comedy, dance, and music during this multi-art festival) which is September 14-23 to ImageOut – The Rochester LGBT Film Festival from October 5-15. You can check out the list of awesome Rochester Festivals and Events here.
After arriving to Rochester on Amtrak we went to rent a car to get around for the weekend and headed straight to the George Eastman Museum. For those of you who are unfamiliar, George Eastman invented the Kodak camera which at the time (in 1888) made photography accessible and attainable to the public, where prior it had only been available for wealthy and elite individuals. The museum is housed in George Eastman’s former Rochester home and boasts over 400,000 photographs from 14,000 photographers as well as the largest collection of daguerreotypes outside of France. You can read more about the George Eastman museum as well as many other Rochester museums in my article: From Warhol to Sesame Street: Why Rochester’s Museum Scene Can’t Be Missed.
A view of the George Eastman museum (and former residence) from the outside gardens (where you can even host your wedding!).
We checked into the Del Monte Lodge Renaissance Rochester Hotel & Spa and were immediately greeted with warm smiles and friendly faces. The gorgeous property is decorated country-chic with modern accents and is located right along the Erie Canal. Our room was huge and I loved the purple tones and fur accents. The champagne and chocolate covered strawberries delivered to our room upon check-in was a lovely surprise!
Our huge room for two! With modern décor that still left a country vibe.
Champagne and chocolate covered strawberries? Don’t mind if we do!
After getting settled into our room we headed out to Via Girasole Wine Bar for a few drinks before dinner. The atmosphere of Via Girasole took me right back to Italy! We were served a few different types of wines that were paired with a charcuterie board of imported prosciutto, cheese and a delicious tomato spread. What was really awesome about this experience was that the wines were all local New York wines! I loved how the wines were served with a breakdown of the type of wine right on the glass.
From Via Girasole we headed to Label 7 which is a Napa-inspired restaurant that has fun twists on American dishes. We decided to eat a-la-carte and share some of their amazing menu options (because when the menu is that good, who can really just pick one plate?). We indulged in steak fajitas (my mom opted for just veggies), crab cakes as well as the best fried green tomatoes I’ve ever had in my life (and I lived in the south for a few years, so I’m willing to call that a solid endorsement). If you’re interested in learning more about Rochester’s eats check out Where to Eat in Rochester.
Served over a tomato based sauce and topped with a pico-de-gallo style salsa, these fried green tomatoes go down as one of my favorite bites of the year!
After all that indulging, we walked back to the hotel and took a stroll down the Erie canal to walk off some of the meal we just ate. The hotel property is so conveniently positioned along the canal and the scenery made for a perfect evening. There were locals and tourists alike biking, rollerblading or just strolling down the pathway – enjoying the views and hues of the Erie Canal at sunset.
A view from our walk along the canal – right next to the Del Monte Lodge Renaissance Rochester Hotel & Spa.
We decided to call it an early night as we had a big day planned the next day. We woke up extremely well rested and got ready to head to breakfast at the Erie Grill which was conveniently located right in our hotel. Serving American style cuisine with local ingredients the Erie Grill is located right along the canal with gorgeous water views. I went all out and ordered the braised duck eggs benedict and then I died and went to heaven, happily. Served with a side of roasted potatoes this meal was one of my favorites of the trip! Interested in learning more about Rochester’s eats? Check out Where to Eat in Rochester.
After spoiling ourselves over breakfast we were off to pamper ourselves at the Spa at the Lodge at the Del Monte. Also conveniently located in our hotel The Spa was above and beyond my expectations. Typically, hotel spas can be a sub-par or mediocre experience but this was one of the best spa experiences of my life. From the many beverage options including my favorite, Kusmi tea to the various options for shampoo and conditioning in your post treatment shower to the hair styling products and real blowdryers for your hair after your shower – the amenities at the spa were impressive and extravagant.
I don’t typically photograph in a spa just to keep patrons comfortable but the décor in the waiting room was cozy with plush seating options, a snack menu and even a fireplace! The waiting room was relaxing to begin with and led to an amazing massage experience for both my mom and myself. I’d be willing to travel back to Rochester – just for the Spa at the Del Monte.
A little sneak peek at some of the amenities that are offered pre and post treatment.
After our utter relaxation at the spa we made our way to the Lilac Festival. There was so much to do at the festival from traditional carnival games and food stands to live bands and entertainment and “Art in The Park” where various vendors can show off and sell anything from jewelry to ceramics to paintings and handmade soaps and crafts. Being that my mom is such a huge gardener we had a blast walking around the park and smelling (and taking photos of) all the different lilacs.
As pretty as a picture! The Rochester Lilacs were in full bloom and beautiful glory that weekend.
I, of course, couldn’t hold myself back from stopping to smell the flowers.
From the Lilac Festival we headed to The Strong Museum of Play which was one of my favorite stops during the trip! The Strong Museum is the only museum in the world devoted to the act of “playing”.
They have so eloquently and flawlessly intertwined the concept of a history museum with a hands on style of “children’s” museum. I place “children’s” in quotes because truly anyone can enjoy this museum. The collection of toys, games, dolls and more date back to the 1800’s and the entire museum has interactive games and activities and even a butterfly garden(!) to keep any and every-one entertained. You can read more The Strong Museum of Play as well as many other Rochester museums in my article: From Warhol to Sesame Street: Why Rochester’s Museum Scene Can’t Be Missed.
I loved the colors on this beautiful (and huge) stained glass window in The Strong Museum of Play.
How beautiful is the indoor butterfly garden?! There was even a sign outside of the garden entry with a description of the different butterfly species that were flying around that day!
From the Strong Museum of Play we made our way over to the Memorial Art Gallery which houses over 5,000 years of art history. The Memorial Art Gallery is set on 14 acres and is home to more than 12,000 pieces which has been named the most balanced in the state outside of New York City. Not only does the gallery offer an expansive collection of art they also host year-round temporary exhibitions, lectures, concerts, tours and family activities. It was hard to narrow down to one favorite piece in the Memorial Art Gallery but I was able to settle on the portrait of Jackie O by Andy Warhol as my favorite. You can the runner up’s for my favorite in the Memorial Art Gallery as well as information on many other Rochester museums in my article: From Warhol to Sesame Street: Why Rochester’s Museum Scene Can’t Be Missed.
It was difficult to get a fully straight photo of this piece but it was something that spoke to me. I’ve always loved Jackie O as well as the colorful works of Andy Warhol.
My mom and I wrapped up the day with dinner at Restaurant Good Luck which has recently been named one of the best bars in America by Esquire. The industrial building transformed into a warm, inviting environment and Good Luck has been self-described as “an ongoing creative process” which is reflective in their true local “farm to table” menu. A menu which has been changed at least 88 times since opening in 2008!
Just about everything we ate that night had been prepared in house, including the pickling of the veggies and curing of the meat on our meat plate. As many of the dishes are made to share we decided to enjoy a bowl of rigatoni in a saffron sauce (to die for), as well as a good ol’ margherita pizza (which is something I smelled and immediately craved upon entering Good Luck).
One of the best meat plates I’ve ever had and the pickled veggies and olives were just as delicious.
This pasta dish was so delightful I loved the balance of flavors.
I also had the lamb meatballs after having just spent two weeks in Morocco and the lamb meatballs I had at Good Luck were just as delicious as (if not a bit tastier) than any lamb meatballs I had in Morocco. Interested in learning more about Rochester’s best eats? Check out Where to Eat in Rochester .
The lamb meatballs up front and pizza in the background. All. So. Delectable.
The next morning we had an early breakfast at Jines Restaurant which is on Park Ave – located in a quaint, cultural and historical area of Rochester. Jines offers so many options for breakfast from dozens of omelets to eggs with enchiladas and lox benedict (as well as the option for organic eggs) and all types of pancakes and French toast! Jines truly offers something for everyone in a more upscale “diner” type of setting. After indulging in an omelet, we headed to return the car and hop on a 9:45am Amtrak back to New York City.
With so many options for transport to Rochester from driving and Amtrak to busses or even flying there’s hardly any reason not to make Rochester your next girls trip (or family trip or friends trip!). Rochester has so much to offer anyone traveling to the “The Lilac City”.
Disclaimer: I was hosted in Rochester by Visit Rochester as a guest. My opinions, as always, remain my own.