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We'd rather be out in the open

Recreation

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The areas in and around Rochester are rich with green space --- diverse, convenient, and beautiful places to walk the dog, take out a canoe, find a zoo, or smell the lilacs. From the beautiful Seneca and Highland Parks, both designed by 19th-century landscape genius Frederick Law Olmsted, to Durand-Eastman Park, where you can feel the immensity of that Great Lake --- here is just a partial list of some of our favorite parks in the Monroe County (256-4950, www.monroecounty.gov) and City of Rochester (400 Dewey Avenue, 428-6767 or 428-6755, www.cityofrochester.gov) systems. Enjoy.

Cobbs Hill Park Culver Road and Norris Drive

As the highest publicly-accessible point in Rochester, this park offers one of the best views of the downtown skyline, which may be one reason why it topped our Best of Rochester readers' poll in the "make-out spot" category. Its circular access road that loops the reservoir also makes it a popular destination for runners and walkers.

Durand-Eastman Park Lakeshore Boulevard

With nearly a mile of sandy shoreline and acreage just shy of 1000, there's no better way to experience Rochester's Lake Ontario coast. There's also an abundance of forest and wetlands to explore, along with a golf course and playground for the less adventure-inclined.

Ellison Park and Wetlands Blossom and Landing Roads, Brighton and Penfield

You'll hear people call this "the dog park," and on a weekend afternoon it can seem like a dog is the price of admission. Technically there is no off-leashing allowed, but owners often let their pets run free to chase, swim, and socialize as they like. A pathed loop along the creek makes a nice stroll, but the park has a lot more depth than that. You can also find plenty of room to hike, picnic, or ride horses.

Genesee Valley Park (East) 200 Elmwood Avenue

A sprawling 800-acre oasis, this park functions as the hub of two networks: waterways and trails. Here, the Genesee River intersects with the state Barge Canal (this is where they moved the Erie Canal after taking it out of downtown) and Red Creek. Meanwhile, the Genesee Valley Greenway meets a plethora of local trails, making this an ideal spot to start or end a journey by foot or paddle. The park also sports an assortment of playing fields, a golf course, and city recreation center.

Highland Park 450 Highland Avenue

Famous for its signature local lilacs (there's over 1200 of them) and their eponymous festival each spring, there's something on offer year-round at this hilly Rochester arboretum. A gardener's delight, it includes a conservatory as well as smaller plantings throughout its winding course along the city's southern boundary. For an extra treat, track down the Sunken Garden.

Lehigh Valley Linear Trail Park East River, Quaker Meeting House, West Bloomfield, and Mile Square Roads, Rush and Mendon

This 15-mile long park is really a trail that wends its way through the towns of Rush and Mendon in the southern end of the county, perfect for walking, biking, or skiing.

Mendon Ponds Park Clover Street and Pittsford-Mendon Center Road, Pittsford and Mendon

At 2500 acres this is the largest of the parks in the county system, and it's also one of the finest. It's been a National Natural Historic landmark for three and a half decades while boasting 30 acres of trails and half a dozen ponds, all set in a unique glacier-carved landscape.

Ontario Beach Park 4800 Lake and Beach Avenues

The crown of Charlotte, this park blends the energy of the city with the expansive presence of Lake Ontario. You can drink, dine, stroll along the beach, or walk out onto the pier to visit the historic lighthouse, all in the same place.

Seneca Park and Zoo St. Paul Street

Originally meant to bookend the city as the northern counterpart to Genesee Valley Park, this gem perched on the edge of the Genesee River gorge is now home to the county zoo. After you've seen the animals, there are a few miles of wooded trails to complete your trip to this urban oasis.

Webster Park Lake and Holt Roads, Webster

A popular destination for sledding and cross-country skiing, there's plenty do year-round in this quintessential park which includes playing fields, lodges, and plenty of Lake Ontario Shoreline, including a fishing pier.

Mt. Hope Cemetery Mt. Hope and Elmwood Avenues

Okay, it's not a park per se, but this is still definitely one green patch on the map worth visiting. In addition to the final resting places of some of our greatest local luminaries like Fredrick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, the cemetery contains steep hillsides, glacial eskers, and enough trees (including some rare ones) to be a forest.

Still want more? There's plenty more green space in greater Rochester, from city block parks to undeveloped wilderness. Start by checking these out:

Black Creek Park Kendall Road and Main Street, Riga

Cornhill Landing Exchange Street at South Plymouth Avenue

Greece Canal Park 241 Elmgrove Road, Greece

Jones Square Park 170 Saratoga Avenue

Manhattan Square Park 353 Court Street

Maplewood Park Maplewood Drive at Seneca Parkway

Northampton Park Colby Street, Salmon Creek Road, and Route 31, Sweden and Ogden

Powder Mills Park Route 96, Perinton

Thompson Park 69 Lyell Avenue

Turning Point Park 260 Boxart Street

Washington Square Park 10 St. Marys Place

Further afield, here are a couple of regional parks that are worth the drive. Find out more at www.nysparks.com.

Hamlin Beach State Park One Camp Road, Hamlin

One of just two state parks in the county (the other is a boat launch on Irondequoit Bay), Hamlin Beach makes for the perfect Lake Ontario daytrip. There are 10 miles of trail for hiking, biking, skiing, or snowmobiling, plus launches for car-top boats and an environmental interpretative center in the Yanty Creek marsh. There are also campsites available if you think you'll need more than one day to take it all in.

Chimney Bluffs Garner and East Bay Roads, Sodus

When glaciers retreated from this part of the globe they left deposits of earth and rock that take the form of long, low, north-to-south-running hills, known as drumlins. When these meet the shore of Lake Ontario and begin to erode the result is a cluster of unique and fanciful shapes in the cliff-like bluffs. Chimney is among the most spectacular collections of these, and the undeveloped state park there has plenty of trails and beachfront from which to enjoy them. A word to the wise: The bluffs are constantly eroding. Help preserve them and yourself by not climbing on them. You're better off enjoying the natural beauty from terra firma.

Letchworth State Park One Letchworth State Park, Castile

We hate to have to admit it, but Rochester's three Genesee River falls aren't much compared to the three Letchworth has to offer. Billed as the "Grand Canyon of the East," this destination lives up to the name. At just over 50 miles from Rochester (about an hour's drive) there's no excuse not to visit. And in addition to the spectacular vista like the famous falls, 600 foot cliffs, and railroad trestle, there are nearly 70 miles of trails and nearly every activity imaginable, from hot-air ballooning, to hunting, to performances.

Allegany State Park Allegany State Park Route 1, Salamanca

At 65,000 acres Allegany clocks in as the largest park in the state system (the Adirondacks and Catskills are preserves). Since much of that is undisturbed woodland --- and the park bumps up against the much larger Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania --- it's hard to imagine a better playground for all your outdoor pursuits. There are also more amenities than you need for a quieter natural experience, including over 300 cabins, half of them winterized.


Sports

Some days, you might just want to watch someone playing rather than seek out the play yourself. These are our teams.

Americans

AHL hockey

Home games at Blue Cross Arena

232-1900, www.amerks.com

Buffalo Bills

NFL football

Home games at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo

877-BB-TICKS, www.buffalobills.com

Knighthawks

NLL lacrosse

Home games at Blue Cross Arena

454-5335, www.knighthawks.net

Raptors

NWFA football

Home games at East Rochester High School

755-4312, www.rochesterraptors.com

Rattlers

MLL lacrosse

Home games at Bishop Kearney High School

454-5425, www.rochesterrattlers.com

Red Wings

Triple-A League baseball

Home games at Frontier Field

454-1001, www.redwingsbaseball.com

Rhinos

A-League soccer

Home games at Frontier Field

454-5425, www.rhinossoccer.com

Rochester also proudly hosts a LPGA stop each June.

LPGA golf

Locust Hill Country Club

427-7100, www.rochesterlpga.com

In This Guide...

    Annual Manual 2005

    Surprised by Rochester
    When I was getting ready to move to Rochester five years ago, my friends and family were confused. They wore worried faces when they asked me, "What's in Rochester?" and "That's not too far from the city, is it?" and "Do you like the cold weather?"

    A newbie’s checklist

    Beginner’s guide
    So you've arrived, and now you need the basics: phone, utilities, a way to get around town, and, maybe, a way to get out of town. Here is some info to help you get settled in.

    Who's representing

    Government
    Mayor Bill Johnson 30 Church Street, Rochester 14614

    Pounding the pavement

    Neighborhoods
    I've been thinking about changing my name to Where's Your Car? (though I would have preferred You're Stunning or Are Those Real?).

    It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

    Neighborhoods
    There is so much talk about how to revitalize Rochester's downtown and make the city a more attractive place to live. But many people have discovered the benefits of city life.

    Finding a beat you can dance to

    Live music
    I know it takes a little more than turning on the tube, but heading out for live music is so good for you. Plus the audience (you) is an integral part of each performance.

    We’ve got music

    We're proud of our musical talent; here are four reasons why. The event

    Get yourself something to eat

    Welcome to the Rochester food scene. I write full reviews of different restaurants every other week in City, but here is a bit of a primer, by genre, to acquaint you with the area's amazing variety of dining options.

    Why we love market day

    The Rochester Public Market can be noisy, crowded, and fishy, but that is part of the vibrancy and spirit that make it a unique experience. Where else in Rochester is it almost too crowded to move for hours at a time?

    Tending to your health

    Major hospitals Highland Hospital

    Get learning

    Schools
    Each public school district in Monroe County has contact information (listed below) where you can get more detailed information about individual schools. To get an overall picture, for some general research, or to just get involved, here are some resources:

    A little culture never hurt anyone

    Arts
    For a city our size, we've got plenty of culture. There's enough for every taste and energy level, but not too much to overwhelm.

    What's the alternative?

    Although Rochester has a number of respectable art museums and galleries, rarely will these venues show anything outside the mainstream. For an art space to do something daring, quite often it has to rely on the vision and resources of an individual or a small group of people.

    A little place outside the city

    Suburbs
    Monroe County has 19 towns and nine incorporated villages. Aided by short commutes, particularly between Rochester and its inner-ring of suburbs, many of these are bedroom communities.

    The gold of the silver screens

    Movies
    I'm only about 5-foot-3-inches, but I totally towered over Isabella Rossellini. Now, you may be wondering what sorts of circles a humble hometown girl like myself would run in that would enable me to reach that conclusion.

    High class

    Colleges
    Colgate Rochester Divinity School Can boast of a dedication for diversity, teaching students in over 20 Christian denominations.

    Block partying

    Festivals
    Go ahead, give us a reason to celebrate. I dare you.

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