The villages and towns that make up Monroe County distinguish themselves from their counterparts in many ways. With enough points of interest to warrant an entire day in each town, traveling from one suburb to the next can be a trip in itself. Starting in the north, in Irondequoit, travel clockwise around Rochester's suburbs and experience farmland, regional history, and vast shopping areas all in one outing.
The name of the town, an Iroquois word meaning "where the land meets the waters," says it all. Irondequoit's borders are marked by the Genesee River to the west, Lake Ontario to the north, Irondequoit Bay to the east, and the city of Rochester to the south.
The Ridge Road shopping corridor runs along the southern edge of the town and is a plaza-lined street filled with chain stores and restaurants. But much of the character of Irondequoit lies to the north, along the lake. Start out in the northwest, at the far north end of St. Paul Boulevard. This area is home to quaint neighborhoods like Summerville and Windsor Beach. Take Lake Shore Boulevard east to Culver Road, then head to the northeast. Once referred to as the "Coney Island of Western New York," this area has SeabreezeAmusement Park, which opened in 1879, and Parkside Whispering Pines, the nation's oldest miniature golf course in continuous use. Hot Dog Row, a stretch of Culver Road along the lake, features hot dog stands and restaurants like Vic and Irv's, which attract locals and amusement park visitors.
Whether traveling east-west along the lake, or from the Ridge Road area north, Durand Eastman Park is likely to be in your path. The nearly 1000 acres of woodland include hiking and cross-country ski trails, playground areas, picnic shelters, an 18-hole golf course, and 5000 feet of Lake Ontario waterfront. A portion of the beach was recently reopened to swimmers in the summer. The park also includes a paved path along the beach for bikers and pedestrians.
After a short trip south on Culver Road and west on Titus Avenue you'll find other interesting destinations. On the corner of Cooper Road and Titus Avenue is the House of Guitars, with rows upon rows of musical instruments and stacks of CDs and records. This is practically a mandatory stop for any musician or avid fan. The small plaza just to the east houses Consignment Connection, a secondhand shop where you can buy anything from an old Polaroid camera to couches and chairs, and Murph's Irondequoit Pub, a townie watering hole offering burgers and other food from the grill.
Back up Culver Road and across the Outlet Bridge, both the name of the road and the town change. Culver Road becomes Lake Road as you enter Webster. Just east of Irondequoit Bay, Webster borders Lake Ontario to the north and the town of Penfield to the south. Scattered across Webster are acres of parks and green spaces, which are preserved as part of the town's open-space referendum. Along Lake Road, which runs east-west across the northern most part of Webster, is Gosnell Big Woods Park, a nature preserve with oak, hickory, and hemlock trees, some dating back to the 1600's. To the east is Whiting Road Nature Preserve, 240 acres with trails that are a favorite of bird watchers, snowshoers, and hikers. Further east along Lake Road is Webster Park, 550 acres with large evergreen wooded areas, a fishing pier, baseball diamond, and campgrounds.
In the southeast part of the town, in the area surrounding the intersection of routes 250 and 404, is the Village of Webster. Getting here requires zig-zagging across town; south on Whiting Road, east along Klem Road, then south on Webster Road into the village. The storefronts along Main Street are filled with small specialty shops, eateries, and galleries. Just east of the four corners on East Main Street is M & M Great Cakes, a bakery where custom-ordered cakes, pastries, and breads are the specialties.
Many area residents know Webster simply as the home of Xerox. As one of the area's largest employers, commuters from across the region pack Route 104, a highway that splits the town in half and is a main east-west route across northern Monroe County, to make their way to Xerox's office park in the far eastern part of town.
Webster residents live in quaint neighborhoods that have sprung up across one of the fastest growing suburbs of Rochester. These quiet residential areas typically surround smaller parks and woodlands in the area. Along the lake, residents enjoy million-dollar lakefront homes on more secluded lots.
With about a half-dozen main roads linking Webster to Penfield, take Harris Road south to witness the rural nature of this town. As one Penfield resident says, "I like it because it's away from everything." A 10-minute commute from downtown Rochester and nearby Eastview Mall, the one-time farming community that is now home to more than 30,000 still maintains the distinctive rural feel of years past.
The town of Penfield is zoned 92 percent residential and consists predominantly of single-family homes. With no sewer system in the eastern portion of the town, the area around Harris and Salt roads is still rural and undeveloped. The far western portion of the town borders the southern part of the Irondequoit Bay and is home to Irondequoit Bay Park East, Ellison Wetlands Park, and a marina.
Weave across the town by taking Atlantic Avenue eastbound, head south along Baird Road, and continue east on Penfield Road. The town becomes progressively more populated, and sprinkled with restaurants and businesses.
Family-friendly restaurants include JC's Backyard BBQ, on Penfield Road, which serves up barbeque, is stacked with a full bar, and gives markers to the kids, who decorate the walls with their drawings. Also nearby is Hyjea on Five Mile Line Road. With ultra-modern décor, this new health-conscious business offers organic wraps and sandwiches and a variety of detoxifying drinks.
Five Mile Line Road in Penfield is known as Whitney Road in Perinton, the next town to the south. Fairport is a quaint village located along the Erie Canal inside the larger town of Perinton. Though there are large residential housing developments and shopping districts, Perinton has many of the region's best parks and trails. PowderMillsPark, located in the far southwest part of town, contains a fish hatchery and trails.
Back at Whitney Road, go to Main Street to enter the village of Fairport. The village itself has a thriving commercial area along the Erie Canal. Everything from specialty shops, restaurants, doctor's offices, and manufacturers can be found here. The village offers great access to the canal path, the nearly 70-mile long hiking-biking trail along the Erie Canal. It also hosts numerous events at the parks and gazebo along the canal.
Nestled between Pittsford, Fairport, and Penfield is the small town of East Rochester. Traveling west along Fairport Road, a quick right onto Main Street takes you into East Rochester. The town has a no-frills vibe to it, with quality businesses housed in the town's many utilitarian buildings.
Take Main Street north to West Commercial Street, which is lined with storefront properties including bars, gift shops, stores, and grocers. Bel Vedere Deli and Market is an Italian market that stocks a variety of imported cheeses, homemade sausages, and assorted Italian canned products.
With the small-town feel comes a sense of community and sense of history. Edmund Lyon Park is situated in the center of town and features amenities such as a baseball field, basketball courts, a playground, and a gazebo. On South Main Street the preserved Rialto Theatre has now been converted into an apartment building. Historic buildings and areas are marked with signs throughout the town.
Heading west on Commercial Street you'll encounter an onramp to Route 490. One quick exit later is Linden Avenue, which is Elmwood Avenue in Brighton. Bordering the city of Rochester on two sides, Brighton is an upscale town to the southeast of the city with a large Jewish population. The landscape is dotted with temples and synagogues. Navigate east on Elmwood Avenue, take a left on Monroe Avenue, and continue south on Edgewood Avenue to the Jewish Community Center, which serves both the Greater Rochester Jewish community and the community at large with its gym, day-care center, coffee shop, and live theater.
Shopping in Brighton can be found at specialty shops in plazas and stand-alone buildings. Like the name implies, Cook's World on Monroe Avenue is a one-stop shop for anything kitchen related. In the Brighton Commons, a plaza located at 12 Corners, where Elmwood, Monroe, and Winton meet, you'll find Chic Feet Boutique, which sells unique women's clothing, shoes, and handbags.
Brighton is also home to MonroeCommunity College on Henrietta Road; the school enrolls more than 30,000 students annually.
Bordering five towns, Pittsford is an upscale suburb located southeast of Rochester. Monroe Avenue leads directly into the center of both the town and village of Pittsford. The town includes both NazarethCollege and St. JohnFisherCollege, and the Erie Canal, which runs through the center of the village.
Shopping districts have sprung up along the canal, including Schoen Place and Northfield Common. Both are accessible from Monroe Avenue, which becomes State Street after crossing over Main Street in the village. Towpath Bike Shop in Schoen Place caters to avid cyclists and hobbyists of all ages, offering bike sales, repairs, and rentals. Residents and visitors can also rent bicycles and kayaks at the shop for use along the canal and the adjacent, paved canal path.
The village center has many quaint boutiques, eateries, and specialty shops. Further down Monroe Avenue, closer to Brighton in PittsfordPlaza, you'll find a variety of national chain retail stores, as well as local shops like Irish & Celtic Imports, a unique shop that stocks items from Ireland ranging from clothing to knick-knacks.
Located south of Rochester and west of Pittsford, Henrietta is home to two colleges, Rochester Institute of Technology and The National Technical Institute for the Deaf. It is connected to Pittsford by several streets, including Jefferson Road. Henrietta is the commercial capitol of the area, and although it is known for Marketplace Mall and the various plazas and big-box retailers that line Jefferson Road, there are many other, lesser-known, treasures to the south.
From Jefferson Road, head south along Pinnacle Road and take Calkins Road east to the corner of Pittsford-Henrietta Town Line Road. There you'll find TinkerNaturePark, a 68-acre stretch of land along the Henrietta-Pittsford border that includes a snake hibernaculum (an area where the region's snakes use to hibernate for the winter), an indoor observation beehive, and plenty of trails. Located at the entrance to the park is Tinker Homestead and Farm Museum, where visitors can catch a glimpse into 19th century life.
Take Lehigh Station Road straight across Henrietta to the far southwest corner of town, away from the hustle and bustle of Jefferson Road. The winding streets here make up the town's many residential neighborhoods. One notable address is 135 Martin Road. With its bright gold paint, purple-and-green trim, and red roof, the Watpa Lao Buddhadham, a Laotian Buddhism center, stands out among the single-family homes and townhouses in the area.
Located southwest of Rochester, Chili borders Henrietta and the Genesee River to the east, and Gates to the north. Cross into Chili using Jefferson Road, which crosses over the only bridge linking the two communities. The northern edge of town is a developed residential area with plenty of shopping in plazas along Chili Avenue, and is also the location of Roberts Wesleyan College.
In contrast, the southern portion of town is largely undeveloped and home to several of the region's parks and streams. Residents canoe along Black Creek, which winds east-west across the middle of Chili. Head south along Scottsville-Chili Road and west along Morgan Road to the southwestern corner. There is the expansive Black Creek Park, with much of its 1500 acres of parkland left undeveloped. There are still plenty of trails to cross-county ski, hike, and go horseback riding though.
Accessible from the north end of Black Creek Park, take Chili Avenue into Gates, located directly west of Rochester. The town is a mixture of light industrial and residential neighborhoods, and is the smallest of the western suburbs.
Gates has many of the same amenities as other towns in the region; parks, access to the Erie Canal, and lots of nearby shopping. Historically, the once-thriving farmland of the area can be revisited at the Hinchey House on Hinchey Road, just a few blocks from Chili Avenue. The house is currently undergoing repairs by the town of Gates and the Gates Historical Society.
Weave north through several connecting streets to Long Pond Road, which leads to Greece, the most densely populated of the western suburbs. Greece is situated to the northwest of the city along Lake Ontario and is a vast area of sprawling neighborhoods with ranch houses and townhouses and a few main thoroughfares like Long Pond and Ridge roads.
The northernmost portion of the town, along the lake, includes Braddock Bay State Fish and Wildlife Management Area, a large preserve stretching from Crescent Beach, past Long Pond, to Manitou Beach. Bird watchers flock to the region to spot the many migratory birds that depend on the area.
Near many beaches, the strip of land along Lake Ontario is home to several eateries, including Schallers, a burger joint on Edgemere Drive. Locals and beach visitors pack the restaurant for mealtime.
The outlying areas
Take Route 490 west from the city and merge onto 531 before exiting at Washington Street. From there take NY-31 into Brockport. With the SUNY Brockport college campus near the heart of the village, the downtown features numerous bars, shops, and eateries. The quaint village has access to the canal path, and holds several annual festivals that cater to families.
Canandaigua is located in Ontario County. From Rochester, take 490 east to the Thruway (I-90). Hop off at the first exit and head south along Route 332 into Canandaigua. In town, there is ample shopping along Main Street, access to Canandaigua Lake at KershawPark, and plenty of big-box stores along Routes 5 and 20. In addition to its beautiful lake, Canandaigua is home to a number of notable destinations. Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion is a state historic parks open during the warm months with a number of specialized gardens, a museum, and a wine center. The New York Wine & Culinary Center offers cooking classes and demonstrations by visiting chefs, plus fine dining opportunities. There is also the ConstellationBrandsPerformingArtsCenter, which is located on the Finger LakesCommunity College campus and holds many major concerts throughout the warm months.
Geneseo is in Livingston County. From the east side of Rochester, take 590 and merge onto 390 South. From the west side, take 390 the entire way and use Exit 8, taking US-20A west into town. Many of the town's bars, coffee shops, and restaurants are frequented by SUNY Geneseo students. There are quiet, residential neighborhoods filled with historic homes, and rural stretches of farm land surrounding Main Street. The town also borders Conesus Lake, one of the Finger Lakes.