Every new student has heard college is the best four years of their lives. But a campus can soon begin to feel more like a prison than a place for growth. Sometimes, the best thing to do is just break out. And a good place to start an off campus exploration of Rochester is downtown.
If you don't have a car, start by learning the RTS system, which will easily take you downtown from most area campuses. The bus system can be tricky, but the simplest thing to remember is that all routes inevitably lead back to the Downtown Transit Center (71 North Clinton Avenue) in the center of the city. The bus is $1 per ride, with night shuttles serving Nazareth and free weekend shuttles serving Geneseo and Nazareth.
Assuming this is your first time downtown, head toward East Avenue. This district, known as the East End, is a hub for college students, featuring a broad range of bars, clubs, restaurants, and coffee shops. Hang out at Java's, Rochester's pivotal college coffee shop; or follow the music most nights of the week to catch live bands at Temple Bar and Grille (109 East Avenue), Flour City Station (170 East Avenue), and Montage Music Hall (50 Chestnut Street, a block south off East Avenue). And for larger acts, Water Street Music Hall (204 North Water Street) is a 10-minute walk northwest of the Transit Center. Be wary of age restrictions, as many of these venues serve alcohol, and may have an over 21 requirement for shows.
For a quirkier experience, head east along East Avenue to Alexander Street and take a right toward Monroe. Monroe Avenue, business-wise, is much like the rebellious younger brother to the East End. A haven for the alt scene, the Bug Jar (219 Monroe Avenue), hosts everything from local hardcore bands and hip-hop artists to bigger alternative acts. Alongside the music, Monroe Avenue boasts some of the best hole-in-the-wall eateries in Rochester, including Dogtown, a one stop shot for all things hot dogs and a damn good garbage plate.
Though not as densely packed with attractions for the average college student, the west side of Rochester still offers a fairly broad range of things to explore. Taking a right off of Main onto State Street, for example, leads to Frontier Field (333 North Plymouth Avenue), the home of the Rochester's minor league baseball team, the Red Wings. Tickets are affordable (averaging $12 per game) and the season runs April through September.
Head west on Main and you'll reach the historic Susan B. Anthony neighborhood, a haven for some iconic Rochester sites, including The Susan B. Anthony House (17 Madison Street), Anthony's former home and place of arrest, and Nick Tahou's (320 West Main Street), the birthplace of the original garbage plate.
Located south from Main Street — and further down Alexander if you continue past Monroe Avenue — is the South Wedge neighborhood, which has quickly become one of the hippest areas of the city. Check out some of the more unique businesses in Rochester in this several block strip of South Avenue, including Hedonist Artisan Chocolates (674 South Avenue); cheesecake spot Cheesie Eddie's (602 South Avenue); and a variety of off-beat music stops, from NeedleDrop Records (304 Gregory Street) to Rhythm Society and Urban Wellness Studios (758 South Avenue).