Respite in Rochester

Downtown Rochester and The Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge. Photo courtesy VisitRochester, by FotoImpressions

You don’t have to travel to New York City for a sophisticated weekend getaway – elegant boutique lodging and world-class entertainment are as close as Rochester.

The Eastman at 26 Gibbs St. is home to Kodak Hall, where the Rochester Philharmonic regularly performs with special guests. The Eastman’s other performance halls and stages are also full of music. Kilbourn Hall boasts the Barbara B. Smith World Music Series, and in smaller concert halls, as well as in Kilbourn, student recitals take place several times a day, year round.

“A lot happens at the Eastman,” says Helene Snihur, assistant director of public relations for the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music. She notes that, one evening, a friend attended a concert at Kilbourn Hall, and as he was walking by two of the other concert halls in the theatre, he could hear music in those areas as well.

Spoil yourself at the restored Strathallan

Rochester’s Strathallan Hotel has had a melody of its own lately, but one made by saws and drills, hammers and nails. Last fall, the hotel, at 550 East Avenue in the city’s Arts and Cultural District, just a few blocks from the Eastman, completed a massive multi-million-dollar transformation and redesign. Now partnered with Hilton’s Double Tree brand, Strathallan General Manager Jay Rettberg says the hotel bears little resemblance to what it looked like before.

“You can’t even really call it a renovation,” says Rettberg, who’s worked at the hotel since 2004. “It was entirely gutted, down to the superstructure. The hotel was totally reconstructed. When people walk in, their jaws drop. That’s pretty much the standard reaction.”

Every aspect of the hotel’s interior is completely new. The exterior was enhanced with updated finishes, new landscaping and a welcoming back entrance. The partnership with the Double Tree means that guests can enjoy the brand’s signature amenities, including a warm chocolate chip cookie upon check-in.

The nine-story hotel has 155 oversized guest rooms and executive suites designed with sophistication, comfort and style in mind. Most rooms feature a balcony overlooking Rochester’s historic architecture and cultural sites.

“This is such a great neighborhood,” adds Rettburg. “We’re one block from Park Avenue, which hosts some of Rochester’s best bistros. We’re in walking distance of the Neighborhood of the Arts. There are mansions and trees all around us.”

While there are plenty of dining opportunities near the Strathallan, the hotel also features Char Steak & Lounge, its in-house restaurant. Char serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and its bar has “an amazing vibe that’s perfect for meeting friends or relaxing after work.”

There is also a new rooftop deck with unparalleled views of the city
skyline. Other amenities include a heated indoor pool, professional gym with state-of-the-art equipment, complimentary parking and a licensed onsite massage therapist. All artwork in the hotel is by local artists.

Bask in the art, flowers and jazz

Some of the artists featured at the Strathallan display their work at the many festivals that take place in the neighborhoods around the hotel during the spring, summer and fall. The Park Avenue Fest, Clothesline Arts Festival, Corn Hill Arts Festival, Lilac Festival and, back this year, the Rochester Rib Festival – which mixes food, music and art in Highland Park July 11 to 14 – have been popular with Strathallan guests in the past, Rettberg explains.

The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Fest has always been a big draw for lodgers at the Strathallan as well. This year, the festival is set for June 21 to 29, and will showcase more than 100 different musicians and groups at indoor and outdoor venues near the hotel. The Eastman’s Kodak Hall will host the festival’s headliners: Pink Martini, David Byrne and St. Vincent, Supertramp’s Roger Hodgson, Frampton’s Guitar Circus, Bob James and David Sanborn, and Willie Nelson. Nelson’s concert is sold out.

A century preserved

The Eastman was originally constructed in the 1920s by Kodak founder George Eastman so his employees have cultural opportunities in their off hours, Snihur says.

“He loved music, but he didn’t play an instrument,” she adds.

The movies at the time were silent, but featured musical scores. Eventually, Eastman brought in full orchestras to play between features. In fact, some of the movie days were phased out and devoted entirely to music. There was also dancing.

Eastman wanted the building to be special. “It was constructed in a gorgeous Italian Renaissance style, with murals and crystal chandeliers,” explains Snihur.

Like the Strathallan, the Eastman School has also undergone extensive renovation and expansion, beginning in 2004. In 2009, the 2,250-seat Kodak Hall was gutted, then upgraded with new seats and carpeting, and in 2010, an addition was built. The work won the prestigious Excellence in Historic Preservation Award from the Preservation League of New York State.

Improvements at the Eastman and the Strathallan, as well as their proximity to Rochester’s cultural, arts, food and shopping attractions, make it a perfect weekend getaway in the Finger Lakes region for those seeking luxury, fine dining and entertainment without a hefty travel time.

For information on rates, reservations and special packages at the Strathallan, please call 585-454-8093, e-mail or visit For information about the Eastman, please call 585-274-1000 or visit



George Eastman House
900 East Ave. • 585-271-3361 •
Opened in 1949, this is the world’s oldest photography museum and one of its oldest film archive. It combines the world’s leading collections of photography and film with the landmark Colonial Revival mansion and gardens that George Eastman called home from 1905 to 1932.

Rochester Museum and Science Center
657 East Ave. • 585-271-4320 •
Founded in 1912 as Rochester’s municipal museum, the museum/science center has three floors of hands-on, interactive exhibits in science, technology, natural science and regional/cultural heritage.

National Museum of Play
One Manhattan Square • 585-263-2700 •
The National Museum of Play at Strong is home to hundreds of thousands of historical objects related to play, including the world’s most comprehensive collection of dolls, toys and games. It features founder Margaret Woodbury Strong’s collection of 27,000 dolls, a life-size replica of Sesame Street and a year-round indoor butterfly garden.

Memorial Art Gallery
500 University Ave. • 585-276-8900 •
The Memorial Art Gallery was founded in 1913 by Emily Sibley Watson as a memorial to her son, architect James Averell. The gallery’s permanent collection of more than 12,000 objects has been called the best balanced in the state outside of New York City.



Java’s Café
16 Gibbs St. • 585-232-4820 •
People gravitate to Java’s for the atmosphere – its buzz doesn’t just come from the coffee. The eatery boasts a dozen varieties of organic beans, teas that are loose-leafed and garden direct, fresh sandwiches and pastry shop delights made from scratch.

Sinbad’s Mediterranean Cuisine
719 Park Ave. • 585-743-5655 •
Named the best Middle East restaurant in Rochester a handful of times since opening in 1999, Sinbad’s serves everything from falafel to farrouj and shish kabob to sultan pitza. There is a varied selection of beer, and a wine list is available.

California Rollin
274 Goodman St. • 585-271-8990 •
Voted first place winner for best sushi bar in Western New York for several years due to the restaurant’s renown for their “Americanized” sushi, California Rollin also features cooked seafood, alcoholic beverages, desserts, all-you-can-eat sushi on Wednesday evenings and sushi classes.

Good Luck
50 Anderson Ave. • 585-340-6161 •
Good Luck features fresh local vegetables, premium meats and a diversity of wine and beer. It also hosts a reserved Chef’s Table and Inspired Table events that include multi-course meals. Recent Inspired Tables featured six-course meals with wines from California, France and Italy.



One World Goods
Pittsford Plaza • 3349 Monroe Ave. • 585-387-0070 •
From tropical Indonesian salvage furniture to Peruvian beaded hoop earrings, all of the merchandise at One World Goods supports fair trade. The sales here impact the lives of people in Asia, Africa, Latin America and other developing countries who otherwise may not have income opportunities.

Charlotte Genesee Lighthouse
70 Lighthouse St. • 585-621-6179 •
The oldest surviving lighthouse on Lake Ontario was constructed in 1822 on a hill just west of the Genesee River. Visitors can climb the 42 steps in the 40-foot tower and then an 11-rung ladder to the 12-foot high lantern room to experience a panorama view of the surrounding area.

Richardson’s Canal House
1474 Marsh Rd., Pittsford • 585-248-5000 •
Built in 1818 and originally called the Bushnell’s Basin Hotel, this restaurant served as a public house for more than 100 years, and was a pioneer canal hostelry, predating the Erie Canal itself. It opened as Richardson’s Canal House in 1979.

by Louise Hoffman Broach

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