Main Street in Pittsford, one of the area's canal towns (Photo by Keith Walters)
By SALLY PARKER and KATHRYN QUINN THOMAS
You're sitting on a plane, and your seatmate introduces himself. He says he's from Rochester. You assume he lives in the city by that name, right?
Not so fast. He's as likely to live in the sprawling town of Greece (one of New York's largest) as he is in the quaint canal village of Fairport or the commercial mecca of Henrietta.
For the most part, people who live in the city of Rochester and the many towns that encircle it in Monroe County identify themselves as Rochesterians. Which isn't to say that surrounding communities lack their own flavor-far from it. In fact, many of the towns were incorporated long before Rochester and have rich histories and personalities all their own.
Greater Rochester, bisected by the grand Genesee River and capped by Lake Ontario, is home to more than a million people. Urban, suburban or rural, Rochesterians are proud of their enclaves.
Suburban communities to the east include Irondequoit, Webster, Penfield, Brighton, Pittsford, Fairport, East Rochester, Perinton and Victor. Family-friendly, they are known for their schools, churches, shopping and parks. Topography is flat near the lake and gently rolling in southern towns. Housing styles range from 150-year-old farmhouses to post-war ranches and sprawling contemporaries.
Rochester's western suburbs, including Greece, Chili, Gates, Ogden, Brockport, Hilton and Spencerport, have a small-town feel despite their size, with good schools, parks and busy commercial hubs. The land, farmed for generations, is generally flat. Housing styles are eclectic and range from century-old farmhouses to new builds in fresh developments.
What connects many of these communities is the Erie Canal. The region is in the middle of what's dubbed the canal's Best 100 Miles. Village and hamlet names show their history as canal stops: Spencerport, Brockport, Fairport, Bushnell's Basin. In Pittsford, catch a ride on the Sam Patch tour boat at Schoen Place. Fairport's Colonial Belle also offers tours of the historic waterway. Both villages are great places to stroll the shops and grab a bite to eat. In Brockport, tour an art gallery on the state college campus and visit the quaint commercial district.
A fascination with history has created solid museums in Rochester's suburbs, from Genesee Country Village & Museum near Mumford, one of the biggest in the nation, to Tinker Homestead & Farm Museum in Henrietta, the New York Museum of Transportation in Rush and the Stone-Tolan House in Brighton.
North of the city, Lake Ontario shows Rochester's seafaring side. There are beautiful lakeside parks in Webster, Irondequoit, Greece and the city neighborhood of Charlotte. In Charlotte, a lighthouse, now open for tours, once guided ships into port. Irondequoit's Seabreeze neighborhood has a historic amusement park by the same name. Its hamburger and ice cream restaurants have done business for generations, and there's a pier with great views of the lake and Irondequoit Bay. Locals swear they see a ghost known as the Lady in White at Durand-Eastman Park in Irondequoit. By day, it's a popular place to swim, hike and play golf.
The Lake Ontario State Parkway runs along the southern shore of Lake Ontario, the easternmost of the Great Lakes. Spectacular views of the lake, apple orchards and farms unfold along 35 miles in Monroe and Orleans counties. Where the parkway ends near Lakeside Beach, a left turn takes you to Route 18. Both roads are chains in a link known as the Seaway Trail, a designated National Scenic Byway, which runs 500 miles from Massena, N.Y., to Erie, Pa.
Before Interstate 90 was built, Route 20 was the main thoroughfare from Boston to Oregon. In Central New York, Route 20 coincides with Route 5 between Avon and Auburn. With its start as a Seneca Nation trail, it later became a military supply route. Locals call this historic corridor simply "5 and 20" (www.routes5and20.com) and know it as a great place to find antiques. In the towns along the way, you'll find local art, crafts and gifts too. Restaurants serve regional favorites and comfort food.
Route 15 begins in the city of Rochester at 1 Mt. Hope Ave., where it intersects with South Avenue. It travels south through the city and Brighton before opening up to farm country in southern Henrietta and Rush. And then it just keeps going. See flea markets, farm stands and small-town America-if you want, going all the way to South Carolina, 800 miles away.
The wine trails around the Finger Lakes in central New York follow roads that offer splendid views of the lakes and vineyards: Route 21, Canandaigua Lake; Routes 54A and 54, Keuka Lake; Routes 14, 96A and 414, Seneca Lake; and Routes 89 and 90, Cayuga Lake.
Good routes for antiquing include Routes 5 and 20 in Bloomfield (www.bloomfieldantiquemile.com), Lima, Avon and Caledonia; Route 332 in Farmington; Route 20 in Madison; and Route 104 in Genesee, Monroe and Wayne counties.
Country roads yield more than antiques and sweeping views: Be sure to stop at roadside stands and farm markets for fruits and vegetables. They're the freshest you'll find anywhere.
© Rochester Business Journal