Rochester, New York, is an under-the-radar destination in the Northeast. The city is affordable, accessible and offers meeting attendees the best of both worlds—with a bustling metropolitan surrounded by the picturesque views of the Finger Lakes region.
“Signature experiences in Rochester include a focus on arts and culture, unique museums, food and wine and creative play for all ages,” says Rachel Laber Pulvino, director of communications at Visit Rochester. “We are a city with an incredible history (being the home of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass) with a bright future.”
She adds Rochester is a keen example of a midsized city that can help make meetings magical.
“The Greater Rochester region is home to 18 colleges and universities, so conference organizers are rarely at a loss when it comes to finding high-quality speakers and subject matter experts in a number of fields, including science, engineering, optics/photonics, medicine, agriculture and more,” she says.
For meetings or conventions of any size, the beautiful and versatile Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center has 100,000 square feet of flexible meeting and exhibit space connected to 1,100 rooms in a trio of major hotels, with an enclosed skywalk system and scenic riverside promenade conveniently connecting them all. The convention center includes 25 meetings rooms and seating for 5,000.
Blades Bar & Grill was resurrected January 2019, after being one of the hottest restaurant/bars in Rochester in the ’80s. “People flocked to it and was known for strong drinks and lines of people waiting to come and stay for hours,” says Lily Sandvik, events and operations. “Today we are known for having great burgers, pastas and pizzas—our main bar is large and accommodating with big screen TVs for viewing sports events, award shows and other events interesting to our patrons.” It also has two private event rooms that offer a rustic industrial feel. Blades Factory seats 120 guests for dinner, 200 guests for cocktail parties, while the Board Room seats 25 guests for dinner, 50 guests for events. “This is often used for corporate meetings, with large tables accommodating guests that require extra space for laptops used in working dinners or lunches,” Sandvik says. “Both rooms are equipped with big screen TVs connected by HDMI and individual speakers that play whatever Pandora or iHeartRadio channel our guests like.”
The Playhouse/Swillburger is a bar, arcade and casual burger joint located in a renovated ’80s church. “We have a private room with tables and chairs for 33 and a private backroom that can be rented out for private events or as a unique location for your next meeting,” says Mary Hall, event and social media coordinator for Swillburger. “Alternatively, groups are welcome to come in without renting the private room for a more casual event.” The venue offers 35-plus arcade games and full bar with craft beer and cocktails. “An impromptu pinball tournament would be a unique way to end your meeting while our 30-foot bar is a great space to mingle after a day of meetings elsewhere,” Hall says.
Max of Eastman Place has been a part of the Rochester food scene for almost 20 years and has seen its share of corporate and social meetings and events. “We offer unique downtown locations with indoor and outdoor capabilities,” says Lauren Lauterbach, marketing manager for the company. “We have the ability to have a private dinner for 30 people or an event as large a 200. We cater all around the Rochester area in spaces like the Memorial Art Gallery and the George Eastman House.”
Where to Stay
A welcoming, upscale downtown destination, Hyatt Regency Rochester places you in the heart of one of the most vibrant cities in New York. The Hyatt is one of two hotels connected to the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center, a benefit for meeting attendees during the winter months. Jay Rettberg, regional director of operations, says the hotel’s ornate 20,000-square-foot function space is a great place for any meeting or event. “You can have a say on the look and feel of any small executive meeting in our space or transport oversized events across the sky bridge to the Rochester Convention Center.”
With 15,000 square feet of meeting space, the Holiday Inn Rochester Downtown has been hosting business meetings for more than 50 years. “With recent renovations, this relaxed riverfront hotel is conveniently located in the convention district and is just a short walk from the convention center and just 8 miles from Rochester International Airport,” Laber Pulvino says. The hotel has a Grand Ballroom plus breakout spaces and can host groups from 5 to 500 guests.
The Strathallan Rochester - a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, is a dynamic fusion of social hub and urban retreat, while the Woodcliff Hotel and Spa offers spectacular views of the Rochester Skyline, Rochester Bristol Hills and Finger Lakes region.
Plenty to Do
There are many art galleries, cultural institutions and museums that call Rochester home, which has helped the city gain recognition on a national level for its commitment to the arts. In fact, the National Center for Art Research recently named Rochester the 17th most arts-vibrant city in the country, on the same list as major metropolitans like NYC, Chicago and Los Angeles.
“History lovers will enjoy a visit to the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House, home to Susan B. Anthony during her 40 most politically active years, as well as Genesee Country Village & Museum, a 19th century brought to life at New York’s largest living history museum—and the third largest living history museum in the country,” Laber Pulvino says.
Once the residence of Mayor A. Carter Wilder, East End’s Rochester Club was established in 1860 and in 1911 was renovated to include a grand ballroom lit by four crystal chandeliers, which today still stand. “With light renovations and a name change—now called the Wilder Room— honoring one of Rochester Club’s own, we have modernized a piece of the city’s history and hope to bring it back to life,” says Jenna Knauf of the Bella Events Group. “We have a ballroom available that can seat 150 guests for a dinner style event with a dance floor, 200 guests without a dance floor, and 250 guests for a cocktail style event. It has a classic, historical feel that guests will not find at any other venue in the city.”
ArtisanWorks, a renovated factory building housing many multidisciplinary art pieces, offers event space and recently unveiled its new Casablanca Room themed after the infamous classic film. It also has themed tribute rooms such as the Retro Room, Marilyn Monroe room and Bourbon Street Room. “Our space is entertaining in itself for people because there is so much to see everywhere. It is a tribute to the 20th century so there is a mix of art and nostalgia pieces, antiques and old cars,” says Victoria Benz-Gehrke, special events director. “We have over 80,000 square feet of space. We have rooms that can handle 10 people all the way up to rooms that can handle 300.” ArtisanWorks will also offer tours during an event to give attendees a break from the meeting atmosphere. “We have a wonderful caterer on site that can take care of everything for them and they are also allowed to bring food in if that is preferred,” she says.
By the Numbers
1898: Year one of the Highland Festival at Highland Park, the oldest and most popular festival in Rochester and the largest event of its kind in North America.
1788: Rochester was originally founded; incorporated as a city in 1934
200-year-old Erie Canal, a modern engineering marvel that runs right through Rochester in four different canal side villages, Fairport, Pittsford, Spencerport and Brockport
443 feet the largest tower in the city is the Xerox Tower
18 colleges and universities
Visit Rochester | visitrochester.com/meetings