This is downtown. It's in a transition...Welcome. It's where we live, where we do business, and where we spend a good deal of our time. Naturally, we have a great affinity for the neighborhoods in it and the great stuff happening all around.
Without exception, the annual Jazz Fest provides us with an opportunity to showcase some of downtown's best - and some of our favorites! - to the nearly 200,000 visitors coming from all over the country and the world to see one of the most popular and well respected music festivals. We'd even bet that most locals wouldn't know half this stuff...so while you're in downtown during the next week and a half, here are 10 things you need to check out in and around the Jazz Fest to fully take advantage of a city that has recently awakened.
1. Get a caffeine boost
You want to spend entire days enjoying some of the best jazz and you need a pick-me-up? The East End has you covered. Just about every Jazz Fester knows of Java's because it's right in the heart of everything on Gibbs Street. It's also one of our absolute faves. But so is Spot Coffee on East Ave. And you may just want want to check out recent addition Press Coffee just around the corner on E. Main. And if you're a simple, don't-give-me-that-fancy-stuff type person, then you always now have the new Dunkin' Donuts on East as well. Plenty of options abound.
2. Take a walk through Grove Place
And if you're checking out Press Coffee, take a stroll into the "oldest continually occupied residential neighborhood in Downtown Rochester", that is, the Grove Place neighborhood. This phrase is the neighborhood association's way to distinguish it from Corn Hill, generally considered to be the oldest neighborhood in the city. We love Grove Place because parts of it remind us of Brooklyn and even Greenwich Village in New York - a great little neighborhood with beautiful homes, quirky streets, and their own artistic touches all over.
Do some shopping in the neighborhood while you're at it. Stop into Arena's to see the latest urban home furnishing fashions and their beautiful and eclectic mix of fresh flowers. Make it a romantic date and purchase some for your loved one - just like the ol' days.
4. See the tranformation
While you're taking a break from all the Jazzy things going on, you may just want to take a stroll over to the living, breathing history museum known as the covering of the Inner Loop. This project is decades in the making, and now the city is finally making it happen. Get pictures while you can and see it for your own eyes because by next year, most of the inner loop in the East End will be covered - and just a faint memory.
5. A festival within a festival
We've said this many times before - get over to Hart's Grocers. Partly because we know the Rochester consumer is an expert grocery critic, partly because the people are so nice, but mostly because it's an experience in and of itself. Hungry and looking for a great bite to eat? Check out the Hart's Kitchen with a special Jazz Festival Menu - all items under $8! What city can you go to and that happen!? Oh, and if you're a Club Pass holder, you get a FREE vintage soda with the purchase of a sandwich. Make sure to coordinate your Jazz Fest schedule on Saturday June 20th as there will be a Hart's Vendor Market with FREE samples and tastings - let's call it a festival within a festival!
6. A festival near a festival
Let's call this one a festival near a festival. The Windstream Party in the Park series officially kicked off on Thursday June 18th to the tune of hundreds of outdoor concert enthusiasts at the MLK Jr. Memorial Park, a few steps away from the Jazz Fest action. The next one is on June 25th. The best part is that to experience all the bands and music, tickets are only $5. Again, a little coordination with your Jazz Fest schedule could net you a ton of great music for the evening - and a fun urban experience in our city.
7. Good eats
There will be amazing food all over the Jazz Festival this year. Vendors and the food trucks will be set up to provide those quick bites to attendees. East End Pizza and Deli is a recent addition on East Ave next to Dunkin' Donuts and boasts bar hours - until 2am-ish - Wednesday-Saturdays (other days until 11pm). But what about if you're looking to take a load off your feet and just enjoy the sights, buzz, and energy of the neighborhood? That's when you'll want to check out Aunt Rosie's, Vive, Tournedos or Golden Port Restaurant. And may we suggest taking a slight walk towards Main Street - head over to the brand new Hilton Garden Inn Downtown where you'll find the restaurant Drifters L.B. This is a casual dining experience with an upscale feel - and tour the lobby of the new hotel while you're there - and see the beginnings of our Main Street transformation with your own eyes.
8. Cool off with dessert
If you're bringing the kids and/or you're looking to cool off during these hot summer days, stop into Yogen Fruz - if you can find it amongst the crowd. Sitting directly across the street from Java's Cafe on Gibbs Street, we challenge you to find the entryway as the Jazz Street Stage will pack Gibbs street to the max for the FREE daily shows. When you do find it - you can rest assured - it will be well worth the effort. You can never go wrong with pistachio flavored froyo.
Feeling all jazzy and now you're in an artistic mood? Then stop by the Rochester Contemporary Art Center, better known as RoCo to see the current exhibitions, especially the popular 6x6 campaign now in its 8th year. Only $2 admission for non-members, RoCo stays open until 11pm every day of the Jazz Fest to accomodate the crowds. DO NOT MISS: a production brought to us by Brooklyn-based Creative Art Director Haywood Hawkes - "Cubes: A Visual Exploration of Possibility" - FREE outdoor performance by Alexander Green, a Rochester-raised artist, on Sunday June 21st on the grounds of Christ Church next to RoCo.
10. The Little Theatre
Maybe the crowds and the heat are too much at times for you, or you're just waiting to pass some time before the next show. Take advantage of this gem on East Avenue with air conditioning and peace and quiet - The Little Theatre. Playing a mix of indie and foreign films (with some blockbusters as well), these are going to be unique films you won't get out at Tinseltown or Cinemark. Hungry and thirsty for more? The Little Cafe has drinks, desserts, and even its own selection of live music at various times - and The Little is also partnered again this year with Selena's Mexican Restaurant (during the Jazz Fest) to offer a refreshing oasis at the South-of-the-Border-style Sangriaville.