According to the New York Post, Rochester seems to be a “grim and depressing” place to live. But anyone who loves the Flower City will tell you otherwise — even when it’s covered with that ubiquitous lake effect snow. Although people over the age of 55 are at least four times more likely to suffer a heart-related injury when shoveling the white stuff, many Rochesterians feel the harsh winters are well worth staying for.
Despite the cold and ice, there’s something magical about spending the holidays here. And if you’re stumped on how to celebrate the season, there are plenty of events and activities that can help you appreciate what the city has to offer.
ROC Holiday Village
Only in its second year, this free event promises to be a real crowd-pleaser. In fact, its debut last year actually brought more than 100,000 people downtown to Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park at Manhattan Square. It’ll return for a three-and-a-half-week run starting on Friday, December 6 and will be open from 4 pm to 11 pm on Fridays, 10 am to 11 pm on Saturdays, and 10 am to 6 pm on Sundays through December 31. This year’s Village will feature a larger restaurant and bar, a new gaming room, a live nativity, more food trucks, ice skating, crafts, photos with Santa, and more. ROC Holiday Village will also light an outdoor menorah during the evenings from December 22 through December 30 — and since the average life expectancy of a fluorescent or LED bulb can range from 20,000 to 50,000 hours, organizers may be hoping that their bulbs will last just as long as the oil in the Hanukah story. In addition, the Village will host Kwanzaa and Three Kings’ Day celebrations on December 21 and 28, respectively. Although no permanent construction will be performed (meaning that some of the 8.4 million people employed within the construction industry might not be working on this project), putting the event together literally takes a village.
Lighting the Trees, Poles, and Kegs
The City of Rochester will host its annual Liberty Pole lighting on December 7. Starting at 4:30 at East Main Street and Franklin Street, the festivities will involve and meet-and-greet with Santa, Rudolph, and his elves (as well as local sports team mascots), followed by the lighting at 5 pm. A parade will then make its way to Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park.
If you want to embrace an unconventional Rochester tradition, head to the Genesee Brew House for their now-annual keg tree lighting ceremony on December 6 at 6:30 pm to enjoy the lights, the beer, the music, and the food trucks. Last year, the event drew more than 6,000 Rochesterians to witness the unique tree created out of 520 kegs. Just make sure that if you attend, you have a safe way of getting home. While there were 5,172 fatal motorcycle accidents in 2017, drunk driving accidents in general become more common around the holidays. Those who choose to drink should arrange for alternate transportation.
Of course, if you’re in the mood for a traditional tree-lighting, there are plenty of options to choose from. You just might need to venture outside the immediate city center to see them. Partake in Pittsford’s Candlelight Night on December 3 and see two separate tree lightings in the village (one at Main and State streets at 6 pm and the other at Label 7 in Northfield Common at 7 pm). Your family can also meet Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the Grinch. Keep in mind that South Main will be closed to traffic and that shuttle service will run from Pittsford Sutherland High School to the village for convenience. You could also venture out to the Greece Community Center for their annual Tree Lighting and Family Christmas Party on December 5. Be sure to arrive early for holiday carols and stay for the tree-lighting at 6:15 (after which the indoor-outdoor party will begin). On December 7, check out the Village of Victor celebration and stick around for the 5 pm tree-lighting ceremony. That same day, you could also attend Fairport’s Come Home For the Holidays Event from 3 pm to 6 pm, which includes a 5 pm tree-lighting ceremony at Kennelley Park on West Avenue. You might also consider attending Little Italy’s second annual Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration on December 14, which takes place on the front lawn of the Rochester Fire Department’s Engine Number 5 Fire House, at 5 pm. Festivities include Italian cookies, cocoa, holiday music, and photo ops with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Special (and Affordable) Seasonal Offerings
If you’re looking for affordable ways to celebrate the season with your family, there are a number of events you’ll want to put on the calendar now. There’s Holiday Laser at the Strasenburgh Planetarium, which features holiday favorites with dancing laser lights, running now through January 5 (there’s also a sensory-friendly performance on December 7). The George Eastman Museum is also putting on a Holiday Homecoming Event on December 12, which features live music, cookies and punch, family activities, and festive displays, along with a visit from Santa. The museum’s Sweet Creations Gingerbread Display will also continue through December 15, so families can take advantage of both options with museum admission. You could also take the family to Christmas with Santa at Springdale Farm (which includes breakfast!) in Spencerport on November 30, December 7, or December 14 or go to Garden Factory’s Holiday Family Fun event on Saturdays and Sundays through December 22. The event includes rides, games, crafts, Santa appearances, and a petting zoo. The Rochester Public Market will host Holidays at the Market on December 1, 8, 15, and 19, which will include holiday carriage rides, cookie decorating, and (you guessed it) appearances by Santa.
Remember to be extremely careful while driving this winter, as well. In a single year in Texas, there was one person injured every two minutes and four seconds, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. But in upstate New York, where heavy snowfall is a factor, it’s far more dangerous to be on the roads. So drive safe!
If you’re sticking around Rochester for the holidays, there are clearly plenty of reasons to feel jolly. With so many yuletide events going on, you’ll probably have trouble deciding which ones you’ll have to skip this year.
Tags: Christmas, holiday
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