Situated along Lake Ontario, this vibrant city is one of the best places to live in Upstate New York for young professionals, families, and retirees alike. Learn about the pros and cons of living in Rochester!

Pros of Living in Rochester

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From affordable living and short commutes to family-friendly activities, Rochester boasts plenty of perks. Here are some pros of relocating to Rochester!

Pro: Affordable Housing Options

While you might expect to drop a big chunk of change when moving to New York, the Flower City actually provides excellent affordability for those moving on a budget. Rochester’s cost of living is 29% lower than the New York average, and 13% lower than the national average. In fact, due to reasonable home prices and utility rates, the city of Rochester is considered one of the most affordable cities in the U.S. to buy a home. Budget-friendly home prices make the Rochester housing market fiercely competitive, and houses tend to sell faster than in other comparable metro areas. Those looking to rent in Rochester can also rejoice, as the city’s average monthly rent of $1,343 is well below the U.S. rent average.

Pro: High-Quality Education

Rochester offers no shortage of top-ranked colleges and universities to earn your degree. Get a head start on your education by checking out one of over 100 academic programs at the SUNY-affiliated Monroe Community College. Choose from over 160 undergraduate programs and explore a vast network of advanced research institutes at one of New York’s leading private research universities, the University of Rochester. Hone your engineering skills with hands-on internships and real-world projects grounded in creativity and innovation at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Prepare for a career in cybersecurity, marketing, or economics, or enroll in practice-oriented graduate programs at St. John Fisher University. Pursue a faith-based education in social work, computer science, psychology, and more at Roberts Wesleyan University. Or graduate from programs in health and human services, business and leadership, or education at Nazareth University.

Pro: Short Commute Times

Unlike many larger cities, Rochester offers minimal congestion and shorter-than-average commute times. Downtown Rochester is particularly easy to navigate, since it’s considered a walker’s paradise and also offers great bikeability and convenient access to transit. There are also Rochester transportation services located throughout the metro area, making travel easy. Line up at one of the 30 bus bays and ride on regional buses around the Greater New York area at the RTS Transit Center. Charter trips to Albany, the heart of NYC, and beyond on Trailways. Take trips all over the U.S. by flying out from the Frederick Douglas Greater Rochester International Airport. Or stay local and take advantage of one of the many guided Rochester tours to explore the city’s rich history and culture.

Pro: Scenic Outdoor Recreation

Known as Flower City, Rochester is not only a gateway to the beautiful Finger Lakes, but also home to a variety of historic gardens, lush greenery, and relaxing waterways. Explore Rochester’s horticultural heritage by strolling through over 1,200 beautiful lilac shrubs, as well as sweet-smelling magnolias and Japanese Maples at Highland Park Conservancy. Go swimming, fishing, or boating around Lake Ontario, or ride the historic Dentzel Menagerie Carousel at Ontario Beach Park. Walk or bike from Rochester to Buffalo or Rochester to Syracuse and beyond—passing vibrant shops, stream crossings, and canal infrastructure along the way—on the scenic Erie Canalway Trail. Visit Downtown Rochester for breathtaking views of the city’s iconic 96-foot waterfall, High Falls. Traverse a wooded oak forest or trek across the banks of the Genesee River on the boardwalk at Turning Point Park. Or tee off at any one of Rochester’s golf courses, including the 18-hole championship course at Durand Eastman Golf Course.

Pro: Year-Round Festivals

No matter what time of year you’re celebrating, you’ll have no trouble finding festivals in Rochester to keep you entertained. Welcome spring with live entertainment, local art, a wine-tasting expo, and more at the Rochester Lilac Festival. Visit Downtown Rochester for pumpkin painting, carnival games, and inflatables at Fall Fest. Enjoy a varied lineup of jazz musicians, from local high school jazz bands to show-stopping headliners, at the Rochester International Jazz Festival. Laugh out loud to stand-up comedy, support improv shows, and listen to live percussion at one of the largest fringe festivals in the U.S., the Rochester Fringe Festival. Appreciate all types of artistry—including textile weaving, jewelry, and pottery—or grab a seat for live entertainment at one of the top art festivals in Rochester, the Corn Hill Arts Festival. Or support Rochester’s passionate LGBTQ+ community with annual pride-based events like the ROC Pride Picnic, Pride Parade, and Pride Festival.

Pro: Stunning Art & Culture

Rochester is full of rich arts and culture that define the city’s diverse identity. Journey through over 5,000 years of world art history, seeing works from Rembrandt, Lilly Martin Spencer, Kehinde Wiley, and more at the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG). Engage with rotating exhibitions showcasing the history of photography and cinema, or see special displays like Colorama and the Phillip Seymour Hoffman sculpture at the George Eastman Museum. Walk through a renovated factory displaying over 500,000 works—including automobiles, photography, and collectibles—at ARTISANworks, a community art collective. Get tickets to watch the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra play classics from Brahms, Wagner, and Tchaikovsky, or attend annual performances of The Nutcracker featuring the Rochester City Ballet. See seasonal productions of theatrical staples like The Wizard of Oz or A Christmas Carol at Geva Theatre. Or appreciate live shows in Rochester showcasing the strength of Afro-Caribbean dance and award-winning choreography at Garth Fagan Dance.

Pro: Family-Friendly Activities

New and prospective parents will find plenty of fun family activities in Rochester. Connect with diverse species of animals, such as African elephants, Masai giraffes, and polar bears at the Seneca Park Zoo. Strap in for adrenaline-pumping thrill rides like Jack Rabbit and Whirlwind, or kid-friendly rides like the Tilt-a-Whirl and Sea Dragon at Seabreeze Amusement Park. Tour space with awe-inspiring projector shows like Stars with Carl, The Sky Tonight, and Planet Spectacular at Strasenburgh Planetarium. Celebrate the importance of play at the Hasbro Game Park, stop by the National Toy Hall of Fame, or interact with exhibits like ESL Digital Worlds: High Score at The Strong National Museum of Play. Enjoy family fun in Rochester with mini-golf, go-karts, arcade games, and more at Clubhouse Fun Center. Or go apple-picking, meet farm animals, and ride the Wickham Express at nearby Wickham Farms.

Pro: Excellent Local Food

Boasting renowned restaurants and classic eateries, Rochester is home to a variety of top dining spots in New York. Start Fridays and Saturdays off right with some of the best brunch in Rochester and order international meals like Kimchee Pancakes, Turkish Eggs, or the Ranchero Roll at Atlas Eats Kitchen & Bake Shop. Make reservations for seasonal New American meals like Grilled NY Strip, Rigatoni Bolognese, and Steelhead Trout at Michelin star-winning restaurant, REDD. Sit down for meals like Crispy Polenta Cakes, Tofu Dinner, and Lentil & Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie at the vegan-friendly fine dining establishment, The Owl House. Bite into casual Rochester Italian food like Spaghetti, Chicken Cutlets, and wood-fired Marinara Pizza at Fiorella. Savor Southern-style chicken barbecue with Prime Brisket, Pulled Pork, or a Chicken Cheesesteak at Upstate New York favorite, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. Or grab bites of fresh Rochester sushi with a Maki Dinner, Sashimi Dinner, or Chirashi from SHIKI.

Pro: Vibrant Nightlife

When the sun sets, Rochester’s nightlife comes out! Order French classics like Beef Bourguignon while sipping Punch-Out and Cosmo cocktails at Cure. Finish off craft cocktails like The Socialite and Pink Rabbits, or sip Zardetto wine while bowling or gaming in the lounge at Radio Social. Listen to live music from local acts as you drink pints of Allegash White Wheat Beer, Brewdog Elvis Juice Ale, and Labatt Blue Pilsner at Abilene Bar & Lounge. Grab drinks while getting rowdy for goth, industrial, metal, and alternative music from the live DJ at Vertex Night Club. Down a Prairie Rainbow Sherbet while tossing axes or join a Rochester axe-throwing league with friends at Axes & Ales. Or bring a daring group of friends and family to attempt escaping Game of Clans, Billy’s Nightmare, and Ultimate Escape at Omega Escape Room, one of the top Rochester escape rooms.

Cons of Living in Rochester

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While Rochester is a great place to live in Upstate New York, there are still some drawbacks to be aware of. Here are the cons of moving to Rochester.

Con: High Unemployment

While Rochester boasts impressive areas of affordability, it also has a higher-than-average poverty rate and a 5.5% unemployment rate, as its economy and job market are still slowly recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. With that said, there are still many fantastic jobs in Rochester in industries ranging from manufacturing to healthcare. Serve customers, prepare food, or assist product distribution at Rochester’s largest employer and one of Fortune’s top 100 companies to work for, Wegmans Food Market. Help develop commercial print technologies while working in engineering or manufacturing at Kodak. Provide customer service, sales, or IT services at Payroll services company Paychex. Fine-tune cars as a technician or help customers find new vehicles as a salesperson at West Herr Automotive Group. Or assist patients and provide critical care as a nurse, physician, or surgeon at Rochester Regional Health.

Con: Cold Winter Weather

When relocating to Rochester, stock up on winter gear to prepare for frigid weather. On average, the city gets roughly 77 inches of snowfall per year and is considered one of the snowiest cities in America. January is the coldest month, with an average low of 17 degrees and a high of 31 degrees—just under freezing temperatures. While the city’s winters are bitterly cold, Rochester’s climate during the summer tends to be comfortably mild, with temperatures ranging from 55 to 81 degrees. Plus, there are great ways to take advantage of Rochester winters! Find fun holiday activities like Story Time with Santa, ice skating, and hockey competitions at ROC Holiday Village. Grab your snowboard and navigate any of the 35 tricky trails or two terrain parks an hour from Rochester at Swain Ski Resort. Or lace up and take the whole family to public ice skating sessions at Tim Hortons Iceplex.

Con: Safety-Related Concerns

As with many other major metropolitan areas, higher rates of crime may be a concern for those moving to Rochester. The city as a whole is safer than only 6% of the U.S. and 5% of New York. However, crime rates vary by neighborhood and fluctuate over time. As you go out from Rochester’s downtown area and further from the airport, crime becomes less prominent—particularly in Rochester’s suburbs. The city is also working to implement violence prevention programs to encourage positive self-development at the earliest levels and break the cycle of criminal activity. Some of the safest neighborhoods in Rochester include Browncroft, Homestead Heights, and Cobb’s Hill.

Con: Lack of Major Sports Teams

Unlike Buffalo and NYC, Rochester isn’t particularly well-known for sports. However, even though the city does not have any major league teams, most of its teams reside in minor leagues and are local favorites. Root for the Rochester Red Wings (MiLB) as they run bases and slam home runs out of Innovative Field. Grab tickets to watch the Rochester Americans (AHL) move the puck down the ice and score goals at Blue Cross Arena. Get fired up for heart-pounding soccer games from the Rochester Lady Lancers (UWS) at Aquinas Institute. Support professional Rochester soccer clubs like the Flower City Union (NISA) at the Rochester Community Sports Complex. Or drive just over an hour away to see the Buffalo Bills (NFL) make Hail Mary passes and incredible touchdowns at Highmark Stadium.


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