Eco-Friendly Things to Do in Rochester: The Flower City is Blooming With Vintage Shops and Vegan Spots

Chic vintage shops, diverse vegan cuisine, and exquisite flora fill Rochester, N.Y., making it a delightful destination for the eco-conscious traveler.

Bianca Piazza - Author
By

Jul. 1 2024, Updated 1:31 p.m. ET

landscape background image of Rochester, N.Y., alongside smaller photos from The Owl House restaurant,  Marilla’s Mindful Supplies, and Green Matters's "Green City Guides" logo
Source: iStock, owlhouseroc/Instagram, Marilla's Mindful Supplies/Facebook

Formerly the largest baking flour manufacturer in the world, and the birthplace of Mount Hope Nursery, which was once the world's largest nursery, Rochester, N.Y. — once the "Flour City," now the "Flower City" — is beloved for its floriculture-themed events and ethereal gardens.

Rochesterians cherish the Lilac Festival, the Ellwanger Garden, sunflower events at Wickham Farms and Stokoe Farms, and the George Eastman Museum's Dutch Connection, as noted by Visit Rochester.

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In 2018, environmental nonprofit CDP deemed Rochester an "A List" city for its "robust climate change strategies," as noted by the official City of Rochester website. It's also a ICLEI (or Local Governments for Sustainability) member and has been recognized by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for its range of clean energy initiatives and achievements.

From vegan fine dining to garden photo ops, our Rochester Green City Guide features plenty of sustainably-minded things to do for travelers of all ages. Read on for our guide to visiting Rochester, sustainably.

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Photo of the Rochester, N.Y., skyline during the evening hours
Source: istock

Where to stay: This Renaissance hotel is located just outside famous Rochester attractions and museums.

The Del Monte Lodge Renaissance Rochester Hotel & Spa:

The Del Monte Lodge Renaissance Rochester Hotel & Spa is located just outside of Rochester, at 41 N. Main Street in Pittsford. Planted right near the Greater Rochester International Airport, the hotel's guests have access to a free airport shuttle, a spa and full-service salon, an on-site fitness center, and an on-site restaurant.

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The Renaissance hotel is a 2017 Trip Advisor Green Partner recipient with a recycling program, an energy conservation program, energy-saving thermostats, energy-efficient lighting, and water-efficient faucets and toilets, as per Google Travel.

With the the National Museum of Play just five miles away, the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House just seven miles away, and downtown Rochester just 7.5 miles away, this hotel is perfect for those ready to explore Rochester.

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Where to eat in Rochester: Enjoy vegan Garbage Plates and plant-based Greek pastries.

The Red Fern:

Open since 2013, all-vegan restaurant The Fern at 283 Oxford Street serves American-style cuisine with gluten-free, nut-free, and soy-free options, including sandwiches, housemade desserts, sustainably-crafted wine, and fresh juices. Though we're particularly charmed by the Strawberry Alarm Clock juice and the grilled seitan Steak Bomb, the eatery highly recommends the Compost Plate, its healthy, plant-based version of Rochester’s signature Garbage Plate.

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Voula’s Greek Sweets:

Since 2012, Voula’s Greek Sweets at 439 Monroe Avenue has offered vegetarian and vegan brunch, lunch, and pastries. Born and raised in Rochester, owner Voula Katsetos-Garwood, a first-generation Greek and longtime vegetarian, has infused her restaurant with a flair reminiscent of the southeastern European country.

We'll take the housemade melitzanosalata spread with lagana flatbread and the chocolate melomakarona.

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The Owl House:

The Owl House at 75 Marshall Street "specializes in fresh, made-from-scratch New American food and inventive craft cocktails," as per its website. Many of the fine dining restaurant's array of specials and entrees can be prepared gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, and/or vegan. Plus, The Owl House offers locally roasted coffee!

Just reading about the vegan tofu dinner with tarragon and saffron butter, spinach orzo, and grilled asparagus has me salivating.

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Tree Town Cafe:

Pop into Tree Town Cafe at 745 Penfield Road to grab a vegan latte, smoothie, or frappe, or sit down and enjoy a plant-based brekkie. The cozy cafe has a full vegan breakfast menu as well as a vegan lunch menu, for easy perusing.

The Berry Coconut Iced Shaken Espresso and the vegan Weymouth BLT, complete with avocado and sprouts, are summoning me.

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Where to shop: Dig through diverse vintage clothing racks and stock up on low-waste essentials.

The Op Shop:

The Op Shop at 89 Charlotte Street — a vintage and handmade collective known for "popups where sustainability meets solidarity" — is a groovy shop with character. The Op Shop is proud to offer secondhand pieces from over 35 vendors in a wide range of sizes and styles. Whether you're into 1920s handkerchief hemlines or "futuristic" Y2K fabrics, the Op Shop surely has something for you.

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Little Shop of Hoarders:

With a campy name and a campier aesthetic, Little Shop of Hoarders at 447 Monroe Avenue is a fabulous vintage and retro clothing store with weekly popups featuring vintage vendors and local artisans. The shop even has an event space for weekend popups, live music, figure drawing night, games, and more!

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Marilla’s Mindful Supplies:

Pop into Marilla’s Mindful Supplies at 661 South Avenue, Suite D, for all your ethically-made, plastic-free, and zero-waste home, body, and self-care needs. Owner Marilla Gonzalez personally tests all of the store's products to ensure they blend sustainability with functionality.

With solid shampoos and conditioners, laundry detergent sheets, mouthwash tablets, and a grocery refill station, Marilla's has you covered.

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What to do: Cruise around the Genesee River and admire the locale of Rochester's Lilac Festival.

Riverie Boat Tour:

Journey to 280 Exchange Boulevard and hop on the Riverie (operated by the Corn Hill Navigation nonprofit), a boat that cruises the Genesee River, offering passengers stunning views of the Rochester city skyline. Interested in relaxing alongside some entertainment? Choose the Live Music Sunset Cruise. Hoping to spot some wildlife? Choose the River and Canal Cruise. (Also see the birding option!) Curious about Erie Canal and upstate New York history? Choose the Arts & Culture Series.

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Highland Park:

Stretching across hills and valleys resulted from glacial deposits, Highland Park at 180 Reservoir Avenue is the perfect place to get some fresh air, go for a stroll, and view stunning vegetation. The 150-acre park is home to the historical restoration award-winning Lamberton Conservatory, the historic Warner Castle Estate and its frequently photographed Sunken Garden, the John Dunbar Memorial Pavilion, the AIDS Remembrance Garden, and Lily Pond.

Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the 1880s, Highland Park is a planned arboretum boasting more than 1,200 lilac shrubs, Japanese maples, 35 magnolia varieties, dwarf evergreens, a pansy bed, 700 rhododendron varieties, azaleas, horse chestnuts, wildflowers, and more.

In “Green City Guides,” a travel series from Green Matters, we break down what to do, where to stay, what to eat, and more in various cities around the world — while staying sustainable.

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