Rochester, New York, has a lot to offer. If you’re thinking about moving to this city, you’re not alone in wanting to live in a beautiful, affordable area of upstate New York. Located between the Finger Lakes and Lake Ontario, steeped in culture and the arts, and within driving distance of New York City, Rochester is a great place to raise a family. Offering a fantastic food scene plus arts and entertainment for the whole family, Rochester maintains a strong sense of community for a medium-sized city.

Rochester residents enjoy four distinct seasons. The summers are very warm and humid, and the winters are icy cold and white with snow. But don’t get excited about the potential for snow days – the city prepares for nearly 100 inches of snow a year, so schools, businesses, and events stay open. Locals just put on their warm hats, scarves, and coats, equip their vehicles with snow tires, and brave the elements.

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Living in Rochester, NY: What to Know Before Moving to Rochester

Rochester is located on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, about 330 miles northwest of New York City. Even with a population of 208,000, the city has a tight-knit community feel. Rochester is known for its well-educated workforce, affordable housing, and it’s a great place to raise a family.

Pros and Cons of Living in Rochester

Take into account these pros and cons of living in Rochester.

Pros:

  • The food scene is amazing. Don’t forget to try the famous “Garbage Plate!”
  • There are lots of things to explore near the city. Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and the Finger Lakes are all within an hour’s drive from Rochester.
  • Rochester is family-friendly. People hail this city as a great place to raise little ones.
  • Wegman’s. If you don’t know about this store, it’s a must-see for an unrivaled grocery store experience.
  • Loads of art. If you love art, you’ll appreciate that you’ll see lots of it – both indoors and outside.
  • Root Beer lovers rejoice! Root Beer is a serious business in Rochester.

Cons:

  • The weather isn’t always great. Rochester gets a lot of snow, and nothing ever shuts down, so if you don’t love winter, this is probably not the city for you.
  • The city has some crazy parking rules called “alternate parking.” The rules allow parking on the even-numbered side of the street until 7 pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Parking on the odd-numbered side of the streets is allowed until 7 pm on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
  • Fuel costs. Gas prices are some of the highest in the nation.
  • Tax rates. Sales tax is above the national average.
  • Slow growth. Most people wouldn’t consider Rochester a booming area. The population is aging, and there aren’t a lot of new companies moving to the area.

Tax Rates

Taxes in Rochester are higher than in many other states in the US.

  • Property Tax: Property taxes in Rochester are extremely high. Monroe County clocks in at 3.186%, nearly triple the national average.
  • Sales Tax: The sales tax in Rochester is 8%, which is higher than the national average of 7.3%.
  • State Income Tax: The income tax rate in Rochester is 8.82%, which is much higher than the US average of 4.6%.

Housing Market

Despite the high property taxes, Rochester housing is much more affordable than in many other areas of the country. According to Zillow.com, the median monthly rent price is $1,100, and the median home list price is $84,900 as of November 2019. But the affordable prices don’t come without competition. The market is very competitive right now, and many homes get multiple offers. Homes sell for about 1% above the list price and go pending in around 12 days. In 2017, only 36.5% of the Rochester housing units were owner-occupied, a much lower percentage than the national average of 63.9%.

If you’re looking for the most affordable neighborhoods, consider living in Strong, Homestead Heights, Lyell-Otis, Edgerton, Upper Falls, Northland-Lyceum, or the Central Business District.  In housing, like with most things, you get what you pay for. These neighborhoods may not be as safe as their more expensive counterparts.

Cost of Living

Compared to the rest of the US, the cost of living in Rochester is very affordable at 21.6% lower than the US average. Bestplaces.net ranks the cost of living at an average index of 100. An amount below 100 means that Rochester is cheaper than the national average; the cost of living index for Rochester is 78.4/100. Housing is the biggest factor in the lower cost of living compared to in other cities. In terms of specific monthly expenses, the groceries are 97.8, health care is 93.3, utilities are 103.2, and transportation is 90.6.

The median household income in Rochester is $30,784, considerably below the national average of $53,482, according to bestplaces.net. According to epi.org, a family of four needs to earn $93,296 per year to live a moderate lifestyle in the city.

Weather & Natural Disasters

People who live in Rochester enjoy four very distinct seasons. The hottest months are July and August when temps reach average highs of 81 and 79, with average lows in the low 60s.

Be prepared for more snow that you’ll find in many other areas of the country. Rochester typically gets about 99 inches of snow each year, and it can snow throughout a six month period. Winters are freezing, dry, and windy, so make sure you have appropriate layers. The coldest months are January and February when highs average 32 to 34 and lows average 18 to 19. The annual average rainfall is 33 inches.

If you’re worried about being a victim of natural disasters, Rochester may be the city for you. The risk for natural disaster threats is low, aside from snow and ice storms. The chance of earthquakes and tornadoes is much lower than the New York and national averages. Check out the Monroe County emergency preparedness site to learn more about threats in this area.

Economy & Job Market

The unemployment rate in Rochester is 6.2%, which is higher than the national average of 3.9%. Rochester recently ranked dead last in a rating of the country’s 53 hottest job markets, published by the Wall Street Journal in October 2019.

The largest industries are Health Care and Social Assistance, employing 20,000; Educational Services, with nearly 11,000 employees; and Retail Trade, employing nearly 11,000. The highest-paying jobs are in Utilities, Public Administration, and Finance & Insurance. The male/female wage gap is larger in Rochester than the national average, with males getting paid 1.3 times more than females.

The top employers in Rochester are the University of Rochester, Rochester Regional Health, Wegman’s Food Markets, Xerox Corp, Rochester General Hospital, Paychex Inc, and Rochester Institute of Technology. If you are looking for work, visit rochesterworks.org to find out who’s hiring and about upcoming job fairs.

Traffic and Transportation

You won’t have many traffic headaches if you drive in Rochester. If you do get stuck in a traffic jam, it will likely be during rush hour from 8-9 am or in the evening between 5-6 pm. Rare backups on the highways typically don’t last more than 5-10 minutes. The average commute time is 19.5 minutes, which is lower than the national average of 25.1 minutes, so thankfully, you won’t be pulling your hair out on your commute to work. Interstate 90 runs west to Buffalo and east to Syracuse. Interstate 390 runs north-south through central Rochester. Interstate 490, north of I-90, also runs east-west through Rochester.

Most people don’t use public transportation; in fact, less than 10% of residents utilize public commuter transportation. Rochester Public Transit only provides 40-weekday bus routes and 8 Saturday routes, so options are limited. Before winter arrives, be sure to winterize your car, to handle winter driving conditions. The city doesn’t shut down for a few inches of the fluffy or icy white stuff. On a scale of 100, 100 being the best walk score, Rochester ranks 65 for walkability. In terms of transit, the city ranks 43/100 and 61/100 for biking.

What to Do

If you’re considering a move to Rochester, you’re probably wondering how people spend their free time.

Outdoor Activities

Rochester offers plenty to do, no matter the season. To take advantage of winter snow, many locals head to the several nearby ski resorts, including Bristol Mountain, Swain Resort, and Kissing Bridge. During summer months, boating, fishing, and golfing are popular pastimes.

Museums

If you’re into art, history, and culture, Rochester has a variety of museums you’ll enjoy visiting. Top choices are the Rochester Museum and Science Center, The Strong Museum, the George Eastman Museum, the Susan B Anthony Museum & House, and the Memorial Art Gallery.

Parks

Nature lovers appreciate the greenspaces and plentiful parks – and if you time it right – Highland Park is renowned for the best collection of lilacs in the world. For those who enjoy a good thrill, Seabreeze Amusement Park features roller coasters, a carousel, and other rides and games for the entire family. Bikers enjoy riding on the Erie Canal Trail, which is situated next to great dining options for those who want to enjoy a good meal or a cold beer.

Food and Festivals

Foodies enjoy Rochester’s varied cuisine. The “Garbage Plate,” a mash-up of home fries, macaroni salad, and cheeseburgers, topped with onions and drizzled in hot meat sauce, is a must-try. The area rivals the south for BBQ, and a variety of ethnic food options please those who have more eccentric palates. For nightlife fans, the East End has many bars, pubs, nightclubs, breweries, and wine bars. If festivals are more your speed, Rochester has a reputation as the “Festival City.” The city boasts a variety of jazz festivals, as well as the Lilac Festival, Park Avenue Festival, and the Corn Hill Arts Festival.

Sports

If you’re a sports enthusiast, you’ll have no shortage of entertainment options in Rochester. The City of Rochester is home to the minor league teams, the Rochester Americans (American Hockey League) and Rochester Red Wings (Triple-A Minor League Baseball). Since it’s only an hour and a half drive to Buffalo, it’s easy to catch home games of the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres too. If you fancy collegiate sports, there are many options right in the city, including Division 1 hockey games at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Schools and Universities

With around 20 suburbs, each has a dedicated school district, and The Rochester City School District serves the City of Rochester. Among the highest rated schools, according to greatschools.org, are Brighton High School and Twelve Corners Middle School, both ranked 9/10. Three elementary schools rank 8/10: French Road, Iroquois, and David B Crane.

For higher education in Rochester, the University of Rochester ranks A+. Known to be tough to get into over 6,000 undergraduate students attend this fairly competitive school; the acceptance rate is 34%. Other options for higher education are the Rochester Institute of Technology, St. John Fisher College, Nazareth College, and SUNY College at Brockport.

Crime

The crime rates in Rochester are much higher than national averages. The violent crime rate ranks 45.5 compared to the US average of 22.7. The property crime rate is 57.6 compared to the national average of 35.4. The most dangerous areas are in the city center.

Utility Providers

If you’re moving to Rochester, contact these services to set up your utilities.

  • Gas service: Rochester Gas and Electric (RG&E). Visit this site to set up your service.
  • Electric service: Rochester Gas and Electric (RG&E). Visit this site to set up your service.
  • Water service: City of Rochester. Visit this site to set up your service.
  • Trash pick-up/recycling service: City of Rochester. Visit this site to set up your service.
  • Internet/Cable service: You have a choice for which company to use for your internet and cable service in Madison. Compare options here.
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Best Neighborhoods in Rochester, NY

This city of just over 200,000 residents, has dozens of neighborhoods from which to choose, but these are our top picks:

Park Avenue

The Park Avenue neighborhood is considered one of the best places to live in New York. There’s a vintage charm, trendy dining scene, and all-around cool factor to this ‘hood. For those seeking a mix of the urban/suburban life who also want to rent a home, this neighborhood is a good choice, as most residents are renters. It is, however, known to be one of the more expensive neighborhoods for renting. It caters mostly to college and young professionals and lacks some of the diversity that you’ll find in other areas of the city. Most homes date back to between 1890 and 1930.

The neighborhood boundaries are Park Avenue on the north, Monroe Avenue, Canterbury Road, and Harvard Street on the south, Park Avenue on the east, and Alexander Street on the west. The area is home to parks, gardens, and you’ll see trees everywhere you look.

The Park Avenue Neighborhood is known to be desirable for strolling, shopping, and the dining scene is second to none. You’ll find restaurants, bars, retail shops, salons, and many convenient amenities. Park Avenue is located conveniently within walking and biking distance of other Rochester hot spots like the East Avenue Historic District and the Neighborhood of the Arts. Just west of Park Avenue is where you’ll find East End’s exciting nightlife. Landmarks like the George Eastman House, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester Museum and Science Center, and the Village Gate are also close.

  • Population – 6,881
  • Home Price – Median single home value $159,055
  • Rent Prices – Median rent $1,048
  • Employers – Many people who live in this area are students or young professionals. There are many retail shops, bars, and restaurants that employ residents here.
  • Schools – Less than 5% of people who live in this neighborhood have children, and the schools that serve this area rate much lower than schools in other neighborhoods. Options are the World of Inquiry School No. 58, which rates a B-, and two C-rated schools: Francis Parker School No. 23 and The Children’s School of Rochester No. 15.

Something to try: Check out the Park Avenue Summer Art Festival during the first week of August.

Homestead Heights

The Homestead Heights neighborhood is affordable, safe, close to amenities, and offers a dense suburban feel. It borders Clifford Avenue on the north, Bay Street on the south, Culver Road on the east, and North Goodman Street on the west.

Most homes in the Homestead Heights neighborhood are small and modest. Most were built between the 1930s and 1950s in a variety of styles that include Cape Cod, ranch, colonial, and minimal traditional/postwar. Most residents own their homes and maintain well-kept yards. Parking is easy, and the area is dog-friendly.

  • Population – 4,022
  • Home Price – Median home value $79,700
  • Rent Prices – Median rent $910
  • Employers – People who live in this area may work for the University, area hospitals, or in tech jobs.
  • Schools – The schools that serve this neighborhood are Eastridge Senior High School, rated B+, and School Without Walls and School of the Arts, rated B-.

Something to try: Stop in for a sweet treat at Savoia Pastry Shoppe, a neighborhood staple since 1929. This family-owned Italian bakery always offers a fresh selection of bread, pastries, cookies, and specialty cakes.

Cobbs Hill

Cobbs Hill is the very attractive, upscale, albeit expensive, area around Cobbs Hill Park and Washington Grove. It’s a mostly residential area, similar to Brighton, with an eclectic collection of homes built in the 1920s and 1930s. The neighborhood borders Interstate 490 and train tracks on the north, Highland Avenue on the south, Brighton on the east, and Cobbs Hill Park on the west.

Nunda Boulevard is one of the most famous areas of this neighborhood is. This street features a grassy mall lined with quaint, well-kept homes and also serves as the entrance to the well-known Gardens of First Unitarian Church.

Cobbs Hill is more conservative than other Rochester neighborhoods. It’s quiet and feels rather rural. Still, it’s conveniently located within walking and biking distance to busier, more happening areas like Park Avenue, East Avenue Historic District, Upper Monroe, Home Acres, and the Twelve Corners shopping center.

  • Population – 1,495
  • Home Price – Median home value $178,800
  • Rent Prices – Median rent $1,087
  • Employers – Nearly 90% of the people who live in Cobbs Hill work white-collar jobs; the other 10% work blue-collar jobs. Over half the people in this area work for private companies, 21% work for nonprofit organizations, just over 12% work for the government, and about 10% are self-employed.
  • Schools – The school that serves this neighborhood is Martin B Anderson School #1.

Something to try: Visit the Williams Gallery, a contemporary fine art gallery.

Browncroft

Browncroft is an affluent, suburban-style neighborhood where most residents own their homes. It’s bordered on the north by Elmcroft Road, the south by Blossom Road and part of Dorchester Road, the east by the city line and Fairhaven Road, and the west by North Winton north of Dorchester and Beresford Road south of Dorchester. The area, renowned for its stately homes dating back to the early twentieth century, is popular for house tours. Many homes are part of the Browncroft Historic District and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Though Browncroft is a residential neighborhood, it’s adjacent to several walkable commercial areas, so there’s easy access to shops, restaurants, grocery stores, a library, and the post office.

  • Population – 3,392
  • Home Price – Median home value $123,550
  • Rent Prices – Median rent $974
  • Employers – Browncroft Community Church, a variety of retail shops, and restaurants.
  • Schools –Indian Landing Elementary School, rated A; Bay Trail Middle School and Penfield Senior High, rated A+; Eastridge High School, rated B+; and East Irondequoit Middle School, rated B.

Something to try: Visit the Browncroft Rose Garden Park, a tiny park where you can take a picnic and enjoy the varieties of antique roses that bloom during the spring and summer.

Corn Hill

Corn Hill sits on the edge of downtown and is the oldest residential neighborhood in Rochester. Containing many beautiful Victorian homes, this neighborhood is a lively area for dining and entertainment. It borders I-490 on the north, the Genesee River on the east, and Fort Street on the south and west.

Corn Hill is best known for the Corn Hill Arts Festival, which happens every year in mid-July. Hundreds of artists and craftsmen bring their wares and festival-goers enjoy food, beverages, and local entertainment.

  • Population – 2,460
  • Home Price – Median home value $165,533
  • Rent Prices – Median rent $1,191
  • Employers – 86% of the people who live in Corn Hill work white-collar jobs; the other 14% work blue-collar jobs. Over 67% of people in this area work for private companies, 16% work for nonprofit organizations, 10% work for the government, and about 6% are self-employed.
  • Schools – The schools that serve this neighborhood are School Without Walls, School of the Arts, and World of Inquiry School No 58, all ranked B-.

Something to try: Check out the Corn Hill Tool Library, a neighborhood spot where residents can pay a small fee to borrow from the collection of over 300 tools.

East Avenue

East Avenue is one of the best places to live in New York. It runs through the southeast quadrant of the city before entering the suburbs. East Avenue, also known as New York State Route 96, runs from Rochester’s center, then southeast of the city through Brighton before it ends up at Nazareth College. The road is vibrant, attractive, and divides the city from the affluent suburbs.

The East End is the center of Rochester’s performing arts and nightlife with countless bars and restaurants. The East Avenue Historic District, east of Alexander Street, is one of the city’s most beautiful and wealthiest areas. It’s known for mansions, luxury apartments, and houses of worship. The historic district ends at Probert Street, and there’s a commercial strip that follows on the edge of the neighborhood.

  • Population – 6,623
  • Home Price – Median home value $134,240
  • Rent Prices – Median rent $1,048
  • Employers – 90% of residents work white-collar jobs. About 65% of the people in this area work for private companies, 20% work for nonprofit organizations, 8% work for the government, and about 8% are self-employed.
  • Schools – The schools that serve this neighborhood are Genesee Community Charter School at the Rochester Museum & Science Center, ranked A-; the School Without Walls, the School of the Arts, and the World of Inquiry School No 58, all ranked B-; and Rochester Early College International High School, ranked C+.

Something to try: The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a decades-long tradition that attracts some 40,000-60,000 spectators.

Highland Park

Highland Park was previously known as the Ellwanger-Barry neighborhood. It’s bordered on the north by Gregory Street and I-490; on the south by Highland Avenue; on the east by South Goodman, South Clinton, and Howland Avenue; and on the west by South Avenue. This neighborhood is primarily residential and contains over 2000 homes that date back to between 1900 and 1935.

Highland Park is known for being family-friendly, stable, and economically and culturally diverse. This neighborhood is home to a variety of amenities such as barbershops, salons, bars, restaurants, retail shops, and the area takes pride in the upkeep of its ancient trees and shrubs.

  • Population – 3,991
  • Home Price – Median home value $117,657
  • Rent Prices – Median rent $1,134
  • Employers – Monroe County Parks, the Lamberton Conservatory, the John Dunbar Memorial Pavilion, and the Arches Pavilion.
  • Schools – The schools that serve this neighborhood are Brighton High School, French Road Elementary School, and Twelve Corners Middle School, all rated A+; and School Without Walls and School of the Arts, rated B-.

Something to try: The neighborhood’s Greek Orthodox Church puts on the Highland Greek Fest every August, where you can enjoy traditional Greek food and music.

Culver-Winton

The Culver-Winton neighborhood is in the southeast quadrant of Rochester, just north of the East Avenue Wegmans and bordering Irondequoit. It borders Merchants Road on the north, railroad tracks on the south, North Winton Road on the east, and Culver Road on the west. This vibrant neighborhood has many tree-lined residential streets with homes built between 1920 and 1960. The architecture is eclectic and includes American Four Squares, Cape Cods, bungalows, colonials, cottages, split-levels, and ranches. It’s also home to a commercial district; everything is within a quick drive or bike ride to enjoy the trendy parts of town.

Culver-Winton is known for socioeconomic diversity. You can find a broad range of businesses, especially compared to other neighborhoods. For food and drink, people enjoy supporting local businesses, although there are some retail and financial chains around as well.

  • Population – 7,664
  • Home Price – Median home value $99,225
  • Rent Prices – Median rent $910
  • Employers – Over 21% of people who live in this area work in education, health & social services, nearly 19% work in wholesale & retail services, 14% work in the manufacturing sector, nearly 6% in the construction industry, nearly 5% in transportation, warehousing & activities, and over 26% in “other” industries.
  • Schools – The schools that serve this neighborhood are School Without Walls, Schools of the Arts, and World of Inquiry School No. 58, all ranked B-.

Something to try: Get your laughs at the Comedy @ the Carlson, a local comedy club.

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