I couldn’t be a prouder Canadian—but I LOVE shopping in the USA. With so much selection and such amazing prices it's hard to resist heading across the border. Even though Canada has many of my American favourites, including Target, they're just not the same. Plus, there are a few stores exclusive to the US that I’ve become quite loyal to since having kids.
Last summer we stumbled upon Rochester, NY on our way home from a road trip to Maine—and I knew it would become our destination of choice for cross-border shopping. Just over an hour east of Buffalo (and easily accessible from the GTA/Niagara and Ottawa area) Rochester is a beautiful, scenic city, with an impressive selection of museums, restaurants, hotels, shops, and outdoor attractions. Most notable about Rochester is the level of friendliness—from people working in stores to joggers on the street, everyone seems genuinely happy to be there.
Just last weekend we headed south to Rochester for some back-to-school shopping and it turned out to be the perfect weekend getaway for all of us. Here's why:
1. The Shopping is sensational! Let's start with Rochester's most stunning mall—Eastview. Bring your walking shoes because Eastview is HUGE. Worth noting is the beautiful department store Von Maur (Eastview is home to the first Von Maur store in the northeast...with most other stores located in the midwestern US). I'd never heard of Von Maur, but it was like shopping heaven. Even if you aren't going to shop here, you've got to check out the restrooms (women's are on the second floor). This might sound strange, but these are some of the fanciest, most spacious bathrooms I'd ever seen in a mall. There's also an entire room dedicated to nursing mothers (which is good to know if you're traveling with little ones). While in the mall we had dinner at BoneFish Grill, one of our favourite US seafood chains with yummy food and friendly service. Best of all, if your kids start to get cranky and have had enough of shopping, steer them toward the back of the food court where you'll find a stunning, double-decker carousel.
When it comes to kids' clothes I've become a huge fan of US department store Kohl's. If you haven't been, you really should. With colourful and adorable kids clothes at amazing prices, you can easily walk out with a huge bag (and I mean an entire wardrobe for a season) for under $100.
No cross-border shopping trip would be complete without an outlet mall—right?! Just 40 minutes from Rochester are the Waterloo Premium Outlets with the typical stores you'd expect at an outlet mall and lots more walking. With bargains like these you can't afford not to shop (or at least that's what I tell my husband!).
2. Rochester is home to the BEST children's museum...ever! The Strong Museum of Play is a collections-based museum devoted to the history and exploration of play. For parents that means a huge archival collection of artifacts related to play that are sure to summon your inner child, while for kids it's a thrilling, interactive, space that inspires creativity and imaginative play. One minute you're stepping into the world of Sesame Street reminiscing about your own childhood while watching your kids' eyes light up as they shout "Elmo! Big Bird!" and the next you're in Bear Country as the world of the Berenstain Bears comes to life around you. The entire museum is set up to let kids explore in a very hands-on way, encouraging them to dress up and get into character. There isn't much that they can't touch—which is perfect for kids who have been asked to stand still and "don't touch!" in department stores and malls for way too many hours. I'm not exaggerating when I say this is the best children's museum I've ever been to. My kids (4.5 and 16-months both had a blast) and I saw lots of older kids (and parents!) having tons of fun too.
Here is just a glimpse of what you can expect:
3. You've gotta see the grocery stores! I know...who wants to go grocery shopping on vacation? But American grocery stores always excite me. There are so many brands we don't have in Canada and my husband and I love walking down the aisles comparing prices and checking out all that's different. When I was told that Rochester is home to a Wegmans Super Store that's so big it's deemed a tourist attraction...I got really excited! Wegmans is a family-owned US supermarket chain with headquarters just outside of Rochester. This particular store has a huge Marketplace filled with prepared foods that make a great family lunch stop. It's the perfect solution for families because while one kid might want pizza, the other can have sushi, and dad (and maybe mom too) can have a Buffalo Chicken Fingers sub (so yummy!). The whole time we were walking around I just kept thinking...if our local grocery stores looked like this, I'd never be bored and uninspired while shopping. The Wegmans Super Store is located in Pittsford Plaza in Rochester's most upscale neighbourhood. (Be sure to drive around and check out the beautiful homes and properties in the area). There's also a great Barnes & Nobel in the same plaza.
* This face best describes the Wegmans shopping experience!
4. Are you gonna stay the night? If so, Rochester has some beautiful hotels. We spent two nights at the STRATHALLAN, a Doubletree by Hilton hotel in Rochester's tree-lined NOTA (Neighbourhood Of The Arts). The rooms are modern and spacious, the hotel has a lovely little pool, a delicious on-site restaurant, and is in a quiet residential neighbourhood that's close to everything. We ordered room service twice because our suite was big enough for us to eat in, and we were so tired that we didn't have energy to take the kids to a restaurant. The food was amazing, the service was fantastic, and we got to have breakfast—and dinner—in our PJs! With all the amenities of a large hotel but the coziness of a boutique, I wholeheartedly recommend this hotel.
5. You can shop till you drop then recoup at a museum or two. There is SO much to see and do in Rochester. Visit Rochester has tons of info on all the kid and adult friendly attractions in town. There's a science centre, planetarium, nature centre, an international museum of photography and film (the Eastman Kodak company had its headquarters in Rochester), art gallery, sculpture park...to name a few. I'm just sad we didn't have more time to see and do everything.
6. Finally, if you're a parent you'll like this. There is something inherently (and impressively) parent-friendly about Rochester. These two images are perfect examples of what I'm talking about.
I found this sign on the bathroom wall in the Strong Museum of Play...
And, this is what I found just above the baby change table inside the washroom in Wegmans...
It's like they're encouraging you to bring your babies and kids...and making it as easy as possible for you to stay and enjoy yourself! Trust me, once you visit Rochester, you won't want to go cross-border shopping anywhere else.
*Visit Rochester graciously provided the accomodations for our trip, which I planned and carried out on my own. All opinions in this blog are 100% my own (as always!).
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