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!).
If you liked this, you might also like Doing Disney: 5 Magic-Making Disney Tips for The Whole Family and Ten Places To Visit In New York City.
Currently, I’m up to my eyeballs in Mommy Camp. I’m trying out the role of get-into-the-sandbox-and-wading-pool-with-my-kids, leave-my-iPhone-in-my-purse, PLAY-at-home mommy. And despite what I previously imagined, I’m actually having a lot of fun. But, every time I sit down at my computer to work…even if just for five minutes…this happens:
(That's me trying to work and my daughter climbing up on my lap, suddenly needing attention...immediately!)
As a result, I’m getting very little done in the work department. Case in point: I started writing this blog post at the end of July. It’s now August 13 and I’m still writing.
Before Mommy Camp started this month, I was fairly successful as a work-at-home mom. But in many respects, my career was still taking a backseat to my kids. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been working my butt off balancing—or trying to balance—the demands of my professional life (as a freelance writer, communications professional, and PR copywriter) with those of my personal life (aka my kids!).
But things are about to change around here. In just three weeks, my big kid starts JK and my little kid starts daycare. Mommy will finally have four uninterrupted work days every week. But how will I transition from all this time with my kids to all this time at my computer? I imagine it’s going to be an adjustment. So, I’m giving myself the month of September to ease back into work mode. And, October is going to be the month of ME. It’s the month that’s really going to launch the next phase of my career—whatever that may be. (Hopefully a lot more of what I’ve been doing for the past couple of years and a bunch of new projects, too!)
Fortunately, the start of October is also the BlissDom Canada conference. I’ve already booked myself a hotel room at the Delta Meadowvale for TWO blissful nights away. (I haven’t had a night all to myself since before the little one was born.) In October it will be just me, a whole lot of amazing bloggers, and a ton of inspiration! I’m using this conference as the kick-off of my ‘new’ normal. I’m hoping that with the amazing speakers, inspiring events, awesome networking opportunities, and a little R&R for mommy, I’ll be ready to really launch into work mode.
It's time to—among other things—take my blogging career to the next level, and I'm sure BlissDom is just the motivation and education I need. I can't wait to join my fellow Yummy Mummy Club bloggers and other amazing bloggers from across the country at this conference. I can't wait to really take some time to reflect on where I'm at in my career and where I want to be. I'm excited to really put myself first for a couple of days!
BlissDom Canada is just around the corner and I'm ready for the full experience—no excuses!
If you liked this, you might also like: "Searching For Blog, Business, Blissful Life Balance" and "Dear Mom: You’re Headed Back To Work."
For more articles, tips, and tricks to help you get organized and make the most of your blog and business visit our BlissDom Canada 2014: How Do You Find Your Bliss? page.
Membership Has Its Perks!
We’re offering a special discount for BlissDom Canada to our YMC members. Use our special code for 15% off your BlissDom Canada Conference pass. Find out the details here.
Bonus! BlissDom and YMC want to send you to the conference for FREE this year in the #ThisIsBliss Contest. Have you entered yet?