Downtown Rochester is not where the cool kids hang out (that would be Park Avenue or South Wedge), but you’ll likely be there if you’re heading to a convention or doing business nearby. So check into the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Rochester if so and be right by the Genessee River.
If the name of that river sounds familiar for some reason, it’s probably because one of the USA’s oldest and most iconic breweries is about a 20-minute walk away. The Genessee Brewing Company was founded in 1878. Yeah okay, it had to shut down during the failed Prohibition experiment like everyone else, but the taps cranked back up in 1933 and you’ve been able to buy a brew from them ever since. Ownership has changed a few times but you could rightly say they’re better than ever, with a terrific tap room and restaurant that goes well beyond the most commercial varieties, with seven or eight craft beers in rotation.
Sorry, got thirsty there for a moment, but now back to the Hilton Garden Inn, which opened in 2015.
This is not an interstate highway hotel that looks like 100 others from the same chain. This downtown Rochester version is in a 1920s building that served many different purposes over the years before being restored and updated to become a hotel. Now it’s gleaming inside and out, while having a lot of historic touches that give it a lot more heft than your usual thrown-up structure you see being built a century later.
The lobby and hallway to the elevators and restaurants are a lot more elegant than you would expect from the average Garden Inn. This would be easy to pass off as a regular Hilton based on first impressions. It’s not a minimal service place either. There’s a full restaurant serving a big breakfast buffet in the mornings (for an extra charge) and other meal items later.
Across from that is Drifters, which takes over for dinner and has a huge bar you can belly up to and order some local craft beers. Don’t plan on a late night of revelry with your co-workers after closing a deal though: Drifters closes the deal on serving customers at 10 p.m., so you’ll have to wander elsewhere if you want to keep the party going after that.
There are lots of sitting areas scattered around the property though, off the lobby and down at the pool level. A pool in icy Rochester, NY–one of the coldest and snowiest cities in America? Well yes, but it’s a heated indoor pool of course, which is a good thing since it got down to 39F degrees outside when I was there in late mid-May!
I didn’t include a room photo in this review because I checked in at night when it was dark, plus if you’ve ever been in a Hilton Garden Inn before, you know what it looks like. The originality stops at the hallways. Once you use your electronic lock and enter, you’ll see the same catalog furniture and bedding you would expect in this chain’s rooms from Durham to Denver.
The most interesting rooms are the King Deluxe Suites that have a living room, two TVs, a larger bath with a whirlpool tub, and another half bath. One notch down are the junior suites with more space and furniture than the standards.
All are carpeted, fresh-looking rooms with ample outlets, an ergonomic work chair, a good TV channel selection, and included Wi-Fi. They go beyond this though with a fridge, microwave, Keurig coffee maker, and a very comfortable bed with a duvet. Some come with a sofa bed, so book one of those if you’ve got a child along, otherwise there are king or two queen bed versions. Expect the usual chain hotel array of disposable paper and plastic items all over the bedroom and bath.
Oh, and what was that BBQ reference in the title? That would be Dinosaur Barbecue on the river a few blocks away. Close your eyes when your order comes and you might think you got beamed to Memphis or Kansas City. It is part of a small New York State chain, with the original in Syracuse, and I’ll vouch for both. This one is in a cool old 1905 train station building though and features live entertainment and once again, a good craft beer selection from Rochester, Syracuse, and all around the Finger Lakes region.