Top Things to Do in Rochester (2024)

Top Things to Do in Rochester (1)

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A couple friends walk by the Chateau in downtown Rochester / Paul Vincent

Places to Stay // // Campgrounds // Things to Do // // // // // // Biking // // Boating // Shopping // // Southern Minnesota // Rochester // Article

By Lisa Havelka

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Rochester is broadly known for the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, but you don’t need to be checked-in to check out this extraordinaryMinnesota destination.From arts to events, shopping, dining and breweries, use this visitorsguide to find what to do, where to eat and where to stay when you’re in Rochester.

What To Do

Top Things to Do in Rochester (4)

Explore the Art Scene

Start with theRochester Art Centeroverlooking the Zumbro River, where the contemporary art scene comes alive through world-class exhibits and programs. Inside the building’s soaring, copper and zinc-plated walls, you’ll find a diverse collection of photography, paintings, multimedia projects and more.

Be sure to interact with the arched “Circumcenter” sculpture in front of the building. The “modern-day wishing well” translates typed messages into braille and plays musical notes based on the translation.

For patients and companions at the Mayo Clinic, the medical campus offers incredible opportunities to view art inside its many historic buildings. Take a self-guided art tour or a one-hour guided tour, which includes the world-class work of Dale Chihuly in the Gonda building.

Top Things to Do in Rochester (5)

Nearby, theARTWalkshowcases dozens of public art installations throughout downtown Rochester, including sculptures, murals, unique doorways and even painted geese. The downtown Mayo Clinic campus is particularly fertile grounds for public artwork, with plenty of courtyards and pocket parks boasting artistic delights such as the famous “My Brother and I” bronze sculpture in the Feith Family Statuary Park.

Get off the beaten path for a visit to the, Rochester's first private museum located in the home of the former sculptor. View the extensive collection that featuresbronze sculptures, including the rendition of the Peace Fountain that is located in downtown Rochester Peace Plaza Park.

Entertain and educate your kids with a stop at theSPARK Children's Museum of Rochester, featuringfun, hands-on exhibits like the Dino Dig, Hands-on-Health and Amazing ANTics, where kids can learn all about the fascinating lives of ants!

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Get Outside

With more than 100 city parks and 85 miles of bike trails, Rochester has plenty of places where you can get outdoors to experience the beauty ofsouthern Minnesotafor yourself.

Silver Lake is one of the most popular spots in town, just a mile outside of downtown. Thissmall, freshwater lake on the Zumbro River is perfect for nature walks on forested paths, bike rides along the river, wildlife watching, boating and more. If you're in need of equipment, rent a bike, kayak, paddleboard or canoe fromSilver Lake Boat and Bike Rentaland head out for adventure.

From there it’s just a short jauntto the incredible329-acreQuarry Hill Nature Center. Wildlife abounds at Quarry Hill, home to 35 Minnesota-native animals, a 1,700-gallon aquarium with seven varieties of fish and a pair of raptors. The adjacent Quarry Hill Park features paved and hiking trails, a pond, and a historical man-made sandstone cave.

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Go Shopping in Style

Connected by skyway, the Galleria at University Squareoffers world-class shopping, personal services and dining in downtown Rochester. Inside you’ll find unique stores such as the Counterpoint, the Nordic Shop and Knight’s Chamber. After shopping up an appetite, choose from superb places to eat likeChester’s, Olde Brick House,Salad Brothers,Bravo Espresso and more.

Go below street level to check out theGrand Shops of Kahler & Marriott, a climate-controlled, underground pedestrian mall right in the middle of downtown. With more than 65 shops, art galleries and stores, The Grand Shops have something for everyone. Be sure to stop byCarroll’s Corn, home to the Triple Mix, a hand-crafted, gourmet popcorn that combines salty, sweetand cheesy goodness fresh popped daily.

Also of note in the nearby building that once housed Paine Furniture is Threshold Arts and its sunny Makers Market shop, which stocks a wide range of local work — everything from original paintings and woodcut prints to abstract jewelry and bookends made to look like melted disco balls.

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Take a Historic Trolley Tour

Still looking for more to see and do in Rochester? Catch a ride on theRochester Trolleyfor a tour of the city’s top sites and attractions. Tour highlights include the "Pill Hill" National Residential Historic District, the historicPlummer Houseand the Mayo Clinic campus. As your trolley weaves its way through Rochester history, it will stop for optional “hop-off” tours of especially noteworthy sites, such as the historicMayowood Mansionand Assisi Heights Spirituality Center.

If history isn’t your thing, take a Rochester Microbrew Trolley Tour or a haunted Rochester Tour and visit the grave site of Doc “Moonlight Graham,” the first man emancipated by President Abraham Lincoln (you may also recognize his name from “Field of Dreams”).

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Top Things to Do in Rochester (9)

Where to Eat

Whether you need a strong cup of coffee to start your day or a perfectly mixed co*cktail to end your night,Fiddlehead Coffee Co.has you covered. Located at the Kahler Grand Hotelin downtown Rochester and the Miracle Mile shopping center near Kutzky Park, Fiddlehead features a creative light bites menu (chickpea and cannellini bean hummus with grainy mustard, spicy giardiniera, red pepper relish, whipped herb chèvre, and coconut bacon, anyone?) and such dynamic specialty drinks as a miso caramel latte and a "sober stout" made with espresso, club soda, house-made vanilla syrup and a splash of cream.

To find outdoor dining in Rochester, just look up. Rochester’s rooftop restaurant light up the city's skyline along Historic 3rd Street.The Tap Houseoffers 50 rotating beers plus a rooftop patio with a large fireplace. CRAVE is located on the second floor of Hotel Indigoand features a retractable glass roof and lots of windows for taking in all that fresh air.For entertainment while you dine, take in a rooftop show aboveKathy’s Pub. Long known for its indoor live music offerings, Kathy’s now hosts rooftop performances during the summer months.

For your craft beer or co*cktail fix, stop by the downtown speakeasy Bitter & Pouror venture off to a neighborhood spot likeForager Brewing Co.,Little Thistle Brewing Co.,Kinney Creek BreweryorLTS Brewing Co.Or grab a drinkanddinner at ThaiPop, a local favorite that leans into palate-expanding Southeast Asian flavors and complementary drink ingredients like butterfly pea flower, passion fruit juice, and syrups made with kaffir lime, palm sugar and tamarind.

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Top Things to Do in Rochester (10)

Attend an Event

For summer visitors, one must-attend event isThursdays Downtown. Every Thursday from July through August, downtown Rochester transforms into a massive, all-day block party that brings arts, culture, food, music and more to the heart of the city. From afternoon food vendors to evening entertainment, this free summertime staple has it all.

Social-ICEis the city'spremier winter event, held every February on Peace Plaza in the heart of downtown Rochester. This wondrous winter event brings upwards of 50,000 visitors together to admire its wide assortment of intricately carved themed ice bars, dance to music by live DJs and sip on signature drinks by the fire pits.

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Top Things to Do in Rochester (11)

Places to Stay

Rochester’s abundance of downtown hotels makes it an easy place to visit, with over 6,000 rooms spread across 58 different venues, but you’ll also find plenty of campgrounds and RV parks just outside the downtown core. The city is also home tofive hotels that are 'TAG approved,' a special designation awarded to hotels that support the LGBTQ community.

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Top Things to Do in Rochester (12)

Lisa Havelka is thesouthern regional coordinator for Explore Minnesota. Born and raised in southern Minnesota, Lisa loves antiquing, visiting Minnesota wineries, riding motorcycles, and catching live shows at Minnesota’s many music venues.

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Top Things to Do in Rochester (2024)


What is Rochester, NY best known for? ›

Throughout its history, Rochester has acquired several nicknames based on local industries; it has been known as "the Flour City" and "the Flower City" for its dual role in flour production and floriculture, and as the "Imaging Capital of the World" for its association with film and still photography.

How to spend a day in Rochester, NY? ›

Top Attractions in Rochester
  1. The Strong National Museum of Play. 2,230. Children's Museums. ...
  2. George Eastman Museum. 1,092. Speciality Museums. ...
  3. National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House. 280. ...
  4. Highland Park. 511. Parks. ...
  5. Mount Hope Cemetery. 478. Cemeteries. ...
  6. Innovative Field. 296. ...
  7. Memorial Art Gallery. 251. ...
  8. Geva Theatre Center. 323.

Is Rochester NY worth visiting? ›

From family-friendly activities to professional sports teams, museums and galleries, Rochester has something for everyone. Enjoy the scenic Erie Canal, Genesee River and Lake Ontario. Don't miss the Strong National Museum of Play (America's second-largest children's museum) or the International Museum of Photography.

How do I spend a day in Rochester, MN? ›

What To Do
  1. Rochester Art Center. ...
  2. The “My Brother and I” sculpture in Feith Family Statuary Park / TJ Turner. ...
  3. A drone's eye view of Rochester / Paul Vincent. ...
  4. Shoppers at Makers Market / Paul Vincent. ...
  5. Mayowood Mansion / Alexandra & Bharath Photography, courtesy of Experience Rochester.

What food is Rochester known for? ›

Have you heard of the Garbage Plate? This unique mashup of ingredients is widely regarded as Rochester's signature dish.

Is Rochester NY a Republican city? ›

Many of the state's other urban areas, including Albany, Ithaca, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse are also Democratic.

Is downtown Rochester walkable? ›

Transportation. Downtown Rochester's amenities are compact into a one-mile radius and downtown is walkable to get where you need to go.

What is a good income in Rochester NY? ›

Average Salary in Rochester, NY. $40,730 is the 25th percentile. Salaries below this are outliers. $70,896 is the 75th percentile.

What is unique about Rochester NY? ›

FUN FACTS. Rochester is the birthplace of Kodak film, created by George Eastman in 1888. Learn more at the George Eastman Museum. The city is known for its "Garbage Plate", which consists of a plate piled high with various combinations of meats, chili, baked beans, macaroni salad, fried potatoes, sauces, and more.

What are the cons of Rochester NY? ›

Commonly listed cons of living in Rochester include cold and harsh winters and a dispersed public school system.

Why do people visit in Rochester, NY? ›

Events in Rochester

Rochester is known as "Festival City", with festivals almost every weekend from late spring through the fall. Plus, every day there is something to do - from performing arts to museum exhibits to musical recitals - and family fun!

What is the best part of Rochester NY? ›

Southeast Quadrant. The Southeast Quadrant is home to some of the most vibrant areas of Rochester, NY. Park Ave: Southeast of Center City, Park Avenue is home to local shops, restaurants, and cafes. Neighborhood Of The Arts: NOTA features museums, art galleries, and restaurants.

How walkable is Rochester NY? ›

Walk Score gave Rochester a 77 out of 100, indicating it is “very walkable so most errands can be accomplished on foot.”

What is the most walkable neighborhood in Rochester NY? ›

Rochester has an average Walk Score of 61 with 210,565 residents. Rochester has some public transportation and is somewhat bikeable. The most walkable Rochester neighborhoods are Pearl-Meigs-Monroe, Central Business District and Park Avenue.

Does Rochester have a downtown? ›

Downtown Rochester holds the seats of the City and Monroe County government along with state and federal courts and agencies.

What is special about Rochester, NY? ›

Rochester is known as the “Flour City” due to its historical significance as a major flour-producing city in the 19th century. The city's location along the Genesee River made it an ideal location for flour mills, leading to its nickname.

What is unique about Rochester, NY? ›

Rochester is known as Flour City

In the 19th century, Rochester earned the moniker “Flour City” due to its thriving flour milling industry. Situated on the Genesee River and connected to the Erie Canal, Rochester became a vital center for producing and distributing flour, a staple commodity of the time.

What industry is Rochester NY known for? ›

The Greater Rochester, NY Region is not only a great place to live, but also a great place to work. We are globally recognized for our cutting-edge developments in industries such as optics and imaging, smart energy, research and development, health imaging, and food and beverage manufacturing.

Why is Rochester popular? ›

"Rochester, New York, features a unique blend of history and innovation. Many of the homes and commercial buildings in downtown Rochester are original, dating back a century or more, while others are undergoing renovations to become modern lofts and workspaces.


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