13 Fun & Exciting Things to Do in Rochester, MN
This article will guide you to the best things to do in Rochester, MN!
Whether you’re just visiting for a day or planning to stay for much longer, there are so many fun and exciting things to do in Rochester, Minnesota.
With a population of over 100,000, Rochester is the third-largest city in Minnesota and has countless activities for both adventure-seekers and relaxation experts alike.
Here, you’ll find a variety of parks, historical sites, theatres, as well as remarkable restaurants and breweries.
Whether you need to entertain a car full of kids or are looking for things to do in Rochester while visiting the world-famous Mayo Clinic, Rochester has something for everyone to enjoy.
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Intro to Rochester, MN
Rochester is a welcoming city located in the southern part of the US State of Minnesota – 85-miles south of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
On August 21st, 1883, The Great Tornado demolished much of Rochester, and there was no medical facility in the immediate area at the time.
Local doctors Will and Charlie Mayo worked together to care for the wounded and pioneered several lifesaving medical techniques.
The Mayo practice grew tremendously and is now one of the largest and most well-respected medical facilities in the world.
Patients from around the world travel here to receive ground-breaking new medical treatments and specialized care.
Many notable people from around the world, including several former U.S. Presidents, have visited Rochester as patients of the Mayo Clinic.
In addition to its renowned medical facility, Rochester has long been rated as one of the best places to live in the United States by multiple publications such as Money Magazine.
Rochester is a wonderful place to grow up and to grow old as the community is known for its safety, education, hospitality, and of course, excellent medical care.
Finally, its close proximity to Minneapolis/St. Paul and Bloomington, MN (home to the world-famous Mall of America) mean that there are countless opportunities for nearby fun and entertainment.
Things to do in Rochester, MN
Rochester, Minnesota is renowned for its scenic beauty, relaxing pace, abundant dining, and a multitude of entertainment options.
Plus, its trendy downtown yet charming small-town feel makes Rochester a must-see destination on your Minnesota bucket list!
A city that experiences 4 distinct seasons, visitors revel in the warm, vibrant outdoors during the summer months when you can enjoy a plethora of outdoor festivals and parks.
Rochester has a lot of things to do during its crisp, snowy winters, too, making it an excellent destination for a Midwest weekend getaway.
Many outdoor sports and endeavors like hiking, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling will help keep you active, fit, and entertained.
Here is our list of some of the best things to do in Rochester, Minnesota.
1. Downtown Peace Plaza
Located adjacent to Mayo Clinic is Rochester’s Downtown Peace Plaza – an incredible pedestrian-filled plaza with top-notch dining, shopping, and outdoor seating areas.
The Downtown Peace Plaza embodies Rochester’s culture of caring and has something to do for everybody.
The Peace Plaza hosts a variety of events throughout the year including:
- SocialICE – Lighted ice bars with themed drinks – February (Rescheduled for 2022 to March 3-5 and called Social Lights)
- Thursdays Downtown – Community block party with music, arts, and food – July to September
- Dogs Downtown – Activities, games, and crafts with your furry friend – September
- Roller Disco – The Plaza transforms into a roller rink with a live DJ – October
- Here Comes Santa Claus – Santa and Mrs. Claus light the tree and host holiday games, cookies, drinks, and holiday crafting for families – November/Black Friday
The Peace Plaza is also home to a massive network of skywalks and underground walkways to protect pedestrians from the outdoor elements.
In addition, the climate-controlled walkways can connect you to the most notable destinations in the downtown area including multiple restaurants and shops.
2. Quarry Hill Nature Center
Quarry Hill Nature Center is one of Rochester’s most popular family destinations.
It is a fantastic place to take the kids or a companion for hiking, as well as hands-on learning and fun.
The free nature center invites you to experience live animals in the exploration hall, explore its raptor room, watch a working honey beehive, or relax in the bird center.
In addition, they host activities like painting classes, animal demonstrations, fossil hunting, and animal meet-and-greets.
Even in the winter months, visitors can participate in underground cave tours, candle-lit hikes, and pond ice exploration.
Finally, the park offers year-round hiking trails, bird watching opportunities, nature photography, and winter cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
3. Mayowood Mansion
As one of the best things to do in Rochester, MN, visitors can tour the 38-room, 23,000-square foot home of the Mayo family, the founders of the Mayo Clinic.
The Mayowood Mansion is reminiscent of grand American estates such as Hurst Castle and the Biltmore.
Your tour starts with the Olmsted History Center, complete with exhibits and a short movie.
Then, you board a trolley to make your way to the mansion.
Once arrived, guests can enjoy the worldly artifacts they collected and the 3,300-acre estate complete with botanical gardens, tea house, and grand terrace overlooking the Zumbro River.
There is also a working farm with barns, stables, and a greenhouse.
If you visit near the winter holidays, you will find the mansion exquisitely decorated with trees, lights, garlands, and more.
Additional planning tip: Looking for another historic mansion to visit in the Midwest? Check out our tips for visiting Glensheen Mansion in Duluth, MN.
4. Silver Lake Park
Rochester boasts more than 100 parks, and Silver Lake Park is one you don’t want to miss.
Just one mile north of downtown, the Zumbro river expands to create Silver Lake.
Here, you will find activities galore for all ages.
Along with paved walking paths, most of the park is also equipped with ACA-compliant facilities, including some of its playgrounds.
Here are a few of the activities Silver Lake Park offers:
- Paved 1.8-mile loop around the lake, great for walking, jogging, biking, or rollerblading
- Silver Lake Pool with lifeguards and bathhouse
- Playgrounds like Three Links Park
- Bicycle playground with a road-simulation cityscape
- Picnic sites with tables, shelters, bathrooms, and fire pits
- Canoe, kayak, and paddleboat rentals
- Tandem bike, bike strollers, and other rentals
- Skate park for skateboards, blades, BMX, and scooters
- Bird watching
- Sports fields like soccer, baseball, football, and horseshoes
- Fishing in the lake
Be prepared to see hundreds of giant Canadian Geese during your visit to Silver Lake Park.
Hundreds of geese call this park home, which also means that you’ll have to figure out how to dodge their droppings (trust me).
5. Rochester Art Center
Rochester Art Center is home to world-class contemporary art exhibitions and programs.
Collections focus on including multimedia and multicultural works from around the world, with displays changing every few months.
The Art Center also offers a variety of engagement programs like local artist receptions, summer camps, creative development, and kid’s dance parties.
The Rochester Art Center, located along the Zumbro River, is in the same block as the Rochester Civic Center and Rochester Civic Theatre – two other fun things to do in Rochester, MN.
6. Rochester Farmers Markets
On Saturdays, the Rochester Farmers Markets comes to life at the Graham Park, rain or shine.
You’ll find an impressive array of fresh organic vegetables and fruits, as well as baked goods.
The markets also have a variety of homegrown vendors like honey bee products, milk, meats, cheeses, jams/canned goods, soaps, beans, and woven baskets.
Often, the markets offer live music, exercise classes, chess, and fresh-baked pizza on site.
All of the products are sourced from within 50 miles of Rochester.
During the summer (May-October), the markets open outdoors from 7:30 AM-Noon. In winter (November-April), the markets operate indoors from 9 AM-Noon.
Finally, Wednesday markets occur between 2 PM and 6 PM from June to September.
7. Soldiers Field Park
Soldiers Field Park, located near downtown Rochester, is home to 2 of Rochester’s most beloved children’s playgrounds, a public golf course and swimming pool, paved walking trails, and Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial
Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial is a sacred place paying homage to Minnesota’s military members.
In addition, it honors all citizens who answered their country’s call to duty from the 1700s to the present day.
A carefully illustrated monolith inscribes over 3,000 local people who died in combat.
The memorial is open to visitors day or night with overhead and pathway lights to illuminate the names.
For over 35 years, Rochesterfest has brought family-friendly activities to downtown every June for 9 days.
Attractions include live music stages, food vendors, the Grand Parade, a triathlon, and treasure hunt.
This event takes place at Soldiers Field Park, across from the Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial.
Rochesterfest occurs for nine days in June, bookended by two weekends.
A free midday trolley service operates during the festival to make it easy to attend without driving a car.
9. Check out Rochester’s Breweries and Taprooms
Interestingly, Rochester is home to a bountiful supply of unique and specialized breweries.
Each one caters to a different type of culture and taste, so it’s easy to find one that fits your palette.
- Forager Brewery – Casual family-friendly establishment that welcomes locals and visitors. Focuses on using nearby foraged ingredients like herbs, spices, flowers, and wild mushrooms.
- Kinney Creek Brewery – One of the oldest in Rochester, this family-oriented joint touts locally made craft beer and hard seltzer. Also offers non-alcoholic drinks like kombucha and root beer.
- Little Thistle Brewing – Small craft, family-owned, spotlighting craft beer ranging from traditional to experimental. Uses local and regional ingredients like wild hops and native grains.
- LTS Brewing Company – Family and dog-friendly with heated outdoor areas providing craft beer and craft sodas.
- The Thirsty Belgian – Informal and cozy, Belgian-inspired beer and comfort food offered, as well as video games and sci-fi and movies. Provides an offbeat brewery experience.
- The Tap House – Offering classic American fare like tacos, burgers, and donuts, Tap House presents craft beers with a roof-top view of beautiful Rochester.
These are just a few of Rochester’s unique brewery endeavors, so you are sure to find exactly what you want.
10. Bike and Walking Trails
Rochester has two significant trail areas: the downtown bike trails and the Douglas State Trails.
Both provide an opportunity to sightsee and enjoy natural areas.
The downtown Rochester walking trails make it easy to ambulate between popular spots like the Rochester Art Center and shopping areas.
Then, bike trails connect the urban center to places like Silver Lake and Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial.
Along the way, you may see wildlife, commuters, and other nature-lovers.
Although the trails are not plowed in winter, you can also access them with cross-country skis or snowshoes.
11. Try A New Restaurant
If you’re looking for things to do in Rochester, you won’t be short on options for great places to eat and drink.
The culinary scene in Rochester is always expanding and experiences range from high-quality dining to family-friendly restaurants, burger joints, brewpubs, and flavors from around the world.
Though most of Rochester’s best restaurants are located throughout the heart of downtown, several restaurants have expanded into the outlying areas of this exciting city.
Our favorite restaurants in Rochester, MN include:
- Chester’s Kitchen & Bar: Delicious American food in a trendy atmosphere; located on the downtown Peace Plaza
- Pasquale’s Neighborhood Pizzeria: Downtown eatery and Italian marketplace that features authentic New York-style pizza
- Crave: American food and sushi bar with chic decor and a retractable rooftop
- Newt’s: The region’s best, and most unique burgers
- Pittsburg Blue Steakhouse: Premier steakhouse located in Downtown
- Victoria’s Ristorante & Wine Bar: Amazing large-portion Italian meals in a welcoming atmosphere
- Pescara: Go-to fresh seafood and fine dining
- Nupa: Local favorite featuring classic Mediterranean favorites
12. Bowlocity Entertainment Center
If you are ready to escape inclement weather for some indoor excitement, Bowlocity has it all.
Keep the family busy for hours at this 34,000-square-foot party place featuring 24 bowling lanes.
Plus, they offer a multi-level laser tag scene and a massive arcade, including VR games like Beat Saber.
Later, fuel up with the sports bar’s featured sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, and appetizers.
13. Air Insanity Trampoline Park
Our favorite thing to do when it is raining in Rochester is to go to Air Insanity trampoline park.
This is also an awesome activity for kids, tweens, and teens who need to release energy or simply be active.
This massive indoor trampoline park includes multiple in-ground trampolines, a Ninja Warrior Course, extreme dodge ball, slam dunk basketball, and Nerf jousting.
Other activities include a climbing wall, a toddler play area, and an insane airbag.
Jump times can be reserved (or show up the day of) for 1, 1 1/2, and 2-hour increments.
Please note that all guests must first sign a waiver as well as purchase/wear Air Insanity grip socks ($3.00/pair).
Places to Stay in Rochester, MN
Rochester, MN is home to dozens of hotels and extended stay accommodations.
Its high density of hotels is related to the large influx of visitors to the Mayo Clinic as well as to accommodate convention-goers and tourists.
Where you choose to stay will be based on if you want to be within walking distance to the Mayo Clinic and other downtown attractions, or if you have a car to maneuver around in.
Here are our favorite places to stay in Rochester, MN:
- Hilton Rochester Mayo Clinic: Convenient downtown location, 4-minute walk to Mayo Clinic, indoor pool
- Towne Place Suites Rochester: (not downtown) Family-friendly hotel with waterpark and free breakfast
- Courtyard Rochester, Mayo Clinic: Directly across the street from St. Mary’s Hospital, indoor pool, airport shuttle
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites: Across the street from St. Mary’s Hospital, indoor pool, free breakfast
Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*
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