There are so many fun things to do in Rochester for both families with kids and adults. Rochester is the third-largest city in Minnesota behind Minneapolis and St. Paul. It’s also home to the famous Mayo Clinic.
The southeast Minnesota city with a busy hospital and vibrant downtown, Rochester, Minnesota, has a charming, small-town vibe. The people are friendly–typical Midwestern way to be. And the town center is very easy to navigate.
Rochester International Airport is only seven miles outside of downtown and is the second busiest airport in the state. You’ll have your choice of direct flights from a few exciting cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, and Denver.
The hotels around Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, are the most centrally located. Check-in on arrival and you can start exploring immediately.
Downtown is only a mile in radius and is completely walkable, connected by well-maintained sidewalks, skywalks, and underground walkways. Buses, cabs, trolleys, and ride-shares can zip you across town instead if you need them. Or rent a car for ultra convenience.
If you’re looking for exercise, downtown offers a unique trail system. In fact, Rochester offers 85 miles of paved trails and the Rochester Park Department is top-notch.
You can even connect to town from a number of campgrounds and RV Parks via these trails to combine nature with the city’s attractions. You’ll find camper rentals, Rochester, Minnesota campgrounds, and service to be ultra-convenient and accommodating.
Many of Rochester’s buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are open as museums and theater venues, making them fun tourist attractions for any type of traveler.
Breweries are also a huge part of what makes the area special. We’ve listed a couple of places where you can sample the best craft beers in the region.
For dining, you’ve come to the right place. With all the great places you can go for an amazing meal, it was hard to narrow down the best options.
But we think you’ll like the restaurants we chose, as well as all the fantastic places and things to do in Rochester, Minnesota. It may be hard to pack it all in. Good thing Rochester is a city where you’ll have no problem trying.
Best Outdoor Things to do in Rochester
Rochester is all about the outdoors. No matter the weather, folks here know the value of fresh air mixed with a bit of activity.
Our list of things to do in Rochester, Minnesota wouldn’t be complete without fun and outdoor exploration for adults and for families with kids.
1. Quarry Hill Nature Center
One of the top family activities in Rochester, Minnesota, is to learn the interesting history of Quarry Hill Nature Center. The land was purchased, thanks to funding through a liquor tax, for the Minnesota Inebriate Asylum. An adjacent park was created for patients and families.
In 1965, the space was handed to the state for public development, including paved trails. There is also hiking, cross-country skiing, and a pond.
Kids love the Quarry Hill Nature Center for hands-on, interactive experiences with animals, birds and other natural objects, making it a great thing to do in Rochester with kids. The Quarry Hill Nature Center is open all year round.
See Related: Best Museums in Rochester, Minnesota
2. Douglas Trail
What was once an abandoned railroad grade is now one of the coolest things to do in Rochester. For 12.5 miles, the Douglas Trail meanders through beautiful rural landscapes of forestland and pastures from its start in northwestern Rochester.
It passes through its namesake, a town called Douglas, and ends in Pine Island. The trail is flat and is even wheelchair accessible.
Along the way, you may see partridge and pheasant. Check maps for circular routes using county roads.
See Related: 11 Best Things To Do in Granite Falls, Minnesota
3. Silver Lake Park
Silver Lake Park is on the edge of downtown and offers great things to do in Rochester for people looking for outdoor relaxation. A path that follows the Silver Lake shoreline is a favorite for rollerbladers and runners. Or take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the fresh air and skyline views.
Grab some take-out for lunch and have a picnic at any of the tables available along the lake. The installation of a simulated streetscape and the country’s first bicycle playground are two new Silver Lake Park projects.
The project, which is located between the swimming pool and the skate park, is intended to allow children to practice safe riding before sharing a genuine road with real drivers.
Go pay Silver Lake Park a visit if you looking for free things to do or you are traveling with kids!
See Related: Best Things to do in Minnesota
4. Cooke Park
Cooke Park is an urban park perfect for family activities in Rochester, Minnesota because of the river trail for walking and biking. They also have a pickleball court, a playground, and wide, open spaces for picnics and playing.
If you have a group, reserve a picnic shelter and get a game of pickleball or baseball going. Ample parking and seasonal bathroom facilities make this park convenient as well as fun.
See Related: Best & Fun Things to do in Duluth, Minnesota
5. Cascade Meadow Wetlands & Environmental Science Center
Visiting this fascinating 100 acres is one of the things to do in Rochester, Minnesota, that will leave you more informed about the area’s biodiversity. The Cascade Meadows Wetlands & Environmental Science Center sits along Cascade Creek in northwest Rochester.
Educational programming is their specialty and they have many interactive exhibits and interpretive trails for exploring. Adults and children can attend classes to learn more about the wet environments and animals of Minnesota.
6. Downtown Peace Plaza
Peace Plaza in downtown Rochester is a pedestrian-friendly public space that offers rapid access to whatever the downtown area has to offer.
The plaza, which includes a gorgeous boutique district, first-rate restaurants, and a large civic gathering space intended to evoke the welcome atmosphere of Rochester, was completed in 2004.
A vast network of skywalks and underground walkways originates from Peace Plaza and continues in the downtown area.
This gives a climate-controlled way to travel when you browse the numerous shops and restaurants, which is particularly lovely in winter. The Peace Plaza can be rented for really memorable events amid the busy streets of downtown Rochester.
See Related: Best Restaurants in Rochester, Minnesota
Best Things in Arts and Culture to Do in Rochester
Rochester’s arts and culture scenes are as dynamic as you’ll find in any big city. Galleries, museums, and theaters keep full calendars of inspiring entertainment and exhibits.
7. Mayowood Mansion
One of the historic things to do in Rochester is to tour the former 23,000-square-foot home of Dr. Charles Mayo. Dr. Mayo, along with other members of his famous physician family, established the nonprofit Mayo Clinic.
Their clinic and the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research were specially established for the treatment of diseases. Mayowood Mansion gives visitors a look into his life and how dedicated he was to health and wellness.
Visitors also enjoy the botanical gardens, views of the Zumbro River, and the adjoining Oriental Tea House.
8. Plummer Building
Part of the Mayo Brothers Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, heritage, the Plummer Building is a National Historic Landmark named for Henry S. Plummer, M.D.
Dr. Plummer established the medical record and registration process still used at the Mayo Clinic. He designed the architectural marvel to serve as an efficient facility for physicians to work together and allow patients accessibility throughout.
It’s still in use as an administrative and academic building. The Plummer Building’s iconic features include a large marble mosaic in the lobby and 16-foot bronze doors.
A 56-bell carillon was mounted in the bell tower, which is a focal point of the city’s skyline and is lit each night. The Plummer Building is conveniently located near the Mayo Civic Center so if you are in town for that reason, be sure to pay this legendary landmark in Minnesota and Minnesota historic site a visit.
9. Plummer House
Dr. Plummer also planned his home and it’s one of the most interesting things to do in Rochester if you appreciate architecture and design.
His home reflects his keen interest in systems and innovation. His wife Daisy was a musician and a patron of the local arts. Together they created a home especially centered around entertaining friends and family.
Find the extraordinary stone mansion in the historical area. Self-guided tours of the house and the surrounding gardens and spaces are available.
10. Mayo Civic Center
Mayo Civic Center is the heart of things to do in Rochester involving the arts. It’s also a world-class convention center. If you’re traveling for business that involves a large meeting or event, it’s likely to be at Mayo Civic Center
The hotels near Mayo Civic Center, Rochester, Minnesota, range from boutique to towering, and all offer amazing comfort and hospitality. Sports events and concerts are also hosted here. There’s not a bad seat in the house and the acoustics are state-of-the-art.
Make sure to check their schedule to see if you can catch your favorite comedian or band while you visit. If you need other options, check out these best hotels in Rochester, Minnesota.
See Related: 9 Reasons to See the Duluth Fall Colors
11. Rochester Art Center
The Rochester Art Center is a museum in Rochester, Minnesota, along the Zumbro River. Since 2004, the institution has served customers.
The gallery features a constantly rotating display of cutting-edge multicultural multimedia art by up-and-coming and nationally renowned artists.
The Rochester Art Center offers a variety of programs, including dance parties for youngsters and adults in the Creative Development series as well as summer workshops for local artists that allow everyone in Rochester to discover themselves through art.
12. Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial
For things to do in Rochester with a sense of history, make time to visit Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial.
The memorial honors the sacrifices made by the brave men and women from southeastern Minnesota who served, or presently serve, in our armed forces.
Visits are free and you’ll come away knowing the stories of those who fought for freedom in some of the worst conflicts on the globe.
This moving and well-maintained memorial is only a half-mile from the Mayo Clinic Area.
13. Assisi Heights
One of the more spiritual attractions in Rochester is to take a walk through Assisi Heights–a center and residence for the Sisters of St. Francis.
Visitors can tour the chapel which sits high enough on a hill to get breathtaking views of the city. The stained glass windows throughout are stunning.
Concerts are often held in the chapel. And the little parlors with their antiques in the buildings are delightful to find. Retreats are available for deeper contemplation.
Fun Things to Do: Breweries and Restaurants
Try locally-brewed beers at one of Rochester’s lively breweries. You’ll also want to try the fresh and imaginative dishes at these highly-rated restaurants.
14. LTS Brewing Company
The breweries in Rochester, Minnesota are obsessed with creating and serving special ales and lagers. LTS Brewing Company makes beers and sodas in small batches to enjoy on their dog-welcome patio or for pick-up.
It’s a family-friendly place serving food and craft beverages by the pint, flight, or growler.
15. Little Thistle Brewing
Breweries in Rochester, Minnesota are proud to serve their neighbors. Little Thistle Brewing says they consider all their taproom customers as friends.
They even call their brewery, “an extension of their living room,” and it’s easy to find, even for visitors to Rochester.
Little Thistle Brewery can be accessed straight from the trail. Cool off with Doug Lager after a Douglas Trail bike ride in their spacious beer garden.
See Related: Best Breweries in St. Paul, Minnesota
Restaurants in Rochester serve all types of fresh and flavorful cuisine created by excellent chefs. Pescara is one that serves international seafood dishes in an upscale setting. They offer vegetarian dishes and gluten-free choices.
Skilled bartenders mix craft cocktails and offer comprehensive beer and wine lists to accompany your meal. Guests rave about the Insignia Scallops, so you’ll want to give those a try. Conveniently located in the Doubletree Hotel.
See Related: Best Breweries in Wisconsin
17. Chester’s Kitchen & Bar
Restaurants in Rochester, Minnesota can also be more casual. Chester’s Kitchen & Bar has an American Classics menu that’s both stylish and familiar. Accessible from the sidewalk or the skywalk, stop in for the rotisserie chicken or prime rib.
It’s close to University Square and is a great stop for lunch or dinner. Lots of televisions too for gameday.
Unique Family Things to Do: Festivals
Festivals are great for family activities in Rochester, Minnesota and they happen all year round.
18. Harvest Festival
Harvest Festival combines the beauty of fall and is a fun thing to do in Rochester. Downtown becomes a pumpkin patch amid vendor booths and games.
With live entertainment, kid’s crafts, and seasonal food, the whole family is guaranteed to have a ball in the streets of Rochester.
Look for a schedule with more details of the activities and exhibits, like pumpkin decorating and the petting zoo, approaching the first of October.
Rochesterfest is a celebration of all things Rochester culture. It happens in the summer and makes for an excellent family-friendly activity.
A parade through town kicks off the event that also includes plenty of food and a festival-wide scavenger hunt. Live entertainment is scheduled throughout the week. This is a great way to get involved in the Rochester community and see how locals enjoy this great Southeastern Minnesota city.
See Related: Best Things to do in Grand Marais
20. Olmsted County Fair
A classic for family activities in Rochester, Minnesota, the Olmsted County Fair is held in late July into early August. It’s free for everyone to celebrate Olmsted County’s agriculture, art, and community. There are also games, food, and rides.
Check out the best of Olmsted County through its annual fair of exhibits, contests, and live entertainment.
21. Thursdays Downtown
The best things to do in Rochester can bring the city and outdoors together in one big block party. Every Thursday from July through September, Thursdays Downtown brings the community together to enjoy great food and live entertainment.
More than 100 vendors set up to serve food and beverages and sell one-of-a-kind art and crafts. It’s a great way to spend a summer Thursday.
Get ready for something completely different in things to do in Rochester, Minnesota…or maybe it’s the best place for it. SocialICE is a festival of downtown Rochester ice bars, each one with a different theme and signature frosty beverages.
A DJ pumps out energetic music so you’ll move your body and your blood no matter how much the temperature drops. Enjoy the life-size ice sculptures with multi-colored lighting transforming winter streets into winter wonderlands.
It’s free to attend. A more family-friendly version is available too called SocialICE FAM JAM for a berry good time appropriate for all ages.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is there to do in Rochester MN right now?
Rochester has a lot of activities for tourists looking to do in the region. The Main Street area is the first thing you should explore. If you like to shop, Rochester may be your best bet since it has so many stores. Another interesting choice for history and culture is the Mayowood Mansion and the Plummer Building for a glimpse into what makes Rochester so special.
What is Rochester Minnesota known for?
Rochester Minnesota is known for several things, including the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, which includes several art galleries and museums that the Mayo Clinic has accumulated over the years. Also, Rochester is known for its rich agricultural history and is known as “the city on seven hills.” It offers plenty of great tourist attractions and things for visitors to see including museums, universities, parks, and theaters.
What is there to do in Rochester, Minnesota?
Rochester has a very rich history so there are plenty of things to see and do, including the Mayowood Mansion which is the former mansion of the founder of the Mayo Clinic, and the Plummer Building which features art donated to the hospital as gifts from patients.
If you are into dining and culture, you can browse the main street for shopping, restaurants, and nightlife activities. Finally, Rochester offers great outdoor activities with the sprawling Rochester nature center, nearby state parks, and regional parks developed by the Rochester Park Department.
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