Home to the world famous Mayo Clinic, Rochester is Minnesota’s third largest city behind Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Rochester offers many of the same urban amenities as the Twin Cities, but also offers a small-town feel in the form of citywide celebrations and a welcoming community. Combining natural spaces with a vibrant downtown, the city has a rich history that can still be seen today. Popular things to do include exploring the historic Mayowood Mansion, admiring multicultural art at the Rochester Art Center, and exploring the area at the Quarry Hill Nature Center. Whether you’re looking for a Minnesota city getaway or a breath of fresh air in nature not far from the urban landscape,
1 Rochester Art Center
Located along the banks of the Zumbro River, the Rochester Art Center features an extensive collection of multicultural, multimedia artwork that connects visitors to the world around them. Operating since 1946, the Rochester Art Center has occupied its striking riverside location since 2004 and while impressive enough to view from the outside, the true cultural insights are found within.
With an ever-rotating display of various media and artwork from emerging and nationally recognized artists, the center makes it easy to tell something new with each visit. It also offers many community programs such as children’s dance parties, adult Creative Development Series , and youth summer camps, giving everyone in Rochester a chance to discover themselves through the arts.
Address: 40 Civic Center Dr SE, Rochester, Minnesota
Official site: https://rochesterartcenter.org/
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2 Editor’s Choice Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial
The Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial was built to honor all of the Southeast Minnesotaotans who gave their lives in combat. It is also a tribute to all citizens who have stood up to support their country. The memorial features visual illustrations of every military battle from the Revolutionary to the Gulf War. The centerpiece is the Wall of Remembrance , a large granite monolith inscribed with the names of more than 3,000 patriots who lost their lives in battle. You can visit the monument at any time, including at night, when the names and figures depict the glow beneath the lights.
Address: 300 7th St SW, Rochester, Minnesota
Official Site: https://www.soldiersfieldmemorial.org/
3 Downtown Peace Plaza
If you’re looking for a shopping and dining experience in Rochester, the Peace Plaza is a great place to start. Located next to the Mayo Clinic, the Peace Plaza is a pedestrian-friendly public space that offers quick access to everything downtown has to offer. With fashionable boutiques, first-class restaurants and a large meeting room, the plaza exudes the welcoming atmosphere found throughout Rochester.
A sprawling network of skywalks and underground walkways emanates from the Peace Plaza and spreads throughout downtown, offering a climate-controlled way to travel as you peruse the various shops and restaurants. The Peace Plaza can be rented out for memorable events in the quaint streets of downtown Rochester.
Address: 111 S Broadway, Rochester, Minnesota
Official site: https://www.downtownrochestermn.com/peace-plaza
4 Plummer House
Original home of Dr. Stanley Plummer and his wife Daisy, the Plummer House is another Rochester cultural attraction that can be directly linked to the nearby Mayo Clinic. At the service of the Mayo Clinic founder and innovator, Dr. Plummer worked closely with the architects who began building his home in 1917. A century later, this historic home and estate has been meticulously preserved and is open to the public to get a glimpse of the past. Visitors to the Plummer House are free to explore the manicured grounds and gardens during hours of sunlight. Tours of the Tudor mansion take place on Wednesdays during the months of June, July and August.
Address: 1091 Plummer Ln SW, Rochester, Minnesota
Official Site: https://www.rochestermn.gov/departments/parks-and-recreation/indoor-facilities/plummer-house
5 Cycle paths
A fuel-efficient and friendly way to see the city, the many different bike paths found throughout Rochester provide endless opportunities for fun. Connecting users to natural spaces such as Silver Lake and the Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial and including a scenic downtown waterfront route that puts pedestrians near the Rochester Art Centerand various shops, the bike paths in Rochester allow for a pick-your-own-adventure kind of day. While most trails are separated from the roadways, a few use bike paths and sidewalks to get to different destinations. Along the way, expect to see commuters going to work, wildlife sharing the urban landscape, and many other community members enjoying the pace of muscle-powered transportation.
6 Thursdays on First and 3rd
While any day of the week is a good time to check out Rochester’s thriving shops and eateries, Thursdays during the summer are even livelier than usual. That’s because during the months of June, July, and August, the city of Rochester celebrates Thursdays on the 1st and 3rd day organizes Summer market and music festival . With over 100 craft and food vendors plus a live music soundtrack, Thursdays on First & 3rd can accurately be described as a weekly celebration of good weather and a welcoming community. Each week is different thanks to the ever-changing lineup of live performances and special events.
Official site: https://www.downtownrochestermn.com/events/tof
7 Quarry Hill Nature Center
Within the 329 acres of the Quarry Hill Nature Center, you can expect to find eight miles of hiking trails, a children’s pond , a limestone fossil quarry , and historic sandstone caves to explore. Not only does the Quarry Hill Nature Center provide a backdrop to connect with these natural features, it also educates about the environment. Within the actual nature center itself are informative exhibits and live animals, and the center also offers naturalistic programs . It is open year-round, and during the winter months, the hiking trails can easily be converted to snowshoe and cross-country trails, making it fun and easy to explore year-round.
Address: 701 Silver Creek Rd NE, Rochester, Minnesota
Official site: https://www.qhnc.org/
8 Mayo Civic Center
The Mayo Civic Center offers over 200,000 square feet of space to enjoy and is one of the largest event centers in southern Minnesota. Hosting local and international musical acts , semi-pro and exhibition sporting events , as well as numerous conferences, business meetings and conventions , the Mayo Civic Center has established itself as an essential part of the Rochester community. A 2017 expansion added a second-floor grand ballroom and an architecturally pleasing facade on Civic Street. While there is a long list of shows and performances to choose from, an easy way to enjoy this venue is sitting on the riverside terrace that overlooks the scenic Zumbro River.
Address: 30 Civic Center Dr SE, Rochester, Minnesota
Official Site: https://mayociviccenter.com/
9 Douglas State Trail
Operated by the Minnesota DNR, the Douglas State Trail is a 12.5 mile stretchconnecting Rochester to the northern town of Pine Island and taking users through the small town of Douglas, for which the trail is named. It features both a paved path and an adjoining path along the natural surface. With the exception of snowmobiles in the winter, the Douglas State Trail prohibits motorized vehicles, leaving plenty of room for hikers, bikers, inline skaters, and horseback riders to explore the scenic area. Once serving as a thoroughfare for the Chicago Great Western Railway, the Douglas State Trail not only provides an accessible, level level for anyone to explore, but it’s a great example of how Rail to Trail conversions benefit the community.
Official Site: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_trails/douglas/index.html
10 Olmsted County History Center and Mayowood Mansion
The Olmsted County History Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the people, places, and stories that have made Olmsted County what it is today. It provides opportunities for residents and tourists to learn about the progress of the community over the years. With rotating exhibits and a handful of preserved historic buildings, the center also hosts youth camps, lecture series, and family-friendly movies under the stars throughout the summer. No history lesson on Rochester and surrounding Olmsted County would be complete, however, without mentioning the Mayo Clinic, which was founded in Rochester and has earned a reputation as one of the best hospitals in the nation.
In partnership with the Mayo Clinic, Historic Downtown Olmsted County provides access to the historic Mayowood Mansion, the former residence of Mayo Clinic co-founder Charles H. Mayo. The public can take a guided tour of Mayowood’s protected and restored grounds, including the luxurious interior of the 38-room mansion and expertly maintained gardens surrounding the estate. During the holiday season, special Christmas tours are available and generally sell out quickly. When you choose to reserve your tour of this historic estate, be prepared to step back in history as you discover the home of a man whose influence still shapes Olmsted County today.
Olmsted County History Center
- Adres: 1195 West Circle Drive SW, Rochester, Minnesota
- Adres: 3720 Mayowood Drive SW, Rochester, Minnesota
Official Site: https://www.olmstedhistory.com/
Celebrating summer fun for over 35 years, Rochesterfest is a week-long festival that takes place each June and brings the community together for a wide variety of family-friendly activities. From triathlons to scavenger hunts, as well as live music, food vendors and a Grand Parade , Rochesterfest offers plenty of attractions and is a great way to kick off the summer season. Rochesterfest is a true celebration of the city, encouraging new visitors to enjoy all the fun.
Official site: https://www.rochesterfest.com
12 Silver more
Located just north of downtown, Silver Lake City Park is a popular urban getaway for residents of Rochester and beyond, including a gaggle of Canada geese who love to hang out by the water. Comprised of over 50 acres of water, Silver Lake is a man-made reservoir fed by the Zumbro River and has a paved path where you can walk along the shore or stand and cast a fishing line. The park also offers boat rentals in the summer, allowing visitors to explore the water in canoes, kayaks, or luxury electric rowboats. Whatever reason brings you to the shores of Silver Lake, whether it’s a morning run, afternoon visit, or evening run, you and the geese will enjoy this natural setting.
Address: 840 7th St. Rochester, Minnesota
Official Site: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/areas/fisheries/lakecity/rochester/silver_lake.html