Rochester is one of Minnesota’s largest cities.
One of the top destinations in Minnesota is Rochester. Known for the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, but it offers a whole lot more than just that.
Whether you are looking for something to do in between appointments or you’re planning to visit for another occasion.
Mixing natural spaces with a bustling downtown district, Rochester has a rich history, multicultural art scene, as well as many ways to explore the outdoors.
Going Outdoors In Rochester
Rochester is home to tons of fun outdoor activities. If you enjoy wildlife and the outdoors, there is so much for you to do.
Quarry Hill Nature Center
This nature center is a 329-acre park located roughly 10 minutes east from downtown, Rochester.
They have a visitor’s hall where patrons will find live animals such as birds, snakes, and fish. As well as taxidermy to look at. Outside there are over 7 miles of paved trails for hiking in the Summer months or cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in the winter.
They also have events that they put on at the center where you can learn all about things like flying dragons, groundhogs, and other animals. They have two quarries in the park where some of the best fossils are found and historic sandstone caves to explore.
Chester Woods Park
Don’t want to stay in a hotel when you visit, stay at Chester Woods Park. This park was completed in 1994 and has 13 miles of hiking trails, a boat launch, a campground, picnic area, and fishing piers for your enjoyment. They even offer rentals for canoes, kayaks, paddle boat, and SUP’s.
Chester Woods Park is located on the headwaters of Bear Creek. All vehicles are required to have an annual or daily entrance permit/park pass. You can get these passes at the park entrance by cash, check, or credit card.
Douglas State Trail
Hike or bike the Douglas State Trail. This trail was built on an abandoned railroad grading and goes from Rochester to Pine Island, and travels through Douglas. It is generally level and wheelchair accessible.
You can experience amazing rural scenery, and traverses some of the richest agricultural land in Minnesota. There are many animals that live in the forest that the trail goes through so don’t be surprised if you see pheasant, geese, or deer.
Also, adjacent to the paved trail is a natural trail surface used by horseback riders or snowmobiles.
Silver Lake Park
Silver Lake Park is located in the center of Rochester and has an activity for everyone to enjoy. Such as, walking, rollerblading, biking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boats, and more. If you don’t have your own equipment, there is a place to rent as well.
But that is just the start of the activities at Silver Lake. There is also a skate park, an outdoor pool, and a large picnic area to rest. The entire park is also wheelchair accessible.
Please be careful on where you step though, they have a lot of geese at this park.
Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo
This family-friendly attraction covers 624 acres, where you can find nearly any imaginable outdoor activity to enjoy. They have a campground with hiking trails, and a public ball field.
This is a nature center where you can learn not just about animal life but also natural history, outdoor recreations skills, and ecology.
At the zoo visitors can experience over 30 different native animals to the Minnesota area. Many of the animals at the zoo have physical injuries that have made them non-releasable into the wild, while others are surplus zoo animals from other facilities.
It is a smaller zoo but great for younger kids.
If you are visiting during the fall months, check out one of the apple orchards near Rochester. Because there are a few to choose from.
This family fun business has been in business for over 50 years. They do sell more than just apples though. They also sell fresh produce, baked goods, pumpkins, mums, and honey. They have a small corn maze for the kids and give out wagon rides.
This orchard also has a corn maze and wagon rides. Also, for the younger guests they have a smaller and more confined area. You can watch the goats and rabbits and climb the straw mountain. They sell pumpkins, fall ornaments, Amish syrups, fruit butters, and more.
Apples R Us
They have varieties such as Honeycrisp, SweeTango, Zestar, Pazaa, and McIntosh. There is something a little different about this orchard. They just started their own distillery and now have a few select spirits available. If you can’t make it to the orchard, they also sell the spirits in Apollo Liquor Stores in town.
Rochester Trolley and Tour
Rochester Trolley and Tour is the perfect way to see the city of Rochester. This trolley tour has so much to offer. You can even rent Trolley’s for a private event such as weddings, and more.
Check out this hop-on hop-off trolley tour to see all the sites of the city, visit Amish country, go for a night out with your friends, tour the Mississippi River Valley, check out haunted Rochester, or the holiday light tour, or even go on a brewery or winery tour.
These trolley’s not only stick around the Rochester area but also go to surrounding cities. Including Northeast Iowa, Southwest Wisconsin, and Southeastern Minnesota.
Check Out a Honkers Game
Spend an afternoon watching a baseball game, if that is your thing. The Rochester Honkers are an amateur collegiate league and have produced many major leaguers over the years.
The price of admission is cheap and who doesn’t love an afternoon at the ball field watching future stars?
Support the local businesses and agriculture while eating healthy at the local farmers market. This market is open year-round, rain or shine, at Graham Park with fresh local food, activities, and events for the whole family.
The market is open every Wednesday and Saturday.
Down by the Riverside
Riverside concerts are a great way to spend a Sunday evening. Plus, these concerts are absolutely free! So, grab your friends, a cooler, and a chair or blanket and get ready to listen to some amazing bands.
Down by the riverside is located behind the Civic Center in the large grassy area.
Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to do. SocialICE is a completely unique winter experience.
In the downtown Peace Plaza area, check out the life-sized, fully illuminated ice sculptures. SocialICE is geared more toward the 21-year-old crowd, however kids do enjoy seeing the sculptures, so bring the family down for the day and see all the ice creations.
They do also have SocialICE FAM JAM that takes place before the last night of SocialICE, where an all-age celebration of winter occurs.
If you get a tad bit too cold, warm up by a fire pit near the event entrance or try a hot chocolate.
Thursdays Downtown, formerly known as Thursday’s on First, is an artisan and food market that takes place downtown every Thursday during the Summer months.
So, come check out the local artists and eat some amazing food. They also have two different stages where local bands get to show off their talents.
Formerly known as Fall Fest takes place in my favorite time of year. Yep, you guessed it, Fall. Bring the kids and paint some pumpkins, check out the petting zoo, and all the fall crafts you can stand.
This Festival is fun for all ages. The festival is usually around the first Saturday of October and located in the Peace Plaza area.
Rochesterfest is a week long festival that takes place every June and brings the community together for a wide range of family-friendly activities.
From triathlons to treasure hunts, as well as live music, food vendors, and a grand parade. A free midday trolley service operates during the festival to make it easy to attend without driving a car.
Many of the activities take place in Soldiers Field Park, adjacent to the Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial, which is also a site to see.
Staying Indoors In Rochester
Rochester also has some amazing indoor activities for those cold winter days. Or if it’s just too hot outside.
Spark (formerly Children’s Museum of Rochester)
There is no better place than Spark to take your younger children to let them have fun, exercise, and learn all at the same time. Visitors can explore a variety of interactive exhibits, including an immersive climbing structure, and international bazaar, and a one-of-a-kind water play experience.
This place of play for kids will be expanding to double the size it is now as well as moving to the Apache Mall.
This trampoline park has something for the whole family to enjoy if you’re feeling a little adventurous. It has a number of unique programs focused on improving child health and fitness.
Some of their incredible indoor adventure attraction options are: extreme dodge ball, nerf wars, ninja warrior obstacle course, laser maze, and so much more. From birthday parties to competitive team sports, let the kids blow off some steam at Air Insanity.
Located downtown, with its notable sunburst marquee to the unique castle-like décor, this theatre is one of the most significant historic buildings in Rochester. The theatre was opened in 1927 as a Vaudeville house and over the last 90 years has been house to a movie theatre, bookstore, and coffee shop.
It has been renovated and will be opening up again to become a destination for traveling exhibitions, a curated retail experience, and live music. So, grab your soulmate and go out for a night on the town.
Rochester Civic Theatre
Are you ready for some laughter and drama? Check out the Rochester Civic Theatre for professional live theater, music and dance.
The theater is open year-round, with quality and talented individuals. Go and enjoy the wonderful live productions, including summer time outdoor events.
I know. Why would you go to the hospital if you’re not sick. But hear me out.
Mayo Clinic downtown has some amazing artwork, which includes a beautiful installation of Dale Chihuly glass art among other pieces. The Clinic also offers a guided art tour to patients and their guests that you can schedule ahead of time.
If art isn’t your thing and your more into the shopping scene, get lost in the subway system. Or check out the Galleria Shopping Center, which you can reach via the Mayo Clinic without even going outside.
I would also suggest checking out the St. Mary’s Campus as well. It has some amazing courtyards with fountains and statues as well as the chapels. Chapels is plural for a reason. Because they don’t have just one.
Not many people know that in the large chapel, they still do have services that are open to the public. The older part of the chapel has amazing architecture and stained-glass windows.
Originally the home was built by Dr. Stanley Plummer and his wife Daisy, it is now one of the city’s most important cultural attractions.
Visitors can explore the beautiful landscaped grounds and gardens during the day on their own, or take a tour of the Tudor mansion on Wednesdays throughout the summer months. The house can be rented for private parties, which includes the grounds, making the grounds not open to the public.
Co-founder of the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Charles H. Mayo, built the mansion in 1911. The mansion contains over 40 rooms and also features lovely gardens bursting with color during the warmer months.
It is now declared a Minnesota Historic Site and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Rochester Art Center
The Rochester Art Center is located along the banks of the Zumbro River and contains a large collection of multicultural, multimedia artworks.
They have an ever-rotating display of various media and artworks from emerging and nationally recognized artists. It offers many community programs giving everyone in Rochester a chance to discover themselves through art.
History Center of Olmsted County
The History Center offers a wide range of programs, events, exhibits, archives, and a research center.
The exhibits detail the history of the county all the way back to the prehistoric ages. It also has more than 600,000 maps, photographs, diaries, journals, and books that relate to both the county and the southeastern Minnesota region.
Are you getting hungry with all of this exploring? Check out the local food trucks, so you can stay on the move.
Food trucks are the rage right now. People love them because they are quick, easy, and it’s healthier for you than fried fast food.
Entrepreneurs love them because it gives them a chance to start their own business without buying a brick and mortar building.
There are so many different types of food trucks out there. Such as food for the health crazed, sandwiches with a twist, trucks that sell foods made with local produce, regional cuisine, gourmet, and even sushi.
The food trucks in Rochester, MN are no different.
Besides the many taco trucks, there are also a few that will keep your taste buds guessing.
The many taco trucks are: Taco Moreno (1451 12th Street SE), Francis Tacos (517 12th Street SE), Corona’s Tacos (7 12th Street SE), Taqueria Mi Pueblo (706 N Broadway), and Lucy’s Taco Truck Stand (10 street NW) a local favorite.
A few others, if you’re not looking to compare tacos.
True Smoke BBQ (various locations)
Twisted Barrel Wood Fired Pizza (various locations)
Sham Falafel (225 1st Ave SW) serves Middle Eastern cuisine.
The Back Alley Kitchen (210 North Broadway)
The Back Alley Kitchen features some staple foods from Bosnia, Germany, as well as a rotating menu of special dishes from across the globe. Such as, cevapi with beef and lamb sausages, schnitzel sandwiches, and grilled wurst.
Old Abe Coffee Co. Trike (2nd Street and 2nd Avenue SW)
Old Abe & Co started as a Dutch-style cargo tricycle that uses human pedal power and nitrogen to dispense cold brew coffee from stainless steel kegs. Today, it is a popular vegan café located near downtown at Cooke Park in the city’s Design District. But you can still find the cart from May until October, located downtown during the week and at the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.
Garden Express Food Truck (451 16th Avenue NW)
The Garden Express Food Truck has everything from a BLT Avocado sandwich to wraps, Nachos, quesadillas, a taco beef salad, bowls, and yes, of course, street tacos.
Leaving Minnesota (2001 32nd Ave NW at LTS Brewing Company)
Leaving Minnesota is a little bit different than the rest. If you are in Rochester, MN and would like to explore food from a different location, here is your chance. These guys have been to Malaysia, Kansas City, Morocco, Stuttgart, Perth, and Memphis just to name a few. They serve out of the food truck located at LTS Brewery almost every Saturday.
What’s not to love, amazing food and beer! Love beer and in Minnesota also check out 15 of Minnesota’s top breweries.
A staple dish and a local favorite of theirs is their roasted Virginia Jumbo peanuts. So, if you’re not all that hungry and just came for the beer, check these out. And one of the owners was nice enough to share the recipe with me. See below:
- 1# nuts (they use a Royal Oak Virginia Raw out of the the shell peanut)
- 1/8 c peanut oil
- 2t kosher salt (or to your taste)
Stir together until all are coated; put on a baking sheet in a single layer; bake at 350 for 22 minutes; let them cool before eating – they’ll cook a little more after coming out of the oven.
Sadly, one of the favorite hibachi restaurants in Rochester (Jenpachi) has closed down but don’t worry. Because the chef that was at Jenpachi has now opened his own food truck.
This food truck is located at various locations and serves up Japanese Teppanyaki Cuisine. And don’t forget the yum yum sauce.
Whether you are looking for nature, art, adventure, or just want to chill out with your friends or family, Rochester, Minnesota has what you are looking for. Come for the experiences that no other city can offer.
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Start planning your next road trip to Rochester, MN with this Road Trip Master List. If your traveling with your kids, learn how to stay sane with these tips here. And want fun activities the whole family can enjoy for your trip? Check out these ideas, here.