One of the top destinations in Minnesota, Rochester may best be known as the home of the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, but it offers a whole lot more than that. Whether if you’re looking for something to do in between appointments or you’re planning to visit for any other reasons, there’s something to enjoy for just about everyone. From scenic outdoor spots and recreational activities to history and art, these are some great ways to spend your time in this city.
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Visit the Rochester Art Center (Nearby Hotels)
The Rochester Art Center is located along the banks of the Zumbro River and showcases a vast collection of multimedia, multicultural, works of art aimed to connect visitors to the world around them. It’s been in operation for over 70 years, with the current building itself impressive to view from the outside, but stepping inside is where you’ll discover a wide range of treasures. Not only does it provide an ever-changing display of works from nationally-known and emerging artists, but it offers many ways to engage, offering something new for each visit. It hosts community programs like its Creative Development Series for adults, summer youth camps and even dance parties for kids.
Shop and Dine in the Downtown Peace Plaza (Nearby Hotels)
The Peace Plaza is a pedestrian-friendly area popular for shopping and dining. It sits adjacent to the Mayo Clinic, providing easy access to just about everything downtown has to offer. Discover unique boutiques, top-notch restaurants and enjoy some fun people watching too. There’s an extensive network of underground walkways and skywalks that stem from here, spreading throughout the area that offers a climate-controlled way to travel when winter’s chill hits.
Step back in time at Plummer House (Nearby Hotels)
Originally the home of Dr. Stanley Plummer and his wife Daisy, the Plummer House is one of the city’s most important cultural attractions. It ties directly to nearby Mayo Clinic, with the doctor serving as its founder and innovator. He worked closely with the architects who started its construction in 1917, and more than 100 years later, the historic home that’s meticulously preserved provides the perfect way to get a glimpse of Rochester in the past. Visitors can explore the beautifully-manicured grounds and gardens during the day on their own, or take a tour of the Tudor mansion on Wednesdays throughout the summer months.
Visit Mayowood Mansion (Nearby Hotels)
Dr. Charles H. Mayo, the co-founder of the Mayo Clinic, built the mansion known as Mayowood in 1911. It contains over 40 rooms, furnished with beautiful American, English, French, Spanish and German antiques, along with the doctor’s decorative arts collection. The estate also features lovely gardens bursting with color during the warmer months of the year. In 1965, the Mayo family donated the home and ten acres to the Olmsted County Historical Society for the public to tour and enjoy. It was declared a Minnesota Historic Site soon after, with the mansion its surrounding grounds listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While it’s closed during the winter season, special Christmas tours are offered for the holidays.
Explore the History Center of Olmsted County (Nearby Hotels)
The History Center of Olmsted County encourages the exploration of Olmsted County’s history, established back in 1926. It offers a wide range of programs, events, exhibits, archives, and a research center. The interpretive exhibits detail the history of the county all the way from Prehistoric, Paleo and Native American history to the city’s early years as well as the Mayo Clinic. The research library and archives contain more than 600,000 maps, photographs, diaries, journals, and books that relate to both the county and the southeastern Minnesota region.
Sign up for an Amish Tour (Nearby Hotels)
The Rochester area is home to an Amish community that can be visited by taking a Bluffscape Amish Tour. The three-hour guided tour visits Amish farms and shops for a good glimpse at Amish life in the area, traveling to farms around Preston, Lanesboro, Harmony and Canton. The expert guides provide interesting tidbits of Amish history along the way, and you’ll also have the opportunity to buy all sorts of Amish goods. Just some of the options typically include beautifully-made quilts, hardwood furniture, baskets, crafts, canned and baked items, soaps, candles, candy and produce that’s fresh from the garden. While it isn’t Amish, the historic 1856 Lenora Church is visited too.
Hit the Bike Paths (Nearby Hotels)
One of the best ways to enjoy some exercise while exploring the city is to hit the bike paths. There are lots of different paths found throughout Rochester, with more than 85 miles of interconnected trails for biking as well as walking or inline skating. They bring cyclists and others to scenic natural spots like Silver Lake. The picturesque waterfront route runs through downtown, making it easy to visit places like the Rochester Art Center as well as various shopping outlets. Not only can you enjoy the area’s attractions, but you can watch for the area’s wildlife that shares the urban landscape.
Enjoy the Outdoors at Silver Lake City Park (Nearby Hotels)
Silver Lake City Park lies just north of downtown Rochester, providing a tranquil urban oasis for residents and visitors, as well as the Canadian geese that enjoy hanging out along the shores of the lake. The over 50-acre Silver Lake is a man-made reservoir that’s fed by the Zumbro River and includes a paved pathway for strolling as well as areas for fishing. In the summer, you can rent a variety of watercraft to explore the waters, including electric paddle boats, kayaks and canoes. Carley State Park is another popular rural area just a short drive outside of the city center, known for its gorgeous bluebells in spring.
Catch a Show at Rochester Civic Theatre (Nearby Hotels)
The Rochester Civic Theatre is the leading presenter and producer of professional and community theater, live music and dance in southeastern Minnesota. An award-winning organization, it was established in 1951 to showcase local, national and international artists. If you plan to be here for a while and are interested in acting, you can also take advantage of the classes, advanced training and performance opportunities available for all ages.
Visit Quarry Hill Nature Center (Nearby Hotels)
If you want to get up close to all sorts of animals, visit the Quarry Hill Nature Center. It’s located in a large park spread across 329 acres with scenic hiking and biking trails, a limestone fossil quarry and historic sandstone caves. Discover 35 different species of live animals that are native to the state along with exotic species, a massive aquarium with seven various varieties of fish and a Saw-whet owl.