12 Attractions in Rochester, Minnesota

Last Updated on February 6, 2024 by Robert Wilson


Rochester, Minnesota is a vibrant city with a rich history and plenty of things to see and do. From museums and parks to lively performing arts and great shopping, Rochester offers visitors an array of attractions that make it a fantastic place to visit. This article will highlight 12 top attractions that you don’t want to miss when visiting Rochester.

For each attraction, we will provide an overview of what makes it worth a visit along with key details like location, hours of operation, ticket prices, and nearby dining or other attractions that pair well for easy planning. Whether you’re a history buff, art lover, sports fan, or thrill seeker, Rochester has something for just about everyone. Let’s explore some of the best things to see and do in Rochester, Minnesota!

1.Plummer Building

The Plummer Building is one of Rochester’s most iconic structures and a must-see attraction. Built in 1887 by world-renowned architect Louis Sullivan, the intricately detailed terracotta exterior makes it stand out on the city skyline.

Located downtown at 117 1st Ave SW, the Plummer Building now houses high-end apartments but much of the elaborate terra cotta ornamentation on the exterior has been preserved. Guided tours are available allowing you to admire Sullivan’s handiwork up close and learn about the building’s history.

After your tour, stroll through nearby Peace Plaza or have lunch at one of downtown Rochester’s many excellent restaurants like Bleu Duck Kitchen or Grand Rounds Brewing Company.

2.Mayo Clinic

Rochester is synonymous with the Mayo Clinic, the world-renowned hospital and research facility that has been innovating healthcare and treating patients for over 150 years. Even if you don’t have an appointment, you can explore the clinic’s unique history and advances at the Mayo Clinic Museum located within the iconic Plummer Building.

Exhibits chronicle achievements like the first “medical milestones” in transplant surgeries and artificial body part innovations alongside medical tools and texts from antiquity to today. In addition to the permanent collection, there is a calendar of rotating exhibits focused on specific aspects of medicine or Mayo Clinic history.

The museum is open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 9am to 5pm and Thursdays from 9am to 8pm. Entry is free but donations are accepted. Combine it with a tour of the Plummer Building or lunch at the nearby Canadian Honker restaurant for an educational and inspiring outing.

3.Quarry Hill Nature Center

Quarry Hill Nature Center is the perfect place to stretch your legs surrounded by the beauty of nature while visiting Rochester. Located minutes from downtown, the 702-acre park has over 20 miles of trails winding through prairie, forest, and wetland habitats.

The interpretive center offers wildlife exhibits of common Minnesota mammals, birds, reptiles as well as interactive displays centering on the area’s geological formations and native plants. Make sure to visit the observation bee hive and check the schedule for naturalist-led talks or demonstrations.

In warmer months, bring a picnic lunch to enjoy along the trails or on tables scattered throughout the park. There is no admission fee though a $5 per vehicle parking donation is suggested. After exploring Quarry Hill pair it with a stop at Chester Woods Park or dinner at nearby Bitter & Pour.

4.Rochester Art Center

Art lovers visiting Rochester will want to be sure to spend an afternoon at the Rochester Art Center located downtown at 40 Civic Center Drive SE. The contemporary glass and sculpture galleries showcase rotating exhibits by regional and national artists. Mediums span painting, photography and mixed media in addition to glass and sculpture.

The interactive space also offers visitors a chance to get creative with hands-on art exploration rooms as well as a great gift shop stocked with handcrafted jewelry, scarves, cards and more.

The Rochester Art Center is open Tuesday through Sunday and admission ranges from free to $7 depending on age. After admiring the artwork, grab a bite right next door at Five West Kitchen or across the street at Dooley’s Pub.

5.Assisi Heights Spirituality Center

For a peaceful respite from sightseeing, make a stop at Assisi Heights Spirituality Center. The 100-acre hilltop property offers gorgeous views of the surrounding bluffs as well as wooded walking trails perfect for mindful hikes. Visitors can explore the compact park, lush gardens and working farm that are all maintained by the Sisters of Saint Francis.

Assisi Heights is just a 5-minute drive from downtown Rochester with free admission and open daily from dawn to dusk. In addition to self-guided relaxation, there is also a calendar of wellness-focused public events like yoga, spiritual guidance sessions and holistic healing. Stop by the gift shop for honey harvested from their apiaries or unique fair-trade gifts.

After centering your mind, body and spirit, grab dinner nearby at Canadian Honker Events or cheat day donuts at Sandy’s.

6.Soldier’s Field Veterans Memorial

To recognize Rochester’s profound respect and remembrance for those who have served, carve out some time during your visit for the Soldier’s Field Veterans Memorial. The monument park honors all American veterans with five bold limestone pillars rising above Soldier’s Field Park.

Each pillar represents a different military branch – Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. The grounds surrounding the memorial markers encapsulate an additional plaza, granite seating, sculpture and lighting. Fountains and flower beds provide peaceful scenery for reflection throughout the park.

Soldier’s Field is located adjacent to Mayo Clinic with free public access any time of day or night. To make a full experience, visit on a Sunday night in summer when the Rochester Municipal Band performs free concerts in the bandshell.

7.Mayowood Mansion

History aficionados will love touring the elaborately restored Mayowood Mansion located within peaceful Mayowood Park. The impressive 33-room Victorian mansion was built between 1862-1872 for Dr. Charles and Clara Mayo of Mayo Clinic fame.

Guided tours allow visitors to explore different floors to admire the ornate décor, imported furnishings and abundance of natural light. Photos are permitted but not touching any of the artifacts.

Mayowood Mansion offers tours Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30am to 3:30pm with tickets $10 for adults and $2 for children. After being transported back in time, relax with a picnic lunch on tables scattered along paths weaving through the 26-acre park.

8.Ben Franklin Crafts

Even on a quick trip, it’s still nice to bring back a small memento. An easy one-stop-shop option for souvenirs is Ben Franklin Crafts located in downtown Rochester. The old-fashioned variety store stocks charming gift ideas and classic toys that appeal to all ages.

Browse the miniatures, classic games section and impressive dollhouses then let the kids go wild grabbing quirky magnets or sticker packs from the novelty aisle. Beyond trinkets, there is also an entire section stocked with professional craft materials for sewing, framing, jewelry making and more.

Ben Franklin Crafts is at 12 1st Ave SW with convenient loading zones right out front. Stop in after lunch at Cheap Charlie’s or Victoria’s Ristorante and Tasting Room to grab the perfect Rochester keepsake on your way out of downtown.

9.Minnesota Children’s Museum Rochester

No family visit to Rochester is complete without spending an afternoon playing and learning at Minnesota Children’s Museum. The vibrant museum designed specifically for kids aged 0-10 has dozens of fascinating hands-on exhibits across two floors.

Young minds will be engaged exploring various concepts like physics, health, math and culture through interactive spaces, crafts stations and roleplaying. Some can’t miss activities include the lazy river water table, veterinarian clinic dramatic play area and climbing three-story skyscraper.

The Minnesota Children’s Museum Rochester is open daily with varying hours by season. Admission is $12 per person though children under 1 are free. After a few hours of hands-on fun, refuel with an early dinner at Canadian Honker Events before continuing your visit.

10.IBM Rochester

As the largest employer in town, no trip to Rochester is complete without learning about IBM Rochester’s incredible technology innovations that changed the world. Free tours are available showing off exhibits detailing milestone breakthroughs like developing the world’s first hard drive for commercial use in 1956.

Interactive spaces allow visitors to explore concepts like artificial intelligence, quantum computing and silicon wafer manufacturing – both fun and educational for all ages. The tours run daily Monday through Friday. Simply register online in advance then show up to visitor entrance at IBM Building 002 right off Highway 52 in northwest Rochester for an insider’s look.

After your technology time travel, grab dinner nearby at Jim’s Bistro & Irish Pub or Primebar.

11.Rochester Farmers Market

No visit to Rochester is complete without experiencing one of the area’s beloved traditions – the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market. Rain or shine, the market sets up every Saturday morning from May through October. The inviting village-style marketplace features over 85 local vendors selling seasonal fruits and vegetables, artisanal baked goods, honey, flowers, handmade crafts and other locally-sourced products.

Beyond fantastic people watching and snagging the regions freshest harvest finds, the downtown market also hosts free live music performances adding to the festive atmosphere. Not visiting on a weekend? Stop by the smaller Tuesday market for produce, food trucks and more.

The Downtown Rochester Farmers Market sprawls across 1st Ave from 1st St SW to 3rd St SW and is open 7am to Noon from May through October. Easy parking is available in several ramps and lots ringing downtown. Pair your trip to the market with brunch at Bleu Duck or Grand Rounds Brewing.

12.Gamehaven Regional Park

Nature lovers will especially enjoy time spent exploring the scenic trails winding through Gamehaven Regional Park’s 287 acres just minutes outside Rochester city limits. Mowed grass trails on the west side of the park cater to bicyclists while dirt hiking paths on the east offer more secluded woodland scenery perfect for wildlife spotting.

In addition to trails, the park grounds encompass prairie land, a sizable flock of resident turkeys as well as the picturesque Gamehaven Pond fed by Silver Creek The pond is frequently busy with shore fishermen and kayakers floating across the smooth water.

Gamehaven has a nature playground area, archery range and disc golf course. Trails are open daily from dawn until dusk with no entrance fees or permits required. After working up an appetite on the trails, refuel with craft burgers and local beers at Granite City near the park’s main entrance on East Circle Drive.

Apache Mall


When you need some retail therapy, Apache Mall should be at the top of your Rochester shopping list. The nearly 1 million square foot indoor shopping hub located just off Highway 52 hosts over 150 brand name stores and eateries. Fashionistas will love big names like American Eagle, Hollister and Victoria’s Secret. Trendy shoes and accessories at DSW, Famous Footwear and Claire’s are top stops for stepping up wardrobe style.

Youngsters can unwind in the expansive jungle gym play area while parents browse. Teens and adults alike will find trendy tech gifts, video games and Pop culture merch at stores like Box Lunch, GameStop and FYE. Of course, the mall still shines with staples like Macy’s and JCPenney department store anchors.

When it’s time for a break, Apache Mall dining options span from Ichiban’s hibachi showmanship to Chipotle burritos, Starbucks coffee and authentic gelato at Amorè. Conveniently located right off Highway 52, Apache Mall should be on every visitor’s Rochester shopping list.

Conclusion

Rochester offers visitors a fantastic array of attractions ranging from world class museums and performing arts to outdoor recreation, unique shops and innovative technology. Now that you’ve gotten an overview of 12 top attractions in Rochester, you can start planning your schedule to take advantage of some of these amazing sights suited to your unique interests.

With convenient proximity to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as well as roadway access via Highway 52, Rochester makes an easy midwestern destination perfect for long weekend getaways. Of course, Mayo Clinic patients and their families will find plenty of sites helping pass the time between appointments at the world-famous hospital.

Whether you’re a history buff, art lover, sports fan, shopaholic or outdoor enthusiast, Rochester offers fantastic attractions for all travelers. These 12 sites highlighted in this article are just a glimpse into what makes the city such a popular place to live, work and visit. We hope you’ve been inspired to explore amazing Rochester for yourself soon!

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