Sure, Rochester, MN has tons of great restaurants, concerts and entertainment events, but what can you do for FREE?
There are many terrific Rochester MN places, businesses, and organizations that offer free hours and events that give you the opportunity to enjoy them at no cost. That’s right—free.
Below is a list of events and places you can visit, watch, play, and dance – all free of charge.
Arts and Culture
Beginning again in July, 2018, the Rochester Art Center offers free Family Day once per month (often on a Saturday). In addition to free access to exhibits, families can partake in a special project each month.
Rochester Art Center | AB-PHOTOGRAPHY.US
Rochester Public Library engages the community through dynamic and innovative programs, both in the main library campus downtown and out in the community through their Bookmobile and BookBike services. Back again this year is the popular Bookworm Walk! This guided walk takes readers on a walk along the downtown Rochester MN riverfront while enjoying a fun children’s book. In addition to this access, the library provides multiple presentations and programming each month.
Everyone knows the importance of reading to kids, and ABC Toy Zone holds three free story time events each week on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays!
Since 1963, Sts. Kosmas & Damianos Greek Orthodox Church has been hosting Greek Fest, a completely free festival filled with music, dancing, church tours, and food for purchase. Save the date for August 23 - 25, 2019 for a family friendly weekend celebrating Greek culture in Rochester, MN!
Thanks to a partnership with Bremer Bank, once a month kids can truly play freely at Minnesota Children’s Museum – Rochester. Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month between noon and 4 p.m.
Looking for a leisurely stroll with a twist? Rochester is thick with self expression in all of its forms. Some of these are intentional artistic experiences, while others show how we are truly surrounded by creative expression. Check out these 5 places to see public art in Rochester--for FREE!
For inter-generational fun, head to the new 125 LIVE! every second Saturday from 1PM-3PM, families are invited to participate in family fitness activities like yoga, zumba and dance parties as well as create art.
Sports and Athletics
Zumba on the Plaza – Head down to the Peace Plaza Mondays at 5:30 and give this fun activity a try!
Disc golf is a popular flying disc sport in which players throw a disc at a target; it is played using rules similar to golf. It is often played on a course of 9 or 18 holes. In Rochester, players gather at Slatterly Park and East Park.
Rainy day? Too hot to be out in the sun? Sign up for FREE bowling! Kids can sign up here 2 free games each day of the KBF (Kids Bowl Free) program, all summer long, courtesy of Bowlocity and Colonial Lanes along with partner schools and organizations.
Think nothing happens during the winter months? Not in Rochester, MN! Families love to gather for awesome downhill sledding at the giant hill in Judd Park ! What about ice skating? There are many rinks and types of activity to choose from. Some locations have warming houses, others have lights to skate by at night, and others are great for hockey players looking for a pick up game!
Markets and Festivals
Thursdays Downtown Summer Market and Music Festival (formerly called Thursdays on First & 3rd) is a weekly outdoor market of over 100 art, craft and food vendors and live entertainment every Thursday throughout the summer. While there are plenty of things available for purchase, admission is always free!
Rochester Farmers Market is available year round in different locations. The outdoor market is a great place to get fresh, local food-but its also a fantastic place to enjoy the sunshine, meet up with friends, and enjoy the musicians.
With free admission for the exhibits, barns, Miracle of Birth center and more, the Olmsted County Free Fair held the last week of July has something for everyone!
Olmsted County Free Fair | Chad Johnson
Rochesterfest is an annual summer celebration focused on promoting and celebrating the city of Rochester and southeast Minnesota by connecting people through a variety of wholesome, entertaining community events-most of which are FREE! Check out their website for 2018 info.
Rochester doesn’t let the long Minnesota winters interfere with having fun. Winterfest takes place annually from mid-January to mid-February. There is a wide variety of activities with something for everyone, young or old, indoors or out.
Music and Movies
Movies in the Park-Bring your lawn chair or blanket and gather under the string lights in Historic Central Park for this FREE, fun, and family-friendly outdoor event. (seasonal; June-September)
Did you know Rochester has a FREE concert series? Down by the Riverside is held in an open-to-the-public City park, so lawn chairs, blankets, and coolers are welcome. Entering its 27th year, the event takes place over six Sundays in July and August (July 8 through August 12) in one of the most beautiful green spaces in the area, Mayo Park (behind the Mayo Civic Center and Rochester Art Center).
Saturday mornings are the time to check out FREE children’s movies at Cinemagic in NW Rochester! Get a group together for this weekly feature at 9:30 am.
Who doesn’t love live music? Come join the fun at Summer at the Civic for their free summer concert series!
Quarry Hill Nature Center offers over 8 miles of trails and a newly renovated nature center building which houses live animals and an admission free Exploration Hall.
Foster Arend Park features a lake with beach and swimming area, fishing, sand volleyball, horseshoes, paved and unpaved trails, playground, open play field, picnic shelter, and rentable space. An inflatable water park is also available for a fee.
Foster Arend Park
Silver Lake Park has something for everyone – all in an urban environment! Enjoy fishing, biking, rollerblading, jogging, observing the Giant Canada geese, and strolling around the lake. This is also where the city-wide fireworks display is on the 4th of July!
Dedicated on June 25, 2000, Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial honors American veterans and allies. The Wall of Remembrance and Walk of Remembrance honor approximately 9,000 veterans and allies, while the Trees of Remembrance represent each state in the union.
Let the little ones run wild in a custom built enclosed play area at the Field of Fun. Located near Soldier’s Field Veterans Memorial, the “castle park” as it is known to many locally is a great place for a picnic with friends.
Cascade Meadow is located on 100 acres along the Cascade Creek in northwest Rochester, and features formal and informal learning and event spaces indoors and outdoors. 13 interactive exhibits focusing on water, energy, and wetlands and the trails are open and free to the public Tuesday through Friday from 10-4.
For spontaneous outdoor fun, pack some water, sunscreen, and snacks and head to any of the fantastic area trails for a family hike! More into cycling? Rochester, MN has plenty of opportunities to get riding with over 85 miles of interconnected trails
Get the kids outside! The Mobile Rec Trailer is loaded with interactive games and equipment and will travel to parks and green space all around the City this summer. Rochester Parks and Recreation staff will lead kids of all ages in fun, unique and engaging outdoor activities designed to increase activity, spontaneity, and interactions with friends and neighbors!
Of note: Parking in city parking ramps is free after 5:00 p.m. in the evenings and on weekends from 6:30 a.m. until 2:30 a.m.
To learn more and check out other special events, check out the Experience Rochester MN’s event calendar or Rochester MN Moms Blog’s event calendar.