Though it’s often thought of as the place where Mayo and IBM employees and their families live, Rochester is home to so much more. Nestled near the bluffs of southeastern Minnesota, this picturesque city is the hub for beginning your exploration of this corner of the state. Bringing together world-class medical care, a thriving arts scene, a great mix of recognizable brand names and quaint one-off shops, great places to eat and plenty of recreational opportunities, you will be hard pressed to take in everything Rochester has to offer in just one weekend.
Located roughly 90 minutes southeast of the Twin Cities metro area, your best bet is a straight shot south on US-52. As the tall buildings and bright lights of the big city start to fade away, the view is replaced with farm fields and county highways stretching off in all directions before giving way to limestone bluffs. For a more circular route, use I-35 south, with an eastward turn on highway 14. Expect this to take longer, and the only real benefit would be the peace and quiet of 14, although it does narrow down to one lane in each direction for a significant portion of the trip. For less frustration and more scenery, US-52 is recommended for as much of the drive as your trip will allow.
What to Do
Rochester Trolley & Tour Company
Price: from $10 for the basic one-hour tour
Running Tuesday to Saturday from 10:30 a.m. thru 3:30 p.m., this basic sightseeing tour offers a one-hour narrated trip through the early history of the Mayo Clinic, including stops at the former homes of those who had an early role in building up Mayo to the world-famous status it enjoys today. For a longer and more wide-ranging tour, check out its public four- and five-hour options on weekend afternoons, which will take you through Amish Country, nearby state parks and other well-known tourist stops throughout Rochester and the surrounding area.
Silver Lake Boat & Bike Rentals
800 W. Silverlake Drive Northeast
Rochester, Minnesota 55902
Whether you are looking to explore the surrounding area by unique transportation, or simply looking to enjoy an afternoon of fun with the family, Silver Lake Boat & Bike Rentals offers a little bit of something for everyone. Park games such as bean bag toss, horseshoes, bocce ball and croquet are available for rent, and the mini golf course is now open, or you can rent canoes, kayaks or paddle boats, opening up the opportunity to cruise around Silver Lake or to embark on a trip down the Zumbro River. Bike rentals are also available to explore the city under pedal power.
Red Carpet Inn
2214 S. Broadway
Rochester, MN 55904
Price: from $50
The Red Carpet Inn is located close to both the Mayo Clinic and the convenience of downtown Rochester — just two miles down the road — yet happily it is also located just outside of the potentially clogged downtown area. As can be expected from many lodging options in this general area, a free shuttle service is available to transport you to the local medical facilities. Offering one of the lower rates in the area, the Red Carpet Inn is still widely regarded as more than worth the price — allowing travelers to save their money for other activities without sacrificing service or comfort.
The Fiksdal Hotel and Suites
1215 2nd St. Southwest
Rochester, MN 55902
Price: from $85
Embark on a trip down the Zumbro River, or rent a bike to explore the city under pedal power. Whatever your plan, Silver Lake Boat & Bike Rentals likely has you covered — just don’t forget your camera. Book one of 53 rooms with a refrigerator, microwave, coffeepot and free WiFi. Enjoy free complimentary breakfast, a complimentary shuttle and free parking as well.
Beetle’s Bar and Grill
230 20th Ave. Southwest
Rochester MN 55902
Beetle’s Bar and Grill is a great family dining option, combining a casual atmosphere with a great menu, all conveniently placed just a few short blocks west of St. Mary’s Hospital. Featuring a complete lunch and dinner menu boasting everything from chicken and salad to burgers, wraps and seafood dinners. Don’t worry, those walleye fingers make the menu. On a nice day, ask the server to seat you on the patio — the combination of food and atmosphere is sure to please.
Related: Best Day Trips From The Twin Cities
Victoria’s Ristorante & Wine Bar
7 First Ave. Southwest
Rochester, MN 55902
Conveniently located along the downtown skyway system, visitors to Rochester owe it to themselves to check out the restaurant ranked as the best Italian eatery in town 11 years running. Be prepared for a line on nights and weekends, but the wait is worth it. A personal favorite on the menu is the calzone, although bringing along a helper to finish the second half is strongly recommended. Perfect for a romantic or otherwise special occasion, while also suitable for a nice midweek meal, Victoria’s promises options for any picky diner.