Martin Luther King Jr Park at Manhattan Square

Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Park at Manhattan Square

Five-acre Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Park at Manhattan Square is in the heart of Rochester’s East End. Green space with walking paths, benches for resting and open space for active play are maintained year-round. The reflecting pool in summer and ice skating rink in winter are active and loved by residents. Concerts are organized more frequently now, and the cascades behind the stage will make for a beautiful backdrop. There is a playground on the side facing the Strong National Museum of Play. I’m excited to see how this area transforms now that the inner-loop has been filled in and development plans can move forward.

Google satellite view

In the overhead image below, the reflecting pool/ice skating rink can be seen in top left, the sunken amphitheater and waterfalls, bottom left. Strong National Museum of Play is along the right side across from the playground.

Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Park at Manhattan Square Overhead
Google satellite view, facing east.

A shaded promenade

Within the small grove of trees in the bottom right of the satellite image is a walking path through rolling hills (well, mounds really, picnic-pillows!) that defy the surrounding urban flatland. There are several benches along the paved pathway.

Martin Luther King Jr Park Manhattan Square

READ NEXT
Landmark Society Walking
Tours of Rochester

The playground & spray pad

Martin Luther King Jr Park spray pad

Martin Luther King Jr Park playground

Martin Luther King Jr Park Strong Museum

The sunken plaza

Clearly the most striking and memorable feature of the park is the sunken concrete plaza. Designed in 1972 by Lawrence Halpbern, it was trendy at the time, though the concept never really caught on with residents, and in many ways still hasn’t. The fountains ran until the mid-80s but fell into disrepair.

The City has made the park a focus of recent urban renewal projects. In fact, the original park was planned in 1968 as an urban renewal project which served the city well for a short time but was never completed. In 2017, after extensive rehabilitation, there is water flowing again in Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Park, but this time visitors are discouraged from wading in.

READ NEXT
23 City of Rochester Parks

Martin Luther King Jr Park at Manhattan Square

Martin Luther King Jr Park at Manhattan Square
As tempting as it is, wading is discouraged.

Martin Luther King Jr Park at Manhattan Square

Martin Luther King Jr Park at Manhattan Square
…Until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Concerts in the amphitheater

The 2,000-person amphitheater hosts multiple open-air summer concerts. You’ll find a wide variety of musicians playing Party in the Park and ROC the Park. During major events like Rochester Fringe Festival in mid-September and the Rochester International Jazz Festival in late-June, the park becomes one of the concert venues.

READ NEXT
44 Cheap & Free Concerts
Around Rochester

Martin Luther King Jr Park at Manhattan Square
Concerts in the sunken amphitheater pre-renovation.

Events & Festivals

The park meadow also hosts small festivals and events like Movies with a Downtown View, Rochester VegFest, and Carifest.

Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Park at Manhattan Square
Rochester VegFest

Keeping cool by the pool

Martin Luther King Jr Park fountains

Martin Luther King Jr Park at Manhattan Square

Ice Skating Rink

The reflecting pool transforms for public outdoor ice skating in the colder months. Check the city’s website for ice skating fees, hours of operation, and special events.

READ NEXT
19 Ice Skating Rinks
Around Rochester

Lighting of the Liberty Pole

The Liberty Pole officially comes to life the first Saturday in December. While the pole is on Main Street, not in the park, there is a procession to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Park at Manhattan Square afterward with fireworks and ice skating.

Liberty Pole Rochester NY
Liberty Pole on Main Street in Rochester, NY
Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Park
Fireworks display from the observation tower

Photo inspiration from Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Park at Manhattan Square

It’s exciting to see Manhattan Square Park being utilized and loved again! Here are a few Instagrams that I’ve found inspirational lately.

A post shared by Michael G (@scorpiogams) on

Debi Bower

Born, raised and living life as a digital designer in Rochester, NY! I am also a day-tripper, writer & photographer, exploring the nooks and crannies that make our part of New York State so special.

Leave a Reply