Rochester Lilac Festival concert

2024 Rochester Lilac Festival: Things to Do Nearby

This year’s festival takes place over 10 days: May 10-19, 2024, from 10:30 a.m.–8:30 p.m.

Every May, Highland Park plays host to Rochester’s Lilac Festival, though the lilacs are not the only attractions to see. According to the festival website, Lilac Fest is the largest free festival of its kind in North America. While visiting our beautiful little city, here are a few of our favorite places around the Highland Park area.

Best of Rochester - Day Trips Around Rochester book

Day Trips Around Rochester, New York

Highland Park – you are here!

Highland Park Lilacs
Highland Park Lilacs

There is so much more to Highland Park than the festival area and the Lilac Collection! Highland is Rochester’s first park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.

Explore all the pathways, flower, and tree collections, memorials, and play spaces while you’re here! Favorites among locals include the walk-through tree and Poets Garden, both up near Lamberton Conservatory, to the west of the reservoir.

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Highland Park in Rochester

Highland Park has even been described as a museum of exotic trees, many of which are the tallest of their species in the state, though few are native.

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Places in the Immediate Area of the Lilac Festival

Warner Castle

Lamberton Conservatory and Sunken Garden are part of Highland Park; Mount Hope Cemetery and Ellwanger Garden are right down the street, so you can walk from the Lilac Festival. They make a perfect quick getaway from the crowds.

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Lamberton Conservatory

The Lamberton Conservatory, located in Highland Park, is a serene and colorful tropical glasshouse displaying a diverse collection of plants.

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Sunken Garden at Warner Castle

In Highland Park, walk behind Warner Castle or up the hill from Highland Bowl, and there you will find the magnificent Sunken Garden.

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Mount Hope Cemetery

Mount Hope Cemetery’s winding roads are best explored on foot for a glimpse into the area’s rich history, ecology, and geology.

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Ellwanger Garden

Maintained by the Landmark Society, the Ellwanger Estate Garden is periodically open to the public for special events.

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Outdoor Destinations Around Rochester

Rochester skyline river

As much as I love the immediate Highland neighborhood, if you’re in town for a few days for all of the free concerts, these are a few outdoor places in the city you can explore before the evening concerts begin.

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Cobbs Hill + Washington Grove

The peaceful view from Cobbs Hill, along with the friendly people walking and taking it all in, make it a unique Rochester experience.

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Exploring The Genesee River

At Genesee Valley Park, the river merges with the Erie Canal and continues north through Rochester before reaching Lake Ontario.

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Rochester’s Olmsted-Designed Parks

Rochester is fortunate to be one of a handful of American cities with a park system comprised of Frederick Law Olmsted-designed parks.

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Rochester Public Market

The Rochester Public Market is the best place to find the freshest locally grown produce, seafood, beef, cheese, bread, and beverages.

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6 Self-Guided Tours of Rochester

If you are a fan of history and architecture, you will enjoy these self-guided Landmark Society tours of center city Rochester.

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Seneca Park and Zoo

The Seneca Park Zoo is only a small part of the 297-acre Seneca Park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1893.

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Ontario Beach Park

Besides a sandy Lake Ontario beach with plenty of parking, enjoy the boardwalk, carousel, pier, and an original 1902 Abbott’s Frozen Custard.

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Explore the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

Nearly 80% of the upstate population lives within 25 miles of the Erie Canal. Explore the 115-mile stretch between the Cayuga-Seneca Canal and Niagara River.

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Rochester’s Hidden Sidewalk

To find Rochester’s hidden sidewalk, start at Ontario Beach Park and head west on Beach Ave. The two entrances are across from Clematis and Cloverdale Streets.

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Street Art: Exploring Rochester’s Murals & Graffiti

Rochester has a vibrant street art culture, with dozens of murals, graffiti, and other forms of public art on display throughout the region.

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Exceptional Rochester Museums

Strong National Museum of Play connect four

The festival takes place in May. It’s not the warmest or driest month of the year in Rochester! Just in case you are visiting the Rochester for Lilac Festival on a rainy day, here are a few places you can spend a few engaging hours riding the storm out.

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ARTISANworks

I’ve heard ARTISANworks described as a walk-through kaleidoscope, a bombardment on the senses, and a 360° canvas that defies all boundaries.

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Strong National Museum of Play

The Strong National Museum of Play boasts the world’s most extensive collection of play-related historical materials.

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Rochester Museum & Science Center

Between the star shows, laser shows, interactive exhibits, and Singing Tesla Coils, the Rochester Museum and Science Center will entertain you for hours!

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Memorial Art Gallery

The Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester boasts a rich permanent collection and an impressive range of traveling exhibitions.

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George Eastman Museum

The George Eastman Museum is a beautiful tribute to his life & legacy, and is the world’s oldest photography museum with one of the oldest film archives.

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Food & Beverage

Highly recommended restaurants Highland Park Diner
Highland Park Diner

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600+ Highly Recommended Restaurants Around Rochester

Some food destinations are well-established, while others are quickly becoming favorites as Rochester’s culinary scene explodes.

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31 Craft Breweries in Rochester and Monroe County

Considering all the breweries that call the Greater Rochester area home can be overwhelming. Let’s focus on the ones here in Monroe County.

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🍦The Best Ice Cream Shops Around Rochester

These top ice cream shops, with locations in charming villages and city neighborhoods, turn a simple scoop into an artisanal delight.

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20 Rochester-Area Chocolatiers

Many of our fine Rochester-area chocolatiers are 3rd- and 4th-generation descendants using traditional family recipes with modern twists.

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5 Authentic Dining-Car Diners

Carefully preserved and restored to their former glory, these authentic dining-car diners will delight anyone who loves a bit of nostalgia.

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Have a bit more time to see the Greater Rochester area?

public wall art greetings from Rochester
The Hideaway

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Our Favorite 5 State Parks to Explore

Within a 2-hour drive of Rochester, there are 49 NY State Parks all worthy of exploration, but try our favorite five if you haven’t already!

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Our Favorite 5 County Parks to Explore

The Monroe County Parks systems includes 20 parks that are all worth exploring, but these are the five you absolutely must see.

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Our Favorite 5 Town Parks to Explore

Among my top five favorite town parks are those with distinctive wooded areas, diverse wildlife, and captivating water features.

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5 Exceptional Waterfalls Near Rochester

Consider this list as a starting point to help you explore the area’s natural beauty. It contains five waterfalls that are worth visiting.

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Geologic History of the Rochester Area

These day trips into Rochester’s geologic history will remind you just how amazing our corner of the Earth is.

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132 Things to Do Around Rochester

We’ve pulled together a list of fun and unique things to do around Rochester, NY, within two hours of home—perfect for quick getaways.

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Rochester Lilacs
Rochester Lilacs

What do you look forward to most during the Rochester Lilac Festival?

Your insights and experiences are valuable. Please share them in the comments.

Debi Bower, Day Trips Around Rochester NY

Debi Bower is the founder and creative director of daytrippingroc.com and author of the award-winning book Day Trips Around Rochester, New York.

People often ask me if I get free access to places while exploring. The answer is no unless I’m invited to previews or granted behind-the-scenes access as part of my media role. Generally, I don’t mention my project, Day Trips Around Rochester, NY, because I want the same experience you would have. I create and share content simply because it brings me joy. I would appreciate your support—a cup of coffee or two to help fuel future field trips—if you have found valuable information here that has helped you explore the Rochester area.

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