Every May, Highland Park draws international crowds during Rochester’s week-long Lilac Festival (May 10-19, 2019), though the lilacs are not the only attractions to see!
Whether you’re visiting our beautiful little city from surrounding counties or countries, here are a few of our favorite places in the area to check out, especially during the day before the concerts begin.
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There is so much more to Highland Park than the festival area and the Lilac Collection! Highland is Rochester’s 1st park, and was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.
Explore all of 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. Also, the Katsura tree towering over the Pansy Bed near Highland and Goodman.
Highland Park in Rochester
Highland Park was designed to be enjoyed year-round. Every pathway, every tree, every vista & every relationship between the land & water is intentional.
Places in the Immediate
Area of the Lilac Festival
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.
Lamberton Conservatory is the perfect place to spend inside on a gray day. Many folks visit to seek a calm, colorful space warmed to tropical temperatures.
Sunken Garden at Warner Castle
Take a stroll behind Warner Castle & down the grassy lawn. There you will find the Sunken Garden—a peaceful retreat anytime of the year.
Mount Hope Cemetery
It may seem odd to think of a cemetery as a family-friendly destination, but Mount Hope Cemetery is as much park-like as it nearby neighbor Highland Park.
While the Ellwanger Estate is private, the garden is maintained by the Landmark Society and is periodically open to the public for special events.
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.
Cobbs Hill + Washington Grove
The view from Cobbs Hill, the quiet, the breeze, the friendly nature of people walking and taking it all in—there’s nothing quite like it in Rochester.
5 Places in the City to Enjoy the Genesee River
At Genesee Valley Park, the Genesee River begins her journey through the city, racing over a dam and three waterfalls before emptying into Lake Ontario.
Rochester’s Olmsted Designed Parks
Rochester is fortunate to be one of a handful of American cities that have a park system comprised of Frederick Law Olmsted-designed parks.
Rochester Public Market
The Rochester Public Market is the place to grab the freshest local and wholesale fruit, veggies, seafood, beef, cheese, bread, flowers and spices.
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.
Seneca Park and Zoo
The Seneca Park Zoo is a but a small part of the greater 297-acre Seneca Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1893.
Ontario Beach Park
Lake Ontario Beach Park is located at the northernmost tip of the city of Rochester, and is bordered on the East by the mouth of the Genesee River.
15 Miles on the Erie Canal
The Erie Canal spans 100-miles between Lockport and Lyons, with Rochester located right in the middle. Choose just 15 miles to explore for a great day trip!
Rochester’s Hidden Sidewalk
To find Rochester’s hidden sidewalk, start at Ontario Beach Park & head west on Beach Ave. Across from Clematis St. & Cloverdale St. are the two entrances.
Street Art: Exploring Rochester’s Murals & Graffiti
The term street art means different things to different people. Here, we interpret street art to mean any outdoor, free, public wall art.
Exceptional Rochester Museums
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.
I’ve heard ARTISANworks described as a walk-through kaleidoscope, a bombardment on the senses, a 360° canvas, a space that defies all boundaries.
Strong National Museum of Play
The Strong National Museum of Play has a wealth of interaction for toddlers, school-aged children and adults, including play-shopping at Wegmans!
Rochester Museum and 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!
Memorial Art Gallery
Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery has an extensive permanent collection, an incredible variety of traveling exhibitions, & a well-rounded calendar of events.
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.
Food & Beverage
359 Highly Recommended Restaurants, Diners, Cafes, Pubs, Bakeries, and Bars Around Rochester
Some of these food destinations are well-established, while others are quickly becoming favorites as Rochester’s culinary scene explodes.
25 Craft Breweries in Rochester and Monroe County
These Rochester craft breweries show off their newest and most popular creations while giving you a complete food experience.
Have a bit more time to see
the Greater Rochester area?
State Parks: Our Favorite 5 to Explore
Within a 2-hour drive of Rochester, there are 44 New York State Parks all worthy of exploration, but try our favorite five if you haven’t already!
County Parks: Our Favorite 5 to Explore
The Monroe County Parks systems includes 20 parks that are all worth exploring, but these are the five you absolutely must see if you haven’t already!
Town Parks: Our Favorite 5
These town parks have a unique offering of woods, wildlife, and water features to explore using pavement, hard-pack dirt, wood chips, gravel and boardwalk.
5 Exceptional Waterfalls Near Rochester
Think of this as a starter-set of five exceptional waterfalls near Rochester that you should absolutely visit if you haven’t already!
Geologic History of the Rochester Area
These day trips into Rochester’s geologic history, filled with drumlins, fossils, house-sized boulders and a meromictic lake, will leave you awe-struck!
132 Things to Do Around Rochester, NY
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.
Looking for more
free outdoor concerts?
45 Cheap & Free Outdoor Concerts Around Rochester
Free outdoor concerts around Rochester start ramping up in June, when the city and surrounding towns kick off their summer music series and festivals.
2019 Jazz Fest: 14 Things to Do Nearby
Most Rochester International Jazz Fest performances begin early-evening, so you’ll have plenty of time during the day to explore the Rochester area.
What do you look forward to most during Lilac Festival?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!