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 and events are organized frequently, and the cascades behind the stage make for a beautiful backdrop. There is a playground on the side facing the Strong National Museum of Play.
The playground & spray pad
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.
Keep cool by the fountains
Google satellite view of
Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Park
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.
Events & Festivals
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.
Roc Holiday Village
There is so much to say about this new family-friendly feature in Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Park! The Village has incorporated the annual ice skating experience into an overarching holiday experience complete with Santa’s workshop, shops, food & beverage, hands-on activities, and planned events. Plus, you can rent a winter igloo for your little party-of-8. The village will be open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in December until Christmas.
Ice Skating Rink
Check the city’s website for ice skating fees, hours of operation, and special events at Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Park.
There are several options when looking for ice skating rinks around Rochester, NY. It first depends on whether you own your own skates or need to rent.
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 afterward to officially open the Roc Holiday Village and ice skating for the season.
Rochester has plenty of ways to help you connect with your inner holiday spirit! Enjoy the stories, traditions, and experiences this season has to offer.
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.