Highland Park May 12 tulips cover

May Events: Celebrating Rochester in Full Bloom

As spring takes hold in Rochester, there’s a palpable energy in the air as locals eagerly anticipate reopening favorite parks, attractions, and businesses. The merry month of May is an exciting time, with events and activities occurring throughout the city.

Best of Rochester - Day Trips Around Rochester book

Day Trips Around Rochester, New York

Best of Rochester Award-Winning Book for Best Published Literary Work of 2023.

Featured May Events

Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated event of the month is the Rochester Lilac Festival, May 10–19. This 10-day celebration of the city’s vibrant floral heritage features free concerts, art shows, tastings, footraces, and parades, drawing visitors from all over the region to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of Highland Park’s blooming lilacs.

Flower City enthusiasts will want to hike the Daffodil Trail in Powder Mills Park around May 1 and visit Highland Park‘s tulips, magnolias, and lilacs throughout the month.

Plan a road trip to Sonnenberg Gardens starting May 1 and Linwood Gardens Tree Peony Festival starting May 18, 2024.

Experience the beauty of Rochester’s historic Ellwanger Garden during two special open house weekends—Lilac Weekends in May and Peony and Rose Weekend in June—from noon–3 p.m. This perennial flower garden at 625 Mt. Hope Avenue has been tended to since 1867 and showcases a variety of unique plants.

The City of Rochester Public Market hosts Flower City Days on the following Sundays: May 5, 12 (Mother’s Day), 19, and 26, 2024, plus Friday, May 24, and Monday, May 27 (Memorial Day). And speaking of the Public Market, all of our farmers’ markets have started ramping up their selection.

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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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Farms & Farmers’ Markets: Your Guide to Locally Grown Produce

Exploring local markets and roadside produce stands is a great way to immerse yourself in the community and support family farms.

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The semi-annual Tompkins County Book Sale takes place over three weekends in May (May 4-6, 11-13, and 18-21, 2024) and October and is among the country’s top 10 largest book sales. Over 2,000 volunteers sort and stock donations of over 250,000 books, music, movies, and games. The selection is constantly refreshed with new items between weekends, and the stock is entirely different in May and October. This community event has been held since 1945, supporting volunteerism, literacy, and giving books a second chance.

For Mother’s Day, explore the Genesee Country Village & Museum or enjoy a cruise onboard the Colonial Belle, The Riverie, or Sam Patch.

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Make Mom’s Day: 7 Ways to Celebrate Mother’s Day 2024

Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 12, 2024. And if you’re wondering how to make this day extra special for your mom, we’ve got you covered.

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hot air balloon launch
balloon launch

At the end of the month, head to Letchworth for the Red, White, and Blue Balloon Festival over Memorial Day weekend. Balloons Over Letchworth, operated by Liberty Balloon Company, offers hot-air balloon rides throughout the festival. Approximately 20 to 30 balloon pilots from around the country come to the event to launch their balloons from the Archery Field Overlook. Witness one of five launches scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, as well as 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Call (585) 493-3340 to verify the launch schedule. Pilots typically make a go/no-go decision two to three hours before the launch.

Or head to Corning Memorial Day Weekend for GlassFest, May 24–26. The event transforms Market Street into a pedestrian-only area where visitors can watch glassblowing demonstrations, taste local wines and beers, enjoy live music and food, and end the night with a dazzling fireworks display. It’s the perfect way to kick off summer in the Crystal City.

All Monroe County Parks are fully open on May 1, including roads, restrooms, and other amenities we’ve missed throughout the winter. And toward the end of the month, New York State Park gorge trails, like Watkins Glen and Stony Brook, begin to reopen, and Seabreeze Amusement Park opens on weekends. The longhouse at Ganondagan State Historic Site opens for the season on May 1.

More May Events

City of Rochester

May 1

May 3

May 3–5

May 5


May 11

May 11–12

May 12 is Mother’s Day

May 12

May 19

May 25

May 27 is Memorial Day

May 28

May 28–30

May 31

The Guess Who at Kodak Center

Monroe County

May 15–19

Greater Rochester

May 24–26

Surrounding Counties

May 11

May 24–26

May 25–26

Soldiers Through the Ages Old Fort Niagara

With so many unique events and activities taking place in and around Rochester throughout May, there’s truly something for everyone to enjoy. So come out and celebrate the arrival of spring and the start of a new season of fun and adventure!

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Opening in May for the Summer Season

Opening in May after being closed for the winter, we’re excited to spend these warmer spring days at our favorite places and businesses.

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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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Guided Walks and Tours Around Rochester, NY

Local experts who highlight the rich history, geology, ecology, and community of the greater Rochester region lead these guided walks.

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Gorge Trails Near Rochester

Gorge trails call out from their deep, dark, and cool caverns. If you haven’t already, check these spectacular trails off your list.

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Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion

Located in the City of Canandaigua, Sonnenberg Gardens is an exceptional example of the lavish wealth and philanthropy of the Gilded Age.

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Explore Letchworth State Park

Letchworth has something for everyone, from hiking one of the park’s 29 trails and picnicking beside a waterfall to taking a scenic drive.

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Explore Corning

Corning’s Gaffer District features nearly one hundred boutiques, specialty and antique shops, art galleries, glass studios, and restaurants.

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The Flower City: Exploring Rochester’s Extraordinary Flowers and Trees

Rochester became a global center for flower and tree nurseries in the mid-1800s, fostering our identity as The Flower City.

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22 Monroe County Parks

Monroe County parks are free and offer 12,000 acres of natural, zoological, horticultural, historical, and geological experiences.

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Rochester, NY Events & Activities: The Ultimate Month-by-Month Guide to Year-Round Fun

Join me as I explore the best things to do around Rochester each month, highlighting unique activities and events throughout the year.

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Do you have a favorite event or activity you most look forward to in May?

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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