Guide to Thursdays Downtown in Rochester MN

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photo by: ab-photography.us

2021 Editor’s Note: Thursdays Downtown will be Thursday, July 8th, 2021 – Thursday, September 8th, 2021. We will continuously update this guide as more information becomes available!


Now that we have officially entered the summer season in Rochester MN, it means the return of one of our most beloved local outdoor festivals – Thursdays Downtown (formerly Thursdays on 1st & 3rd)! This outdoor street festival occurs in downtown Rochester MN every Thursday throughout the summer from 11:00 AM – 8:30 PM.  There is so much to see and do: this expansive food, drink, craft, and artisan market stretches several city blocks on 1st Avenue Southwest and Northwest, 3rd Street Southwest, and Peace Plaza.

It seems the entirety of Rochester loves to come together on Thursdays Downtown…it’s a place to celebrate all things summer!  It’s hard to not feel a sense of camaraderie when you are there.  Rochester MN residents are proud of our city and this festival really celebrates our close-knit community.

Started over a decade ago by Downtown Rochester MN to bring vibrancy to the downtown Rochester MN area, Thursdays Downtown features 100s of food stands, restaurants, crafters, artisans, and other assorted businesses.  There is something to see and do for everyone.  And did we mention the live music?  With two stages and several times throughout the day scheduled for different bands to play, you’ll never miss a chance to sit and listen or dance your heart out (if that’s your thing) to some great tunes…many from local musicians and bands!

 

Here are some helpful tips if you’re looking to head to

Thursdays Downtown this summer!

Parking

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The map above is an aerial perspective of the downtown, Rochester MN area. The red lines represent the streets and plaza where Thursdays Downtown is held.  The blue areas on the map are parking ramp options that are close to the festival. A few notes about parking:

  • Parking in ramps downtown is an easy, convenient and affordable way to visit downtown.
  • If you use one of the ramps after 5:00 PM, parking is FREE (until 2:30 AM) in all ramps downtown. (This pertains to street parking as well: free after 5:00 PM!)
  • There is also FREE parking in all ramps until the end of 2021 if you are in and out in under two hours.  {INSIDER TIP} This means that you could arrive at 3:00 PM and use up two hours of free parking and then not pay at all after 5:00 PM!
  • While ramp parking is abundant, during Thursdays Downtown it can fill up quickly.  Don’t forget about neighborhood and street parking (particularly to the south/southwest of the festival area). If you are up for a short walk, there is often easy and plentiful parking further away from the event. Please be sure to observe any posted parking signs!

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Eating

One of the best parts of Thursdays Downtown is the variety of food choices!! From gelato to tacos, burgers to beer, pad thai to popcorn…you’re going to find something there that you want to eat.  We promise!  Keep these things in mind when you are planning to eat at Thursdays Downtown:

  • Food vendors are essentially grouped into two areas of the festival: at the south end of 1st Avenue near Third Street as well as on or near the Peace Plaza.
  • After 5:00 PM the south end of the festival can get really congested and full with people as everyone is hoping to enjoy happy hour or dinner with family and friends.
  • If you are planning to eat downtown with small children or a large group consider visiting at a non-peak time (before or after the lunch hour and mid-afternoons tend to see less traffic).
  • While there are plenty of places to sit at Thursdays Downtown, spots are at a premium at peak times!  Consider a non-traditional place to eat your food.  {INSIDER TIP} Some of our favorite places to sit and eat are the steps of the Old Courthouse between Hefe Rojo and Third Street and 3rd street itself.  Bring your picnic blanket and you’re good to go! There are also comfy Adirondack chairs in the 3rd Street Lounge!

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Entertainment

In addition to so much to eat, there is so much to see and do at Thursdays Downtown!  There are two main stages where you can hear music at different times of day: the 1st Avenue Stage and the Peace Plaza stage on the west end of the Plaza near the Kahler Hotel and Gonda Building.  (The  stages are represented on the map above by the green dots.)

  • Talent is featured from 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM and 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM on both stages.  Enjoy music from national and local acts in a variety of styles and music genres!
  • Both stages have seating right in front.  If you want to ensure a seat, be there early {INSIDER TIP} Keep in mind that the music is pretty loud right up front, so if you have young children along, you might want to sit further back.

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Rochester MN Mom LOVES Thursdays Downtown and has been attending this fun festival every year since the beginning.  Many of us have become parents in that time and we’ve learned a few tips and tricks along the way! Here are some ideas to keep in the back of your mind to make your time the most fun:

  • If you have young kids with you, be sure to use the restroom before you get to street level.  There are portable restrooms in a few spots (one is located along 1st Avenue between the Minnesota Bio Business Center and the 201 Building and the other is near the Peace Plaza stage), but they can be tricky to navigate with kids.
  • If you are pushing a stroller, it will be difficult to do so at peak times.  The busier areas near the 1st Avenue stage are standing room only with very little walking space around dinner and up to 8 PM. Consider visiting at a non-peak time if you have young children or are pushing a stroller!
  • Bring along a lot of wet wipes for easy clean-up.  No one wants sticky ketchup hands the whole time you’re there!
  • The Peace Plaza stage near the Kahler hotel is almost always in some sort of shade.  Consider grabbing food and staking your spot at the seating there prior to catching your favorite live musician!

 

ENJOY! Thursdays Downtown is one of our favorite things to do in Rochester MN in the summer.  We hope you love it as much as we do!

 

 

 

 

 

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