Guide to Thursdays Downtown in Rochester MN

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thursdays downtown

This post was updated on June 12, 2022

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 community.

photo by: ab-photography.us

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

thursdays downtown
KEY: red- parking, dark blue – festival location, green – music stages, orange – family area

The map above is an aerial perspective of the downtown, Rochester MN area. The dark blue lines represent the streets and plaza where Thursdays Downtown is held.  The red 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!)
  • All parking sessions under one hour in public ramps are FREE.   {INSIDER TIP} This means that you could arrive at 4:00 PM and use one hour of free parking and then not pay at all after 5:00 PM!
  • While ramp parking is abundant, it can fill up quickly during Thursdays Downtown.  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! NOTE: 2nd Avenue SW is closed between People’s Food Co-op and One Discovery Square due to construction.

Dedicated Family Space – presented by Mayo Clinic

New in 2022 is a dedicated family space near the Peace Fountain and Chateau Theater (the orange area on the map above).  This space will feature shaded tents, kids activities, a sensory-friendly space, infant feeding tent, stroller parking, and more!  It’s also located near the brand new scrim pool on the Peace Plaza.  This is an area where kids and adults can wade in the water (less than an inch deep) and cool off and splash around.

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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 gyros, pizza, beer, popcorn, and cookies the size of your face…you’re going to find something 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 becomes quite busy 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 (2 PM – 4 PM, after the lunch hour and mid-afternoon tends 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.  Bring your picnic blanket and you’re good to go!

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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 to listen to 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 up front.  If you want to ensure a seat, be there early {INSIDER TIP} Keep in mind that the music is pretty loud, so if you have young children along, you might want to sit further back. OR, you could head to skyway above the 1st Avenue stage near Dooley’s and have an eagle-eye view of the festival while staying cool!

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Rochester 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 with hand-washing stations 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 from 5 PM until the festival ends each Thursday. Consider visiting at a non-peak (2 PM – 4 PM is pretty quiet) 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 hands.
  • 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 some live music!

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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Rochester Mom is written by and for moms who live in the Rochester MN area. We strive to connect local moms by sharing personal experiences, fun ideas and useful information as well as promoting local businesses and seeking to connect moms both on and offline.

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