It’s true that Rochester has become synonymous with the Mayo Clinic. But the city has much more to offer beyond world-renowned health care. The rapidly growing city exudes small-town charm with architectural history and lively arts, dining and shopping scenes.
Rochester, Minnesota’s third-largest city, spans nearly 55 square miles and is home to nearly 108,000 residents.
WHAT TO DO
Tour Mayowood Mansion: Dr. Charles H. Mayo, co-founder of the Mayo Clinic, designed and built the luxurious Mayowood Estate in 1911. In 1965, the Mayo family donated the 38-room mansion and a 15-acre plot of the original 3,000 acres to the Olmsted County Historical Society. Two years later, the estate was listed as a Minnesota Historic Site and, in 1970, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The mansion has been preserved and is open to the public. Tours take place Saturdays and Sundays, May 11-July 28 at 11 a.m., noon, 1 and 2 p.m. Call ahead to ensure availability. Admission is $12 adult; $5 youths. (3720 Mayowood Road SW.; 1-507-282-9447; www. olmstedhistory.com/tours-location/)
See the Plummer House: Be sure to map your course to find the Plummer House for the Arts, a tucked-away treasure in a residential neighborhood.
Dr. Henry S. Plummer, a Mayo doctor, and his wife, Daisy, began building the 49-room English Tudor mansion 1917. It’s maybe not surprising that the five-story mansion built by Plummer, the inventor of the pneumatic tube, featured innovations ahead of their time, including a central vacuum system and underground sprinkler system. Daisy, a niece of the Mayo brothers who founded the clinic, was a gifted musician and patron of the arts.
Enjoy the immaculately landscaped grounds, including a bird trail and quarry, which are open to the public from sunrise to sunset daily. The home is available to tour June, July and August from noon to 6 p.m. unless a private party has reserved the house. Tour rates are $8 adults; $4 children. (1091 Plummer Lane SW.; 1-507-328-2525; www.startribune.com/a2330
Enjoy art: Fans of contemporary art will want to stop at the Rochester Art Center. On Thursdays, the art center offers free admission. Docent tours of exhibitions are available by appointment. The center offers dozens of adult and youth educational opportunities and hosts many special events throughout the year. (40 Civic Center Dr. SE.; 1-507-282-8629; www.rochester artcenter.org)
Hit the shops: The city is filled with unique boutiques and shopping opportunities, including the Apache Mall. Find dozens of stores at the Grand Shops, connected to the Kahler Grand and Marriott hotels (www.mngrand shops.com). Rochester’s intricate skyway and underground walkway systems keep shoppers comfortable in inclement weather.
WHERE TO EAT
Imaginative small plates and tapas and an authoritative wine list take center stage at Söntés, helmed by chef Trevor Garett (4 3rd St. SW.; 1-507-292-1628; www. sontes.com).
Inspired by a trip taken to Barcelona, the owners of Twigs Tavern & Grille introduced their “Hot Rock Menu” where patrons can cook filet mignon, Babcock pork, scallops or ahi tuna and more at their table on a 650-degree granite stone. This warm, upscale restaurant is in the Best Western Soldiers Field (401 6th St. SW.; 1-507-288-0206; http://twigstavern andgrille.com/).
For a sweet retreat, Chocolaterie Stam makes you feel as though you’ve just stepped into a European sweet shop. You’ll be tempted to sample the handcrafted artisan chocolates such as butter truffles or perhaps the butterscotch chocolate biscotti. Italian gelato is also available in many flavors. (In the University Square shopping hub at 111 S. Broadway, Suite 208; 1-507-536-2722; www.stamchocolate.com)
Need a java fix? Moka, a drive-up coffee shop, offers two locations within the city limits (1023 N. Broadway, 1-507-282-6652; 306 12th St. SE., 1-507-280-6652).
WHERE TO STAY
The International Hotel, which is connected to the Mayo Clinic, offers luxury accommodations downtown (20 2nd Av. SW.; 1-507-280-6200; www.internationalhotelmn.com).
The Kahler Grand Hotel is a sister property, and connected by skyway, to the International Hotel. The Kahler is pet-friendly (call ahead), offers a number of “allergy-friendly” rooms, and has access to the Grand Shops (1-507-280-6200; www.thekahlerhotel.com).
For a directory of lodging options, go to www.rochesterlodging.com.
IF YOU GO
It’s notable to mention that the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway, which connects historic areas relating to the life of the legendary author, runs through Rochester. From Rochester, the highway runs south along Hwy. 63 until the intersection near Spring Valley.
For more information on visiting, contact the Rochester Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-507-288-4331.
Christine Bernier Lienke is a freelance writer who lives in Northfield, Minn.