Rochester has plenty of outdoor family-friendly fun to offer. From nature walks to horseback riding to berry picking to swimming, Rochester has something fun to do for every member of the family.
Quarry Hill Nature Center is built on Quarry Hill Park, a 320 acre city park with many trails, a fossil bed, a fishing pond, caves, a hands-on exhibit hall,and ski and snowshoe rental. Quarry Hill is free to the public (though they do have a membership program $60/family per year that gets you discounts on birthday parties, kids classes/summer nature camps, and early registration privileges). Quarry Hill is a great family-friendly place to take a hike, look for wildlife, and become one with nature.
Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo is a unique 572 acre Olmsted County park facility, located approximately 15 minutes from Rochester in Byron. The park offers picnic areas, fishing, semi-primitive summer campsites, playground equipment, hiking trails. The zoo offers a nature center and the opportunity to visit with 30+ native MN animal species including bobcat, cougar, wolf, black bear, goats, and a really cute donkey. Oxbow is a favorite way to spend a day no matter what the season (one winter we spent a sunny afternoon building snowmen by the cougar cage). The park is free to the public (though there is a fee to camp) and is open daily. The zoo and nature center are free to the public and are open. Oxbow Park also offers free, family-friendly programs throughout the year. Usually held on the weekends, visit our Calendar of Events to find out more.
ON THE FARM
Tweite’s Family Farm in Byron has become a tradition for many families. Every person who visits Tweite’s Family Farm has a favorite story and fond memories. It’s hard to believe all these cherished memories and fall fun grew from a small family business with a purpose to enrich the lives of all children and their families by providing wholesome family fun for the young and the young at heart. Please go to this link – “one picture is worth a thousand words.”
The Red Barn Learning Farm is a destination that your kids will talk about for months to come! Come climb in the silo, jump on the straw bales in the barn, cuddle with a farm kitty, drive our pedal tractors, pick your own vegetables, and visit our large variety of barnyard animals. We offer group tours for your organization, public hours for family fun, and use of our facilities for birthday parties/corporate events. Typically open April 1 through October 31.
Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch offers horseback riding, year round, for every level of rider. Trail rides are available with advance reservations. Call to make reservations and inquire about minimun age requirements. (If they don’t answer, leave a message – they will get back to you.) Ironwood also offers horseback riding lessons (one-time and ongoing).
Silver Lake Boat & Bike Rental in Silver Lake Park is on the west side of Silver Lake. Complete with 2-4 person electric paddle boats, canoes, kayaks, bikes for all ages and sizes, tandem bikes, 2-4 person 4 wheeled family bikes and mini golf. Typically open April through September.
Chester Woods Park is located on the headwaters of Bear Creek in the rugged bluff country of Southeastern Minnesota – east of Rochester, on US 14, in Eyota. The 52 unit (37 have electrical hookups) campground loops through a wooded area. Restrooms have showers. There is a sandy beach. All vehicles entering the park are required to display either an annual ($25/year) or daily ($5/day) entrance permit. Permits may be purchased at the park entrance. Chester Woods also offers family-friendly programs throughout the year. Usually held on the weekends, visit our Calendar of Events to find out more.
Whitewater State Park campers enjoy a sandy swimming beach (small enough to easily keep track of the kids), restrooms with showers, a year-round visitor center, easy-to-challenging hiking trails, a group camp, and a modern group center. Come winter, enjoy cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, or stay at the group center in rustic, winterized cabins. All vehicles entering the park are required to display either an annual ($25/year) or daily ($5/day) entrance permit. Permits may be purchased at the park entrance.
Oxbow Park campground is a semi-primitive area has 30 campsites available, running water, restrooms, and showers. The campground is part of the larger Oxbow Park (a unique 572 acre Olmsted County park facility). In addition to the campground, the park offers picnic areas, fishing, playground equipment, hiking trails, a nature center, and the Zollman Zoo (visit with the 30+ native MN animal species including bobcat, cougar, wolf, black bear, goats, and a really cute donkey). The park is free to the public (though there is a fee to camp) and is open daily. The zoo and nature center are free to the public and are open daily.
Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch has two campgrounds. There are 45 campsites available. They all have electricity available and water nearby. There is 20-50 amp service. There is no limit to the list of things to do for all ages. From wagon rides and trail rides, horseback riding to hiking, playing on the Rainbow play system, the two tennis courts, a basketball court, an indoor recreation center, and swimming. Call for reservations.
CITY PARKS/BIKE TRAILS
There are more than 100 city parks in Rochester. Wow! Various park amenities include: playgrounds (the biggest being that at the Silver Lake Park, our personal favorite being that at Slatterly Park — there’s a toddler jungle gym and a big kid jungle gym and you can easily view both from a park bench in the middle), picnic shelters (there are 14 that can be reserved/rented for your family/friend get together), baseball fields, softball fields, football fields, soccer fields, running track, basketball courts, tennis courts, sand volleyball courts, horseshoe courts, frisbee golf courses, archery range. Park maps are available for $1 at the Park & Recreation Department main office at City Hall.
Dust off your Burley — Rochester’s 60 miles of recreational bike/walking/running trails are bituminous or concrete surfaced and are available for pedestrian, bike, inline skate, wheelchair, and stroller use. Map brochures of the trails are available from the Park and Recreation Department in City Hall for $1.00. Things to remember on the trails: stay to the right; announce your presence when passing others; slow down for sharp curves; watch for hazards on or near the trail; and bring your water bottle.
Mystery Cave is located in Forestville State Park in Preston. Daily tours are available (days/times vary throughout the year). Tickets range from free to $7/person. A state park vehicle permit ($5/daily or $25/annual) is required. Reservations can be made in advance by contacting the state park reservation service.
Niagara Cave is one of the most fascinating and unique geological attractions in the Midwest. During the one-hour guided tour, visitors will witness a waterfall, nearly 60 feet high, stalactites both delicate and massive, calcite flowstone, fossils that have been dated to over 400 million years old, and a wedding chapel in which over 300 weddings have been performed, plus much more. Niagara cave is a constant 48 degrees year around, so a light jacket or sweatshirt is suggested. Walking shoes are recommended. We took our then 18-month old on the tour, and other than having to carry her most of the way, she did fine. If you’re planning to make a day out of the cave, note that there is an adjacent picnic area and a short nature trail. Give them a call or check out their website for ticket prices (ranging from free to $8.50+tax) and days/hours of operation (they vary throughout the year).
The City of Rochester has sites throughout the city where people may rent garden plots. The plots measure 20′ x 30′ and rent for $25.00 each. Reservations are taken at the Park and Recreation Department in person or by mailing in the fee after January 1st of each year.
Firefly Berries (formerly the Sterling Fruit Farm) is a pick-your-own fruit farm that specializes in strawberries, raspberries, currants and Concord grapes. Located five miles north of Rochester, they are typically open Monday through Saturday, June through October. However, hours may vary depending which fruit is in season. They highly recommend you call to confirm fruit availability BEFORE you get in your car and drive out. Email email@example.com to be added to their mailing list (and receive up-to-date info on berry availability and pricing).
Northwoods Orchards offers pick-your-own or pre-picked apples fresh from the orchard, two corn mazes, a wide assortment of fall ornamentals (including pumpkins), and the Back Forty Animal Area for up-close, hands-on farm animal interaction (feed the goats, see if the hen laid an egg, pet a bunny, visit the pig pen). Wagon Rides are offered as conditions permit.
Sekapp Orchard and Farms, the apple, berry, produce and pumpkin place, offers 30 varieties of apples, fresh garden produce, pumpkins (tons to choose from on display in their front yard), fall decorations, jams, maple syrup and honey. Sekapp’s is located one mile east of Rochester on County Road 9 (which is Collegeview Road).
Enjoy the festive fall family atmosphere at Apple Ridge Orchard. You will enjoy our Kid’s Corn Mazes, wagon rides, alpaca petting area, pick -your own apples, grapes and pumpkins. Apple Ridge Orchard, a short drive north of Rochester in Mazeppa. Caramel apples, apple pies, jams and prepicked apples are available.
Our Rochester Downtown Farmers’ Market has a fantastic selection of locally grown foods from our Southeastern Minnesota farmers and growers. Open every Saturday, 7:30 a.m. until noon, May to October, the Farmers’ Market offers a huge variety of vegetables, fruits, meats, breads, plants, and fresh cut flowers. Buy local, support your community! The Downtown Farmers’ Market also hosts a winter market. Held in Building 41 at the Olmsted County Fairgrounds from 9 a.m. to noon on select Saturday’s from November through April.
The Rochester Honkers are a college-level baseball team in the Northwoods League. The season runs May through August with home games played at Mayo Field in downtown Rochester. Haven’t been to a game? You’ve got to go. There’s Slider (the baseball-headed mascot), free giveaways (provided by sponsors at many games), and fun between-inning activities. Oh yeah, and there’s baseball. Check out their website for a schedule of games.
The Rochester Royals are a Minnesota Amateur Baseball Class B team. The team plays in the Southern Minny League. The season runs May through August with home games played at Mayo Field in downtown Rochester.
Rochester, Stewartville, St. Charles, and Kasson offer outdoor public pools. In addition to swimming, the pools offer a variety of options including diving boards, slides, rock climbing walls, zero depth pools, locker rooms, snack bars, birthday parties, and more. Click on each city to see when the pool opens for the season, pool hours, and pool rules.
ALL COMERS TRACK MEETS
The Rochester Track Club’s All Comer’s Track Meets are held on select Tuesdays during the summer. Visit their website for this year’s dates. The free races start at 6 p.m. and are held at Soldier’s Field Memorial Park. (You can park in the pool/golf course parking lot.) Age-based, for-fun (everyone gets a ribbon) races are held for kids ages 2 through high school. Events range from 50 meters to the mile.
Skyline Raceway offers go-karts, mini golf, and panning for emeralds, gemstones or fossils. Open in the summer. Go online for dates, times, and ticket information.
OUTDOOR WINTER FUN
There are two areas within the city that are designated sledding hills. There are no warming facilities available at these locations: Schmidt Park – 6300 blk 24 Avenue NW and Judd Park — 3rd Street & 36 Avenue NW.
Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch offers snow tubing for a $12 donation per person per session (discounts for groups of 80-100 people). 2 hours per session. Both large and small groups should be scheduled by calling 533-4315 to ensure a snow tubing time (times will vary from week to week). Ironwood Springs provides the tubes (do not bring your own), warming house, towrope, and lights. You are welcome to bring snacks, hot cocoa mix, cups, and dry clothes!
Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch offers horse-drawn sleigh rides. The sleigh can comfortably hold 20 adults or up to 25 people with children. A quaint 50-minute ride through the woods and along the Root River is a memorable experience. Price starts at $120. Call for reservations.
The Park and Recreation Department maintains outdoor hockey and public skating rinks and warming sheds throughout the city. Check out their website for a complete list of rinks and locations.
Quarry Hill Nature Center offers cross-country ski and snowshoe rentals. Rental availability based on snow conditions. Plenty of great family-friendly trails available.
Classic cross-country ski gear and snowshoes available for rent at Oxbow Park’s Zollman Zoo. Rental of cross-country skis for $5 and snow shoes for $3 between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Welch Village offers downhill skiing and snowboarding opportunities (including lessons) for all ages and abilities. Located in Welch, Minnesota about an hour from Rochester. Welch Village is where the middle school and high school ski clubs ski/snowboard.
Coffee Mill Ski & Snowboard Resort offers downhill skiing and snowboarding opportunities (including lessons) for all ages and abilities. Located in Welch, Minnesota about an hour from Rochester. Coffee Mill is where the elementary school ski clubs ski/snowboard.