- The Rochester Lilac Festival is a must for flower lovers who can't wait for the world to be in bloom again.
- The festival also features music, food, wine, a parade, and more!
The website SmarterTravel has named Rochester, New York one of the top nine cities to visit in the U.S. for 2020. It is not just its small-city charm that makes the five-hour drive Montreal spring road-trip worthy, it's also its plethora of year-round events and festivals. So many, many festivals to choose from. Rochester may not be the first place that pops into your head when planning an over the border trip away, but if you are itching to celebrate the first heralds of spring then look no further than the largest North American festival of its kind, the Rochester Lilac Festival.
This world-famous festival makes other festivals hang their collective heads in shame. Not only is it the largest display of lilacs in North America, with over 500 stunning lilac varieties, there are also non-stop festivities that go along with your Instagram pit stops.
Held every year in May for 10 incredible days and nights, the Lilac Festival unites food, art, drinks, music, marathons, a parade, and an overall love of beauty.
And the cherry on top of this already red and delicious event is that it is free.
For the hardcore festival-goers, you can purchase tickets for the Party Lounge (US$15 a day), which includes upgraded facilities, better views of the stage, and a cash bar. Or really ramp up the experience with the VIP ULTRA package (US$40 a day) that gives you a free drink, massage chair, food, plus front and backstage access.
This year's festival runs from May 8 to May 17, so there is plenty of time to plan your schedule. But with so much to do, you may want to start now.
Each weekend kicks off with Art in the Park where you can check out hand-picked local artisans showing off their creations. Or, you could even apply to be a part of it! It's a strict jury of who is deemed booth worthy, but worth a try nonetheless.
The 2020 lineup for the musical headliners has yet to be released, but get ready to hear some of the best local and regional bands.
When you need some nourishment, head over to one of 34 food trucks and kiosks serving up the most heart-attack inducing festival food that one could want.
While you can hang out all day without spending a penny, some of the ticketed events look worth the price of admission. There is a wine tasting expo (starts at US$18) and also a craft beer expo where you can sample regional alcohols. There are also bite-sized foods available and for purchase.
Want to burn off all that food and wine? Sign up for one of the 5k or 10k races (US$28).
There is a reason Rochester is known as The Flower City. Yes, there is enough going on at this festival to keep you busy, satiated and smiling for days, but the star of the show is really seeing the gardens and mass amount of lilacs in full bloom.
Rochester Lilac Festival
When: Friday, May 8 — Sunday, May 17; 10:30 a.m. — 8:30 p.m.
Where: Highland Park; Rochester, New York
Cost: Free (with ticked options available)