The Flower City’s Most Famous Festival
Here in Rochester, New York, also known as Festival City USA, we have a few spectacular, world-renowned festivals. The summer-spanning festival season officially starts with The Lilac Festival, the dates for which are May 10th through 19th this year. The Rochester Lilac Festival is a 10-day family-oriented event which transforms Highland Park, with its 20 acres of manicured gardens housing the largest collection of lilacs in the United States. The largest festival of its kind in North America, this event draws spectators from all over the globe to take in attractions that celebrate the flowers and extend far beyond them.
A Flower Fanatic’s Fantasyland
For lovers of Spring blooms, it doesn’t get much better than this. The Lilac Festival is a rare opportunity to experience the incredible beauty and intense fragrance of more than 500 varieties of lilacs on 1200 plants. The always surprising hand-planted pansy bed features 10,000 plants arranged in a delightful new design each year. Visitors can wander among 700 varieties of showy rhododendrons and azaleas, The pinetum boasts 300 species and varieties of conifers from the United States and around the world. Visitors to the park throughout the spring also enjoy the Japanese maple collection, 35 varieties of sweet-smelling magnolias, the tulip garden, and much, much more.
Beyond the Gardens
Admission to the festival is free, so visitors may enjoy days of wandering in wonder. All that walking, however, is sure to inspire hunger, thirst, and the need to rest. Fortunately, the festival grounds are packed with local artisans and vendors, kids’ activities, food tents, and buskers. The schedule includes Art in the Park on weekends, Garden Battles, the Lilac Run & Dunkin’ Dash, Seniors Day, and much more. There’s free live music throughout nearly every day of the festival, with a headliner at 5:30 or 7 pm each evening. Music is free, but for a special treat, consider a VIP day pass which gets you “The Ultimate Experience.” For $35, you get access to the front of the stage, plus a private tent, lounge area, private bathrooms, cash bar, a chair massage, a free drink, and more. Here’s the 2019 entertainment schedule.
Every festival needs a parade.
One much-loved festival tradition is the Lilac Parade, taking place this year on Saturday, May 11th at 10:30 am. The parade travels north on South Ave from Science Parkway to Highland Avenue and ends at the corner of Highland Avenue and Goodman Street. The parade boasts over 2,500 participants each year and includes marching bands and all sorts of local organizations. Bleacher seating is available to view the parade near the bandstand. The parade is also televised live to the local market on Spectrum News.
Veteran festival attendees recommend that you bring a small chair or blanket to sit on and remember to leave your one carry-in bottle of water sealed before entering the park. You should be aware that no pets are allowed on festival grounds. Young visitors and their parents should know that the new Parental Escort Program may impact them. Children 16 and under will not be admitted unless escorted by a parent, legal guardian or responsible adult. Anyone appearing to be under 17 years of age who is not with a parental escort may be asked to show ID. Get more details on this and other policies on the festival website.