Holiday Fun & Dining Options in Downtown Rochester

By: Toni Cunningham | November 17, 2014

If you’re an avid “In the D” reader, you’re familiar with our downtown series, where we feature a different area and highlight the great food, businesses and people each place has to offer. This time around, the star of the show is Downtown Rochester!

With over 350 stores, restaurants and businesses, 85 percent of which are independent and locally owned, Downtown Rochester is a great place to be any time of the year. It’s an even better city to hang out in around the holidays because of all the festivities going on! Here are a few things you can add to your calendar over the next few weeks:

The Downtown Rochester Holiday Expo takes place today, Monday, Nov. 17, at the Royal Park Hotel. From 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., kickstart the holidays with over 30 local businesses, each of which will be showing off what they have to offer. It’s free to attend, and you’ll have the opportunity to take a peek at the goods and services of downtown businesses like Fieldstone Winery, Moon River Soap Company, Final Touch Designs, Modern Art Jewelers and more.

A few days later, it’s time for the Downtown Rochester Festival of Trees! Held at the Rochester Community House on Saturday, Nov. 22 and Sunday, Nov. 23, this premiere event will feature nearly 100 holiday decorations, including decorated trees, centerpieces, and wreaths. They’ve all been decked out and created by local businesses, families and schools, and they’re all for sale!

Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Both days, bring your kids to meet Santa Claus from noon to 5 p.m., where they can also enjoy crafts. Admission costs $5 and children under the age of 10 are admitted for free.

Perhaps the most astounding aspect of the holiday season in downtown Rochester is the Big, Bright Light Show. It debuts on Monday, Nov. 24, when over one million lights illuminate the entire street beginning at 7 p.m. The light show will be lit every night through the beginning of January from 5 p.m. to midnight, so you can enjoy the show all season long!

Later, during the first week of December, is the Kris Kringle Market. Head to the corner of W. 4th Street and Main Street on Friday, Dec. 5 and Saturday, Dec. 6 for an open-air holiday market! You’ll be able to get a large majority of your holiday shopping done here, as specialty gifts and food will be available for purchase. The 21 and up crowd will be able to indulge in hot spiced beverages from local Fieldstone Winery or a brew from Rochester Mills Beer Co. in the warming tent provided.

If you find yourself in Downtown Rochester on an upcoming Friday night, and you should, be sure to head to E. 4th Street and Main Street, where you can take advantage of a carriage ride! Rides cost $15 to $20 and are first come first serve. Keep an eye out on Friday, Nov. 28, and Friday, Dec. 5, 12 and 19.

While you’re out and about enjoying all of this holiday joy in Downtown Rochester, you’re obviously going to work up an appetite. If and when that occurs, take your happy holiday self to one of the following restaurants for a relaxing meal:

Kruse & Muer on Main, 327 S. Main St., Rochester, is a quality restaurant with vast lunch, dinner, carry out and gluten free menus. Start off with some Chop House Crabcakes (made with Maryland lump crabmeat and roasted red pepper ruie) or Flash Fried Calamari, followed by an entrée of Michigan Fettuccine (grilled chicken with mushrooms, green beans, walnuts, Traverse City cherries and brandy-Dijon cream) or Twin Filets Marsala (served with fresh mushrooms and buttered mashed potatoes).

There’s plenty of variety on the Kruser Kids menu, so it’s a great place to continue the family outing in Downtown Rochester!

Penny Black Grill & Tap, 124 W. 4th St., Rochester, has nearly 30 taps in the joint and plenty of made from scratch dishes. The Fried Pickles, served with remoulade sauce, and Dip Trio (of hot beer queso, guacamole and salsa) are great app choices.

Gourmet burgers, sandwiches, pizza and salads are all on the menu, but you’ll want to make sure to save room for dessert. The Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownie a la Mode (a fudge caramel brownie with a pretzel crust served with vanilla ice cream) and Yates Donut Bread Pudding (served with maple crème anglaise) are two perfect ways to end the meal.

Rochester Mills Beer Co., 400 Water St., Rochester, has been around for 16 years and features a menu full of pizza, pasta, entrees, sandwiches and more. But really, let’s talk about the beer: year-round varieties include the Milkshake Stout, Rochester Red, Cornerstone IPA and Lazy Daze Amber Lager. If, like me, the Milkshake Stout caught your eye, you’ll want to try this sweeter-than-usual-stout, with four different malts and low hoppiness.

Don’t forget a brick oven pizza! The Thai Chicken (with spicy Thai sauce, chicken, green onions, shredded carrots, Mozzarella cheese, bean sprouts and peanuts) and Vegetarian (with artichoke hearts, onions, mushrooms, peppers and Mozzarella cheese) are crowd pleasers.

Downtown Rochester has plenty of fun to offer for the whole family, especially this time of year. You don’t want to miss out on any of the holiday events taking place in the city over the next few weeks. Get out there and enjoy the lights!