The Rochester Lilac Festival is the largest 10-day free festival of its kind in North America. The more than 500,000 visitors who attend the festival each year not only get to experience over 500 varieties of lilacs, and all the natural beauty of Highland Park, but also live music, incredible food, and drinks, as well as fun for the entire family. Here are 10 things you won't want to miss at the 120th Annual Lilac Festival this May 11-20, 2018.
Annual Lilac Parade- May 12 @ 10:30 a.m.
More than 2,500 participants, including 20 marching bands, dancers, costumed characters, and the popular Damascus mini cars are what makes parade day one of the most special times at the Rochester Lilac Festival.
Art In The Park- Weekends Only
Art in the Park takes place along Reservoir Avenue, a shaded street adjacent to the lilac gardens and the main festival site on May 12, May 13, May 19, May 20. Shop with more than 160 artists, makers, designers, and craftspeople to discover unique pieces from across a variety of media including ceramics, drawings, graphics, fiber, glass, jewelry, sculpture, wood and mixed media along with specialty packaged foods and body care products. Don’t forget to pick up official festival merchandise like the official 2018 Rochester Lilac Festival Poster!
Comedy With Orny Adams- May 16
Get ready to laugh in the park at the Orny Adams Live Comedy Show presented by Comedy @ The Carlson. The comedy show starts at 7:00 p.m. with a celebrity bartending fundraiser happening before the show. A portion of proceeds to benefit Flower City Habitat for Humanity Women Build.
The Rochester Lilac Festival is a family event full of fun activities for visitors of all ages. See family-friendly performances at the kid's stage including this year's special guest Clifford The Big Red Dog. Kids will also enjoy festival rides and bounce houses.
There are four locations to find a variety of yummy festival foods, including the Big Top Food tent, the Lilac Loop, the Top of the Hill and the Overlook (weekends); as well as additional snack vendors throughout the festival. Visitors won’t want to miss the chance to taste local, regional favorites such as Abbott’s Frozen Custard, Red Osier Roast Beef Sandwiches, and of course Nick Tahou Garbage Plates. Rochester food trucks bring exciting new taste combinations like Stingray Sushi Fusion’s mix of Japanese and Latin flavors, or Le Petit Poutine, freshly made fries covered in cheese curds and gravy. And, don't miss out on festival classics, including Candy Apples, CinnaRoasted Almonds, Cotton Candy, Deep Fried Candy Bars & Oreos, Fried Dough, Funnel Cakes, Kettle Korn, Soft Pretzels.
Garden Battles- May 12
This fast-paced charitable contest was inspired by popular reality-based competitions and serves as free family entertainment that tests the gardening skills of local media celebrities. Watch as local Rochesterians including Scott Hetsko, Mark McLean, James Gilbert, Jeanie McBride, John DiTullio, Deanna King, Sarah Taddeo, Will Cleveland, Gary the Happy Pirate, and Deb Ross compete as teams to create beautiful gardenscapes with the help of a master horticulturist. Visitors will vote for their favorite garden. The 1st place winner will receive $1,000 for the local charity of their choice.
Wine Tasting Expo- May 12
The Wine Tasting Expo at the Rochester Lilac Festival is an escalation of the traditional tasting event and designed for those who crave regional, artisanal, and specialty release selections.
Bloody Mary Expo-May 13
New this year, the Bloody Mary Expo will have local bars and restaurants duking it out creating the best blood marys using vodka from Rochester-based Black Button Distilling.
Craft Beer Expo- May 19
The 5th Annual Craft Beer Expo has something for everyone featuring beer, cider, and crafted spirit tastings from the newest breweries and specialty release selections.
Happy Hour- Weekdays, 10:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m
Save $1 off all beer and cider during the Rochester Lilac Festival's Happy Hour, which is 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on weekdays.
Lilacs & Gardens
There are over 500 varieties of lilacs at Highland Park in Rochester, N.Y. Each has a unique color and look, and they all smell amazing. The fragrance wafting throughout the park is heavenly. Bring your camera for incredible up close pictures of these gorgeous flowers, as the Lilac Festival is a top spot for Instagram photos. More than just lilacs, visitors will also enjoy tulips, the pansy bed, and the Lamberton Conservatory featuring plants from all over the world.
Rochester Lilac Festival has a wide variety of free concerts, with more than 80 musical acts during the 10-day Festival. Visitors are sure to find something the whole family can enjoy. Major performances at this year’s event include: The Devil Makes Three, Al Copely Band, Quinn Sullivan, Parsonfield, Zac Brown Tribute Band, The Record Company, Third World, Starship featuring Mickey Thomas, Uprooted Ft. Michael Glabicki of Rusted Root, Smooth Hound Smith, The Wood Brothers, The Medicinals, Driftwood, and Big Eyed Phish.
Race Day- May 20
More than 3,000 runners from across the region take to Highland Park every spring for the annual Lilac Run, a tradition that has endured nearly 40 years. Participants can choose to run a 5K, 10K, or the Dunkin’ Donuts Dash--a fun half mile sprint down Highland Avenue to eat Munchkins™ and then dash back to the start. For the second year in a row, a portion of the proceeds will benefit a local charity – Willow Domestic Violence Center.
For more information on the Rochester Lilac Festival visit the official festival website. And, don't forget to share your photos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #VisitROC and #LilacFest!
Photo Credit: Andy Buscemi