Rochester at a Glance
Location: Southeast Minnesota
Access: Rochester International Airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
Hotel rooms: 6,250
Mayo Civic Center
Built: First opened its doors in 1939; a significant expansion was completed in 2017
Multi-use space: 200,000 square feet
Exhibit Space: 66,010 square feet
The Kahler Grand Hotel
Guest rooms: 597
Meeting space: 20,000 square feet
Hilton Rochester Mayo Clinic Area
Guest rooms: 264
Meeting space: 20,140 square feet
Marriott Rochester Mayo Clinic Area
Guest rooms: 202
Meeting space: 12,257 square feet
Who’s Meeting in Rochester:
American Holistic Nurses Association
Minnesota Assemblies of God
With a culture that prioritizes care and innovation, Rochester, Minnesota, exudes friendly Midwestern hospitality.
In 1919, the distinguished Mayo Clinic, originally a family practice on the Minnesota frontier, was established as a not-for-profit organization dedicated to excellence in patient care, research and education. As a result, a flourishing hospitality mindset has become the heartbeat of this community.
Downtown Rochester’s breadth of amenities supports the influx of visitors to Mayo’s global headquarters and its growing reputation as a meeting destination. A climate-controlled pedestrian skyway and underground subway system provide easy access to hotels, entertainment, locally owned restaurants and shops, as well as the Mayo Civic Center. Public art installations showcase sculptures, murals and unique doorways.
“Our dining scene is evolving quickly here, with cuisine from all over the world and restaurants with great ambiance,” said Joe Ward, president of Experience Rochester and Mayo Civic Center. “In the downtown convention district alone, we have more than 50 restaurants.”
Live entertainment at Mayo Civic Center includes everything from country music to comedians to musicals. Under one roof and overlooking the Zumbro River, the Rochester Civic Theatre and Rochester Art Center offer theatrical productions and rotating exhibitions by local, regional and international artists.
“Most cities of this size don’t have the infrastructure that we do,” said Ward. “We have a large metropolitan feel, and our hospitality dovetails with that. We’re in the center of so much happening in our nation due to the Mayo Clinic. Ingrained in our culture is a sense of looking out for people’s special needs and celebrating the diversity of our visitors.”
Near downtown, Minnesota’s outdoors beckons at Silver Lake. Electric paddle boats, bikes, kayaks and canoes for rent allow exploration of the forested paths, lake or river. Close by, the 329-acre Quarry Hill Nature Center offers hiking and biking trails, a limestone fossil quarry and historic sandstone caves. Come winter, rentals for cross-country skis or snowshoes invite adventure on eight miles of groomed trails.
Major Meeting Spaces
Rochester’s primary meeting venue, Mayo Civic Center, is within walking distance of 2,400 hotel rooms. An extensive 2017 expansion and renovation increased the civic center’s capacity to nearly 200,000 available square feet of multi-use space, including 66,010 square feet of exhibit space and 20 meeting rooms. Housing the state’s largest ballroom, it accommodates more than 4,000 guests under its soaring 32-foot ceiling. The center’s exclusive caterer, OVG 360, often teams up with other vendors to provide local flavor and flair.
Additional spaces within the civic center include the 25,000-square-foot arena, a 15,810-square-foot auditorium with a permanent stage and the Charles H. Mayo Presentation Hall, providing 1,084 theater-style seats. Attached to the civic center, Rochester Art Center makes the perfect spot for a reception. To the east along the Zumbro River, 11-acre Mayo Park and the Riverfront Plaza provide scenic event options.
Directly across from the Mayo Clinic, the iconic Kahler Grand Hotel opened in 1921 and has hosted U.S. presidents and foreign dignitaries. This 597-room property underwent extensive renovations in 2020. Its 20,000 square feet of event space in 14 flexible venues includes executive boardrooms and elegant ballrooms.
Also downtown the 264-room Hilton Rochester Mayo Clinic Area offers 20,140 square feet of flexible space, nine meeting rooms and two ballrooms. The fifth-floor rooftop terrace affords panoramic city views. Across from Peace Plaza, the Marriott Rochester Mayo Clinic Area offers 202 rooms, 12,257 square feet of event space and six meeting rooms accommodating up to 300 guests.
Nestled on 3,300-acres, Mayowood Historic Home touts 23,000 square feet of event space in 38 rooms. Built in 1910 by Charlie and Edith Mayo, the mansion is surrounded by a grand terrace overlooking the Zumbro River, along with picturesque botanical gardens and an oriental tea house. Indoors, family artifacts tell the story of the Mayos’ world travels and how they hosted the community and celebrity VIPs.
Adjacent to Peace Plaza, an eye-catching sunburst marquee alludes to the uniqueness of the historic Chateau Theatre’s castle-like interior. Opened in 1927 as a Vaudeville house, it has played a vital role in the community over the past 90 years. Currently, it’s available for meetings, luncheons, concerts or receptions. It can accommodate 390 attendees for standing-room events, 300 for theater-style seating and 250 guests for banquets.
Wellness experiences of all kinds can be designed at Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center. The center offers fully customizable group wellness activities from cooking classes to yoga to interactive sports medicine experiences. The Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program provides conference rooms, connectivity, meals, snacks and logistical support.
“Rochester Art Center’s grand lobby is also a choice venue for receptions because it’s private with large windows overlooking the river,” said Ward. “Upstairs are galleries that guests can enjoy, or they can be used for a custom team-building programs.”
After the Meeting
The Rochester Trolley and Tour Co. offers private group transportation for special events and a variety of tours. Rochester and Mayo Clinic tours highlight important sites, historic buildings and fun facts about famous people who have visited the area. Additional options include a microbrew or winery tour and autumn’s haunted Rochester tour.
At Bitter and Pour on historic Third Street downtown, guests experience a subterranean hideaway with a speakeasy ambiance. Leather and wood decor give this spot a cozy and stylish vibe. Detail-obsessive cocktails, impeccable wine and craft beers are the norm.
“We get many comments from visitors who think it’s as cool as any speakeasy in the nation,” said Ward. “Alongside the menu, their mixologist creates drinks on the spot after asking about your preferences.”
Serenity in the heart of downtown is found at Peace Plaza, which features notable public art. Peace Fountain,” stands 12 feet high and contains 57 life-sized interlocked bronze doves by local sculptor Charles Gagnon. Wakefield emits fog and light after every birth and death at Mayo Clinic. Fans of Peace Plaza can head to Gagnon’s home. His widow gives tours of their home and studio, and the surrounding grounds display an extensive collection of Gagnon’s bronze sculptures.
“For a quirky photo op, the Ear of Corn Water Tower is a beloved landmark,” said Ward. “It stands 151 feet tall and has gone viral on TikTok.”