Guide to Thursdays on First & Third in Rochester MN

This post is sponsored by Experience Rochester MN

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photo by: ab-photography.us

 

Now that we have officially entered the summer season in Rochester MN, it means the return of one of our most beloved local outdoor festivals – Thursdays on First & 3rd! This outdoor street festival occurs in downtown Rochester MN every Thursday throughout the summer (June 7th – August 30th) from 11:00 AM – 8:30 PM.  There is so much to see and do: this expansive food, drink, craft, and artisan market stretches several city blocks on First Avenue SW near Third Street SW all the way to Center Street just past the Peace Plaza.

It seems the entirety of Rochester loves to come together at Thursdays on First & 3rd…it’s a place to celebrate all things summer!  It’s hard to not feel a sense of camaraderie when you are there.  Rochester MN residents are proud of our city and this festival really celebrates our close-knit community.

Started over a decade ago by Rochester Downtown Alliance to bring vibrancy to the downtown Rochester MN area, Thursdays on First & 3rd features over 100 food stands, restaurants, crafters, artisans, and other assorted businesses.  There is something to see and do for everyone.  And did we mention the live music?  With two stages and several times throughout the day scheduled for different bands to play, you’ll never miss a chance to sit and listen or dance your heart out (if that’s your thing) to some great tunes…many from local musicians and bands!

Here are some helpful tips if you’re looking to head to

Thursdays on First & 3rd this summer!

Parking

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The map above is aerial perspective of the downtown, Rochester MN area. The red lines represent the streets and plaza where Thursdays on First & 3rd is held.  The blue areas on the map are parking ramp options that are close to the festival. A few notes about parking:

  • Parking in ramps downtown is an easy, convenient and affordable way to visit downtown. 
  • If you use one of the ramps after 5:00 PM, parking is FREE (until 2:30 AM) in all ramps downtown. (This pertains to street parking as well: free after 5:00 PM!)
  • There is also FREE parking in many ramps if you are in and out in under an hour.  This is true for all of the above ramps in blue except the lower left hand corner ramp on First Avenue SW.  {INSIDER TIP} This means that you could arrive at 4:00 PM and use up one hour of free parking and then not pay at all after 5:00 PM!
  • While ramp parking is abundant, during Thursdays on First and 3rd it can fill up quickly.  Don’t forget about neighborhood and street parking (particularly to the south/southwest of the festival area). If you are up for a short walk, there is often easy and plentiful parking further away from the event. Please be sure to observe any posted parking signs!

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Eating

One of the best parts of Thursdays on First and 3rd is the variety of food choices!! From gelato to tacos, burgers to beer, pad thai to popcorn…you’re going to find something there that you want to eat.  We promise!  Keep these things in mind when you are planning to eat at Thursdays on First and 3rd:

  • Food vendors are essentially grouped into two areas of the festival: at the south end of 1st Avenue near Third Street as well as on or near the Peace Plaza.  
  • After 5:00 PM the south end of the festival can get really congested and full with people as everyone is hoping to enjoy happy hour or dinner with family and friends.  
  • If you are planning to eat downtown with small children or a large group consider visiting at a non-peak time (before or after the lunch-hour and mid-afternoons tend to see less traffic). 
  • While there are plenty of places to sit at Thursdays on First & 3rd, spots are at a premium at peak times!  Consider a non-traditional place to eat your food.  {INSIDER TIP} Some of our favorite places to sit and eat are the steps of the Old Courthouse between Hefe Rojo and Third Street and the grass of the Peace Plaza.  Bring your picnic blanket and you’re good to go! 

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Entertainment

In addition to so much to eat, there is so much to see and do at Thursdays on First and 3rd!  There are two main stages where you can hear music at different times of day: the Bremer Bank stage by 1st Avenue and Third Street and the Rochester International Airport stage on the west end of the Peace Plaza near the Kahler Hotel and Gonda Building.  (The  stages are represented on the map above by the green dots.)

  • Talent is featured from 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM and 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM on both stages.  There is all different kinds of genres, musicians, acts and ages represented! 
  • Both stages have seating right in front.  If you want to ensure a seat, be there early!  {INSIDER TIP} Keep in mind that the music is pretty loud right up front, so if you have young children along, you might want to sit further back.

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Rochester MN Moms Blog LOVES Thursdays on First and 3rd and have been attending this fun festival every year since the beginning.  Many of us have become parents in that time and we’ve learned a few tips and tricks along the way! Here are some ideas to keep in the back of your mind to make your time the most fun:

  • If you have young kids with you, be sure to use the restroom before you get to street level.  There are portable restrooms in a few spots, but they can be tricky to navigate with kids.
  • If you are pushing a stroller, it will be difficult to do so at peak times.  The busier areas near the Bremer Bank stage is standing room only with very little walking space around dinner and up to 8 PM. Consider visiting at a non-peak time for easier stroller pushing!
  • Bring along a lot of wet-wipes for easy clean-up.  No one wants stick ketchup hands the whole time you’re there!
  • The Rochester International Airport stage near the Kahler hotel is almost always in some sort of shade.  Consider grabbing food and staking your spot at the seating there prior to catching your favorite live musician!
  • The Peace Plaza fountain is a great place to burn off steam for young kids.  Grab a snack and head to the fountain and let them splash and play.  Bring a towel and a change of clothes for the car ride home.

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ENJOY! Thursdays on First and 3rd is one of our favorite things to do in Rochester MN in the summer.  We hope you love it as much as we do!

 

 

 

 

 

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