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Why Rochester, MN is a Top 100 Best Place to Live

The home of the famed Mayo Clinic – and much more.

By Emma Smith on September 1, 2022

Rochester has its work cut out for it. Its anchor institution, the famed Mayo Clinic medical campus, has been expanding. In the next 20 years, fueled by $6 billion in development from public and private sources, the Destination Medical Center has formed and will continue to grow, an initiative intended to make Rochester a center of health and wellness beyond just Mayo. According to former Mayor Ardell Brede, this initiative could lead to 40,000 new jobs and as many as 100,000 new residents. 

The Mayo Clinic has, in many ways, defined Rochester. It draws 2 million people each year to this town of nearly 120,000 from all over the globe, many patients and their loved ones who stay for extended periods of time. The influx of people to Rochester for medical treatment has resulted in economic and cultural growth for the city. Top employers in Rochester include Mayo Clinic, which employs over 30,000, and IBM’s Rochester campus, with more than 2,000 workers in research and development. 

The Mayo Clinic is such an economic powerhouse that it means Rochester has an economy, tourism, culture and amenities that are out of scale for a town its size. It also means that the city of just more than 100,000 residents is only an hour-or-so drive from Minneapolis–St. Paul has its own international airport. Downtown Rochester in particular, is bustling with restaurants, shops, and seasonal events. 

“It seems that every restaurant has put a table or two outside, even if they hardly have room,” Mayor Brede says.

Thursdays Downtown, a weekly gathering with live bands, food booths, crafts and vendors, is a staple of the Rochester summers. Since its inception, the event continues to draw up to 20,000 people into the downtown on summer evenings. Another fun summer event for the whole family is on Saturday, weekly Games on the Grass in Central Park, with board and lawn games. 

“It’s a happening place,” Mayor Brede says. “We’re looking at how we can expand that in other areas of the city.”

For those with an eye for the finer things in life, Rochester is full of artistic and cultural pursuits. The city boasts numerous art galleries and theaters. If you enjoy classical music, take in the Rochester Pops Orchestra or the Rochester Symphony, just two of the city’s many amateur and professional music groups. For a daytime excursion, the wine-lovers can explore up to eleven wineries in and around the Rochester area. 

Rochester’s local history lovers can learn how this city has grown, and from whence it came. The History Center of Olmsted County helps recount how the town functioned before it came to be a medical mecca and tells the story of the Mayo family and the generations of doctors among them who gave the clinic its name and put the city on the map. To learn more about the Mayo family, visit the historic Mayowood Mansion

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