Rochester Lilac Festival Basics

Each year, we try to tell you something you don’t know about Rochester’s fabulous Lilac Festival. This time, we’re going back to basics and sharing the vital info with those who have yet to explore the festival firsthand. 

For the Uninitiated

Here in Rochester, New York, the world-renowned, summer-spanning festival season officially starts with The Lilac Festival, the dates for which are May 10th through 19th this year. The Rochester Lilac Festival is a 10-day family-oriented event that takes over Highland Park, with its 20 acres of manicured gardens housing the largest collection of lilacs in the country. The largest festival of its kind in North America, this event draws spectators from all over the globe to take in attractions that celebrate the flowers and extend far beyond them.

It’s free. But bring cash.

Admission to the festival is free, which is great for those who want to visit more than once. That said, the park is packed with places to spend your money: local artisans and vendors, kids’ activities, food tents, and buskers. So bring your wallet to support local artists and get a big bag of kettle corn (or lilac flavored anything). There’s free live music throughout nearly every day of the festival, with a headliner at 5:30 or 7 pm each evening. Music is free, but for a special treat, consider a VIP day pass which gets you “The Ultimate Experience.” For $35, you get access to the front of the stage, plus a private tent, lounge area, private bathrooms, cash bar, a chair massage, a free drink, and more. Here’s the 2019 music lineup. 

We love a parade.

One much-loved festival tradition is the Lilac Parade, taking place this year on Saturday, May 11th at 10:30 am. The parade travels north on South Ave from Science Parkway to Highland Avenue and ends at the corner of Highland Avenue and Goodman Street. The parade boasts over 2,500 participants each year and includes marching bands and all sorts of local organizations. Bleacher seating is available to view the parade near the bandstand. The parade is also televised live to the local market on Spectrum News.

Cheers to beer.

Another featured event this year is the 5th Annual Craft Beer Expo. It’s an opportunity to sample some of the best micro-brews from New York State’s surging $5 Billion craft beer industry. With beer, cider, and craft spirit tastings, there’s something for everyone. Tickets to the Craft Beer Expo are available for two sessions: noon to 4 pm and 4:40 to 8:30. General admission tickets are $35 in advance or $43 at the gate. There is also a $10 ticket option for designated drivers who are there to sample the experience only.

Festival Tips

Veteran festival attendees recommend that you bring a small chair or blanket to sit on and remember to leave your one carry-in bottle of water sealed before entering the park. You should be aware that no pets are allowed on festival grounds. Young visitors and their parents should know that the new Parental Escort Program may impact them. Children 16 and under will not be admitted unless escorted by a parent, legal guardian or responsible adult. Anyone appearing to be under 17 years of age who is not with a parental escort may be asked to show ID. Get more details on this and other policies on the festival website.

More in Store

We hope this is enough information to get you down to Highland Park. With ten days packed with activities, we can’t possibly tell you everything about the Rochester Lilac Festival. There’s Art in the Park on weekends, Garden Battles, the Lilac Run & Dunkin’ Dash, Seniors Day, and so much more. To find your favorites, you’ll just have to explore the festival in person!