Flowers, race days, craft beers and more: the 2018 Rochester Lilac Festival


It may be winter right now throughout the United States – and, indeed, the wider western world – but, don’t worry, it’s not going to last forever; even if it feels like it’ll never end! After all, in just three short months’ time, just as it does every year, the largest free festival of its kind anywhere in North America will be descending on the city of Rochester’s Highland Park, in the shape of the Rochester Lilac Festival (11th-20th May).

And, although it may have its origins in a showcase of the park’s highly impressive collection of lilac flowers, today the event’s grown to become so very much more. In fact, this year as it celebrates its 120th anniversary, its 10-day-duration looks set to be jam-packed full of daytime and evening festivities – everything from fine art participation to a craft beer expo and live music concerts to the festival’s famous day of 5k and 10k races.

So, in more detail, should you be thinking of taking a short-break this May at one of the luxury hotels in Rochester, what can you look forward to at the Lilac Festival…?

Art in the Park

(Friday 12th, Saturday 13th, Friday 19th and Saturday 20th May)


Held in an elegant street adjacent to the main lilac gardens themselves (so ideal for visual inspiration, as you might well imagine!) and with its location closed save for participating artists during ‘set-up’ and ‘tear-down’, this popular event sees respected local artists – attending via invitation only; although anybody’s welcome to submit their work to the expert panel that selects participants – create in situ a fine blend of artworks and crafts; although there’s a no-vending policy.

Craft Beer Expo

(Friday 19th May)

craft beer

A relatively recent addition to the festival’s line-up (2018 being only its fifth year), the Craft Beer Expo has, nonetheless, quickly established itself as a firm favourite with attendees – whether locals or those from out of town staying at hotel suites Rochester NY. As you may have guessed, it gives visitors the chance to sample and discover the output of some of the best regional micro-breweries, craft cider companies and spirits producers around, as well as the chance to meet and chat with the brewers themselves. And by purchasing a VIP ticket to the expo, you can tuck into and taste exclusive special releases a full hour before the hordes of other visitors get the chance!

Lilac Run

(Saturday 20th May)


Established nearly 40 years ago now, the festival’s race day remains one of its undisputed highlights. Featuring a 10k run, a 5k run and a much shorter ‘DD Dash’, its course takes in Highland Park’s rolling hills before entering the residential town of Brighton and ending up back in the park for the finish. The course is certified by USA Track & Field (USATF) and a percentage of the proceeds generated on the day will be donated to the local Willow Domestic Violence Center.

Live music

(Friday 12th-Sunday 21st May)


Running throughout the festival and playing Sahlen’s Center Stage most afternoons and evenings – and non-ticketed, thus free for all visitors – will be some of the best national touring acts and rising stars in the country today. Artists are yet to confirmed for this year, but 2017’s line-up included the likes of Brooklyn powerfunkers Turkuaz; beautifully voiced soul-diva-in-waiting Kat Wright; platinum-album-selling Pittsburgh rock outfit Rusted Root and renowned West Coast pop-cum-garage-rock throwbacks The Mowgli’s.