ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Between the food, music, and of course, the lilacs, there's no shortage of things to do during the 10-day festival. Here's a look at some of the top things to consider when planning your trip to Highland Park for the Lilac Festival:
1) Jam Out — Aside from the lilacs, the main attraction of the festival is the music. More than 80 musical acts from a wide range of genres will perform free shows during the 10-day run. Major performances this year include The Devil Makes Three, Quinn Sullivan, the Record Company, the Wood Brothers, Big Eyed Fish, The Zach Brown Tribute Band and many more local and national-touring artists. Visitors are sure to find something the whole family can enjoy.
2) Be a VIP — For the first time, the Lilac Festival is introducing the VIP Ultra Lounge. These special tickets offer an upgraded viewing experience from the traditional free general admission that festivalgoers have been enjoying at the park for decades. Festival producers say this new offering includes front-stage access, in-tent and outdoor lounge areas, private cash bar for beer, wine and spirits, air-conditioned restrooms, commemorative landyards and exclusive food for purchase. VIP ticket packages are already available online.
3) Laugh for a Cause — For the first year, the Lilac Festival will host comedians Showtime, Conan and Netflix stand-up artist Orny Adams on Wednesday, May 16. Local celebrities will be bartending during happy hour as a fundraiser for Flower City Habitat for Humanity.
4) Run for Charity (and Donuts) — More than 3,000 runners from across the region take part in the annual Lilac Run every spring, a tradition that has endured for 40 years. Additionally, the Dunkin Donut Dash, a half-mile sprint down Highland Avenue to eat donuts, then back to the start, is a great event for kids and families. A portion of all race proceeds benefits Willow Domestic Violence Center.
5) Wine Down — Don't miss the wine tasting expo on Saturday, May 12. Guests will have access to tasty food while they sample wins from across the northeast, including Casa Larga Vineyards & Winery, Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery, Victorianbourg Wine Estate, Lakeland Winery, Hunt Country Vineyards, Main Street Winery, Merritt Winery, Midgard Meadery, Black Button Distilling, Iron Smoke Distillery and more!
6) Tap In — If wine isn't your thing, don't worry — the craft beer expo takes place Saturday, May 19. Feautring a wide range of food to sample to go along with the finest craft brews from Sloop Brewing, Troegs Independent Brewing, Cider Creek Hard Ciders, Bells, Four Mile Brewing, LIC Beer Project, Lost Borough Brewing, Wagner Valley Brewing Company, Good Nature Farm Brewery, ROC Brewing, SingleCut Beersmiths, and many more!
7) Stop and Smell the Lilacs — Seems like a given, but it must be mentioned. Highland Park boasts the largest lilac collection in the U.S. and these beautiful fragrant lilac bushes are blooming right on time for this year’s festival. With more than 500 varieties on 1,200 plants, there are plenty of fragrant blossoms to enjoy.
8) Tantalize the Taste Buds — With more than 40 food and drink vendors across the grounds, it’s sure to take you all 10 days of the festival to eat your way through. Visit the Big Top Food Tent, The Lilac Loop, Top of the Hill, Hilltop Bar, and the Craft Beer Garden where new brews cycle through every day.
9) Buy Local — Art in the Park at the Rochester Lilac Festival features handmade creations from more than 160 regional artists, makers, designers and craftspeople. Each weekend you'll discover unique ceramics, drawings, graphics, fiber, glass, jewelry, sculpture, wood and mixed media along with specialty packaged foods and body care products.
10) Sunday Funday with Mom — It’s a Mother’s Day Sunday-Funday! Come enjoy the most creative and delicious Bloody Marys from Rochester area bars and restaurants. Spice up your Mothers Day with an exclusive 3-hour Bloody Mary sampling and then go visit the Lilac Gardens for an unforgettable holiday! Top it off with an invigorating free concert and you'll be No. 1 in mom's heart in no time.