2017 Rochester Lilac Festival Opens May 12 with Blooms, Bands, and Beverages

The 2017 Rochester Lilac Festival is the 119th installment of the annual upstate New York event full of blooming bushes, boisterous bands, and bountiful beverages.  The 2017 Rochester Lilac Festival kicks off with a world record attempt for the world’s longest relay hug, and then it’s on to family friendly entertainment celebrating spring.  The 2017 Rochester Lilac Festival takes place May 12-21, in Highland Park.  Continue reading for more details on this year’s event.

2017 Rochester Lilac Festival

From Visit Rochester’s Press Release

The largest 10-day free festival of its kind in North America the Rochester Lilac Festival welcomes more than 500,000 attendees annually. It is only fitting for Rochester, the “Flower City,” to be the home of the largest display of lilacs in North America. Visitors come to Rochester’s famous Highland Park, designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, to experience the incredible beauty and intense fragrance of more than 500 varieties of lilacs on 1,200 plants.

Alongside the largest lilac collection in North America, visitors enjoy non-stop entertainment, a wide variety of foods, and one-of-a-kind shopping. Special events inside the festival include the televised Lilac Parade, Garden Battles, Seniors Day, Lilac 10K and 5K races and new this year: the Lilac Craft Beverage Expo. The Craft Beverage Expo is a three-day tasting event and celebration of New York State beer, wine, cider and spirits.

The lilac festival is a time-honored tradition in the northeast, and marks the official start of Rochester’s summer “festival season.” Rochester hosts more than 140 festivals on an annual basis, and the Rochester Lilac Festival is one of the most beloved.

2017 Rochester Lilac Festival

2017 Rochester Lilac Festival Special Events

Saturday, May 13, 2017 10:30am – 6:00pm | Sunday, May 14, 2017 10:30am – 5:00pm

Saturday, May 20, 2017 10:30am – 6:00pm | Sunday, May 21, 2017 10:30am – 5:00pm


The perfect chance to score the perfect find for yourself or someone special, Art in the Park at the Rochester Lilac Festival features the handmade creations of more than 160 artists, makers, designers and craftspeople. You’ll discover unique pieces from across a variety of media including ceramics, drawings, graphics, fiber, glass, jewelry, sculpture, wood and mixed media along with specialty packaged foods and body care products.

Rochester Lilac Festival

The Craft Beverage Expo is an escalation of the traditional tasting event and designed for those who crave regional, artisanal, and specialty release selections. This event has something for everyone featuring beer, wine, cider and crafted spirit tastings over three big days.


Sample a variety of wines, craft ciders and spirits. Purchase wine and store purchases with wine valet for convenient pick-up. Enjoy cheese, chocolate and farm products for purchase and tasting.


Sample more than 100 craft beverages. Expo features specialty craft beverage releases and the chance to meet the brewers behind your favorite beers. Cheese, Bavarian pretzels and sausage available for purchase/tasting.

Tickets: $47.50 for two days; $20 for wine/cider/spirits (May 18-19); $35 for beer/cider/spirits (May 20)

21+ Only | Valid ID Required | Please Drink Responsibly | No Children | Tickets good for one session only | VIP ticket is applicable for 1 session on May 18 or 19 + 1 session on May 20

2017 Rochester Lilac Festival

Photo by Andy Buscemi, courtesy Visit Rochester

The 2017 Rochester Lilac Festival has a wide variety of free concerts, with more than 80 musical acts during the 10-day Festival. Visitors are sure to find something the whole family can enjoy. Major performances at this year’s event include: Start Making Sense, Get the Led Out – The American Led Zeppelin, Skycoasters with Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Gene Cornish, The Mowgli’s, Ripe, Lettuce, Rusted Root, Gedeon Luke and the People, Jonny Lang, Quinn Sullivan, Big Head Todd and The Monsters, Kat Wright, Zac Brown Tribute Band, and Turkuaz.

2017 Rochester Lilac Festival

Photo by Andy Buscemi, courtesy Visit Rochester

Enjoy a run in what could be the most beautiful racecourse in the country. Regardless of your skill level, this race will restore your faith in Mother Nature and re-invigorate your workouts for the summer season ahead. The famous lilac gardens of Highland Park, also the backdrop for the race after-party, mark the beginning and end of the races. With the aroma of 1,500 lilacs filling the air, runners start out heading east on Highland Avenue, move through the rolling hills of the park and then turn south through the residential town of Brighton before returning back through the park.

Race day registration: $40 per person

2017 Rochester Lilac Festival

Where Better Homes & Gardens meets Chopped. Working with identical plant and hardscape materials, teams will create 8’x8′ gardens aided by Master Gardeners from the Cornell Cooperative Extension. One winner will make a $1,000 donation to their charity of choice, and $500 will go to the runner-up charity. In addition to your insights as the celebrity judge, festival attendees (more than 500,000 people are expected to attend this year’s festival) also will vote on their favorite garden throughout the 10-day festival, with the winner being announced on the main stage at the end of the festival.

Free admission | On display throughout the festival

2017 Rochester Lilac Festival

Our family loves our hometown festival, and we can’t wait for the 2017 Rochester Lilac Festival to kick off the summer season.  For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on instagramtwitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.