Located about an hour and a half south of the Twin Cities, Rochester provides the best Minnesota has to offer at a reasonable cost of living. The growing city is known as the home of Mayo Clinic, the largest employer in town and the entire state. Med City draws nearly three million visitors annually from all around the world, stimulating the local economy and bringing diverse cultural perspectives to this midwestern gem.
While many out-of-towners associate Minnesota with frigid winters, Rochester experiences all four seasons, including summers perfect for experiencing the state’s 10,000 lakes. Outdoor enthusiasts are surrounded by parks and trails to enjoy hiking and biking in the warmer months and skiing in the winter. Meanwhile, downtown Rochester is abuzz with vibrant nightlife, boutique shopping, and fantastic beer and food. With a strong economy, low unemployment, and affordable housing, it’s no wonder that Rochester, MN, frequently rates as one of the best places to live in the US.
If you’re relocating to Rochester, keep reading to learn about the area and gather all the information you need to plan your move. Then, request a quote on Great Guys to find top moving services that will make the process stress-free.
Living in Rochester, MN: What to Know Before Moving to Rochester
Rochester, Minnesota, is a beautiful city with a growing population of just over 100,000 residents. The greater Rochester metro area has about twice that many residents, at 219,800. Whether you’re moving here for work, school, or personal reasons, Rochester offers a high quality of life for you and the whole family.
Pros and Cons of Living in Rochester
While Rochester, Minnesota, is an overall great place to live, it’s important to prepare for both the good and the bad. See below for several pros and cons of this midwestern city:
- Ideal city size: As a mid-size city, Rochester offers everything you need in one place but without the same level of chaos and congestion of a larger city. It’s the perfect balance of convenience and comfort.
- Lots to do: Plenty of outdoor activities will keep you busy year-round – from hiking to skiing.
- Low living costs: A lower than average cost of living gives your wallet a break.
- Great employment opportunities: Enjoy the stability of a low unemployment rate and vibrant job market, especially for medical and tech professions.
- Close to the big city: Rochester is only an hour-and-a-half drive south of the Twin Cities, which provides unlimited opportunities for fun day trips.
- Frigid climate: Winters can be harsh, with Januarys known to dip into subzero temperatures.
- Bugs: With many lakes come many mosquitos during the summer. Be sure to stock up on bug spray!
- Taxes: State income tax is relatively high, and the difference can mean paying thousands of dollars more per year in taxes compared to living in a state with lower income tax.
Tax rates can affect your budget. If you’re moving from out of state, make sure to compare the local Rochester, MN tax rates to your current tax rates so you can budget for any differences.
- The property tax rate in Rochester is 1.21%, which is about average for the US.
- The combined sales tax rate in Rochester is 8.125%, which is higher than the US average.
- State income tax ranges from 5.35% to 9.85%, depending on your tax bracket. Most significantly, 5.35% is the lowest income tax rate in Minnesota. This rate is high compared to other states.
Many different housing options are available in Rochester, depending on your budget and preferences. Most Rochester residents own, while only 28.7% of the population rent their homes. This low rental rate is because home prices are quite reasonable, with a median home value of $228,500 as of October 2019. Home values have increased 5.6% over the past year, and prices are expected to increase another 3.4% in 2020.
As of October 2019, the Rochester median rent price was $1,350. The cheapest places to live in the greater Rochester area include the adjacent towns of St. Charles, Dodge Center, and Plainview.
Cost of Living
At an index of 98.2, Rochester’s cost of living is lower than the US average of 100. The state of Minnesota has an overall cost of living of 106.3. The cost of utilities in Rochester is average at 99.7, and housing costs, at 112.5, are slightly higher than the US average. However, when you move to Rochester, you’ll enjoy lower than average costs for groceries, healthcare, and transportation.
The median household income in Rochester is $63,472 per year. According to the Economic Policy Institute, a family of four living in the Rochester metro area would need to bring in $98,226 a year to live comfortably.
Weather & Natural Disasters
Rochester residents enjoy all four seasons, although the beautiful springs and falls can be short-lived. The two warmest months are July and August. July typically sees an average high of 81°F and low of 61°F. August averages a high of 79°F and a low of 59°F. The two coldest months are December and January. December sees an average high of 27°F and an average low of 12°F, while January’s average high is 24°F and average low is just 8°F. Keep in mind that daily winter temperatures can get much colder than that – even below 0°F. Dress in layers and keep an emergency pack in your car in case of a deep freeze.
The city sees an average of 33 inches of rain annually, with most of the precipitation occurring in June, July, and August. Snow is another element you’ll have to contend with frequently in Rochester – and you’ll see a lot of it. On average, the city gets a whopping 53 inches of snow per year. Snow falls anywhere from October to April, with the heaviest snowfalls in December and January. Make sure you’re aware of any winter parking restrictions in your area.
Aside from snow and the occasional blizzard, tornadoes are the biggest natural disaster threat in Rochester. In Minnesota, tornadoes can happen anytime between March and November, and they can result in significant damage to homes and vehicles. On the City of Rochester website, you can enroll in the Rochester Alert program to get updates on potentially hazardous conditions on your cell phone or by email.
Economy & Job Market
Rochester has a strong, vibrant, and growing economy with many opportunities to establish or advance your career. The unemployment rate is 2.3%, well below the national average of 3.9%. Rochester’s top industries include medical technology, computer technology, manufacturing, hospitality, transportation, and food production.
Aside from Mayo Clinic, which is the city’s largest and most famous employer with over 35,000 employees, other major employers include IBM, Rochester Public Schools, Olmsted County, and Olmsted Medical Center. Visit this site for more information and a more comprehensive list of top employers in Rochester.
When you’re ready to look for work, be sure your resume is up to date and ready to send as a pdf. Most employers will want to see your resume in electronic format. Then polish up your interviewing skills well before your first appointment. Online job boards are plentiful. You’ll get a good idea of the types of jobs that are available in your area of expertise when you scan sites such as linkedin.com, indeed.com, ziprecruiter.com, and many more.
Traffic and Transportation
Transportation options are plentiful in downtown Rochester. Pedestrians will rarely need to brace themselves for the elements thanks to an expansive network of skyways and underground walkways that connect buildings. Fortunately, Rochester also offers a full suite of transportation amenities, including a bus line, trolley service, and in-town shuttles to get into and out of town; however walkscore.com only gives Rochester a 30 walk score. Kutzky Park, Northrup, Downtown, and Historic Southwest are considered the most walkable areas. With a bike score of 56, the city is considered somewhat bikeable, so your bike can often get you where you need to go, weather permitting.
Major thoroughfares include Highway 14, which runs east-west and Highways 52 and 63, which run north-south. In town, Hwy 63 is known as N Broadway Ave north of Hwy 14, and S Broadway Ave south of Hwy 14. Traffic isn’t as bad as in larger cities – in fact, the average one-way commute time is just 16.2 minutes, well below the national average of 26.4 minutes. Most commuters drive their car alone to work or carpool with others, while just 6.7% of commuters take mass transit.
What to Do
Rochester is a great place to live for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike – with many activities to choose from, including walking or jogging the trails and parks or exploring historic districts and buildings.
If you’re the outdoorsy type, you’ll appreciate the six well-maintained state parks within an hour’s drive: Whitewater State Park, Carley State Park, Rice Lake State Park, Forestville Mystery Cave State Park, Frontenac State Park, and Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. These state parks offer recreational activities like camping, hiking, geocaching, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, skiing, and snowshoeing.
In addition to the state parks, a few favorite local attractions include:
- Quarry Hill Nature Center – This popular historical site features a natural area, playground, softball field, tennis courts, and walking and biking trails. Bird watching and fossil hunting are other popular activities. Take the kids, dogs, and a picnic to enjoy the outdoors.
- Mayowood Mansion – Take a tour of Mayowood Mansion, an expansive 3,300-acre estate once home to the co-founder of Mayo Clinic, Dr. Charles H Mayo. Visitors can tour the old mansion –completed in 1911 – from April through October.
- The Plummer Building, Mayo Clinic Historical Suite – The Plummer Building is a historical building of Mayo Clinic with unique and ornate architecture designed by Henry S. Plummer. The beautiful building includes bas relief caricatures, massive 16-foot bronze doors, and a bell tower that is lighted at night, showcasing the building’s intricacy. A great time to visit the Plummer Building is around the holidays when it glows like a Christmas tree.
- Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial – Pay your respects to honor veterans past, present, and future at the Wall of Remembrance. Children will also enjoy the memorial park grounds, which feature a wooden castle and a mini corn field maze.
- Douglas State Trail – The Douglas State Trail is a multi-use 12.5-mile paved trail that runs from Douglas to Pine Island. The trail was created on an abandoned railroad grade, creating a very level path where bike riders of all ages can enjoy the scenic Minnesota landscape along the way.
Of course, you can’t forget to visit the shops, restaurants, and breweries downtown. If you’re a sports fan, find a local pub and tune in to Vikings football, Twins baseball, Wild hockey, or Timberwolves basketball games.
Schools and Universities
Rochester Community School District serves about 15,000 students among 22 schools. According to greatschools.org, the top three elementary schools are Delta Kelly, Long Meadow, and University Hills Elementary Schools, all rated 9/10. The top three middle schools are Hart, West, and Van Hoosen Middle Schools, all rated 8/10. The top three high schools are Rochester Adams 9/10, Stoney Creek 9/10, and Rochester 8/10 High Schools. Rochester public high school students have a graduation rate of 80%, and most graduates continue their education by attending colleges, universities, or trade schools.
Several four-year colleges and universities include Augsburg College, University of Minnesota Rochester, Winona State University Rochester, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Rochester, Minnesota School of Business Rochester, and College of St Scholastica. Community colleges in the area include Rochester Community and Technical College and Minnesota Riverland Technical College.
Rochester’s property crime rating is 32.3, which is lower than the US average of 35.4. The violent crime rating is 11.0, significantly lower than the US average rating of 22.7. Overall, you can feel safe in Rochester, but there are a few pockets of higher crime in the greater Rochester area in the towns of Stewartville, Pine Island, and Elgin.
Before moving to Rochester, contact the local utility providers to make sure there’s plenty of time to set up your service. See below for information on how to set up service.
- Gas service – MN Energy Resources provides natural gas service. Visit their website to start service or call 1-800-889-9508.
- Electric service – If you’ll be moving to Rochester proper, set up your electric service with Rochester Public Utilities by visiting their website and following the instructions to start service or calling 507-280-1500. If you live outside Rochester city limits, your electric service should be set up with the People’s Cooperative Power Association by visiting their website and filling out a membership application or calling 507-367-7000.
- Water service – Rochester Public Utilities provides water service. You can set up service by visiting their website or calling 507-280-1500.
- Trash pick-up/recycling service – To set up trash pick-up and recycling services, call Waste Management of Rochester at 507-282-2420.
- Internet/Cable service – Internet and cable service can be set up through a variety of providers: Spectrum, Sign up for service on the Spectrum website, or call 1-866-874-2389. AT&T and Direct TV, call 248-601-1818. Xfinity, call 888-266-2278. A convenient site that allows you to compare services is www.highspeedinternet.com. Just type in your new zip code, and the site will tell you which providers serve your neighborhood, types of packages that are available, and prices.
Best Neighborhoods in Rochester, MN
As you’re deciding on a Rochester, Minnesota, neighborhood that ticks all the boxes, check out the eight that we’ve selected as some of Rochester’s best.
Known for its idyllic tree-lined streets, easy access to parks, dog-friendly community, and older homes with plenty of unique architectural character, this up-and-coming Rochester neighborhood is a great place to bring your family and fur babies.
Kutzky Park sits directly west of downtown Rochester and just a few blocks from Mayo Clinic. The Rochester Neighborhood Resource Center defines the city boundaries with a few key landmarks: the Miracle Mile Shopping Center on the west side, 6th Ave SW/NW on the east side, Civic Center Drive NW on the north side, and 2nd St SW on the south side.
The accessible location makes Kutzky Park extremely walkable to grocery stores, restaurants, local juice bars, bakeries, coffee shops, and cafes. Some faves are Caribou Coffee, Cherry Berry Yogurt Bar, and Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Q. Locals love the expansive eponymous Kutzky Park and burbling Cascade Creek that runs the length of the greenspace.
- Population – 2,600
- Home Price – Median home sales price is $250,000
- Rent Price – Rental prices range from $595-$3,000 per month
- Employers – Mayo Clinic, University of Minnesota Rochester
- Schools – Folwell Elementary School, Willow Creek Middle School, Mayo Senior High School
Something to Try: Attend Porchfest, a free annual event during which the residents of Kutzky Park invite musicians to play from their porches and enjoy great music, food, and camaraderie.
Downtown Rochester is the heart of the city and a neighborhood full of history, culture, and yummy food. From live music and dancing to rooftop patios and all-day breakfast, downtown has something for everyone. If you’re living and working downtown, you may not even need a car, since all the amenities – hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, and much more – are easily accessible on foot or bike.
Boundaries are Civic Center Dr. NW on the north, Mayo Park Dr. SE on the east, roughly 5th St SW on the south, and 6th Ave NW on the west. Home types range from apartments, condos, and single-family residences, some of which are vintage or historical. Downtowners enjoy Dooley’s Pub for an after-hours pint, Terza, and The Loop for some tasty fare.
- Population – 1,500
- Home Price – Median home price is $285,000
- Rent Prices – Rental prices range from $730-$1,600 / month
- Employers – Mayo Clinic, Mayo Civic Center, St Mary’s Hospital
- Schools – Folwell Elementary School, St John Elementary School, Willow Creek Middle School, Century Senior High School
Something to Try: Treat yourself to a relaxing massage at the Rejuvenate Spa, part of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program. Or sample craft beers on Rochester’s microbrewery trolley tour.
Pill Hill Historic District
Pill Hill is a historic residential district with beautiful old homes at prices that can soar over $1 million. The neighborhood covers a 15-block area right next to St. Mary’s Hospital and not far from Mayo Clinic between Historic Southwest and Kutzky Park.
The coveted neighborhood – one of Rochester’s most distinguished residential areas – features a total of 148 historical residences, almost all of which were built between 1903 to 1937. The district boundaries include 3rd Street SW on the north, 7th Avenue SW on the east, 9th Street SW on the south, and 10th Avenue SW on the west.
- Population – Less than 1,000
- Home Price – Median home price is $600,000
- Rent Prices – Rental prices range from $730 to $1,200 per month
- Employers – Mayo Clinic, St Mary’s Hospital, Olmstead County, Olmstead Medical Center
- Schools – Folwell Elementary School, Willow Creek Middle School, Mayo Senior High School
Something to Try: Drive around the neighborhood and take in the beauty of all the unique historic residences from the first three decades of the 20th century.
Historic Southwest is an affluent historic neighborhood directly south of Kutzky Park, close to downtown and extremely walkable, plus it’s within walking distance of Mayo Clinic. The neighborhood’s boundaries are 10th Ave SW on the west, 2nd Avenue SW and 10th Street SW on the south, S Broadway on the east, and 2nd St SW on the north side.
Plummer House of the Arts sits at the southwest side of Historic Southwest, while Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial and the South Fork of Zumbro River are on its southeast corner. Soldiers Field Golf Course is directly across the southeast boundary.
Rochester Friendship House, and Mayo Foundation House, plus grocery stores, pubs, and restaurants are within walking distance for neighborhood residents. Twigs Tavern and Grille, and People’s Food Co-op are popular with locals. Housing in the neighborhood is expensive, but you’ll find Historic Southwest is a charming old neighborhood in a very convenient location.
- Population – 1,900
- Home Price – Median home price is $613,000
- Rent Prices – Rental prices range from $730 to $1,300 per month
- Employers – Mayo Clinic
- Schools – Folwell Elementary School, Rochester Arts and Sciences Academy, Willow Creek Middle School, Mayo Senior High School
Something to Try: Visit Soldier’s Field Memorial Park, a public memorial that honors local veterans.
Foxcroft and Baihly Meadows
Foxcroft and Baihly Meadows are small, desirable neighborhoods a few miles southwest of downtown Rochester that attract many professional families. These up-and-coming neighborhoods are known for large lots, newer homes, and proximity to local parks. You’ll also find great shopping at the Apache Mall.
Rochester Golf & Country Club is in the northwest corner of Foxcroft, and locals love the outdoor spaces at Fox Valley Park, Eagle Ridge Park, Younge Park, Baihly Meadows Park, and Baihly Heights Tot Lot.
- Population – Less than 1,000
- Home Price – Median home price is $400,000
- Rent Prices – No rental prices available
- Employers – Mayo Clinic, St. Mary’s Hospital,
- Schools – Bamber Valley Elementary School, Willow Creek Middle School, Mayo Senior High School.
Something to Try: Enjoy a game of golf at the Rochester Golf and Country Club. Or take the kids to the Kahler Apache Hotel and Water Park for a fun family outing.
Northwest Rochester, as the name suggests, is located in the northwest side of town, six miles from downtown. Tucked away near the edge of the city limits, Northwest is bound by 50th Ave NW on the west, 55th St NW on the south, US Hwy 63 on the east, and 65th St NW on the north.
Sometimes referred to as “the future of Rochester,” Northwest Rochester is experiencing significant expansion with the construction of many new homes and the opening of new businesses, shopping areas, and restaurants. More and more amenities are becoming available for residents’ convenience, and commuting is easy because US Hwy 63 forms the eastern boundary.
Directly south of Northwest, you’ll find a Walmart Supercenter, hotels, restaurants, churches, and parks. Northern Hills Golf course, Lincolnshire Park, Second Frank Canine Park, White Oaks Park, and Northwest Prairie Park are all located directly south of Northwest’s southern boundary, 55th St NW.
- Population – 4,300
- Home Price – Median home price is $305,000
- Rent Prices – No rental prices available
- Employers – Olmstead Medical Center, IBM, Pace International, Spectrum
- Schools – George W Gibbs Elementary School, Kellogg Middle School, John Marshall Senior High School
Something to Try: Visit the Roca Climbing and Fitness gym and enjoy indoor rock climbing, a fun activity for the whole family.
The Elton Hills neighborhood is a popular family-oriented neighborhood located just a few miles north of downtown Rochester. Elton Hills is more affordable than some of the other neighborhoods, but the location is great, and there are plenty of parks nearby.
Ninth Ave NW forms the northwestern border, West River Pkwy NW roughly forms the eastern border, Assisi Heights neighborhood forms the southern border, US Hwy 52 and 18th Ave NW form the western border. Homes range in style from two-bedroom, two-bath ranch homes to four-bedroom, three-bath two-story traditional houses.
Lutheran Park, Elton Hills Run Park, and Riverview West Park are popular play spots, and several churches sit within this mostly residential neighborhood. Amenities are limited, so residents will need to drive for most errands and to commute.
- Population – 3,180
- Home Price – Median home price is $230,000
- Rent Prices – Rental prices range from $795-$1,600 per month
- Employers – IBM, Mayo Clinic, Crenlo, Benchmark Electronics, Pace Dairy Foods Co
- Schools – Hoover Elementary School, Kellogg Middle School, Century Senior High School
Something to Try: Take the kids to the Minnesota Children’s Museum.
Apple Hill is an affordable neighborhood, just a ten-minute drive south of downtown. Nestled between US Hwys 63, AKA S Broadway, and 52, Apple Hill is a convenient location if you want to access major thoroughfares quickly, but it has a tucked away and cozy neighborhood feel. The compact neighborhood is close to parks, grocery stores, shopping areas, and restaurants for easy access to all the necessities.
When you’re ready for some outdoor fun, head over to Good Shepherd Park, located in the northwest section of Apple Hill, and Elmcroft Park is directly over the southern boundary of the neighborhood. Although Apple Hill is mainly residential, many amenities line its eastern boundary, S Broadway. Locals enjoy Perkins Restaurant & Bakery, Ichi Tokyo, and John Hardy’s BBQ.
- Population – 2,290
- Home Price – Median home price is $250,000
- Rent Prices – No rental prices available
- Employers – Rochester Community and Technical College, Mayo Clinic,
- Schools – Franklin Elementary School, Willow Creek Middle School, Mayo Senior High School
Something to Try: Visit the Quarry Hill Nature Center and hike or bike through the 329-acre nature preserve. Keep a lookout for the wide variety of bird species that make the park their home, and hunt for fossils in the limestone fossil quarry that the park is named after.
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