Growing up in Rochester, I thought that the area’s available activities were sparse—especially when I was without a license and without a ride. I’d say to myself, “Hey, just wait until you’re 16 and then the opportunities for fun will be endless.” Once 16 rolled around and I still couldn’t find anything to do, I thought, “Five more years until 21, then the real fun in Rochester begins.”
Well, I’m 20 now and I’ve discovered that Rochester and the surrounding areas have a lot more to do than I ever imagined. Even without that coveted 21-year-old ID.
With $30 in my pocket, my first priority was breakfast—and my pantry’s stale Fruit Loops were not going to cut it. I convinced my younger sister Lauren to take the journey to Dunn Bros. with me. I ordered a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich and a vanilla latte and slowly handed one of my sacred ten-dollar bills. That’s when the cashier broke the news that the total was actually $10.54 and I had to yell at my sister across the café to bring me an extra one- dollar bill.
After eating, I kicked my sister out of my booth and proceeded to work on Rochester Magazine articles for the next five hours. I’ll spare you the details of that lovely time. (I’ll also skip the description of the dentist appointment I had when I was done.)
Fast-forward a few hours, and I found myself, and my clean teeth, en route to the Olmsted County Free Fair. Armed with my remaining $19, I was determined to eat fair food (I love corn dogs), ride a fair ride (please dear God don’t break while I’m upside down), and win a prize (ugly purple monkey, I’m coming for you).
My sister was more focused on the animals and insisted we find the petting zoo first. Soon we found ourselves in the Miracle Birth Center, where we watched Theodore, a calf who was born at 12:30 that day, for over an hour. He had yet to walk and was tiny compared to his mother—but probably still weighed more than me. We also saw newborn piglets, chicks, and ducklings. I wanted to steal them all to keep as my own.
Back on the midway an hour later, Lauren attempted to win a goldfish and I tried in vain to win a giant Rasta banana. The games, which cost us $2, were a fail—but the food was a win. I got a $4 corndog and bought Lauren some $4 nachos. With $9 left, we chose to add a rush of adrenaline: We spent the last of the money on the Ring of Fire (i.e. that giant, circle-of-death ride that sticks up into the Rochester skyline).
After leaving the fair, Lauren and I went to East Park for a quick but competitive game of disc golf. Lucky for us, the cost of disc golfing at all four Rochester courses is $0, so the fact that we had no money left wasn’t a problem. Being superior in skill and experience, I beat my sister to the ground (lovingly, of course). With high spirits and tired throwing arms, we returned home to watch the Bachelorette and hang out with our dog.
Rochester has either changed a lot in the 20 years I’ve lived here, or I’ve opened my mind more to the areas activities. It’s most likely a mixture of the two. The things you can do in and around Rochester are endless—you just have to dig a little deeper than the surface.