Things Every Rochesterite Should Do
By Jennifer Koski and Steve Lange
Just once, try— really, really try—to solve the Rochesterfest Treasure Hunt and find the medallion.
Sure, some of the clues are harder than those on the Kryptos sculpture outside of the CIA building. Here’s one Treasure Hunt clue from 2011 (with the post-Rochesterfest explanations in brackets): “A depositor’s friend? [the bank of the river, and banks are depositor’s friends]. Semiologists portend [a semiologist deals with philosophical theory of the functions of signs and symbols].” Uh, OK. But, a day with the clues will force you to get outside, use your brain, and learn something about Rochester. And you could win $500.
Get four or more friends (make one of them be a designated driver) and drink out of The Beer Boot at Whistle Binkies.
Here are the rules for The Beer Boot (aka Das Boot). Buy The Beer Boot ($15 to $20 for 90 ounces, depending on the beer). Pick a penalty for the loser (we recommend having to pay for The Boot. And having to stand up and sing). Each player takes one drink at a time—you can drink as much or as little as you want, but lips can’t leave The Boot. Keep toe of Boot pointed at next drinker (or face a penalty). Pass The Boot clockwise without ever letting it touch the table (another penalty). If you pass The Boot and the next person finishes it, you lose. So you need to be able to finish The Boot with your last drink or leave enough so the next person can’t finish it.
Drink a Tom and Jerry at Michaels or Pappageorge’s. Then wander into the hall and look at the classic photos of the restaurant’s famous guests over the years.
Sipping a Tom and Jerry in the classic restaurant’s lounge has been a local holiday tradition for over 50 years. According to Mike Pappas, the restaurant serves 125 of the frothy beverages every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. While Pappas won’t divulge the restaurant’s secret recipe, he does say the key to creating a perfect batter lies in the method of whipping the pasteurized egg whites.
Pay your respects to a classic character from a movie—and life.
Archibald “Moonlight” Graham was glamorized by Hollywood in a movie set in Iowa. And buried in Rochester. After a long and solid minor league career, Graham was finally called up by Major League Baseball’s New York Giants on June 29, 1905. With a ten-run lead, Giants manager John McGraw made a defensive change, putting Graham in right field. Graham, though, never got to bat in what would be the only big league appearance the 28-year-old would ever make. Graham, faced with a trip back to the minors, left baseball for a medical career. After graduating from Johns Hopkins, “Doc” Graham spent 50 years practicing medicine in Chisholm, Minnesota, including 44 years as physician for the Chisholm schools, where he gained national recognition for his study of children’s blood pressure. It wasn’t until 1989—25 years after his death—that Graham finally got his big league at-bat. In the Kevin Costnerstarring Field of Dreams, the young Archie Graham (played by Frank Whaley) hits a run-scoring sacrifice fly to right. Earlier in the movie, character Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) laments that the stunted baseball career of “Moonlight” Graham (the older version as played by Burt Lancaster) would, by many, be considered a tragedy. Doc Graham says: “Son, if I’d only got to be a doctor for five minutes, now that would have been a tragedy.” Archibald “Moonlight” Graham’s grave site, often part of the annual Cemetery Walk, is located at Section 9, Lot 4, 1E of Calvary Cemetery.
Go watch the piano playing at the Gonda. It might be Jane Belau. Or a patient. Or you.
While piano playing may break out nearly any time someone sits down at the grand piano in the Landow Atrium at the Gonda Building, you’re sure to be serenaded—and moved—if you stop by from 10 a.m. to noon on Mondays and Thursdays. Because that’s when Jane Belau plays just about anything you can request (and she knows just about every song) for every level of singing expertise you can imagine.
Use our Best Restaurants issue for the greatest smorgasbord of take-out in the city.
This could be your dinner: Best Appetizer (Nachos from Newt’s); Best Salad (Pear and Walnut from Prescotts); Best Italian Dish (Mechi’s Chicken from Victoria’s); Best Dessert (Chocolate Cake at Pescara).
Spend a day in Courtroom One. And take your kids to scare them straight.
This is straight from from Megan Malugani, who spent the day in Courtroom One for a magazine story in 2009: “Every year, upward of 10,000 alleged criminals—from the oddball harasser who thinks he’s a vampire to the sad sack drunk driver who went into a ditch on his way to buy some chicken wings— show up for an appearance in Olmsted County’s biggest, busiest courtroom. What happens in Courtroom One—the starting point for all criminal cases in the county—is sometimes stranger than fiction, and sometimes sadder than sin.” And you can watch it all, in person, for free.
Go to a city council meeting.
Or a school board meeting. Or a county board meeting. Or any public meeting. You can catch a glimpse of how the sausage is made.
Try to beat the city’s best golf round (using only three clubs).
In July of 1945, while visiting Mayo Clinic for “a few days of rest and shoulder massage treatments,” legendary golfer Byron Nelson stopped in for 18 holes at the Rochester Golf and Country Club. And shot a 66. Which is good. But then on Aug. 22, 1982, longtime local golfer Les Fields shot a 1-under-par round of 70 at RG&CC. The 54-year-old Fields, though, carried just three clubs: a 4-wood, a 6-iron and his putter. Try to beat that on any of the area courses.
Touch a Rodin sculpture (but don’t tell anyone we told you to).
Directly behind the Mayo patient coffee shop in the Hage Atrium of the Siebens Building, a bronze study (model) for Auguste Rodin’s famous sculpture “The Burghers of Calais” is prominently and openly displayed—not roped off or behind glass—so you can get as close to a Rodin sculpture as you’ll ever get. It can be touched, although it’s not something they encourage.
Gorge yourself on baseball.
Imagine a happy hour—three hours long—with all the food (burgers, barbecue) and beer you can eat and drink for about $28. Now imagine it all on a big deck on a summer night. Now imagine this deck is on the third base line of a baseball field. Now imagine the Honkers are playing. Now imagine yourself on the Rochester Honkers party deck.
Take a step back to 1928.
Visit the Mayo Historical Suite on the third floor of the Plummer Building for a look at the 1928 Plummer Board Room as well as the restored offices of the Mayo brothers. Oh, and some creepy-looking surgical instruments of the early 20th century.
Just once, get to the Farmer’s Market just before it opens.
Then buy Darlene’s homemade donuts and pair them with fresh raspberries or strawberries eaten out of the carton.
Make an entire meal with ingredients bought at one of the city’s many excellent ethnic groceries.
We recommend International Spices and Grocery, mostly because it’s within walking distance of the Rochester Magazine office. And because the owner, Anwar, who seems to always be behind the counter, is as welcoming as it gets.
Get a lesson in hieroglyphics.
These aren’t just fancy pictures on the walls of the Plummer Building—these are stories etched on the walls. In one scene, the building’s namesake, Dr. Henry Plummer, is seen on the corner of the building at Second Street and Second Avenue SW. He’s poring over plans for the building with a wise owl at his knee. On the south side of the building are two limestone reliefs showing the 1928 presidential election outcome. The Republican, Herbert Hoover, is depicted by a triumphant elephant, while the Democratic candidate, Al Smith, is depicted by a droopy-eared donkey with its tail between its legs.
Sit by a small waterfall and get a city history lesson.
Take a seat on the bench along the Zumbro River Trail, directly behind the Government Center and under the footbridge that crosses the river. Then take a look at the Rochester Riverfront Mural, which was created in 1994 by artist Anne Scott Plummer and renders a complete chronological depiction of this town, starting in the Paleo/Indian age and moving through modern medical and technological advances.
Drive Rochester’s all-brick road.
Odds are you don’t ride a horse and buggy like early Rochester residents (if you do, we want to hear about it). But, you can get the same bumpy feeling old-timers got by traveling Ninth Avenue SW between Sixth and Seventh Streets on Rochester’s “Pill Hill.” Not asphalt or concrete, but real, beautiful bouncy brick.
A written history of the decision to leave the road raw isn’t evident, but the librarians at Olmsted County History Center suspect that the influence of the residents in that neighborhood had the pull to keep it authentic.
Go to a big charity fundraiser in town.
And, most importantly, get your pic taken by Olive Juice Studios at their Unbooth.
Sit in the secret garden.
It once was mostly garden, but now it’s mostly parking lot on the north side of Fourth Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues SW. Nestled into the Mayo Clinic parking lot are the steps and patio that once joined the two gardens of Mary Kahler. Mary, the daughter of John Henry Kahler, married Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Philip Hench in these gardens in 1927. Much of the vinery and trees that were originally at the site—including two northern white pines, the terra cotta benches and the limestone steps—remain in the little park.
Paddle in the Moonlight
What’s better than a relaxing paddle across Chester Woods’ 110-acre lake? A relaxing paddle across Chester Wood’s 110-acre lake under the light of a full moon.
Once a month from May to September, volunteers lead a “Moonlight Paddle” tour across the glass-like surface of Chester Woods reservoir for anyone with a kayak or canoe and an adventurous spirit.
“They tour the entire reservoir,” says Russ Jensen, park and natural resource specialist at Chester Woods Park. “On a clear night, there’s a nice moon off the water, and there’s a good chance to see wildlife, from beaver to raccoon, possums, and possibly geese and ducks.”
Eat a homemade ice cream sandwich.
There are arguably several dozen reasons to visit downtown Rochester’s Thursdays on First & 3rd from June to September. But between the live performances on the Peace Plaza stage and the live performances on the Historic 3rd stage (and past those two funky booths that will decorate your feet in Henna tattoos), there’s one clear, must-visit oasis: Mama Meg’s Parlour.
Even with that punk rock band playing half a block away, Mama Meg’s booth—complete with a black-and-white checkerboard floor and swivel stools at the soda counter—makes you swear you’re in a 1950s ice cream parlor. But it’s not just the ambience that sells Mama Meg’s. The parlour’s famous homemade vanilla ice cream sandwiches, consisting of two thick homemade cookies with a generous vanilla ice cream center, have created a much-talked-about following.
Though the buzz around town is that Mama Meg’s may move into a more permanent storefront sometime in the future—your only sure bet for now is to grab a taste at Thursdays on First & 3rd. But be prepared to share the space. Mama Meg’s sold
between 700 and 1,200 sandwiches Thursdays last summer.
Find the giant Boston fern at St. Marys Hospital.
Intrepid P-B Health Reporter Jeff Hansel passes this along: Go to the Francis Building tower lobby at Saint Marys Hospital. Turn right at the information desk on street level. Go straight ahead. The fern sits in front of the large west window at the end of the hall. How old is the fern? At least 26 years. “This Boston fern was given to Saint Marys Hospital in 1980 by Gladys Fiksdal,” the plaque reads. “Originally very small and sparse, the fern was going to be disposed of by Fiksdal Florists. Gladys Fiksdal took it to her home and nurtured it with Knox Gelatin for three years until it outgrew its setting in their home and was placed in its present location in the hospital.”
Take some time to reflect in a place worthy of reflection.
First of all, sit in the 400-seat chapel at St. Marys Hospital, which features some of the city’s best pews. The small pews in the front of the chapel were designed to accommodate the then large numbers of the Sisters of St. Francis who served as nurses at the hospital. Individual pews allowed them to leave the service to attend to their patients without disturbing the other worshippers. Then take a look around at the beauty to be found in every inch here: ceiling castings created at the turn of the 20th century by Italian artisans, a red velvet and bronze baldachino altar canopy, Appalachian oak handcrafted pews, massive unpolished pearl white granite pillars from Cold Springs, Minn., and solid bronze altar gates. The narthex is an Italian Renaissance styled chapel built in 1904; the “new chapel” is a 1933 basilica. Ivory, ruby, and deep green marble are used extensively throughout with midnight blue and gray detailings. Adding to the beauty: Both Protestant and Catholic services are held here.
See the Plummer Building doors close.
OK, so it may not happen again in your lifetime—but if it does, you should be there. The Plummer Building’s two ornate, 16-foot bronze doors—weighing in at 4,000 pounds each— have closed only a handful of times since the Plummer Building’s opening in 1928. They’ve been ceremoniously closed as a sign of respect, tribute and memorial to significant historical people or events, including, for instance, the deaths of Doctors Will and Charlie Mayo (1939), the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (1963), and in commemoration of the victims of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Spend an hour at the Soldier’s Field Veteran’s Memorial.
Hunt morels at Chester Woods.
We’re committing a bit of a mushroom faux pas here. After all, we’re divulging a prime morel-hunting location— typically a carefully guarded secret among serious morel hunters.
But, hey—we figure that with 1,330 acres of park out at Chester Woods, there’s plenty of space for veteran and newbie morel hunters alike. So grab a mesh bag and head to Chester Woods in late spring (mid- to late-April through early May) for some of the best morel hunting of our region. Seasoned morel hunters know to look at the base of dead or dying elm trees—but they also don’t overlook ash, poplar, and even pine trees. Just make sure you watch where you step. Because there is no bigger mushroom faux pas than scraping a morel off the bottom of your hiking boot.
Go see the six-foot man with see-through skin.
Created in Dresden, Germany, in 1933, the six-foot Transparent Man centerpieced Mayo Clinic’s medical display for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.
It was one of the earliest examples of life-sized, see-through people (in which various organs lit up to accompany a recorded scientific message) and, even today, one of the few transparent men still in existence. (Women, with their non-protruding reproductive organs and pregnancy subplot, were far more popular. Though there are only a few dozen transparent women displayed in the United States.)
Two years later, the Transparent Man, arms raised like he just won Wimbledon, stood in the Mayo Medical Museum— originally dubbed the “Museum of Hygiene and Medicine”—which opened in downtown’s old Central Junior High School building.
After the museum closed in 1988, The Transparent Man, eventually, found his way into the Patient Education Center, in the subway level of the Siebens Building, where he greets visitors making their way into the center to reference medical books or magazines or self-test their blood pressure.
The nearest Transparent Woman, actually women—female twins—are on display in the Fort Crawford Medical Museum in Prairie du Chien, Wis.
Catch Your Limit in Bluegills. Or Trout. Or Bass.
We don’t want to say the fish at Foster-Arend Lake jump out of the water and onto your line… but they kind of do. Foster-Arend Lake—a reclaimed gravel pit acquired by the City of Rochester in 1981—is an ideal first-time fishing lake for kids, their families, and anybody else who’s looking for a sure thing.
The 42-foot deep, 18-acre lake (located just off 37th Street NE and East River Road) is open to fishing year ‘round. Stocked with up to 10,000 catchable trout (mostly rainbow, but also brook and brown trout) during the fall, winter and spring months, the lake also boasts large numbers of sunfish and largemouth bass. In fact, small bluegills are so plentiful right around the fishing pier, you can literally watch them gather around your hook before taking a bite.