From the view of a Midwesterner - 6/10/2013
I am an upper 20-something, young married individual with no children and 2 small dogs. I grew up in a town of about 13,000 people in Iowa, went to college in a town of 5,000 for 4 years, lived in Bangor, Wales, UK for a semester, and lived in Bloomington, IN for 3 years before I moved here.
Here is my honest and as thorough of a review that I can give of Rochester, MN:
We moved here in the fall of 2011 and 'endured' a very mild winter by Minnesota standards (meaning, only 1 week of temperatures consistently below 0 degrees Fahrenheit). We have found the town of Rochester to be big enough to have a decent amount of things to do (we're more outdoorsy people, so night clubs were not high on our priority list of things to do). There are a ton of movie theaters, a few bowling alleys, quite a few parks with trails to hike, 2 dog parks, several fitness centers, lots of BIKE trails (more on this later), decent restaurants (more are coming into town all the time to add a bit more diversity to the restaurant selection), and quite a few places to shop (including a really nice outdoor adventure retail store that I say is like a locally owned R.E.I.). To many, that's not a lot of things, and I know there is more than I listed, we just don't really have the income to visit them (like any shows/events at the Mayo Civic Center, for example).
Rochester is a large town that has a small town feel. Over the course of time, you start to recognize people you've seen at different places. Lots of people have lots of different connections all over the place, so if you join any sort of group, you're bound to meet more people through your first group of people. People dabble in lots of different things here to keep themselves busy.
As far as traffic goes, if you're from a small town, Rochester is busy--all the time. If you're from a metropolitan area, traffic is nothing. Here's my perspective: it really doesn't take that long to get from one place to another, as the city is actually made for its population. All of the busiest roads (that I know of) are 4 lanes in the most concentrated parts where people are driving most often. The roads are fairly well maintained, though the city has a really bad habit of repairing potholes in the cheapest way possible, so come next weekend, that hole will be back and they have to fix it again. I wish they would just fork out the money and fix the craters WELL the first time so they wouldn't return. The frost-thaw-refreeze cycle of the 2 winters we've lived through here in Rochester really makes those little holes in the road very bad come about January/February. My last point about driving in this town is that there are 2 rush-hours. I'm not sure when the morning one starts, but I'd say the worst of it is from 7am-9am, especially 7-8am. The next rush is from 3-6pm. While there are no traffic jams, the pace of movement is considerably slower and much more congested. The longest line of cars I have seen during rush hour has been about a half mile long on Broadway/Hwy 63. I know this line is longer on Highway 14 up to Civic Center drive, as lots of people commute to work from Byron and farther out. I'm just not sure how long it stretches, but someone who commutes from that way could confirm that.
Our 2nd winter had much more cold and snow, but it still wasn't horribly cold or snowy like it is farther up north in this state. It was consistently below 30 degrees all winter though, and when it was super windy (which happens any time the weather changes here), the cold really bites. Most people don't spend that much time outside in the winter, so it really doesn't matter that much. If you do spend lots of time outside, you get used to it--there are lots of winter activities (Snowshoeing, sledding, XC Skiing, etc.) to enjoy both in Rochester and the surrounding area (ex: many people go skiing at Welch Village Ski Resort).
Spring is my favorite time of year in Rochester for 2 reasons. You must know that I'm a big people-watcher before I say the next thing. The first reason I love spring in Rochester is because all the people come outside--it's like all the bears coming out of hibernation. I think it's quite comical, as they never seemed to exist until the weather is warmer. The 2nd reason is because Rochester is a Tree City USA and has tons of flowering trees, as well as many avid gardeners. There are so many flowers to be seen, especially in the downtown area near the central part of the Mayo medical complex. Driving through people's neighborhoods is quite enjoyable to see flowers and nice landscaping (well, most neighborhoods where we go).
Speaking of neighborhoods, we live on the north side of town, about a mile north of downtown. We have a taste of the ghetto apartment complexes north of us and of the kind house owners we live amongst (we are renting a house). Before we moved here, we were told to stay away from the southeast part of town, because that is where most of the 'undesirable' people live. Now that we've lived here, we understand why a little bit. Let me just put it this way, when the cars parked in the neighborhood are too nice compared to the appearance of the houses, there's something wrong. I know some really great people who live in this neighborhood, but they, too, understand the differences between Pill Hill (where the doctors live), all the outskirts area where the 'respectable' people live, and the people on the south side. I'm sure I'll offend some people who read this, but here's a bit of insight into the type of people we are: even though we don't have a lot of money, we're still good people who strive to have a decent quality of life, getting along with our neighbors/trying to live in harmony with those around us. It's frustrating when you don't have a lot of money, you then get grouped in with lots of people who don't care about quality of life as much and live a dumpy way, that is extremely inconsiderate of those around you. Hopefully you kind of get where we're coming from at least a little bit.
As non-parents, we don't know a whole lot about the education system, but we do know that "there's something in the water here", if you catch our drift. Babies are popping out everywhere! The average age is 35, and most people here are very concerned with raising families. We think Rochester is as good a place as any for this; it's relatively clean and Mayo is a really good health system.
Minnesota nice. It's so true. They'll smile at you in public and will give you directions anywhere, except their own house. It's difficult to make friends here. Most people seem content staying in with their families and the friends they already know. You really have to put yourself out there to make friends, and even then people still might avoid the commitment of friendship with you the new person. This is such a weird phenomenon given the fact that this town is bunch of transplants from everywhere (it's really hard to meet a born and bred local). While this adds to the diversity of the area, it causes the city to lose its small-town feel, as the children raised here don't stay here. I see this as a problem, and have always felt a bit unsettled here for the aforementioned reasons.
I've written about the roads, but I haven't written about the drivers. Despite the bike trails, and the few roads with bike paths painted onto them, this isn't really a bike friendly town. Please read the comments written by the walking woman farther down on this comment list to see more. Drivers of cars don't appreciate bikes being on the road, because they take away from the driving space the cars 'need'. I've heard many a tale of a biker being yelled at simply for riding on the road. Bikers have to be tough-skinned to drive these roads with these drivers. The drivers do have a point though--many bikers fail to respect the fact that traffic signs and signals were meant for all individuals on the road, not just those with motorized engines. The real bikers know the rules of the road, though there are a few cocky exceptions. It's really the casual riders you have to worry about on the roads. Anyway, back to the drivers. Picture this: Kind of slow, casual midwestern drivers mixed with crazy, intense, always-seem-to-be-in-a-hurry + nobody-else-on-the-road-matters-but-me drivers (I like to categorize the latter drivers as those from the east coast and big metropolitan cities). As you can probably imagine, this makes for rather harrowing driving situations at times. Add to this the fact that there are people paying more attention to their phone than the road, people who refuse to turn their heads to see if anyone might be beside them when they want to change lanes without signaling, and the other unpredictable factors of driving, and it can be a mess. In the winter, you have those from the south with 4-wheel drive cars who think that is the solution to driving on icy roads too. If you're always a defensive driver, you'll be fine, just please drive at least the speed limit in this town or else you're a danger to all the other drivers.
Next thing: Pedestrians rarely pay attention to their own traffic signals. This makes actually trying to obey them as a driver much more difficult when pedestrians are walking out on an orange hand, and you have a green arrow to turn. Add to this the last minute pedestrian when the light is turning yellow for the drivers (usually 2-3) out in the middle of the intersection, and you can expect to always have a long delay getting through traffic lights, especially in the downtown area.
Now for the bike trails. Rochester has a fairly extensive bike trail system that is quite nice. Most of it is really smooth, and is super nice to ride a road bike on. It's true that there are parts where you have to cross a road, but most that I've encountered aren't that busy. As both a biker and a dog walker on these trails, I understand both perspectives. First of all, even though they are called BIKE trails, all signage makes them out to be pedestrian trails, because bikers are always supposed to yield to everyone else. The problem with that comes when you've got the group of 2-6 people walking on the trail, but taking up the entire trail. The biker yields, and basically comes to a stop, while the walkers hog the whole trail--not very fair or considerate. When you're trying to get in a good ride, it's frustrating to have to slow down for these types of people, especially when you call out that you're coming up behind them and they take their sweet, sweet time to move. Add to this the people who are plugged in--they can't even hear you coming. So when a bike flies by a pedestrian, part of the reason is because they're naturally faster than pedestrians, and part is because they're actually able to get by a person without having to stop. I get this as a pedestrian who has been speedily passed by silent bikers. I try to keep my dogs out of the way, and haven't had any complaints from either side on my dog walking habits or my biking habits.
I'm sure there is much more I could write about this town, but my post is long enough as it is. Overall, I like it, but Rochester is a relatively expensive place to live--all the special events are priced towards those who can easily afford an average of $30 a person (IBM and doctor-folk). The economy is relatively good here, and if you can learn how to be content with a service job, finding a basic job to pay the bills is easy (though don't be surprised if you have to have more than 1 to get by!). Check out city-data.com to see the cost of living index--it's above the national average of 100, but not as high as large metropolitan areas.
As I mentioned before, I've always felt a bit unsettled here--I'd rather live in a slightly more established place, where the locals actually want to stay, in addition to some new people moving in. Rochester is nice, it's just not for me--especially not with the increase in many of Minnesota's taxes this next year (2013).
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Rochester, Minnesota - 2/26/2011
First off the positive, Rochester is a nice city,with a population of around 100K, its a nice size, easy to get around and a good clean safe palce to live, with Mayo Clinic, World Class Medical Care being its number 1 asset. Its a great place to go when your are in need of medical care, thats for sure. Unfortunately,it is Minnesota, and with that comes a very difficult climate that beats you up with a vengence, and Winter is a season that dosen't seem to want to leave very fast.Winters icy grip takes a toll everything it touches, the roads, buildings,nature,homes,cars, and most brutal to your body, your health both mental and physical. It has no mercy, you feel older than you are, every injury you ever had lets you know when the icy cold touches your body, your skin drys up with the heated homes and you look 10 years older after one winter. It is a hard life in this climate, I have lived in kinder,gentler climates and prefer it and seek to return to that asap.
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The Goods and Bads - 5/10/2010
I was born and raised in Rochester. Last year I moved to Clarksville, TN and I saw some differences.
Minnesota in itself is cold. The temperatures are bad for anyone who likes a little warmth. I have heard, however, that the people there are great. I personally, felt that was partially true. Also, they are better drivers. They know to be cautious in bad weather and sometimes you'll have those bad drivers no matter where you go.
If you like alot of diversity, races, and culture. Rochester is the place to be. I personally, don't like the feeling of having to look over my shoulder periodically. I'm sorry, but I feel the town is overrun with Somali people.
The jobs suck. Like another person wrote, unless you are going to work for IBM or the Mayo clinic, you're out of luck. They do have a community college, but the whole town has no feel of community.
After hours, there is nothing to do. You have your bars, and a dirty old club that needs serious updating and sterilization. Other then that, the closest thing that may be of some interest lies in the Twin Cities.
Rochester's schools are terrible. They are too big for anyone to get a proper education.
Not only that, but they used to have a park that was filled with geese. I mean, overpopulated....like a new york population. They were everywhere. Well, this was a popular and a landmark, but now they have shoo'ed away all the geese and any tradition we had before. I'm not sure how I feel about it, but I'm glad to have the bike paths cleaner.
I'd say the only good thing that Rochester, MN has to offer, other then family time, is bike trails. We don't have any here in Clarksville, but there is nothing special about the town at all.
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