Survey: Minnesota's best college party town is ... Rochester?

Rochester, a party town? Seriously?

Rochester, a party town? Seriously? Getty Images

Say it with us: Rochester's fun!

Yeah, we’re talking about Rochester, Minnesota. The same Rochester that's home of the sprawling Mayo Clinic and most of its 32,000 employees. If you live there, you either are or know someone who works at the hospital, and the rest of the city sort of fits around it like an exoskeleton.

But there may be more to this town than Mayo’s long shadow. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the United States Census Bureau, Rochester is also Minnesota’s best college town. 

It gets better. When it comes to cost of living, student employment, and city access, Rochester didn’t even make the top 10. The category that sent it over the top -- where it scored No. 10 overall -- was “nightlife and fun.”

Your first thought is probably, “Um, what about the University of Minnesota?” Rightly so. Unfortunately, the survey only covers towns with fewer than 250,000 residents. Technically, the Twin Cities doesn’t qualify as a "college town."

Your second thought is probably, "Okay, sure, but Rochester?” Again, you’re not wrong. Rochester is better known as a great place to raise a family; big but safe, high employment, all that. It’s not exactly heralded for being a hip place for the young and single, like, for instance, Wisconsin's best college town: Madison.

Then again, maybe someday it could be. Since 2005, the city’s been revamping its downtown, making it more walkable and adding more bars, restaurants, and concert venues.

“I think the other thing is downtown Rochester is very safe and very approachable,” Jenna Bowman says. She’s the former executive director for the Rochester Downtown Alliance, which has been working on making the city’s downtown more than just an appendage of the hospital. She’s not in college anymore, but she can see students digging it.

It’s a good point; it’s possible Rochester got a high score just for its phenomenal party... infrastructure. After all, is there any reason why Rochester wouldn’t be down for a good time?

Well, yes, says U of M Rochester spokesperson John Hachtel.

“It’s not a party atmosphere at all,” he says. “This is the least partying campus I’ve ever worked at, and I’ve worked at eight of them.”

But hey! The U of M isn’t the only school in town. There’s also the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, and spokesperson Jolene Young gives a Rochester partying scene a... solid maybe-sort-of.

“I’m obviously not going to be naïve and say they don’t party,” she says. There’s just not a lot for Mayo students to party about. They have no school sports teams or bands. But she says they do a lot of community service. So there’s that!

All right, maybe Rochester isn’t a party town yet, but in time, maybe it could be. If the survey tells us anything, it’s that there’s hope for the Med City yet.