Fall in Minnesota is beautiful – and short, so we want to take advantage of every color-filled day. Whether you’re looking for something to do for the day or the weekend, we’ve got some great ideas for you.
Cannon River Wilderness Area – This park is one of the undiscovered gems of southern Minnesota, so shhhh . . . keep it to yourself, okay? In the fall, I love to sneak into the back side of the park, off Cannon City Boulevard outside of Northfield, and walk among the majestic oaks, the colorful sumacs and poplar trees, taking in the beauty of God’s creation as I wander down the path. It’s like a magical little wonderland of peace. There are several steps on this side of the park. I recently approached it from County Road 3 north of Faribault and it’s equally as beautiful. If you go to the website, you’ll see it mentions modern toilets. This means there’s an outhouse, which personally I don’t consider all that modern. And you might want to wait until after the first freeze to visit as the mosquitoes are kind of intense this year. – Nancy Holte
Apple Orchard – One of my favorite fall scents is apple cinnamon anything. Candles, pies, crisps, you name it. While i’m not a huge baker, one of my most-loved fall traditions is apple picking, in anticipation of attempting to bake something appley fresh. If you’ve never been to Minnesota Harvest, I highly recommend checking out this family-friendly apple orchard. Located in Jordan, Minnesota, enjoy the beautiful display of golden-red leaves as you drive through the country. Pick your own apples, enjoy live music, try the petting zoo and sunflower maze for the littles, and stop at Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store on your way home for some fresh-baked treats, caramel apples, and endless varieties of root beer. This trip to the orchard is fun for all ages and taste buds—even if you just end up eating the apples or using them in fall decorations instead of baking. – Lindsay May
Stillwater – If you’ve never been to Stillwater, what are you waiting for? Just east of the Twin Cities metro area, Stillwater is a quick drive but a world apart from the hustle and bustle of the city. The town is located in a valley on the banks of the St Croix River. The new part of town (with big box stores and chain restaurants) is on top of the hill, while the lower part of the valley along the river has been maintained and restored to all its nineteenth-century glory. The inns, restaurants, antique shops, boutiques, and parks along the river make Stillwater a great destination for a peaceful weekend getaway. – Karah Hawkinson
Camden State Park – Tucked quietly in the southwestern corner of Minnesota and a few miles from Marshall, on MN23, is a gem of a state park that features much more diversity than one might exect. We often bring out-of-town guests to this park, and they leave wowed by how much Camden has to offer. This historic park boasts hiking trails through native prairies, established woodlands, spring-fed rivers, and marshes. Our family favorite is climbing the 2.4-mile hiking trail which leads to the Dakota Valley Overlook, which features opportunities to experience most of the diverse flora and fauna of the park as well as stunning views of the river valley, especially gorgeous during the fall. There is a beautiful playground area near the swimming beach, and it’s just a quick walk to some of the best trout fishing in the area. Enjoy the world’s largest scavenger hunt by geocaching using the free GPS kits available for checkout from the park office! Plan a day trip, but definitely don’t leave before dark. Free from urban light sprawl, Camden is the perennial favorite site in Minnesota for astronomers and attracts stargazers of all ages. The Milky Way is visible on clear evenings. – Kandy Noles Stevens
Bayfield – Bayfield is one of my all-time favorite places to visit with my family, and their apple festival every fall is a perfect time to go! Located on the banks of Lake Superior, Bayfield is a quaint town with lots of neat shops and bed and breakfasts to stay for a night or long weekend. During the apple festival vendors line the streets, where they sell all kinds of arts and crafts and every apple-filled goodie you can imagine, accompanied by family activities and music to keep it lively. The leaves changing color make the perfect backdrop for this lively and fun fall event! – Kendra Roehl
North Shore – Minnesota’s Lake Superior shoreline isn’t exactly a well-kept secret in the fall, but a day trip up Highway 61 north of Two Harbors will take you away from the crowds while still offering spectacular fall colors and outdoor experiences. An early morning stop at the unique Iona’s “pink” Beach (3 miles north of Gooseberry Falls) is a great way to start the day. Beaches and state parks are abundant along the shoreline, and it’s easy to visit a number of them in a day. Waterfalls and kid-friendly, although not stroller-friendly, hiking trails are plentiful in Cascade River (cascades and falls loop), Tettegouche (cross the scary suspension bridge on the falls trail – I dare you!), and Temperance River (the gorge trail is my favorite!) State Parks. Picnicking along the harbor and meandering through shops in the adorable town of Grand Marais provides a great midday rest break. And no North Shore trip is complete without a stop at Betty’s Pies (just north of Two Harbors) for a piece of the perfect caramel apple pie. My advice: Take it to go! Who wants to be inside on a perfect Minnesota fall day? – Jen Spiegel