Just about any season of the year has me hankering for a few days around Duluth and the north shore of Lake Superior, but the fall definitely has the strongest pull. And for my family, the drive up along Interstate 35 during the autumn months can be half the fun of the journey. Here we share 9 spots along — or not far off from — our favorite Minnesota corridor we think are worthwhile stops en route to Duluth:
1. Encounter the animals at the Wildlife Science Center, 5463 Broadway Ave., Columbus (27 miles from mid-Metro)
Open: Public tours run every Saturday, 11am & 1pm and last one hour.
Cost: $8/adults, $6/kids 4-12, under 4 free
Details: WSC is a facility that researches, educates about and aims to help conserve several species of wild animals, some of them endangered. Meet and learn about wolves, black bears, raptors and more.
Upcoming events: Harvest Howl (10/3) with kids games, Native American demonstrations and pumpkin painting; Howl-o-Ween (10/24) with trick-or-treating, crafts and special presentations.
2. Pick up pumpkins at Pinehaven Farm, 28186 Kettle River Blvd, Wyoming (35 miles from MM)
Open: Daily during the 2015 Harvest Festival, Sept. 19-Nov. 1, weekdays noon-6:30pm, weekends 10am-6:30pm.
Cost: $6.99+tax/pp, under 3 free (Mon-Wed), $8.99+tax/pp (Thurs-Sun). For other discounts and a coupon, click here.
Details: Admission to Pinehaven includes a host of kids activities: a playground, super slide, corn maze, kiddie train, jumping pillow, weekend shows and live entertainment, and much more. Head out to the pumpkin patch and pick-your-own for an extra fee. Read about our trip to Pinehaven Farm here.
Upcoming events: Get details on special weekend events here.
3. Apple-picking and more at Sunrise River Farm, 7602 Wyoming Trail, Wyoming (36 miles from MM)
Open: Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-6pm through the end of October.
Cost: Admission is free, there is a small fee for hayrides and pick-your-own apples are priced according to variety by half and quarter peck bags.
Details: Wander through the barn and meet the animals, take a hayride through the orchard and pick a peck of apples. This orchard has a great family feel to it.
4. Explore voyageur life at Northwest Company Fur Post, 12551 Voyageur Ln, Pine City (68 miles from MM)
Open: There is still time to request 2 free tickets via Museum Day Live! for Saturday, Sept. 26. The Fur Post is also open MEA Weekend 10/15-10/17, 10am-5pm.
Cost: $9/adults, $6/kids 6-17, under 6 & MHS members free.
Details: Explore a reconstructed fur post from the winter of 1804, interact with costumed interpreters, learn about voyageur life, and watch seasonal demonstrations. Guided tours last about 40 minutes; feel free to explore further on your own.
5. Learn the story of the Great Hinckley Fire at the Hinckley Fire Museum, 106 Old Hwy 61 Hinckley (81 miles from MM)
Open: Tues-Sun, 10am-5pm through mid-October
Cost: $5/adults, $2/teens, $1/kids 6-12, under 6 free
Details: The story of the Hinckley Fire is a fascinating one, but may not be appropriate for younger children. A 20-minute film details the disaster and exhibits are housed in the rebuilt train depot in the middle of town.
6. Hike the Banning State Park Quarry Loop, admire fall colors, 61101 Banning Park Rd, Sandstone (94 miles from MM)
Cost: $5/daily vehicle permit
Details: Fall color is beginning to burst along the Quarry Loop Trail. Hike parts of it along the wild Kettle River, watch kayakers and hunt for remnants of an old stone quarry that gave the town of Sandstone its name.
7. Celebrate “Autumn at the Audubon” Center of the Northwoods, 54165 Audubon Dr, Sandstone (94 miles from MMM)
When: Saturday, Sept. 26 • 10am-2pm
Details: Audubon’s annual Open House & Fall Harvest includes hayride tours, face painting and other kids activities, a chance to try the zip line and climbing wall, and more. Lunch is available for purchase from noon-1pm.
8. Visit the Moose Lake Agate & Geological Center, 4252 County Road 137, Moose Lake (113 miles from MM)
Open: Daily until 4pm
Cost: Free to visit the interpretive center, $5/vehicle permit to enter the state park.
Details: If you’ve got a kid who’s a rock hound, it’s worth a stop in to see the agate displays. Plus, learn the best places in the area to hunt for agates yourself.
9. Cross the Swinging Bridge at Jay Cooke State Park, 780 Highway 210, Carlton (138 miles from MM)
Cost: $5/vehicle permit to enter the park.
Details: Get out of the car and stretch your legs on a trip across the historic swinging bridge, rebuilt in 2012 after raging waters of the St. Louis River washed it away.
I wanted to make this list an even “10”, but try as I might, I couldn’t come up with a final point of interest along the route from the Twin Cities to Duluth. Any family favorites you might suggest to complete the list? Drop us a line – and happy travels this fall.