My absolute without a doubt favorite time of the year is the fall. When the air turns crisp in the evenings and I can smell the earthy scent of the maturing plants, I shiver in delight. When I can pull out my favorite sweater or jeans and lace up my cute leather boots while packing my children’s school supplies, I grin. While making a cup of coffee and wrapping myself in my favorite afghan to sit on my front step, I sigh.
Fall is so perfect. It’s also the most fleeting season in Minnesota. With a snap of the fingers, the leaves are changing. With only a narrow window of time to enjoy the fall colors around the Twin Cities, it’s time to plan ahead. We’ve rounded up ten ideas of places you can bring your family to enjoy the beauty of the season.
Fall Color Walking Tours
Caponi Art Park | Eagan
In Eagan blooms an emerging 60 acre haven for art-lovers and nature-lovers alike. Caponi Art Park hustles and bustles through the summer bringing music, theatre, art, and nature all together. And it doesn’t stop when the season changes. Fall is a beautiful time to explore Caponi Art Park with the various trails through the changing woods and the art you will discover along the way. Open daily, free admission.
Elm Creek Park Reserve | Dayton
With 4,900 acres and lush forests with miles of trails for biking and hiking not only will you take in the beauty of the color of fall but of the scent of fall as well. Hang out in the playground, stroll through the woods, or rent a camper cabin and experience the beauty of the season. Go on a hunt for eagles, sandhill cranes, deer, bluebirds, beavers, loons, Trumpeter Swans, or hawks–depending on the season. You won’t ever be disappointed when you visit Elm Creek Park Reserve. It’s a beautiful and serene spot to take in the season. Open daily, free admission.
Hyland Lake Park Reserve | Bloomington
Hyland Lake Park Reserve is set among a large outdoor chain known as the Hyland-Bush-Anderson Lakes Park Reserve. A total of 2,565 acres between these parks hosts easily accessible turf trails and beautiful views of the prairie and wildlife. If you go on October 11th or 12th, you can even drive over to nearby Hyland Hills Ski Area to view the colors from a Ski Lift for $6/pp. Open daily, free admission.
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum | Chanhassen
Gardens, tree collections, woods, and prairies with miles of trails intersecting, this gem located is a premiere Northern Garden. Kids will love the Green Play Yard (open seasonally) and taking a run through the hedge maze. Hop on the free tram shuttle to explore through October. This is one of the most beautiful places in the Twin Cities to view fall colors and one of the most fragrant! $15/person, ages 13 and under are free.
Fall Color Rail Tours (unique options for train enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike)
Choo Choo Bob’s Saint Croix Railroad Outing | Hudson, WI
Choo Choo Bob invites you to join in for this annual fall fundraising event. Take an unforgettable ride on a miniature train. Reservations are required! Call the train shop at 651-646-5252.12-4pm, $5/person, $20/family-up to six people.
How idyllic to enjoy a ride through the beautiful St. Croix Valley on a historic train. Not only will the sights of fall surround you, but you will feel such peace with the repetitive chugging and the fresh scents of the season.90-minute fall color trains run through October 26, please see the website for times and to purchase tickets. Adults/$20, kids/$12.
MEA Weekend idea: All aboard for The Pumpkin Express! Trains depart for the patch Oct 18-20. Tickets are $20/person. Enjoy the fall colors and scoop up your pumpkins.
Fall Color River Tours
The River–be it the Mississippi River or the St. Croix River–is the perfect place to float along and relax while enjoying the view and changing leaves. Many riverboat cruise have specific fall sightseeing trips, and others have meal cruises that tootle down the river. For a good option to entertain tweens and teens, you can rent a canoe or a kayak and paddle yourself right through the lovely fall colors.
Interstate State Park | Taylors Falls
The gorge flanking the St Croix in Interstate State Park is on fire during the fall. Rent a canoe or kayak through Wild Mountain and paddle your way down the river. $25.50-$35.50 for the rental craft and equipment. A shuttle will return you to the park.
Or, if your family isn’t up to power your own vessel, take a cruise out of Interstate with Taylors Falls Scenic Boat Tours. Tickets run $11.50-$21/pp.
St Croix River Cruises | Hudson, WI
Fall Color cruises depart Saturdays at noon, Sept-Oct. Adults/$22, kids/$12.
Padelford Riverboats | St. Paul
Narrated, 90-minute cruises are offered seven days a week with a leisurely paddle up the Mississippi and back. Fall color cruises depart from Harriet Island near downtown St Paul. September: Wed-Fri, 2:30pm. Weekends, 12 & 2:30pm. October: Fri-Sun, 2:30pm. Adults/$18-$20, kids/$10.