Fall Colors in Minnesota: 10 Tours for Families

Girl holding red/orange leaf in front of her face. "Fall Colors in Minnesota: 10 Tours for Families"

My absolute, without a doubt, favorite time of the year is the fall. When the air turns crisp in the evenings, the sunlight takes on that autumn glow, and I can smell the earthy scent of the maturing plants and the smoky aroma of bonfires and barbecues, 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 and enjoy the fleeting fall colors.

Fall is so perfect. It’s also the most fleeting season in Minnesota. With a snap of the fingers, the leaves change colors. With only a narrow window of time to enjoy the fall color 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.

two people sword fighting with pickles at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. Text: 2023 Minnesota Renaissance Festival. 7 Weekends of Huzzah & Cheers! Open Weekends Aug. 19 - Oct. 1 - Plus Labor Day, Sept 4 & Festival Friday, Sept. 29. 9am-7pm - Rain or Shine. Park & Ride Recommended - Prepaid Parking Pass Required for Onsite Parking. See Website for More Information. 952.445.7361. RenaissanceFest.com.

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Autumn 2023 Details

While each year is different and weather changes like moisture, rainfall or drought can effect the nutrients that predict the fall timelines. We have some details we can count on each year:

  • Fall Weather Forecast. The Old Farmers Almanac, shares historical trends and predictions for two months in advance on its web page.
  • Peak Fall Foliage Season Forecast: Colors change throughout the state beginning in mid- to Late September up north and early to mid-October in the south of of the state. Look for Twin Cities color change around late September to the beginning of October. By early November, the weather may still be great for hiking, but most of the leaves are down. The Minnesota DNR shares the best time for viewing falls colors in the metro area on its autumn peak page.
  • Minnesota Apple Picking Season: Average harvest dates by variety can be found here.
  • Minneapolis First Frost Date: Expect our first frost in October and find a more accurate prediction in Old Farmers Almanac again.
Birch Tree in the Autumn
Birch Tree in Autumn - Surrounded by Orange, Yellow & Green Foliage

Best Places for Fall Colors Walking Tours

Highland Water Tower | St. Paul

782 Snelling Ave S, St Paul, MN 55116
The Highland Water Tower is open to the public twice each year — the second of these public days is close to peak color viewing. The landscape is beautiful from these historic heights (can anyone confirm this is one of the highest accessible points in St Paul?). The perfect urban spot to appreciate the colors of the season. When we have visited, treats and activity books were handed out to kids from St Paul Regional Water Services. October 14-15, 2023. 9am-5pm. Free.

FFTC climbs the historic Highland Park water tower in St Paul.

3675 Arboretum Dr, Chaska, MN 55318
Gardens, tree collections, woods, and prairies with miles of trails intersecting, this gem located is a premiere Northern Garden. Everyone must reserve a time and have their ticket available at the gate house when you drive in.

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.

Scarecrow made from broom with red nose, a big smile and a bowtie.
Image courtesy Landscape Arboretum. Photo by Liz Potasek

Caponi Art Park | Eagan

Girl playing in fall leaves at Caponi Art Park in Minnesota
Playing in the fall leaves at Caponi Art Park

1220 Diffley Rd, Eagan, MN 55123
In Eagan, an emerging 60 acre haven for art-lovers and nature-lovers alike blooms with color. 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 (with suggested donation of $5).  Leaf Fest is October 14th, 2023; 12pm-4pm.

8800 Chalet Road, Bloomington, MN 55438
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. Open daily, free admission to visit the park.

Three Rivers Park System
Hyland Park in fall, courtesy Three Rivers Parks

Annual chairlift rides on Oct. 7 and 8, 2023 – $8.37/pp. These sell out quickly!

WILD MOUNTAIN in Taylors Falls also offers scenic autumn chairlift rides. Find ticket information here.

12400 James Deane Pkwy, Maple Grove, MN 55369
With 4,900 acres and lush forests with miles biking and hiking trails 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. Fall color tram tours traditionally begin in early October $5/pp. Open daily, free admission.

Dakota County Greenways are also great hiking or biking options for scenic views of the Mississippi or Minnesota River Valleys. Hike the short Maple Trail at Baylor Regional Park, Norwood Young America, the Hilltop Picnic Area or Prairie Trail Loop at Lake Minnewashta Regional Park, Excelsior, or hike the Dakota Rail Regional Trail.

Camp & Hike Baker Park Reserve | Maple Plain

4001 County Rd 24, Maple Plain, MN 55359
Look for brightly colored maples, oak trees and a colorful assortment of others that begin turning around the start of October. Camping is open until October 23, 2022. Choose between a tent or a cabin. 

Rum River Central Regional Park | Ramsey

17955 Roanoke St NW, Ramsey, MN 55303
The twisty Rum River feels almost omnipresent once you get up into the northern suburbs of Minneapolis-St Paul. There are a number of parks in that neck that bear the name of the river — we are recommending the large regional park with trails located in Ramsey. Enjoy the gentle yellow-gold loop trail in fall, or if you want to do something special, rent a canoe or kayak and view the colors from the river. Vehicle permits are $7/day or $30/year. Canoe or kayak rentals are first come first serve in 2023 for $10/hour.

A golden afternoon in Rum River Central Regional Park, Ramsey

Spring Lake Park Reserve | Hastings

8395 127th Street East, Hastings, MN 55033
Pick fall to explore this park that overlooks the Mississippi – specifically, head for the Schaar’s Bluff trail. Take caution when hiking with youngsters; the terrain can be uneven and give way to sudden drop offs. The views above the river are beautiful to behold.

Fall Colors River Tours

Paddle on a Padelford Riverboat at Harriet Island Park in Saint Paul Minnesota

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

307 Milltown Road, Taylors Falls, MN 55084
The gorge flanking the St Croix in Interstate State Park is on fire with fall colors during the fall. Rent a canoe or kayak and paddle your way down the river. $30.99+ 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 $154.99-$26.99/pp.

St Croix River Cruises | Hudson, Wisconsin

98 Walnut St, Hudson, WI 54016
Fall Color cruises depart select Saturdays and Sundays during the fall color season. Adults/$25, kids/$13-$20.

Padelford Riverboats | St. Paul

Harriet Island Regional Park, 205 Dr Justus Ohage Blvd, St Paul, MN 55107
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. Adults/$21.00, kids/$10.50. 

Yellow Aspen in the Fall
Yellow Aspen in the Fall

Our Favorite Road Trips for Viewing Fall Foliage

Twin Cities to Duluth: 10 Fun Stops for Families

Where better than the Lake Superior shoreline to view colors? But why wait until you get there when the journey north is a delight in itself. Anne has mapped out a fun road trip to Duluth with family-friendly stops along the way.  Plan your visit around “peek” color times for a particularly beautiful drive. Stay the weekend: 10 Best Things To Do in Duluth with Kids.

The Drive to Red Wing Is Especially Beautiful in Fall

We love driving down Highway 61 to Red Wing for the Children’s Book Festival in mid-September, and this isn’t even usually peak color, which arrives a few weeks later. Once in Red Wing, we have some ideas for family fun, including a scenic hike to Barn Bluff, which overlooks the best fall colors.

Three girls standing in front of the overlook at Barn Bluff in Red Wing, Minnesota
FFTC Team Kids hike Barn Bluff in Red Wing

Mankato and New Ulm

Fall is a wonderful time to visit Mankato and New Ulm.  Hike the Minnesota River Trail and visit Minneopa State Park to get the full autumn effect. More Fun: 10 Things To Do In Mankato with Kids

Fall Colors Rail Tours

People Boarding the Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway
 Rail tours are a unique options for train enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike.

Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway

114 Depot Rd, Osceola, WI 54020
How idyllic to enjoy a ride through the beautiful St. Croix Valley Scenic Byway 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 September 16 through October, 2023.
Booking Now. Adults/$29, kids/$21 and discounts for families of 4 or more.

MEA Weekend Idea: All aboard for The Pumpkin Express! Trains depart for the patch Oct 20-22, 2023. Tickets are adults/$35, kids/$29. Enjoy the fall colors and scoop up your pumpkins.

Find hundreds more things to do in Minneapolis & St Paul with kids!

3 thoughts on “Fall Colors in Minnesota: 10 Tours for Families”

  1. Try jumping across the Prescott, WI bridge. Take a right and follow WI 35 as far as you want. Only the oaks are left now. But every hue of red, orange, and yellow. You drive along the Mississippi who’s beauty way surpasses Minnesota’s. Move inland toward Elsworth, Eau Galle, Durand, Lund. The huge hills, valleys for miles, colors. All I can say every time when I drive it, which is lots, is WOW. We usually make it a half day trip.

  2. Pingback: Twin Cities fall color tours! - 98.5 KTIS 98.5 KTIS

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