Fall Colors in Minnesota: 10 Tours for Families

Fall Color

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 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 are changing. 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.

Autumn 2021 Details

  • Fall Weather Forecast 2021. According to the Old Farmers Almanacafter our hot and dry summer, expect a cool and wet autumn. Wetness may affect how long leaves stay on the trees, so you may want to view as early as possible this year.
  • Peak Fall Foliage Forecast 2021: The Minnesota DNR suggests the best time for viewing falls colors in the metro area is Late September through early-mid October (depending on whether you are driving north or south). The north tip of the state will peak in late September and the most southeast corner will peak in early to mid-October. Note that our dry summer may delay the season by a couple weeks. Use the DNR’s autumn peak page for immediate information. 
  • Minnesota Apple Picking Season: In an interview with KSTP, Chris Aamodt (Aamodt Apples) said apple season is 7-14 days early this year because of the warm winter and varieties may be smaller and fewer because of the summer’s drought. Late August through October. Average harvest dates by variety can be found here.
  • Minneapolis First Frost Date 2021: Expect our first frost around October 8th, according to Old Farmers Almanac again.

Fall Colors Walking Tours

Gardens, tree collections, woods, and prairies with miles of trails intersecting, this gem located is a premiere Northern Garden. In 2021, everyone must reserve a time and have their ticket available at the gate house when you drive in.  For extra fun, check out the Season of Trees Activities

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

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.

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.

Annual chairlift rides on Oct. 9 and 10, 2021 – Traditionally $5-$6/pp, but 2021 registration has not begun yet.

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

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. Fall color tram tours begin in early October and are traditionally $5/pp. Open daily, free admission.

5. Highland Water Tower | St. Paul

Most years, the Highland Water Tower is open to the public twice a year. In 2021, construction made it impossible to open in July.  Saint Paul parks will make a determination on the October open house in September.  Stay tuned.  When open, this is a beautiful place to view colors from. Typically open the mid-weekend of October – Saturday and Sunday from 9am-5pm. Free.

6. Rum River Regional Park | Ramsey

Enjoy the trails, or if you want to do something special, rent a canoe or kayak and view the colors from the river. Vehicle permits are $6/day or $30/year. Reserve a Canoe or Kayak for $20/2 hours or $30/day.

Fall Colors River Tours

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

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.

7. 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 and paddle your way down the river. $35.50-$45.50 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 $6.99-$22.99/pp.

8. St Croix River Cruises | Hudson, WI

Fall Color cruises depart select Saturdays and Sundays during the fall color season. Adults/$23, kids/$13-$18.

9. 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.

Fall tours begin September 8, 2021 and run through the end of October. September: Wed-Fri, 2:30pm. Weekends, 12 & 2:30pm. October: Fri-Sun, 2:30pm. Adults/$18.90-$21.00, kids/$10.50. 

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.

10. Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway

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 September 18 through October 24, 2021, please see the website for times and to purchase tickets. Adults/$25, kids/$17.

MEA Weekend idea: All aboard for The Pumpkin Express! Trains depart for the patch Oct 22-24, 2021. Tickets are Adults/$30, kids/$25. 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. Pingback: Twin Cities fall color tours! - 98.5 KTIS 98.5 KTIS

  2. 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.

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