Last updated on August 18th, 2019
As the air is starting to turn a little cooler, it is the perfect time to start exploring. Most of the summer I’m trying to cram in a million different things. All while trying to avoid the bugs, and dodge the sun whenever possible. My fair complexion and Irish heritage is in instant recipe for incredible sunburn. But Autumn in Minnesota is when I really start to let loose. Between the harvest season, the lead up to Halloween, and a rush to get in as much as I can outdoors before the first snowfall, I’m busy almost every weekend.
28 Things to do in Autumn in Minnesota
Picking fresh apples is one of my family’s favorites tradition. Sometimes we go to the orchards just to go on a hayride and sample all the apples in the store. I always get a some apple butter, caramel, and cider before I leave. Other times we’ll come home with bushels of apples to can and bake with. We’ll spend the next couple weeks preparing pies, fillings, butters, sauces and jellies to last us the year. Ok, truthful it probably only last a few months before we devour it. We are so lucky in the Twin Cities to have so many different apple orchards close by. Make sure to call ahead to see if you can pick your own.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
The cold crisp air makes is perfect of a sunrise ride in a hot air balloon. Drifting over Minnesota’s most scenic landscapes, I can’t think of a better way to spend your day. In Duluth, you can catch them in action. The second weekend of September, they host the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Bayfront Park Festival.
I’ve become addicted to grape stomping ever since my first year. Stomping always happens in September after the grapes have been picked. There are about a dozen around the state to attend, with Carlos Creek being the largest. On my second attempt stomping, my Mother-Daughter team took home the trophy and giant bottle of wine. This year, we are going back to defend our title and even going to try it out at a larger venue. If you are headed out, check out these award winning tips! Big Feet Not Needed at this Minnesota Grape Stomp
The Minnesota Renaissance Festival
Ever since I learned the joy of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival in my teens, I’ve only missed in a few times. Each year I find another reason to keep coming back including the new foods, and entertainment that they bring. You can dress up, or go as you are. For some great consume ideas, take a look at How to Dress for the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. And also try not to geek out too much if you run into the king and queen like I did. After all, they aren’t really royalty.
Design a Costume
Start designing your costumes. Between the Renaissance Festival, Halloween, Thanksgiving and any family portraits coming up, you’ll want to get moving on your costume ideas. For the Renaissance Festival, I start planning in the summer. For Halloween, I start planning by September. You don’t have to be a master sewer either. Just head over to the thrift store and see what sparks your interest. With the right accessories, you can pull it off.
You’ve slaved over your garden all year long, and now you have a huge bounty to enjoy. The only problem is it only lasts for a short time. Start canning it all. Some of my favorites are fresh made applesauce, salsas, and jellies. But you don’t have to stop there. You can do pickles, veggies and so much more. The University of Minnesota has a lot of tips and tricks on how to do it safely. You can also take one of their classes if you prefer to learn in person.
Kayak down the Mississippi
Most consider water-related sports to be summertime fun. I beg to differ. The kayaks still are making their way down the river this time of year. Going in autumn means the temperatures will be a little cooler and you’ll get a chance to see some of the fall colors waterside! Just make sure you dress for the occasion.
Visit Pumpkin Patch
Getting fresh pumpkins should always be done in a patch. And never, I repeat, NEVER pay by the pound. If you do pay by the pound, chances are you are in a field that’s been transformed into a full-blown theme park, which can be a lot of fun too. But really, there are so many different ways to get pumpkins around town, do what’s best and most convenient for you. And if you want to make a date of it, check out the Patch Festival on Nelsons Farm that includes all kinds of different activities including pumpkin chucking.
For a new take on the pumpkin fun, check out the Pumpkin Regatta in Stillwater. They take pumpkin fun to a whole other level. It starts off with a chili cook-off. Then they weigh out the biggest pumpkin. Following that up with the Pumpkin Regatta, where selected participants, get in a hollowed-out pumpkin and race it down the St. Croix River. They end the festivities by raising the largest pumpkins you’ve seen high up on a crane and dropping them to the ground smashing them to smithereens.
Fall Color Drive
Springtime may have apple blossoms, but fall is perfect for the Fall Color drives. With the variety of tree’s and ever-changing climate, we have almost a full month of different colors. Some of my favorite places to see the crimsons and yellows is on the North Shore, visiting the Lighthouses. Or even the Mississippi River Valley towns. You can also meander down the Saint Croix. Check out Explore MN to see the full list of different drives and best times.
Autumn in Minnesota is the start of Football season. For some, that means tailgating U.S. Bank Stadium and watching the game inside. For others, it’s all about hanging out at your local sports bar or hosting viewing parties at home. The Vikings have finished up their museum at their new training facility at in Eagan. Depending on the time of year, training camp may be running too. It’s a great way to get into the spirit as a less expensive price than the full football experience.
Ride a Train
Ride the North Shore Scenic Railroad or the Osceola & Saint Croix River Valley Train. The railways use historical trains from all different eras. While there, check out the Duluth Depot Museum. It’s four museums in one, but the most exciting stuff is on the ground level. It’s an additional cost, but it will meet anyone’s fascination with trains. You’ll get the opportunity to sit in the driver’s seat and explore the Cars, Locomotives, and Cabooses. The Lake Superior Railroad Museum houses one of the largest collections of different railroad cars in the country.
The Defeat of Jesse James
This activity seems a little odd to celebrate, but each year, the town of North Field gets together to celebrate the day Jessie James gang tried to rob the First National Bank. The robbery ended in failure with only Jessie and one there member of his gang to escape. The others died or were captured. The town does reenactments of the event throughout the day and also have other fun activities going on to keep you entertained.
Fall Camping at a State Park
Fall is my favorite time to camp because the bugs have disappeared and you can spend your time enjoying the outdoors. At night, warm up by the fire with a cup of coffee or cocoa. With summer officially being over, the crowds drop off, and you can enjoy a little more peace and quiet at that state parks. I’m currently on a mission to visit all the MN State Parks and complete my passport. This Fall, I’m going to get at least one more park off my list.
If you go to any Oktoberfest, it has to be in New Ulm. It’s been voted as one of the best celebrations in the United States with the whole town getting involved. In addition to Downtown New Ulm, the Best Western Ballroom, Schell’s Brewery and Morgan Creek Vineyards all partake in the festivities. New Ulm is also famous for their Glockenspiel and Herman the German Sculpture.
Wandering around in a bunch of corn with the sun beating down on your face is always fun. Better yet, do it with a group of friends, some fresh concessions. Corn mazes are always a great way to spend an autumn day in Minnesota. Go prepared with a good pair of boots and a compass depending on how directionally challenged you are. Once inside the maze, everything starts to look the same. Each season I’m on the lookout for a new one to cross off my list of the 9 Best Corn Mazes in the Twin Cities. We have so many to choose from.
The best part about this time of year is the haunted houses. There are so many in the Twin Cities to appeal to everyone’s level of scare. I’m torn between the super scary and the lighter frights. I love when they can set the stage with the lighting, props. I think half the time I sit there and stare at the makeup and see if I can replicate it in my own Halloween setup at home. And then I remember that I want my kids to sleep through the night and to have trick-or-treaters make it to the door before getting completely scared away. For now, I just enjoy the haunted houses around town. The Scariest Haunted Houses in the Twin Cities
Zombie Pub Crawl
Pub Crawls are fun all on their own, but doing it in costume. OMG. I can’t wait. They are expecting thousands to participate in the Zombie Pub Crawl this year. This all takes place October 13th in the bars in North East Minneapolis. I’ve attended and a few zombie events before and you get to watch some of your favorite characters come to life, or maybe not, since technically they are dead. But the commitment and artistic talent that goes into creating the zombies have is absolutely amazing. You got to check it out, or even better, dress up yourself.
Spend a day at one of the many different horse trails. There are a bunch of different companies around the Twin Cities that will take you out on your own adventure for every skill level.
Wine and Women in the Woods
The Dodge Nature Center has found a new way to get a bunch of women to their nature programs, just add wine. Hosted throughout the year, these programs are a great way to learn about the woods, while you relax with a nice drink. During Falls, they have creatures of the night program. Find out what else lurks in the woods with you. I attended during the winter season, and we all took out snowshoes. It’s a lot, of fun!
Wabasha Street Caves
The Wabasha Street Caves makes for a great Halloween inspired trip in the fall. They have candlelit tours of famous gangster hangout included with the haunting tale. If you’re not feeling the haunted aspect, check out their regular tour to get the details on how this mushroom cave turned into a hotspot during the roaring 20s and why it all changed. If you want to know more, stick around and do one of the gangster tours right after!
Chase a Food Truck
Food Trucks are where you can find some of the best food in town. Often times the food is better than what you’ll find in most restaurants, and they specialize to meet all kinds of dietary requirements. They can be found outside of breweries and wineries all over the Twin Cities. Instead of doing a traditional lunch, find a Food Truck. Roaming Hunger has the details on all the food trucks an where to find them in the Twin Cities.
Twin Cities Marathon
Have you ever wanted to run a Marathon? The Twin Cities Marathon is always hosted during the First Weekend of October. If you aren’t quite at Marathon level running yet, no worries. Cheer along the sidelines. The marathon starts in Minneapolis, goes around four different lakes, across the Mississippi, and ends in a big party in Saint Paul. Spectators can cheer on the runners at various locations throughout the race.
Find a Waterfall
Waterfalls seem to make a list for every season, for different reasons. But my favorite time is always during autumn. That is because most of the bugs have disappeared. The only thing to be cautious of is fresh mud covered by newly fallen leaves. It can spell disastrous for hiking, especially on a hill. Make sure you have a firm footing before trekking anywhere to steep. Otherwise, enjoy the colors! Just check out these 8 Stunning Waterfalls Near Minneapolis.
Dakota Jazz Club
Because you can’t always get to New Orleans for some great music and eats, there is the Dakota Jazz Club. First Established in 1985, the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant opened in Said Paul and since moved to Minneapolis. Eat, drink and listen to some great music.
No need to wait for the snow to start hitting the slopes. Spirit Mountain has activities year-round including Off-Road Biking, a Two Seater Zipline through the trees and the Timber Twister coaster ride. Spirit Mountain is close enough to the Twin Cities you could make a Day Trip there, or spend the night on the property.
Watch the Birds Fly South
No not the snowbirds. Though there is plenty of retired folk that head south in their RVs this year, but real birds. That National Eagle Center is a great place to spot birds on the move. You can also head to the Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge near little falls or the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area in Anoka County. Nature.org has a full list of what types of birds migrate and the best places to find them.
The Big Island Rendezvous Festival
The first weekend in October, get out and celebrate with historical reenactments during the fur trade period at the Big Island Rendezvous Festival. You’ll see a voyagers encampment, Native American Tipi tours, Scottish Clans tartan, new Ulm Batter and other early American crafts. Over 300 different tents are set up with over 1,200 living history reenactors. They are the real deal here. Everything is located in City Park in Albert Lea.
Fall in Minnesota
I hope you enjoy Autumn in Minnesota as much as I do because you now have enough things to keep you busy for at least a few years. If you need to spend the night, check out TripAdvisor for some of the best deals on accommodations. They also have deals on different activities too. For more great ideas and other things to do throughout the year, check out my other 28 Things Lists.