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As the air is starting to turn a little cooler, it is the perfect time to start exploring. Fall in Minnesota is one of these magical seasons. It’s finally cool enough to start hiking and hear the leaves crunch under your feet.
The trees become magical, and the MN really shines. Autumn in Minnesota may be one of the best times of the year!
For 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 are an instant recipe for incredible sunburn.
Fall Activities in Minnesota is when the fun really starts. Between the Afton Apple Orchard, Petting zoos, 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 favorite traditions. Sometimes we go to the orchards just to go on a hayride and sample all the apples in the store.
I always get 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 of weeks preparing pies, fillings, butter, sauces, and jellies to last us the year. Ok, truthfully it probably only lasts a few months before we devour it.
We are so lucky in the Twin Cities to have so many different apple orchards close by. You can start picking in late September with this family-friendly activity.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
The cold crisp air makes it perfect for 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.
You can go up in your own hot air balloon with the rides to see spectacular fall colors. Or in Duluth, you can catch them in action.
The second weekend of September, they host the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Bayfront Park Festival.
Looking for some great outdoor activities to do this fall? You have to try Grape Stomping! 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 a stomping, my Mother-Daughter team took home the trophy and a 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.
The Minnesota Renaissance Festival
Ever since I learned the joy of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival in my teens, I’ve only missed it a few times. That’s because it’s one of the best fall festivals in Minnesota.
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 costume ideas, take a look at How to Dress for the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.
And also try not to geak out too much if you run into the king and queen like I did. After all, they aren’t really royalty.
Minnesota Renaissance Festival is so much fun. If this is your first year, make sure to check out these quick guides:
How to Dress For the MN Renaissance Festival
Things you only see at the MN Renaissance Festival
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 freshly made applesauce, salsas, and jellies.
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.
You can also find a calm lake and grab your favorite inflatable paddleboard!
I love my Goosehill Inflatable Paddle Board. I got it at the beginning of fall and couldn’t resist getting it on the water when it was above 50! Goosehill Sailor Inflatable Stand-Up Paddle Board Review: The Best iSUP for the Money
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.
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 which 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 scenic drives. The Minnesota DNR will track the fall foliage, helping you find the best spots with colors and when peak fall color time is.
With the variety of trees and ever-changing climate, we have almost a full month of different colors. For a great fall foliage drive, make sure to follow their map. The leaves go quickly!
Or even the Mississippi River Valley towns. You can also meander down the Saint Croix to see the beautiful fall colors.
Explore the small town of Red Wing. Check out Explore MN‘s fall color finder to see the full list of different drives and best times. This is also a perfect time to visit the Superior Hiking Trail as the colors are amazing!
Bring a Tripper Gear | Outdoor Camping Blanket to stay warm or have a picnic on your adventure!
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 in Eagan. Depending on the time of year, training camp may be running too.
It’s a great way to get into the spirit at a less expensive price than the full football experience.
Ride a Train
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. Plus, you’ll get to explore some great small towns!
Looking for a fun scenic train ride in MN? Check out these great trips you can take:
7 Best Scenic Train Rides in Minnesota
The Defeat of Jesse James
This activity seems a little odd to celebrate, but each year, the town of Northfield 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 his brother escaping.
The others died or were captured. The town does reenactments of the event throughout the day and also has other fun activities going on to keep you entertained.
Northfield has a bunch of fun things to do! In addition to the fun history, check out some of the great dining, biking waterfalls, and more!
18 of the Best Things to do in Northfield MN
Fall Camping at a State Park
Fall is my favorite time to camp at Minnesota State Parks because the bugs have disappeared and you can spend your time enjoying the outdoors and on the hiking trails.
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 Park.
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 its 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 and a fall festival or two 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.
MN Corn Mazes have grown so large. In addition to the maze, they have expanded to full-blow fall festivals. Come hungry and prepared to have fun!
Minnesota has so many corn mazes. You’re bound to find one close to you.
14 of the Best Corn Mazes in the Twin Cities
Throughout the month of October is filled with 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, and 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.
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.
Minnesota has some amazing haunted attractions. From Haunted Houses to Real Hauntings. Check out these:
The Scariest Haunted Houses in the Twin Cities
16 Real Haunted Places In MN
Valleyfair’s Tricks and Treats – Making the most of your Halloween
Halloween Things To Do in Minneapolis for Everyone
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 on October 13th in the bars in North East Minneapolis.
I’ve attended 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.
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 Fall, 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 make for a great Halloween-inspired road trip in the fall. They have candlelit tours of famous gangster hangouts 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.
For more great Gangster information stick around and do one of the gangster tours right after! We had the best time doing this tour. I highly recommend it.
Fall is a peak time for the Wabasha Street Cave Tours. Make sure to book them before time runs out!
If they do fill up, or if you are interested in the Gangster Tour of St Paul, you can get your tickets here.
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 and 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 at 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 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 be disastrous for hiking, especially on a hill. Make sure you have a firm footing before trekking anywhere too steep.
Otherwise, enjoy the colors!
Minnesota is home to amazing waterfalls. Check them all out!
12 Stunning Waterfalls Near Minneapolis
Where to find Waterfalls in Duluth: Everything you need for a great trip
Dakota Jazz Club
Established in 1985, the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant opened in Said Paul and has since moved to Minneapolis. Eat, drink and listen to some great music.
Spirit Mountain Biking
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. Either way, you’ll get to go on a great scenic drive to get there with a view of the north shore of Lake Superior.
Watch the Birds Fly South
No not the snowbirds. Even though there is plenty of retired folks that heads 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.
Time the trip right in the fall, and you’ll have beautiful colors too. Take a quick ride up the North Shore Scenic Byway and you’ll have a great road trip. Plus you’ll see some great scenic overlooks.
Looking to stay closer to the Twin Cities? We have some amazing Bike Trails to explore.
40 Scenic Bike Trails in the Twin Cities
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 voyager’s 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.