Fall moves fast in Minnesota. As soon as the weather cools, a crisp air sweeps in, which means it’s time for apple picking, leaf peeping, and pumpkin eating. Throw in a bit of theatrical Halloween spook, and you’ll see why the Twin Cities are the perfect place for fall fun.
Fun fact: Did you know that apple breeders at the University of Minnesota invented the honeycrisp? This fall, they’ll introduce you to one of its descendants, First Kiss. But apples aren’t the only reason to visit a Twin Cities orchard. Many double as theme parks with hayrides, petting zoos, corn mazes, and – perhaps, best of all – apple-themed foods. Here are some of the best:
- At Minnetonka Orchards, go on a hayride or make your way through the petting zoo, and then stuff yourself with everything apples – from apple brats to apple donuts.
- Aamodt’s Apple Farm celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. After apple picking, raise a glass of Thor’s Hard Cider, produced onsite, to celebrate.
- At Afton Apple Orchard, apples aren’t the only thing you can pick. Bring home a bushel of raspberries or strawberries (if still in season) too. Check out its Apple Festival, which offers family-friendly entertainment and fireworks.
- Victoria Valley Orchard is a no-pick, no-thrills orchard, but it’s the perfect place to buy apples right from the source after a leisurely stroll through the trees.
- Pine Tree Apple Orchard is also a no-pick orchard, but a great place for those with a sweet tooth. Try its apple desserts, and then burn off some calories by trying to find your way out of its corn maze. Kids will love the pony rides.
Get into the Halloween spirit by picking your own pumpkin straight from the vine at one of these Minnesota farms:
- Pick your own pumpkin at the 100-acre Berry Hill Farm in Anoka and haul it to your car in a little red Radio Flyer. Take a tractor tour to meet the ‘pumpkin people’ who call the woods home.
- Find your perfect front-porch seasonal symbol at the Pumpkin Patch at Veterans Memorial Park in Richfield. Then take in the fall colors by pedaling its trails on a family-friendly surrey, or play a round of mini golf.
Do you like puzzles? See if Minnesota’s biggest can stump you – it’s a Halloween tradition here to find your way out of a complex corn maze (if you can). If you believe bigger is better, check out Minnesota’s largest corn maze, the Twin Cities Maze. Basketball fans will especially love it: This year it’s laid out to honor the 30th season of the Timberwolves.
How many different ways can you pay homage to a pumpkin? You’ll find out at one of these fall festivals:
- Hollow out a giant pumpkin and turn it into a boat to relive your glory days by racing others in Stillwater Harvest Fest’s annual orange-gourd regatta.
- Find out how far you can fling a pumpkin using a trebuchet at the Crow River Winery’s Pumpkin Fest.
- Explore the Minnesota Zoo at night during the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, where 5,000 pumpkins eerily glow from ground to treetop.
- Trick or treat at The Great Pumpkin Fest at Valley Fair, an amusement park in Shakopee. If you find yourself covered in pumpkin pulp, you can wash off by bubbling up in Valley Fair’s new foam machine. No water required.
- Test your athleticism at Sever’s Fall Festival where you can get lost in a corn maze, climb a tire mountain, or ride a zip line. Too easy? Try the maze again with a flashlight after dark. Don’t leave without trying a Minnesota favorite, the Giant Slide.
- For a real party, slip on your lederhosen and check out Minnesota’s Oktoberfest celebrations in New Ulm (near Schell’s Brewery) or at the Gasthof Zur Gemutlichkeit, where you’re sure to dance to polka music and drink out of a glass boot.
- Fans of The Walking Dead can live out the show at the booze-fueled Zombie Pub Crawl down the streets in northeast Minneapolis while top musicians play. There’s even a brain-eating contest – if you dare.
Outdoor Adventure Among Fall Colors
Sometimes the best thing to do while traveling is not much at all. Instead, visit a Twin Cities natural area for its restorative effects. Use the MN Fall Color Finder to make sure your timing is right to see peak colors. Here’s where to go:
- Explore the fall colors from shore or while in a rented kayak at the 5,500-acre Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park Reserve.
- See the Mississippi River and its glorious fall colors close up from the 12-foot-wide observation walkway on top of the dam at Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park in Brooklyn Park.
- Fall is the most popular time of year at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, and it’s easy to see why. Not only will you have 1,200 leaf-peeping-worthy acres to roam, but there’s 300 varieties of pumpkins on display.
- City lovers can check out the thick foliage in one of St. Paul’s largest natural parks, Crosby Farm Regional Park. Take time to explore its sandy shores, as it’s situated at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers.
- Minnesota offers miles of scenic drives to get you out on the road. From the Twin Cities, go southeast on Highway 61 to explore the rolling farmlands and fall foliage that leads to Red Wing. Or travel along Highway 36 or I-94 to see vibrant fall colors springing from the St. Croix River Valley bluffs. Highways 7 or 12 will take you to the shores of luxurious Lake Minnetonka, where teardowns sell for millions.
Thrill seekers can get a fright at one of the Twin Cities’ great seasonal performances:
- Enjoy 11 days of on-stage gore and blood at the Twin Cities Horror Festival in Minneapolis.
- When the sun goes down, Valley Fair – an amusement park in Shakopee – turns into foggy ValleySCARE Halloween Haunt. Enjoy the rides but beware: More than 300 monsters and spooky creatures prowl the park at night.
- Minutes from downtown is Fright Farm Haunted House. Here, you can be scared while doing good: It’s actually a non-profit fundraiser that often appears on “Best of” lists for Halloween fun.
- The James J. Hill House in St. Paul seems to be built for horror. Some Minnesotans suspect this 1800s mansion is haunted, and its theatrical performances, like this year’s, “The Haunting of Hill House,” will make you a believer too.
- For low-scare thrills, try Nickelodeon Boo-niverse at the Mall of America in Bloomington after dark. Ride the Log Chute through a fog or dance the night away with a funky witch who’s got the moves.
Check in to a Twin Cities Hilton to enjoy the tastes and thrills of a Twin Cities fall.