The fall season is a busy time for families. It’s back-to-school time, a ramp up to the holidays, and that oh-so-nice breath of fresh air—fall break! And what a perfect time for a break. Fall is a season packed with the sorts of activities that have enthralled generations of children and parents: harvest festivals, apple picking, pumpkin patches and corn mazes, just to name a few. Drive any country road in Minnesota for just a few minutes and you’ll likely find one or two (or all) of these—the Land of 10,000 Lakes is also a land of timeless autumn fun!
1. Share Quality Family Time at Fall Festivals
Fall festival season starts right after Labor Day. Kick things off with the Burnsville Fire Muster (Sept. 6-10). The highlight is a parade of firetrucks old and new from near and far (in 2004, the event set the record for the world’s largest firetruck parade when more than 120 trucks lined up). Also in September, the Lakeville Art Festival (Sept. 16-17) features demonstrations, a youth art tent and 80 artists—including painters, sculptors and ceramicists—selling their work.
For the quintessential fall festival, head up the road to Bloomington, where Heritage Days (Sept. 16) covers all the bases: a parade, a vintage car show and even a pie-eating contest. The festival also salutes the diversity of its local heritage, particularly in a lineup of performers that includes Mu Performing Arts taiko drummers, Los Alegres Bailadores Mexican folkloric dance group, and Hui’s Lucky Lion dance team.
2. Go Back in Time and Celebrate Like a King
Weekends Aug. 19 through Oct. 1, plus Labor Day and Festival Friday, Sept. 30
Celebrating its 47th season, the Minnesota Renaissance Festival in Shakopee has become the largest Renaissance festival in the United States. Attendees can enjoy themed weekends, artisan crafts, games, thrilling performances, seasonal foods and, of course, breathtaking jousts and medieval re-enactments.
3. Scare up Some Halloween Thrills and Chills
When the air gets chillier (and just a bit spookier), the place to be is Anoka, the Halloween Capital of the World (really!), which goes all-out with costume contests, parades and the annual Gray Ghost 5K. There’s also a house-decorating contest, so be sure to take a stroll or a drive around town. Other signature family-oriented Halloween events around the state include Edina’s 50th & France Pumpkin Festival (Oct. 21).
4. Get Adventurous with Fall-Themed Mazes
September through October
There are plenty of ways to get in on the autumn action without marking your calendar for a particular day. Sever’s Fall Festival, for example, runs from early September to late October. It’s the sort of place where you can play for hours. Want a maze? There are two: one slicing through a field of corn, and another formed from bales of hay. And don’t forget the hayrides, corn pits (think “ball pit” but substitute kernels of corn) and pumpkin blasters: If you’ve ever dreamed of shooting a pumpkin out of a cannon, here’s your chance.
The Twin Cities Harvest Festival and Maze is a similar sort of something-for-everyone experience, featuring its own sprawling corn pit and hayrides—and, yes, you can send some pumpkins airborne here, too, with the Pumpkin Slinger, which can send the orange orbs more than 100 yards. This Brooklyn Park attraction’s primary claim to fame, though, is the largest corn maze in the state, which always features a new theme (last year, it celebrated the Vikings’ inaugural season at U.S. Bank Stadium).
5. Take a Bite out of Autumn Flavors at an Apple Orchard
Early August through the end of October
Finally, no autumn in Minnesota is complete without a trip to an apple orchard. Fun fact: Some of the most-loved varieties of apples were developed at the University of Minnesota, including Haralson, Fireside, SweeTango and that perennial favorite, Honeycrisp. These apples were bred to be winter-hardy, while packing great flavor, and they’re the pride of orchards around the state. They taste even better when you pick them yourself, at places like Aamodt’s Apple Farm and Vineyard in Stillwater, Afton Apple Orchard in Hastings, Applewood Orchard in Lakeville and Fireside Orchard in Northfield. And here’s a local tip: You have to try the apple cider doughnuts!
No matter what you’re seeking, the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area has plenty of fun for an action-packed visit!