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How to Take on the Great Outdoors in Minnesota This Fall

Art by Kelly Abeln of Hagsville

The land of 10,000 lakes is calling you! Even as the weather gets cold in Minnesota, there are still dozens of ways you can get outside to enjoy some family fun. Whether you’re into fall festivals, bonfires, apple picking, or tailgating (go Vikings!), there’s so much to do around the Twin Cities in the fall. So we spoke to local travel bloggers, Lindsey Ranzau from Look About Lindsey and Nicki Brunner from Minnemama Adventures, to get their inside scoop on the best ways to take on the great outdoors this season.

5 Outdoors Activities the Whole Family Can Enjoy

1. Visit an apple orchard or corn maze.

There’s nothing that feels quite as cozy and quintessentially Autumn as going apple picking with the family. Nicki says that as soon as the apples are ready, her family heads out to pick them, enjoy wagon rides, petting zoos, and all the other fun that comes with the best apple orchards. 

One of her family’s favorites is Fall Harvest Orchard near Delano, Minnesota. It has no admission fee for the orchard and also offers tickets for their train ride, wagon ride, corn maze, or jump/bounce pillow. And in mid to late September, they also have a pumpkin patch!

Pro tip from Nicki: “To truly enjoy an orchard from an adult perspective, you obviously want to spend most of your money on apples (duh), so we often pack a lunch to save money (although I have a hard time resisting an apple brat) and choose the orchard based on what is available on savings sites, such as Groupon or LivingSocial.”

A number of these apple orchards also have corn mazes, which your kids will definitely enjoy. As Nicki says, “I actually HATE corn mazes. They give me momxiety like I can't even describe. But the kids LOVE them. So....we do them.

The Twin Cities Harvest Festival and Maze has the largest corn maze in Minnesota, spanning across twenty acres. Tickets are $12 per person and include a corn pit, a straw bale maze, live music, a petting zoo, animal races, a hayride, a play area, and more. 

Nicki also suggests that if an orchard or maze is pretty far from home to do a little Google map research before heading out. She looks for fun playgrounds or other kid-friendly pit stops along the way to help break up the drive for her family. She says they recently discovered Inspiration Park on their drive to Fall Harvest Orchard, and it had an incredible playground, as well as being right down the road from Peppermint Twist Drive-In, a fun stop for ice cream or burgers.

2. Go to a fall festival.

With harvests and Halloween fun, fall is the perfect time to enjoy a local festival. Lindsey, who spends most of her weekends road tripping somewhere new in Minnesota, says her “favorite thing in the fall is to see communities come together during this season to host harvest festivals, corn mazes, apple picking, Oktoberfest festivals, etc. I love seeing everyone spend time outdoors in their communities and supporting small businesses.”

The Minnesota Renaissance Festival in Shakopee, MN, is a unique way to get outside this fall and runs until the end of September. If you’re looking for an interesting day in a 16th-century European village with tons of entertainment like live jousting and fire-eating, then you won’t want to miss this. If you prefer a Halloween theme, check out The Great Pumpkin Fest at Valleyfair, where there’s a pumpkin parade, trick-or-treat street, Halloween storytelling, and more ‘spooky’ fun. 

Minnesota is also home to a ton of town fall festivals like the Lakeville Art Festival, Delano Oktoberfest, or the Twin Cities Oktoberfest.

Pro tip from Lindsey: Always carry cash to festivals and orchards as many small, local vendors don’t accept cards.

3. Hike a state park.

There is no better time to go take a hike through one of the state’s dozens of parks than when the leaves start changing colors. And it’s a wonderful way to stay busy, get outside, and enjoy the season without spending a lot of money.

“Minnesota is beautiful all year round, but the colors are out of this world in the fall,” Lindsey says. “My favorite places to go are Winona to see the fall colors on the bluffs and Taylors Falls to see the colors along the river.”

Nicki’s favorite hiking spots are Lake Maria in Monticello, Willow State Park in Hudson, Cascade Falls in Osceola for the beautiful falls, and Interstate State Park in Taylors Falls for glacier potholes that her kids love. If her family doesn’t feel like leaving the city for a good hike, they go to Theodore Wirth Park in Golden Valley for hiking. Check out her detailed guide to the park’s Quaking Bog for tips on enjoying the park with kids.

Pro tip from Nicki: When going on a hike with your kids, don't leave home without full tummies and be sure to pack plenty of snacks, water, and shoes that can get dirty.

“We definitely need to bring bribery on many hikes, but it's so worth it,” Nicki says about hiking with her family. “We like to collect ‘fall art’ along the walk, too, and later make a project with them.”

4. Tailgate a Gophers or Vikings game.

Minnesotans love their football and if you’re a big Gopher or Vikings fan, tailgating is an activity you won’t want to miss out on. Lindsey’s must-have for tailgating and games this year is a fanny pack. “It's small enough to get into the game, allows you to use your hands, and is super trendy right now,” she says. 

If you’re headed to a Gopher’s game or tailgate, here’s a quick guide from Tour the Ten for tailgating and pre-game activities. Vikings tailgating at the U.S. Bank Stadium is a little more strict, so you’ll want to read the rules before making plans.

5. Try something local and unique.

With your regular summer adventures over, fall is a great time to do something fun and different while still soaking up the great outdoors. One of those things you could try? A pizza farm!

“Our family has a small obsession with pizza and when it comes out of a wood fire oven and you can eat it outside under the stars in your wool socks, even better,” Nicki says.

Most of these farms serve through October and aren’t as busy as they are during the summer months. A couple of her favorites are Two Pony Gardens in Long Lake and Red Barn Farm in Northfield. 

If you’re looking for more grown-up activities, check out a local winery, brewery, or distillery.

“My other favorite thing to do during the fall is visiting Minnesota wineries and sitting outside on the patio while eating a cheese board and drinking wine with friends,” Lindsey says. “I do a lot of traveling and exploring around Minnesota for weekend trips, so I usually try the local brewery or distillery to try something new.” In her blog, Lindsey highlights a lot of these great local places around Minnesota.

How to Manage Cool Weather During Outdoor Fun

Minnesota can get pretty cold, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from going out and enjoying nature. With so much to do, all you need is the right gear and attitude to take advantage of the state’s beautiful fall season. 

“It's all about your mindset,” Lindsey says. “Don't let weather get in the way of having fun or exploring somewhere new. If it's cold, just wear some more clothes! We live in Minnesota for a reason and I'm a huge believer that we need to embrace it and enjoy all the awesome things it has to offer—like our beautiful falls!”

When it starts to get cooler, the best way to prepare is to dress in layers, bring even more layers with you, and keep a few blankets around. Lindsey says she likes to bring a couple of blankets on her fall adventures as well as a backpack so she can have her hands free while exploring and still pull out some extra layers when she needs them.

“You never know when a night will go long or you'll stop at a friend's place to sit by a bonfire,” Lindsey says. “I always have a cute beanie, gloves, either a vest or light jacket, a scarf (that can be used as a blanket or around your neck), a pair of tennis shoes, an extra pair of socks, and sunglasses.” She usually keeps all of this in her car along with lotion, sunscreen, and chapstick for when the air gets drier.

Nicki’s family also brings a backpack with extra sweatshirts for everyone, so that they can layer up while still keeping their hands free for fun activities like apple picking. And depending on the weather, she’ll throw in some winter hats and lightweight gloves as well. Her favorite gloves for her kids are L.L. Bean’s Kids' Multisport Stretch Gloves. “They won’t want to play in the snow with these, but they're great for windy fall days,” she says.

The Best Gear & Snacks for Outdoor Adventures

A Decent Pair of Hiking Boots

Hiking boots are essential if you want to start spending more time outdoors hiking, camping, or doing other active fall adventures. Lindsey’s favorite is her Columbia hiking boots, which she says she always gets compliments on. She pairs them with hiking socks from Minnesota company, North Sole, to keep her feet warm and dry.

A Good Backpack or Day Pack

You need a good bag in order to cart around a lot of extra layers. Nicki’s family uses a lightweight day pack from Eddie Bauer to hold their lunches, extra clothing, hats, and gloves.

If you need a bucket or storage bag for your car or outdoor picnics, we recommend Shaggy Baggy, which you can now find at Fourpost in Mall of America. This local, St. Paul-based company creates handmade bags and totes from upcycled materials like home decor remnants, vintage fabrics, and seed sacks.

Cozy Blankets, Hats, & Scarves

As Lindsey mentioned, a cozy blanket is essential for handling the great outdoors in the fall. Chloe & Lex’s cable knit, cotton throws are where it’s at this season.

You can can get a throw now at Fourpost MOA, as well as new, cute handmade hats from Likewoah Handmade or a cozy fall scarf or poncho from Leto Wholesale.

Comfortable Outdoor Seating

The perfect outdoor chair doesn’t come around every day. And no one wants to get stuck sitting on the dirt. That’s why we’ve brought an incredible brand to our MOA store, Helinox, which makes ultra-light, comfortable outdoor chairs. Helinox uses premium materials for their chairs, such as lightweight aluminum alloy, high-strength nylon, and quality fabric, that will last for years of regular use. Plus, they pack up quickly and are easy to carry wherever you go.

Delicious Treats & Drinks

No outdoor adventure is complete without all the snacks and drinks you need for full days of taking on nature. This fall, we’ve brought in local gourmet popcorn brand, Hip Pop, to Fourpost MOA. Their sweet and savory popcorn flavors are perfect for snacking on the trail, by the bonfire, or in the car on your way to the orchard.

And if you’re looking for some great drinks to bring on your next camping trip (or just to have at home), try Camp Craft Cocktails. Their cocktail kits let you infuse your favorite alcohol with a variety of great flavors ahead of your trip, so all you need to bring is the jar and maybe some tonic.

Whatever you’re drinking in nature, we hope that you try to do it in a way that’s better for the environment and carry along some reusable mugs or cups. At Fourpost MOA, we have some new enamel campfire mugs in for fall from Swag Brewery, as well as eco-friendly, all steel bottles and to-go mugs from LAMOSE (and you won’t want to miss their newly redesigned shop in our store!).

One last pro tip from Lindsey for fall treats: Stop by the roadside on your trip for some fresh sweet corn. “We make it on the grill or over the fire!” she says. “You can only do this in the fall, so we have to take advantage while we can.”

How do you plan on taking on the great outdoors this fall? Follow us on Instagram @wearefourpost this season to see more great fall essentials and fun activities.