Fall is the perfect time to travel; the traffic is lighter, the weather is cooler, and the scenery is unbeatable. Between the fiery reds, vigorous golds and the blissful, blustering breezes, it is the ultimate season. Whether you prefer to hike, bike, walk, run, drive, take a cruise, or hop a horse-drawn wagon, don’t miss out on unforgettable tours through a rainbow of colorful fall foliage in Minnesota this year. Here are some places to capture the colors, so take-out your camera, and take-in the crisp, Minnesota autumn air.
(Fall Foliage, Harmony) Becky Hoff, Harmony Area Chamber of Commerce Director, invites everyone to visit this beautiful area during a most gorgeous season. “Fall colors in southeast Minnesota are simply beautiful. We have all of these gorgeous russet and gold tones from oak trees and farmland. The bluffs and valleys surrounding Harmony offer spectacular views, and the small towns offer friendly hospitality. Our fall foliage weekend takes advantage of the natural beauty in the area of that time of year,” explained Hoff. Some of the fall highlights include Fall Foliage weekend – Oct 4-6; a low-key weekend featuring fall color splashes and city-wide garage sales. The Visitor Center offers fall color driving maps, and guests can book Amish tours for tree-viewing or discovering all about Niagara Cave. “Fall in Love with our Bourbon”- October 12 at Harmony Spirits; Harmony’s new micro distillery will be releasing their bourbon. Monster Bash Haunted House – Oct 17-20, 24-27 & 31; Voted “Top Overall Attraction” for 2017 & 2018 by MinnesotaHauntedHouses.com. Haunted Harmony – October 19; celebrate Monster Bash and all things Halloween with a parade through a Halloween-decorated downtown. There is always plenty of awesome food in and around town. Estelle’s Eatery offers farm-to-table, all from scratch cooking; the Falcon’s Nest features pizzas, wraps, burgers and more; and BReaKeRs boasts sandwiches, deli salads and Bridgeman’s (Minnesota-made) Ice Cream. Harmony House is an old-style café that serves breakfast and lunch; and On The Crunchy Side can’t be beat, as a fun, evening meal venue.
(Fall Fest, Rochester) Katie Adelman is the Rochester Downtown Alliance director of content and communications. The RDA was formed in 2005, and Fall Fest has been a core RDA event since 2016. This year’s Fall Fest, presented by Altra Federal Credit Union, takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., October 5 (rain date October 6) in Peace Plaza, downtown Rochester. The pick your own pumpkin patch within Peace Plaza, is a favorite among attendees. It’s an unexpected yet inviting sight to see pumpkins in the middle of the hustle and bustle of downtown. Families with kids of all ages enjoy searching for their just-right pumpkin to take home and to proudly display for the season. “Fall Fest is the perfect chance for families to take in the beauty of one of Minnesota’s vivid seasons. Autumn-themed crafts like making leaf people, are among Fall Fest family-friendly activities, though the crafts change every year, just like the fall leaves,” explained Adelman. Attendees can expect the best (and most delicious) seasonal treats fall has to offer. In the past, attendees have delighted in cozy warm lattes, spiced apple cider, freshly-baked pumpkin treats, and everything in between. Be sure to stay up-to-date on Fall Fest and other events happening downtown Rochester, by paying a visit to: downtownrochestermn.com or following Downtown Rochester, MN on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
(Fall in Historic Forestville) Matt Eidem is the Site Manager for Historic Forestville, founded in 1853. The experience at Forestville now is a guided tour where folks are taken through the Meighen residence (the general store that still has the original merchandise from when it closed in 1910); and the wagon barn that still contains the old tools that were used on the farm. Throughout the tour, stories are told of the people who lived in Forestville, and when it was one of the most important towns in SE Minnesota. Fall at Historic Forestville, when the leaves are changing and the air is crisp, is one of the most beautiful times of the year to visit. Along with a guided tour, visitors can participate in a different hands-on demonstration. October 12 – see people make apple pie on the wood stove in the kitchen. October 19 – see how to make apple cider using 19th century methods. October 26 – see how people made apple butter in the 19th century. All of the demonstrations are included with admission to the regular tour, which is $8 for adults and $6 for seniors and kids. Minnesota Historical Society members are free. “The highlight of our demonstration days is being able to see how things used to be done before the introduction of technology, and industry made things easier. It just used to take a little more elbow grease to accomplish tasks!” Eidem exclaimed. This fall, after Labor Day through October, Forestville will just be open on Saturdays from 10-5
(Mankato River Ramble) The 9th annual Mankato River Ramble is October 6. This ride was established in 2010 as a fundraiser for the Greater Mankato Bike and Walk Advocates (GMBWA) and the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN). Tom Engstrom is Mankato River Ramble Ride Director; Jo Olson is communications director, and Lee Ganske is a board member and volunteer coordinator. “Nearly 2,000 people ride each year. The Ramble helps get more people bicycling year-round. To date, over $100,000 has been generated to fund local bicycle programs, events, and infrastructure improvements,” Olson explained. The Ramble has endured highly variable weather over the years. More often than not, however, the pattern seems to be a crisp morning, where a hot cup of coffee really hits the spot; followed by a warm, early fall afternoon. Event highlights include excellent live music at the start/finish and at all rest stops; an opportunity to watch the beautiful fall harvest in progress; pleasant biking conditions – trails and relatively quiet roads/streets; panoramic views of rivers and waterfalls. “It’s not called the River Ramble for nothing! exclaimed Ganske. Of course, lots of great food is available at the start/finish areas, and all rest stops; featuring Dam Store Pie, apple cider donuts, and pork chops. Perhaps the best way to see fall colors is by bike! Fall colors in the Minnesota River Valley are typically 40-60% at peak during the Ramble. “We also encourage folks who are riding and are not from Mankato – to make it a weekend. Lots of people camp at Land of Memories and participate in other happenings in Mankato and St. Peter over the weekend,” Olson said. A fan favorite are the home-made pies by Jenny and staff at the Rapidan Dam store. They serve up their many flavors of pies at the Rapidan Rest Stop. “People also love the live music at each of the five rest stops, and we’ve got seven bands on premise this year,” added Olson. This is one great ride…and three scenic routes. Riders choose from routes (12, 26, or 44 miles) and go at their own pace. It’s not a race! All routes pass through beautiful Sibley Park, where the Blue Earth River joins the Minnesota River. In October, harvest is in full swing, which is always a highlight for riders as they cruise past the many fields in this beautiful part of the state!
(Scenic St. Croix River Cruises) Kathy Jarvis, with her husband Gordy, and sons Dave and Dan, own the historic Afton House Inn and St. Croix River Cruises on the Scenic St. Croix River. Historic Afton House Inn was founded in 1876 and St. Croix River Cruises started up in 1988. Visit www.AftonHouseInn.com or www.StCroixRiverCruises.com for more information. Fall Color Cruises go through October 20. Ticket prices are $22 for adults and children are priced at $13 (Saturdays 12-1:45 and Sundays 3:15-5). Food is available for sale on the Fall Color Cruises along with a cash bar. Sunday Champagne Brunch Cruises (12-2 p.m. – adults $32.95 – children 10 & under $22 and tots $12. “The cruises are a beautiful way to see the start of the fall season on the beautiful and scenic St. Croix River. It is a great family or couples’ event,” Kathy Jarvis said. The cruises have cash bars on board, along with beer, wine, cocktails, bottled water, and soft drink beverages. Whether taking a cruise or driving to the St. Croix River Valley, you will be sure to enjoy the fall color and beautiful scenic area. Afton House Inn has dining and lodging. “Enjoy our fall menu and drink specials at the Historic Afton House Inn,” added Kathy.
(Bluff Country Tours) Enjoy beautiful Bluff Country tours this fall. Call to make an appointment with Duane Sveen, 507-272-2149, and he’ll give you a tour of the beautiful bluffs surrounding the Root River Valley, via Jeep ride or horse-drawn wagon (year-round, weather permitting). Duane offers one-hour jeep tours up and down the bluffs of Whalan. Take a journey through the 100 acres of private woodlands, around and overlooking the river, with a horse-drawn wagon (accommodates up to a dozen people). And those looking for a bit more adventure, try a Jeep tour, up the bluff along switchback trails to a towering overlook. Enjoy a thrilling, scenic jeep tour through beautiful hills and valleys near Whalan. On top of the bluffs enjoy scenic overlooks, including a view of the river and bike trail. Look for wildlife such as deer, bald eagles, turkeys, a variety of birds, and more, along with a great assortment of flowers, trees, bushes and leaves. When: any time of day – 7 days/week – April through October (weather permitting); Jeep Tour Rates: $30/ride (up to 3 people) minimum $60/ride, maximum 3 people per hour; Where: start from: Gator Greens Mini Golf, 439 Half Street, Whalan; Directions: Four miles east of Lanesboro on Hwy 16. Cross bridge into Whalan. Turn left at first intersection, then another left at next intersection, follow oak street to Half street. Once you cross the bridge into Whalan, it is 3 blocks total to Gator Greens; follow street signs. For reservations, call Duane Sveen, 507-272-2149. Historic Bluff Country National Scenic Byway, State Hwy. 16, links together some of the most scenic, historic, cultural, natural, and recreational resources in the area. Traveling through the small towns and quaint communities along the byway, visitors find attractions that include restaurants, art galleries, theaters, antique shops, historic homes and sites, state parks, and lodging opportunities from B&Bs to motels, to camping. Visitors also encounter a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities, including canoeing, hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, and trout fishing.
By Pat Garry, Contributing Writer