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  • Fall Foliage Destinations

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington, MN - Near Mall of America

Summer break has come to an end, and that means hectic schedules. However, there’s always an opportunity to find a mini-escape in nature. Take advantage of the change in season and see colorful fall foliage around the Twin Cities. Dedicate a weekend to take a mini-road trip without straying too far from Bloomington.

Stay at one of Bloomington's 40-plus hotels and be located minutes from these suggested fall foliage drives. After peeping the fall colors, dine at one of our exceptional restaurants in Bloomington or shop at the iconic Mall of America.

Hyland Hills Ski Area
Location: Bloomington, MN

Only one weekend a year, come for Bloomington's most scenic fall event at the Hyland Hills Ski Area in Three Rivers Park District. Fall chair lift rides give guests a breathtaking view of the Twin Cities metro area during the peak of autumn colors. As one of the highest elevation areas in the Twin Cities, this event offers you the best view of fall colors in Bloomington and is sold out year after year. Beyond the beautiful colors, this event has family fun on the ground as well! Bring a blanket to cozy up for some live music and enjoy food and beverages that are available for purchase.

Missed the event but still want to see colors in Bloomington? Take a bike ride on the paved trails around Richardson Nature Center or hike near Hyland Lake Park Reserve or in the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. There are countless park spaces in Bloomington that are beautiful every autumn, all you have to do is get outside!
hyland chair lift rides Fall Chair Lift Rides, photo credit Three Rivers Park District

Summit Avenue by Robert Ferdinandt Summit Avenue in Saint Paul by Robert Ferdinandt Summit Avenue
Location: Saint Paul
Distance: About 16 miles, 20-minute drive

History buffs in particular will take interest in Summit Avenue. Historic mansions line the street that has been declared the country’s best–preserved road from the Victorian era. Some of the mansions on Summit Avenue date back to before the Civil War and are national historic landmarks, such as the James J. Hill House, F. Scott Fitzgerald House and the Frank B. Kellogg House.

Suggestions: You can sign up for a walking tour or simply take a stroll through the neighborhood on your own. Summit Avenue is also home to the Cathedral of Saint Paul, where you can overlook the capitol’s downtown. If you are in the mood to grab a coffee, Nina’s Coffee Café is known to be a gem of Saint Paul and is located nearby right off Selby Avenue.

FYI: All areas of this road are handicap accessible; however, some streets are cobblestone and have stone curbs, which can be difficult for some.

Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway
Location: All around Minneapolis
Distance: Depends on what parks you choose to visit

Take a mini-road trip by driving through the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway, a 50-mile linked series of parks, which takes a circular path through Minneapolis. Stops along this path include the downtown riverfront, Nicollet Island, Boom Island, Lake Bde Maka Ska, Lake Harriet, Minnehaha Regional Park and more.

Suggestions: Since the beginning of the byway is located at Minnehaha Regional Park, start your trip there with an astonishing view at Minnehaha Falls. Get out of your car for a bit to stretch and get some fresh air and a little exercise, because there are plenty of paths for you to explore at St. Anthony Main. From the Stone Arch Bridge to the Hennepin Avenue Bridge, you are sure to find impressive sights at this stop. This is a perfect place to grab a bite to eat as well. Stop by Lake Bde Maka Ska or Lake Harriet to see the fall colors alongside the lake.
Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis, MN Stone Arch Bridge

FYI: Because this is a chain of parks and lakes, you may not have enough time to explore everything. Map out the path beforehand to decide which places you want to see and places to simply pass through.

Afton State Park by Mark Lissick Afton State Park by Mark Lissick Afton State Park
Location: Hastings
Distance: About 30 miles, 35-minute drive

If you are looking to get further away from the hustle and bustle of the city, Afton State Park is the perfect place. This park was established to preserve unique natural features, so there is no doubt that you will find impressive views here. Not only is it located by the St. Croix River and based in rolling glacial moraines and bluff land, the park also consists of pine forests with a diverse wildlife population.

Suggestions: Stop by the park office for a map before venturing out. Self-guided programs are also available.

FYI: The park is cut by deep ravines that drop 300 feet into the river, displaying magnificent slabs of sandstone and contributing even more to the unique view.

Local Wineries
Location: All over the Twin Cities
Distance: Varies

Minnesota wine grape harvest occurs in the early fall, and many local wineries allow guests to help out with their annual grape picking and crushing process. The Cannon River Winery in Cannon Falls offers a unique fall harvest experience that involves grape picking, wine tasting, and a meal; afterwards, you’ll witness the grapes you hand-picked being crushed into the beginning stages of wine. While you’re in the area, take a bike ride along the Cannon Valley Trail to see the area’s beautiful fall colors.

At the Carlos Creek Winery in Alexandria, the Grape Stomp draws thousands of vinos each year who compete in grape stomping (often while wearing crazy outfits), explore a juried art show, and enjoy food and live music. About 30 minutes west of Bloomington, Waconia wineries Sovereign Estate, Schram Vineyards, and Parley Lake Winery also celebrate the fall harvest with special events.
Fall Wineries Cannon River Winery in Cannon Falls

FYI: The exact time of grape harvest season can vary from year to year due to weather patterns. If you’re planning on visiting a local winery this fall, call ahead to make sure their grapes are ready to be picked.