Autumn Season Day Trips From Minneapolis/St. Paul

The trees in Minnesota start to change color and show their blazing autumn beauty in September and October. It's the perfect time of year to hop in the car and take a day trip to one of these scenic places, all an easy drive from the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. 

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    The restored town of Red Wing
    Getty Images/John Elk

    One of the oldest towns in Minnesota, and located in a historic bluff country, Red Wing is a good place to start a tour of lovely fall scenery. As well as the historic downtown, the Red Wing Pottery factory and store, Red Wing Stoneware, and flagship Red Wing Shoe store (home of the world's largest boot!) there are lots of opportunities for seeing fall color. Take a drive around the countryside, hike on Barn Bluff or Memorial Park, both right in town, or take a cruise on the Mississippi River. The river cruise option gives you the chance of spotting eagles, which nest on trees on the Mississippi River.

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    Split Rock Lighthouse On The North Shores Of Lake Superior
    Getty Images/Susan Dykstra

    Bluff Country is the gorgeous stretch of countryside following the Mississippi south from Red Wing. The terrain gets hillier and prettier the further south you go. Tour the countryside by car on one of the five scenic byways in the area, and stop in on the pretty historic towns like Wabasha, or Winona. Or, there are many opportunities for hiking and outdoor recreation, with several state parks and plenty of hiking and cycling trails to be found.

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    Mississippi River Flowing Through Minneapolis,
    Getty Images/Corbis/Glasshouse Images

    If you canoe or kayak already, then you probably already thought of this. Take a paddling trip on the Mississippi River, the Minnesota River, or the St. Croix River, or Namekagon River, which all have sections with gorgeous tree-lined banks and bluffs. If you are not familiar with the area, get some local knowledge and any extra supplies you need before you set out from one of the local outfitters in the area.

    No canoe or kayak? Try Taylor's Falls Canoe and Kayak Rental for trips on the St. Croix River, or Cannon Falls Canoe and Bike for kayak and canoe trips on the Cannon River, about 45 minutes south of Minneapolis.

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    Stillwater, MInnesota on a fall day
    Getty Images/E+/LawrenceSawyer

    The pretty town of Stillwater is surrounded by lovely scenery. There's plenty to do in town, with cute little boutiques, galleries, and restaurants. Stillwater also holds an annual Fall Colors and Jazz Festival in early October.

    You can tour the town of Stillwater by trolley, or take a cruise on the river. And for touring by car, head north, along the St. Croix river - William O'Brien State Park is about 20 miles north, and if you keep going, you'll get to lovely Taylors Falls.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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    Riverboats on the St. Croix River as seen from the perspective of a cliff, Taylors Falls, Minnesota
    Getty Images/First Light/Gina Kelly

    About an hour north of the Twin Cities, Taylors Falls is a cute little city on the St. Croix river. The downtown has shops and restaurants, plus historic houses, and if the local library is open, be sure to pop in -- it is a charming example of a tiny but beloved town institution. Almost in town is Interstate State Park, for short hikes and interesting geological features -- high cliffs and deep "potholes" carved in the rock during the ice ages. Taylors Falls is surrounded by scenic drives, and you may prefer to take the scenic route there from the Twin Cities, along the St. Croix, instead of driving on I-35.

  • 06 of 06
    Neighborhood street in Saint Paul, Minnesota
    Getty Images/Ryan/Beyer

    If you're looking for even more places to see fall color, check out these spots in the Twin Cities metro area, or these weekend trip destinations from Minneapolis and St. Paul.