Complete Autumn Traveler
In the Midwest, maples, elms, and oaks—combined with the right climate—create nature’s ultimate grand color show. In these pages, we feature some of the best spots to appreciate the view.
(page 1 of 2)
ACROSS THE RIVER
Chippewa Falls, Wis.
When the air is crisp and the trees are showing a hint of color, a trip to Chippewa Falls, Wis.—about 90 miles from the Twin Cities metro—is the perfect way to spend an autumn day. Appreciate beautiful scenery as you drive along the river and back roads, stopping to tour area apple orchards, or sampling local beer and wine at the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, Autumn Harvest Winery, River Bend Vineyard and Winery, or O’Neil Creek Winery.
“Pick up a fall driving guide at the Chippewa Area Visitors Center, or request one by mail [by calling 1-888-723-00240],” says Allyson Gommer, tourism director for the Chippewa Falls Area Chamber of Commerce. “Pick a route or two, get on the back roads, and stop in at the residents’ favorite spots.”
Other favorite stops include local cheese shops (cheese is, after all, what Wisconsin is known for), historical museums, the free 300-plus acre Irvine Park and Zoo (with a bear, cougars, bison, tigers, the historic Sunny Valley Schoolhouse, the Pioneer Norwegian Log Home, and picnic shelters on site), and activities like paddling down the Chippewa River, or pedaling along the paved Old Abe State Trail.
Hawks View Cottages and Lodges
For a spectacular fall foliage tour, take the Great River Road along the Mississippi down to Hawks View Cottages and Lodges in Fountain City, Wis. (about 45 minutes north of Lacrosse). This unique destination is not your typical lodging experience; the five well-appointed cottages are situated up high on a steep, wooded bluff—offering “hawk’s eye views” of the Mississippi. Guests staying here should have an adventurous spirit (prepare for stairs) and be ready for fresh air, relaxation, comfortable accommodations, and an unforgettable stay, whether planning a romantic weekend or fun girls’ getaway (Hawks View was recently voted a “Favorite Resort for a Girlfriends’ Road Trip” by the Women’s Press). The cottages are modern and clean, beautifully designed, and well stocked with the basics, perfect for preparing a big breakfast, lunch, or dinner (gas grills are available) and enjoying the novelty of your own little “tree house.” Explore the quaint little river town of Fountain City (be sure to check out the tasting room at nearby Seven Hawks Vineyards) or nearby attractions in Winona, Wabasha, or Alma.
Wine and dine in a unique, romantic atmosphere at Canoe Bay, the only prestigious Relais and Chateaux member in the Midwest. Designed exclusively for couples, Canoe Bay—located in the northwestern Wisconsin city of Chetek—is one of those off-the-beaten-path places that force you to appreciate the beauty of peace and quiet.
Rise early on a brisk autumn morning, put on your hiking shoes, and explore the estate. Treat yourself to a massage, relax in front of the fireplace, then head to the lakeside dining room for a glass of wine (over 500 to choose from) and a four-course meal, prepared with fresh produce from the garden.
Grand View Lodge
In the Brainerd Lakes area, one wave of color starts early in September (northern region) and ends in late October (southern), packing a one-two punch of both subtle and color changes for guests staying at Grand View Lodge.
In addition to beautiful scenery, activities available to Grand View Lodgers include lung-busting mountain bike rides on the Cuyuna Trail, walleye fishing, hikes, shopping in downtown Nisswa, Ashiatsu massage at the Glacial Waters Spa, casual or sophisticated on-site dining, or hanging out at Zorbaz, Bar Harbor, or Cowboys, just a few miles away. Golf packages are available for those who love to tee it high and let it fly—Grand View Lodge was the only resort in Minnesota to rate in the Top 121 Golf Resorts in the World 2012 by Condé Nast Traveler—or even better yet, visit during Golftoberfest Oct. 12.
“A lot of our guests just prefer to relax,” says Frank Soukop, director of marketing at Grand View Lodge. “It’s kind of like getting away without going away. Just sitting outside on your cabin deck or by the fireplace with a bottle of wine—either with friends or a loved one—is a great way to unwind.”
Bemidji is surrounded by state and national forests and two state parks providing many opportunities for seeing fall colors. Visitors can find the prettiest places on the Five Color Driving Tours, www.visitbemidji.com or at the Tourist Information Center.
One unique way to take in the spectacular scenery is in a covered wagon, courtesy of Buena Vista Logging Village.
The season is perfect for golfing (the courses are less crowded and more scenic), fishing, geocaching at Lake Bemidji State Park, biking through the state and national forests, and bird-watching (particularly songbirds, Peregrine falcons, rough-legged hawks, Scaup, Golden Eyes, Tundra swans and an occasional rarity such as a White-winged Scoter). There are plenty of dining, shopping and lodging options for visitors, and year-round attractions that appeal to the whole family.