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At summer’s end, shortened daylight hours trigger deciduous trees across the country to begin shedding their leaves in preparation for winter. It happens in every state from coast to coast. But in the Midwest, it’s extra special.
A variety of deciduous trees (think maples, elms, and oaks)—combined with the right climate—create a stunning kaleidoscope of color. Take advantage of the beauty that surrounds us every autumn by embarking on a memorable fall color tour. Whether you go for a few hours or a few days, you don’t want to miss these spectacular fall highlights.
Grab your camera and head to Hudson, Wisconsin—less than a 30-minute drive from the Twin Cities—for a fun day of fall leaf viewing. Every autumn, the river vistas of the St. Croix burst with color in this historic river town.
According to Kim Heinemann, president of the Hudson Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, Hudson offers plenty of ways for visitors to become immersed in radiant fall colors. She suggests checking out the view along the riverwalk, on the Old Toll Bridge, in Willow River State Park, along historic Third Street, from area golf courses, in Birkmose Park, from the Octagon House Museum, along Trout Brook Road, or from a fall boat cruise aboard the Grand Duchess river yacht.
In addition to unforgettable fall scenery, events such as Hudson’s Autumn Taste Walk, Girls Night Out, Hilltop Pumpkin Party, and Candlelight Stroll add to the city’s appeal. Visit the website for dates and details.
Fall is an excellent time to visit the 55-acre European style Chateau St. Croix Winery, located seven miles north of beautiful downtown St. Croix Falls—the dividing point between the upper and lower St. Croix River Valley—off Highway 8 and Highway 87 north. Sample wines and take a tour of the vineyard. Don’t miss Chateau St. Croix’s Fall Harvest Festival, set for September 15 and 16. Scheduled activities include a Polocrosse match, wine tastings and tours, gourmet foods featured by local restaurants, grape stomping, and live music and dancing.
Drive south along the St. Croix River to the quaint city of Afton, where the river bluffs blaze with color in the fall.
“Afton has a New England feel with its rolling hills and charming old village,” says Kathy Jarvis, owner of the Afton House Inn. “In a sense, you feel like you step back in time. It really is an old-fashioned town.”
While in Afton, Jarvis recommends visiting Selma’s Ice Cream Parlor, the Squire House Gardens (an English-style country garden in the heart of the city), shopping at unique boutiques, hiking in Afton State Park (possibly followed by a massage at the Calla Lily Spa), and either lunch or dinner at the Historic Afton House Inn.
For a really special date this fall, make reservations for the “Seventh Annual Vineyards of the St. Croix Gourmet Dinner and Wine Cruise” aboard an Afton-Hudson Cruise Line charter vessel. The cruise, set for September 12 and 13, will feature excellent hors d’ouerves, a gourmet buffet dinner, and over 90 wines to taste. Afterward, stay at the Historic Afton House Inn. Deluxe rooms at the inn feature whirlpool tubs and balconies overlooking the river.
Courtesy of the Minnesota
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, located nine miles west of I-494 on State Highway 5 in Chaska, is particularly beautiful in autumn. The combination of color is striking, thanks to a mixture of different trees from different regions. From now through September 30, bring the family to the Arboretum’s Maze Garden and “Art to A-Maze Walk” exhibit featuring 15 juried outdoor art installations, addressing humanity’s relationship with the natural world. Other unique ways to enjoy the beauty of the grounds is through the scarecrow and pumpkin exhibits, taking a guided walk or motorized tram tour, visiting the permanent maze garden, or checking out a free family program. Make a day of it—the restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, or snacks. Visitors can even call ahead to order a picnic basket.
Drive one mile west of the Arboretum on Highway 5 and visit the Arboretum’s AppleHouse.
Courtesy of the Minnesota
Leaf-peepers in search of an entertaining fall jaunt south of the cities will find what they’re looking for at Treasure Island Resort and Casino in Red Wing. Enjoy gaming and fall color tour cruises from September 1 through October 28 aboard the elegant cruise liner, Spirit of the Water. Escape the autumn chill at the tropical-themed hotel, complete with a swimming pool and hot tubs set in a lush rainforest environment. While staying at Treasure Island, set up a tee time at the 18-hole Mount Frontenac Golf Course, perched atop the Mississippi River bluffs. Colorful views of Lake Pepin and the Mississippi River Valley can’t be beat.
The city is literally surrounded by river bluffs. Climb to the top of any of these for amazing views of the town and river. Make sure to check out Red Wing’s Historic Downtown District, and a few blocks away, the popular Historic Pottery District.