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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.
Chateau St. Croix Winery
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.
Afton House Inn
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.
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
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.
Treasure Island Resort and Casino
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.
Mille Lacs Area
Admire the interplay of red, yellow, orange, purple, and gold leaves while driving to the Mille Lacs area along Highway 47, north of Anoka.
The area, however, offers much more than vibrant fall tapestries. In the autumn months, Lake Mille Lacs—the state’s second largest lake—becomes an angler’s dream come true.
”Fishing in Mille Lacs is awesome in the fall, and much less crowded than other times of the year,” explains Judy Cain, executive director of Mille Lacs Area Tourism.
Spanning slightly more than 200 square miles, Mille Lacs is home to 40 species of fish, including walleye, smallmouth bass, northern pike, perch and muskie. White deer, eagles and osprey, loons, gulls and migrating waterfowl and warblers are just a few of the other wildlife highlights of the Mille Lacs Lake area.
Visit during the 16th annual Bike Ride Around Mille Lacs on Sunday, September 16. Participants will pedal around Mille Lacs on 12, 35, or 70-mile routes along paved trails and county roads, with proceeds benefiting Mille Lacs Area Tourism and the Soo Line Bike Trail Association
Courtesy of Trapper’s Landing Lodge
Courtesy of Trapper’s Landing Lodge
Trapper’s Landing Lodge
Travel along Highway 10 to 371 for northwoods solitude, awesome fall colors, and luxury resort amenities at Trapper’s Landing Lodge on Leech Lake.
With the massive Chippewa National Forest surrounding the area, Trapper’s Landing is the ideal place to plan a colorful weekend getaway.
Stay in a townhome, cabin, or luxury suite, utilize the 51-slip full-service marina (the resort features 1,600 feet of lakefront property), dine at the excellent Beach Fire Bar and Grill, and enjoy the recreational opportunities that go hand-in-hand with a 112,000-acre lake, a never-ending expanse of forest, and a number of scenic trails. Guests can enjoy bonfires, children’s activities, and fishing clinics.
Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center
Located just two hours west of the Twin Cities on the shores of Lake Darling in Alexandria, beautiful fall scenery is worth a trip along I-94 to Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center. Area attractions such as Lake Carlos State Park, the 1,750-foot Inspiration Peak (one of the highest points in the state), and the Central Lakes Bike Trail offer great fall scenery. In addition to prime color viewing, Arrowwood guests have the option of enjoying the Big Splash Indoor Waterpark, relaxing at Darling Reflections Spa, playing a round on Arrowwood’s 18-hole course, horseback riding, or roasting marshmallows by an evening bonfire.
Grand Superior Lodge
Drive north from Duluth along Scenic Highway 61 for sweeping views of maple, pine, aspen, and birch along the pristine shores of Lake Superior. Stay along the scenic route until you reach Grand Superior Lodge.
In addition to staying in a cozy cabin, deluxe room, or suite within the main lodge, guests can now stay at Lake Homes North, authentic log homes on an expansion of prime lakeshore property. The three-bedroom homes feature over 2,000 square feet of wall-to-wall luxuries, sleeping up to eight. Grand Superior Lodge is down the street from Gooseberry Falls State Park, the Superior Hiking Trail, and Split Rock Lighthouse. The Castle Danger Trailhead is just two miles away, with spectacular Lake Superior overlooks from Wolf Rock.
After a day of hiking, guests are encouraged to light a lakeside campfire (there are several areas on the shore where the lodge has set up bonfire pits), listen to the waves, and appreciate the sound of silence.
Guests visiting during the weekend of November 9-11 can take part in the fourth bi-annual “Wild Game and Brewer’s Feast” dinner. Previous menus have included smoked salmon, grilled bison, elk, venison, rattlesnake, rabbit, grouse, pheasant, wild boar, and antelope, with unlimited ale courtesy of South Shore Brewing Company.
Courtesy of Larsmont Cottages on Lake Superior
Courtesy of Larsmont Cottages on Lake Superior
Larsmont Cottages on Lake Superior
Larsmont Cottages on Lake Superior, one of the newest resorts on the North Shore, is a photographer’s Eden. Located in Two Harbors (about 30 minutes north of Duluth), the Scandinavian-style cottages are tucked away in 40 acres of private woods for the ultimate in privacy and fall colors.
“Roughing it” is out of the question here. Guests enjoy modern conveniences in upscale cottages, equipped with TVs and DVD players, home theater systems, full-service kitchens, goose down comforters, and gas fireplaces.
Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy opportunities to hike, paddle, fish, golf, or bike (borrow complimentary bikes and head into Two Harbors, an easy five mile ride away, for coffee, lunch, or shopping), while those wanting to stay put and unwind will appreciate the full-service Ledge Rock Grille and Lounge, heated indoor pool, and wood-fired sauna and massage cottage. There are fire pits around the resort for nightly bonfires, and chairs and benches along the shore for kicking back and watching the waves.
Cove Point Lodge
Discover the rugged beauty of the North Shore at Cove Point Lodge in Beaver Bay, a Scandinavian-style lodge surrounded by 150 acres of woods and rocks, complete with a perfect postcard view of Lake Superior. The area is ideal for appreciating Mother Nature’s seasonal display of amazing fall colors.
Located just outside the Superior Hiking Trail, near Gooseberry Falls, Tettegouche State Park, and the Gitchi-Gami Bike Trail, Cove Point guests can hike, bike, kayak, canoe, fish, pick berries or catch up on some much-needed rest and relaxation. All rooms face Lake Superior and include fireplaces and/or Jacuzzis.
Caribou Highlands Lodge
Caribou Highlands Lodge is in a prime North Shore location for enjoying fall’s flashy fashion show. Nestled in Lutsen’s Sawtooth Mountains on the shores of Lake Superior, this family-friendly resort offers colorful views of the changing leaves that could rival a Norman Rockwell painting.
“The panoramic Lake Superior view gives access to the best overlook, anywhere, bar none,” says Barbara Swenson, marketing director. “They say you can see for 100 miles from that vantage point.”
Views on the gondola ride up to the top of Moose Mountain and the vista view from the back side “will take your breath away,” Swenson says. “Bring your camera because words can’t describe the bounty of beauty.”
In addition to brilliant fall colors, the area is known for exceptional hiking along leaf-covered trails, birding, canoeing, and mountain biking.
Courtesy of Eric O’Link
Courtesy of Eric O’Link
Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior
When the autumn air turns chilly, there’s no better place to warm up than Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior, located along Old Highway 61 in the Lutsen-Tofte area. Stay in a seaside vacation home and take advantage of crackling fireplaces, private Jacuzzis, an indoor pool and spa, moonlight strolls, and bonfires on the beach.
Bikers can pedal down the Gitchi-Gami Trail to appreciate autumn in all of its colorful glory. The resort is ten minutes from the Lutsen Mountain Ski Area, with excellent mountain biking terrain and beautiful views of the
Lutsen Resort, just a few miles from Bluefin Bay, is all about blue skies, crisp air, and colorful hillsides during the fall. Lutsen Resort’s “Autumn Women’s Adventure Weekend” from September 14-16; and an all-inclusive “Women’s Retreat” November 1-3 give women a chance to experience the North Shore in a unique way.
The adventure weekend is an active vacation for women of all ages and adventuring experience, says Adam Harju, Lutsen Resort’s activities and recreation director. Activities include sunset hikes, canoeing in the Boundary Waters, kayaking on Lake Superior, yoga, massage, and relaxation. All guide services, equipment, meals, and accommodations are included.
The women’s retreat gives busy women a chance to relax and rejuvenate with massages, guided hikes, natural crafts, scrumptious meals, and wine, cheese, and dessert tastings.
In addition to organized weekends, there are a number of ways guests can take in the fall foliage at this family-friendly northwoods resort. They can go on a driven fall color tour (complete with a stop at a local maple syrup farm), hike along the Superior Hiking Trail, or admire the changing colors from a kayak or canoe on Lake Superior.
“Lutsen Resort is the best place to be in the fall,” says Harju, who loves taking guests out sea kayaking on warm autumn days. Because Lutsen Resort is bordered by the expanse of Lake Superior on one side and mountains of fall color on the other, kayakers and canoers have one of the most unique leaf-viewing vantage points in the state.
Photo from www.thunderbay.ca/media.com
Photo from www.thunderbay.ca/media.com
OLG Casino Thunder Bay
OLG Casino Thunder Bay in Ontario, Canada is only 45 minutes from the Pigeon River U.S. border crossing off Highway 61.
Located in a Lake Superior harbor just minutes from Marina Park, the casino was designed around the rich shipping history of Lake Superior and Thunder Bay. Ante up for exciting game action in an authentic northwestern Ontario setting, complete with a newly-renovated Winner’s Circle and gaming floor.
While visiting, take in the fall colors at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park or the largest pedestrian suspension bridge spanning Quimet Canyon. Add to this urban parks and trails, exceptional dining, unique hotels and B&Bs, live theatre, a range of galleries, and cultural attractions, and it’s easy to see why Thunder Bay is an ideal fall destination.
Take Highway 13 east from Duluth, up the peninsula, to Bayfield, Wisconsin for a magnificent display of autumn color. “Bayfield is the most beautiful place you could want to be,” says Mary Motiff, marketing manager for the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a hidden treasure. People forget it’s so close, and it’s such an incredible place.”
Situated along Lake Superior’s shoreline at the furthermost tip of Wisconsin, this quaint harbor town not only becomes a kaleidoscope of color in the fall months, it becomes host to numerous festivals and theme weekends.
The Apple Festival, rated among the “Top Ten Festivals in North America” by the Society of American Travel Writers, draws 60,000 visitors to the area for orchard tours, apple treats, games, parades, plays, contests, and entertainment.
A less crowded time to visit the area is during the Scarecrow Festival and Orchard Tours from mid-September through the end of October, Motiff says. “It’s a great way to experience the beauty of the area and the harvest of the season in a more laidback atmosphere,”
Besides choosing your favorite scarecrow, you can do some apple and berry picking, sample apple cider and other apple treats, go on a hayride, visit a winery, navigate a field maze, go to a barn dance, or take a lantern-lighted Ghost Walk to hear tales of hidden treasure, undying love, ghostly apparitions and ancient legends. Other fun Bayfield activities include cruises, sailboat rides, hiking, biking, golfing, shopping and great dining, all amidst the beauty of fall colors.
Stay at the Old Ritten House Inn during the fall and enjoy themes ranging from the Fall Brew Weekend to the Red Wine Weekend. Visit Bayfield from September 5-26 for the Apostle Islands lighthouse celebration, or stay from October 16-17 for the Chefs Cooking Class at the prestigious Wild Rice Restaurant. Wine selection and wine-food pairings are emphasized during this day-long workshop. Once the aprons are cast-off, sit down to enjoy the four-course gourmet dinner you helped create.
Head down the Mississippi River to Madison, Wisconsin by going south on Highway 61 to 10, crossing over Wisconsin onto Highway 35, then taking the Great River Road into LaCrosse.
“Anywhere along the Great River Road is a good place to stop, look, and take a picture,” says Tom Farley, director of marketing with the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau.
In LaCrosse, continue along Highway 14, straight down University Avenue into the heart of Madison.You’ll be welcomed by the Capitol, the historic University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, and tree-lined streets on fire with autumn intensity.
Three Saturdays in September, the city will explode with Badger mania, with proud fans sporting their red everywhere from Camp Randall to State Street to the nearby communities of New Glarus, Mt. Horeb, and Stoughton. September 1 and 2 also kicks off the “Taste of Madison” around Capital Square, featuring multi-cultural restaurants and local fare (including the much-loved bratwurst).
“Madison is a special place that allows visitors to truly experience the local flavor, as a local would,” Farley comments.
On Sunday, September 9, visitors can cheer on nearly 2,000 athletes as they swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles during the annual Ford Ironman Wisconsin, the ultimate test of strength and endurance.
Don’t miss a trip to the family-friendly Henry Vilas Zoo and Madison Children’s Museum, or a chance to admire the natural beauty of Olbrich Botanical Gardens and the 1,260-acre UW-Arboretum, the perfect spot to appreciate fall colors.
Slow down and take the scenic route to Spooner, Wisconsin by staying along Wisconsin Highway 35 rather than the faster I-35. According to Ruth Skeie, executive director of the Spooner Area Chamber of Commerce, a mix of hardwoods ranging from bright oranges to eye-popping reds to deep browns contrast with the deep greens of pine trees in this small Wisconsin community.
In addition to being loaded with lakes, rivers, woods, recreational trails and “a friendly face on every corner,” the area is perfect for a family vacation or fishing expedition. Visit the fish hatchery, or tour the Museum of Woodcarving. Don’t miss a majestic fall color tour from a window seat aboard the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad as the train passes through fields, woods, and along the picturesque Namekagon River. In October, kids can ride the Great Pumpkin Train and enjoy a carnival, games, motorcar rides, a marshmallow roast, and hayrides.
Stout’s Island Lodge
The countryside comes alive with autumn as you head out on your journey to Stout’s Island Lodge, about 2.5 hours from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. A lumber baron’s romantic 1903 estate, this secluded resort—accessible only be ferry—is set on a wooded island in the middle of Red Cedar Lake, northeast of Rice Lake. View the changing treetops from one of 39 guest rooms available in the Main Lodge, Shore Lodge, and rustic cabins, many furnished with period antiques and most with a wood-burning fireplace. In the crisp fall months, enjoy gourmet meals in the Main Lodge dining room, and activities such as croquet, bocce ball, tennis, sailing, kayaking, bird watching, hiking (there are footpaths on the island), resting, and enjoying the warmth and glow of evening bonfires under a quiet star-filled sky. As one guest wrote, “I spent the weekend in a haze of happiness and peace. When the time came to leave, it wasn’t easy.”
Designed exclusively for couples, Canoe Bay is a gorgeous, unspoiled, secluded fall retreat located in northwestern Wisconsin. Explore miles of hiking trails on the 280-acre country estate, admire the beauty of the changing aspen, oak, and birch trees from your private deck, or go canoeing, kayaking, or fishing on quiet Lake Wahdoon (no motorized boats are allowed). While unwinding, why not treat yourself to a massage in the hotel’s spa, cuddle in front of a fireplace, or relax in a two-person whirlpool? In the evening, head over to the lakeside dining room to enjoy an excellent meal prepared by a talented chef. Stay in the lodge, a deluxe cottage, or Edgewood, a 2,000-square-foot villa, complete with a wraparound deck offering sweeping views of a private nature reserve and crystal-clear lake.
STAY FOR A WEEK OR LONGER
Courtesy of Donnie Sexton, Travel Montana
Russell Country, Montana
During a fall trip to Russell Country, Montana, the changing fall colors contrast dramatically against a mountain backdrop. Take the Kings Hill Scenic Byway, running along U.S. Highway 89 southeast of Great Falls, and don’t forget your camera and binoculars. The 71-mile byway begins at the junction of U.S. Highways 89 and 12 near White Sulphur Springs, Montana, traveling north to near Belt, Montana. It passes through the Lewis and Clark National Forest and the Little Belt Mountains on gravel roads that criss-cross the main highway. The views include over 450 miles of spectacular mountain scenery, wildlife, trailheads, country lakes, and old mines.
“There’s awesome fishing, bird watching, mountain biking, and hunting easily accessible from the Kings Hill Scenic Byway,” explains Gayle Fisher, executive director of Russell Country Region. “There are also fewer travelers at this time of year.”
A short hike near the community of Neihart, just off Highway 89, will take you to scenic falls along a winding creek-side trail. Sluice Boxes State Park, consisting of the northern-most eight miles of the Belt Creek Canyon, is known for trout fishing, hiking along the railbed, backcountry camping, and spectacular views from the canyon.
Passing through the Lewis and Clark National Forest and Little Belt Mountains, Kings Hill Scenic Byway allows travelers to leisurely savor the rugged beauty and fresh air that are part of the Montana experience. Allow two hours to drive this 71-mile scenic route.
Courtesy of Land Rover
Courtesy of Land Rover
Head Out on the Road in a Range Rover Sport
The 2008 Land Rover Range Rover Sport is the answer to a stylish, high-performance “need for speed” vehicle that’s gutsy enough to keep up with the sports cars yet practical enough to drive in the Midwest’s unpredictable winter weather.
The Supercharged Range Rover Sport, equipped with a 4.2-liter V8 engine, pumps out 390 horsepower and has received “incredible feedback,” says Craig Greening with Land Rover Minneapolis.
The Sport is effortless on-road and off, with better all-terrain ability than other “go anywhere” sport-utility vehicles. A permanent four-wheel drive system is standard, and a Terrain Response System offers five settings to micro-manage conditions such as snow, gravel, sand, and mud.
“The vehicle will do more work for the driver so [off-road driving] isn’t as fatiguing,” Greening explains.
Another unique feature is the Dynamic Response Suspension System, designed by Aston Martin. The computer-controlled system can sense cornering forces and adjust the anti-roll bar to optimize handling.
The Sport also does well where safety is concerned (Volvo helped design the Six Airbag Supplemental Airbag Restraint System).
Land Rover is synonymous with luxury, and the Sport doesn’t disappoint in this area, either. Some features include an in-dash six-disc CD changer with optional Sirius Satellite Radio, adaptive lighting, a touch-screen navigation system, and Bluetooth phone integration.
The Sport meets—and exceeds—the high quality you’d expect in a Range Rover.
The Range Rover Sport starts at $71,950. Visit www.landrovermpls.com for more information.