School is back in session, but that doesn’t mean vacation season is over. A growing number of people are expanding their vacation well beyond Labor Day for a few different reasons: The weather is not too hot and not too cold, the landscape is a gorgeous palette of green, yellow, orange, and red, and there are smaller crowds and better bargains during the “off-peak” season. We chose a few destinations that are picture-perfect during autumn.
photo courtesy of visit bemidji
Approximate distance from the metro area: About 3.5-four hours (2.5 hours from Duluth).
Bemidji in autumn is … hiking, biking (visitors are encouraged to take advantage of the Nice Ride Bike Share program), golfing, fishing, boating, bird-watching, hunting, and antiquing.
Best fall scenery: Headwaters of the Mississippi at Itasca State Park, Diamond Point Park at Bemidji, and five different Fall Color Tours on three scenic byways and through five state forests. If you’re looking for the best spot for a selfie, the iconic statues of Paul and Babe make a great background.
Seasonal events: Studio Cruise 2014 scenic self-guided tour October 17-19: Northern Minnesota’s best-known artisans’ studios featuring demonstrations with work available for sale. Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon October 11 with a beautiful scenic course around Lake Bemidji, and Amy Grant performing October 22 at the Sanford Center. There are several new restaurants and eateries in Bemidji, as well as a new Country Inn & Suites.
Bear Skin Lodge
Approximate distance from the metro area: About 4.5 hours north of the Twin Cities, on the Gunflint Trail in Grand Marais
Bear Skin Lodge in autumn is … peaceful. Stay in a cabin, townhouse, or two-story townhouse suite in one of the most naturally beautiful parts of the state.
Popular fall activities: Exploring the immense Boundary Waters and Quetico by canoe, hiking along the Gunflint Trail, biking and mountain biking, fishing, kayaking, and wildlife viewing (try to spot moose, wolves, fox, black bears, loons, beavers, otters and bald eagles). Unwind in the hot tub or sauna after spending the day in Mother Nature.
Best fall scenery: Bearskin’s location in a pristine wilderness setting provides brilliant fall colors at every turn.
Seasonal events: Unplugging and reconnecting with loved ones.
Best Western Superior Inn
Approximate distance from the metro area: Approximately 250 miles (about 4.5 hours) in Grand Marais
Best Western Superior Inn in autumn is … an unforgettable weekend getaway. This hotel has a reputation for attentive and friendly service, as well as modern and comfortable lakefront rooms and luxury suites overlooking Lake Superior. Guests appreciate the affordable rates, complimentary hot breakfast, and pet-friendly designation (in certain rooms). The real draw, however, is the location on Lake Superior. “Imagine lying in bed, resting, enjoying a quiet peaceful environment,” one guest commented of his recent stay. “All you can hear is the methodic crashing of the waves against the shore.” Explore the nearby town of Grand Marais, and walk to Artist’s Point.
Best fall scenery: Pincushion Mountain Overlook, Maple Hill Church, Hovland Lookout Tower, the Gunflint Trail
Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center
Approximate distance from the metro area: Two hours, in Alexandria.
Autumn at Arrowwood Resort is … phenomenal. The temperature is typically anywhere from the 50s to 70s during the day—perfect for golfing, horseback riding, and biking, and cooler at night—perfect for sitting around a bonfire.
Best fall scenery: Inspiration Peak, about a 45-minute drive from the resort.
Seasonal events: “Fall Into Golf” and “Fall with Waterpark” special promotions/rates. (Arrowwood is home to a golf course and indoor waterpark.) Visit in November for a special girls’ weekend for hunting “widows” and friends. The weekend will include a welcome reception at Rafters Friday night, yoga and breakfast Saturday morning, hors d’oeuvres and a fun painting class in the evening, and end with a big brunch on Sunday. It’s a pretty good bet that Darling Reflections Spa will be busy that weekend, too, with wives, moms, daughters, and friends treating themselves to facials, massages, manis and pedis.
Photo by Brian Basham
Approximate distance from the metro area: Around 200 miles, or a 3.5-hour drive (Detroit Lakes, or “DL,” is 50 miles east of Fargo on Highway 10).
Detroit Lakes in autumn is … calm waters and calling loons, rewarding fishing adventures (you might even land that elusive muskie), wooded canopy trails for hiking and biking, golfing (the rates are some of the lowest of the season in fall), and a plethora of specialty shops, boutiques, department stores, and discount centers. When going out, choose from fine restaurants with lake views or local fare, many restaurants featuring live music. Other popular spots include the apple orchard, pumpkin patch, and area wineries.
Best fall scenery: Download the Fall Color Tour map with three routes along lakeshores and through spectacular mixed forests at Visitdetroitlakes.com/about/area-maps.
Seasonal events: The Historic Holmes Theatre starts a new season this fall, and the new Detroit Mountain Recreation Area opens to the public Thanksgiving weekend, featuring a beautiful new lodge and redesigned mountain perfect for skiing, tubing, and boarding this winter, and mountain biking next fall.
The Lodge on Lake Detroit
Approximate distance from the metro area: 3.5 hours in Detroit Lakes
The Lodge on Lake Detroit in autumn is … dramatic sunsets over Big Detroit Lake, modern, upscale, eco-friendly lakefront lodging, day spa services, live music, good fishing, close to downtown Detroit Lakes.
Best fall scenery: Explore three Minnesota state parks, three state forests, and more than 70,000 acres of tax-forfeited lands managed by Becker County within an hour’s drive from DL. A preserve is located on the southeast side of the city. Two national wildlife refuges and a wetland management district are located within minutes of Detroit Lakes.
Seasonal events: Oktoberfest October 4 with an accordion player, German meal, and beer specials, “Brown Tasting” November 15 with brown liquor sampling and live music, and Live at the Lodge November 29. Call about the One or Two Night Reward Package, a customizable package good for spa services, Lodge apparel, or the Lobby Bistro and Bar, or visit the website for more details.
Approximate distance from the metro area: About 3.5 hours
Fargo-Moorhead in autumn is … kayaking on the Red River, pedaling along scenic pathways, and shopping and/or strolling through downtown.
Best fall scenery: Various parks within a short drive offer brilliant fall colors and excellent hiking and biking trails.
Seasonal events: Oktoberfest, American Craft Week October 3-12, 2014, and the Kegs & Canvas: Art & Ale Walk. For a full list of events, visit fargomoorhead.org.
Wilderness Resort Villas
Approximate distance from the metro area: Two hours and 15 minutes, on the shore of Middle Cullen Lake in Pequot Lakes (3 miles north of Nisswa on County Road 107).
Wilderness Resort Villas in autumn is … relaxing. Stay in a cabin or luxurious villa on the secluded lakeshore (you can even bring your pet). An indoor pool, sauna, hot tub, game room, and state-of-the-art fitness center are located in the new amenities building, rent a fishing boat, go biking, or find some great off-peak deals at the boutiques in town.
Best fall scenery: Pillsbury State Forest, the oldest forest in the state.
Good Ol’ Days Family Resort
Approximate distance from the metro area: A few miles down the road from Wilderness Resort Villas
Good Ol’ Days in autumn is … a return to a more simple time. Enjoy lakefront views from clean, modern cottages, complete with cozy fireplaces and open floor plans. This small resort is perfect for families (there’s a large playground for little ones) or girls’/guys’ weekends. Popular fall activities include biking into downtown Nisswa along the Paul Bunyan State Trail (free bikes are available for use to guests), fishing, kayaking, and evening bonfires.
Best fall scenery: Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway driving route
Seasonal events: Crosslake Days Festival, Brainerd International Raceway’s Bracket Drag Racing Series, Arts & Crafts Festival
The Happy Sol and Rugged Sun
photo courtesy of the happy sol and rugged sun
The Happy Sol and Rugged Sun
Approximate distance from the metro area: One hour, 45 minutes west, in New London (Willmar is 15 miles south; St. Cloud is 45 miles north)
New London in autumn is … a charming beautiful small town on the Crow River and surrounded by lakes.
Popular fall activities: Kayaking, canoeing, biking, wine-sampling, and shopping! Downtown New London features four blocks of boutiques and shops, including men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing, home décor, pottery, jewelry, quilting stores, coffee shops, and more.
About The Happy Sol and The Rugged Sun: The Happy Sol is a women’s clothing and gift boutique offering high-quality brands and a personalized shopping experience. More than a boutique, The Happy Sol is a full-service store specializing in denim fittings with styles by Paige, Hudson, AG, Joe’s, Henry & Bell, Mavi, Not Your Daughters Jeans, Jag, KUT, and Lucky. Visitors can also find statement tops and dresses that pair perfectly with a selection of shoes and boots. The Rugged Sun is a men’s style and men’s and women’s active wear store. Brands include Kuhl, Prana, Outdoor Research, Merrell, Marmot, Tommy Bahama, 7 Diamonds, Olukai, and great-fitting denim for men by AG, Hudson, Joe’s, Mavi, Lucky, and Buffalo. Women’s styles include the “ath-leisure” look that can easily go from the gym to out on the town.
Best fall scenery: Sibley State Park
Seasonal events: Ladies Night Out in New London October 16
Photo courtesy of New ULM CVB
Approximate distance from the metro area: An hour and half southwest of the Twin Cities
New Ulm in autumn is … scenic. Ride through the river valley or explore the oak-shaded bluffs. Stroll around downtown and see the 45-foot-tall Glockenspiel come alive. Toast one of America’s oldest brewing traditions at the August Schell Brewery.
Best fall scenery: The Hermann Monument or Flandrau State Park
Seasonal events: Dance your lederhosen off at 2014 Oktoberfest celebrations October 3 and 10. (New Ulm was settled by German immigrants and their Oktoberfest reflects this proud heritage.)
Photo courtesy of visit winona
Approximate distance from the metro area: Two hours (42 miles southeast of Rochester).
Winona in autumn is … colorful, with a canopy of gold and crimson leaves sweeping across Winona’s towering bluffs by the end of September. Visitors love biking and hiking along these bluff trails year-round, but especially in the fall. Gentle currents on the Mississippi make for perfect paddling through the backwaters, where visitors can get a front-row view of the migrating swans and pelicans.
Best fall scenery: The stretch of the Great River Road from Lake City to Winona is a spectacular sight when the leaves turn. In Winona, Garvin Heights is a great place to take in expansive river views. Hikers and bikers will find breathtaking fall trails behind Holzinger Lodge at the base of the bluffs.
Seasonal events: Celebrate Winona’s Polish heritage on October 5 at the annual Smaczne Jablka (Happy Apple) Festival, Winona County History Center’s Voices From the Past Cemetery Walk October 11 and 12 brings the stories of Winona’s forefathers to life in the picturesque cemetery where they are buried, and the Big Muddy River Rendezvous from October 14-19 recreates the days of trappers and traders on Winona’s Prairie Island.
Crazy Horse Memorial
Photo courtesy of Rapid City CVB
Custer State Park
Photo courtesy of Rapid City CVB
Rapid City, South Dakota
Distance from the Twin Cities: About an eight-hour drive
Rapid City, South Dakota in autumn is … the inspirational Mount Rushmore National Memorial, visionary Crazy Horse Memorial, Badlands National Park, Custer State Park, special events, private wildlife attractions, historic towns, fall foliage, and so much more!
Best fall scenery: Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, Iron Mountain Road
Seasonal events: Autumn Nights at Main Street Square, Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup and Arts Festival September 26-28, Bierborse Beer Festival October 4, Black Hills PowWow October 10-12, Taste of South Dakota October 11
Do Big Things: Rapid City offers a contemporary vibe and a deeply meaningful and rich cultural heritage experience for any explorer. Downtown Rapid City and Main Street Square offer the perfect complement to a Black Hills adventure with added urban pleasures. Great local restaurants and an assortment of boutiques and gift shops are surrounded by the City of Presidents, a series of life-sized bronze statues of the nation’s past leaders and reminders of America’s legacy. Tag your photo ops with #VisitRapidCity as you peek over Jefferson’s shoulder or see how you measure up to Reagan’s cowboy boots. Feel inspired by the remarkable beauty and spirited achievements that serve as the essence of the Black Hills travel experience. Make Rapid City and the Black Hills of South Dakota part of your next adventure.