Happy end of August! Since I’m not a student anymore, a shift in season doesn’t change up my daily routine very much, but pretty much everyone I know in Minnesota is a fan of fall nonetheless. Before we snuggle up at home for a long Minnesota winter, we enjoy the heck out of fall. The cool air is a relief after a summer of oppressive heat; the bustle in the city dies down a little bit; we pull out cozy sweaters and blankets for bonfires and hayrides; and fall favorites like apple crisp and pumpkin pie start to appear.
I think the first time I really appreciated fall was in college, because I was walking around campus a lot breathing the crisp air and hearing the leaves crunch on the sidewalk (and partaking in pumpkin spice drinks at Starbucks). My dad likes to say that Minnesota has the prettiest summer of anywhere, but I think that fall here is pretty magnificent too.
Here are my favorite annual events and activities that help usher autumn in for Minnesotans.
1) The Minnesota State Fair
I may or may not have been inspired to write about this because I was at the fair this weekend.
Our State Fair spans the end of August through the beginning of September, which means it’s the first statewide signal that autumn is on its way. And it’s not called the “Great Minnesota Get-Together” for nothing. Almost two million people visited the week-and-a-half-long event, held in St. Paul, last year, making it the second largest fair in the country.
Every corner of the fair celebrates all that is traditionally Minnesotan, from the walleye cakes and lumberjack shows to the daily parade, which features not one, not two, but three giant plastic dairy cow floats.
One of my favorite stops is the Agriculture Building, where you can learn about and explore displays of honey, fruits, flowers, and other products harvested on farms across the state.
The fair has also developed a mini-culture of its own over the years, making Minnesota the land of deep-fried anything-you-can-think-of and food on a stick.
2) The Minnesota Renaissance Festival
This event, which begins in late August, runs through the first weekend in October every year, and it’s a perfect way to kick off the fall season. I find the weather better when I go later on (late September or early October) since the summer heat has been dispelled by then.
The Ren Fest isn’t particularly Minnesotan, or autumny, but it is a fun thing to do every fall in Minnesota. Watch jousts, medieval-themed comedy routines, and performances by fire-jugglers; try your hand at archery or Viking chess; consume a giant turkey leg; wander through the fairy forest.
Honestly, one of the best parts is just seeing people go all-out. If you don’t wear a costume, then you’re the one who looks out of place.
Who wouldn’t want to live in a Medieval realm for a day? (Just be sure to wear your sturdiest boots—the grounds have a tendency to get pretty muddy).
This is so classic Minnesota that Bachelorette Becca did this on her hometown date (and I can’t think of a better endorsement than that! 😉 ).
Minnesota LOVES apples! (Maybe because they’re one of the few fruits that thrive in our climate…) Our very own University of Minnesota agriculture scientists invented the Honeycrisp apple forty years ago (you’re welcome), and we created a new variety again this year called the First Kiss (which I tried at the State Fair! It was tasty but very tart).
Get a taste of Minnesota agriculture by picking your own apples. My personal go-to spot is the Minnesota Harvest orchard in Jordan, Minnesota (conveniently near Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store), which feels rural without being too far away from the city. Minnesota Harvest has some other fun onsite attractions as well, so you can make a day of it.
4) Sever’s Corn Maze
Now known as Sever’s Fall Festival with all kinds of attractions like a petting zoo, live music, pony rides, and zip lining, I remember Sever’s best for its gigantic corn maze.
Corn, like apples, is grown extensively in Minnesota (Midwesterners are known as “corn-fed” by other states). So what’s more Minnesotan than puzzling your way through a cornfield?
5) Watch the leaves change up north
While Minnesota’s latitudinal zone, which places it squarely in the category of “places with drastically varying seasons,” means our winters are cold af, it also means we get a colorful autumn as our forests transition from summer to winter every year.
Minnesota has a lot of beautiful riverside hiking trails and valleys. On a weekend, drive up to Taylor’s Falls, Duluth, or Split Rock Lighthouse to see the autumn colors of northern Minnesota along the St. Croix River bluffs or Lake Superior. Or, if you’re stuck in the cities, visit the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to see the trees along the three-mile drive.
What are your favorite things to do in the fall?
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