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October visit to St. Paul and environs - fall leaves too

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Tustin, California
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October visit to St. Paul and environs - fall leaves too

My wife and I are making our first visit to the Twin Cities in October. We understand the area is very beautiful in October with the leaves turning. We're planning on staying in town for 3-4 days and wondered if anyone had any suggestions for scenic drives in a around the cities. We're also going to be driving south, towards St. Louis and wondered if driving the roads, like highway 61, near the Mississippi are nice that time of year.

South Dakota
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1. Re: October visit to St. Paul and environs - fall leaves too

I grew up along Hwy 61 on the MN side of the Mississippi and yes, it's very pretty. I can't help you with the timing, though, as that would vary from year to year. The stretch from Red Wing to LaCrosse, WI is the most scenic (at any time of year).

minneapolis
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2. Re: October visit to St. Paul and environs - fall leaves too

Best time of year to visit, unless the weather goes south :0( I love traversing East & West River Roads up to St Anthony Main. I also love doing the Grand Rounds circling the major city lakes. You might also consider a trek to an apple orchard. Colors peak early to mid-October, keep an eye on the reports - the MN DNR has a particularly good one. And yes, it's a popular drive south along the river via Red Wing / Lake City / Winona. If you have time, visit the WI side too - Stockholm & LaCrosse are especially nice.

Tustin, California
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3. Re: October visit to St. Paul and environs - fall leaves too

Thanks for the great tips! This helps quite a bit. Hadn't thought about the apple orchard, great idea. I bet it is all in the timing, for the leaves. We're pretty easy to please however. We live in southern California and we never see any fall leaves at all.

Minneapolis...
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4. Re: October visit to St. Paul and environs - fall leaves too

Have a look at this link from the Minnesota DNR. It's helpful in showing that there is noticeable variance in peak times for fall colors the farther south you go. And it supports the (VERY) general note that late September to mid-October is peak time for SE MN, which is where you would be on the Hwy 61 drive down thru Red Wing, Lake City, Winona, etc

dnr.state.mn.us/fall_colors/typical_peak.html

I consider peak time in the Twin Cities to be last week in September. Of course weather changes yearly and can shift peak a few weeks forward or backwards. But that is what I'm shooting for to take some time off of work every year and go to my favorite spots. "peak" here means different things to different people. The maples usually go first -- and the oaks last. I have found end of Sept and first few days of Oct. generally give me the best mix. But a lot of people are in it for just the maples and consider peak earlier.

My advice:

Spend your time enjoying the metro area of St. Paul and MInneapolis. It's the best time of year to be here in my opinion. The fall colors, the crisp air, the SMELLS!!! And of course football!

As I gathered you were already strongly considering, you should definitely leave early on your drive to St. Louis and go the Hwy 61 route along the Mississippi. Stop in a few areas to visit. Frontenac State Park gives great fall colors views. So will Red Wing. Use your drive down to Missouri as part of your sightseeing. I think it's an overlooked part of this beautiful state with so much focus on the northern forests and north shore. I enjoy the fall drive along Hwy 61 in SE MN as much as I do a fall drive along Hwy 61 on the north shore.

As for places in the Twin Cities to see fall colors, I can recommend my favorites.

First off, where will you be staying in St. Paul?

Definitely visit Summit Hill, Grand Avenue, the Mac-Groveland neighborhood (maybe grab lunch at a quick spot like Shish near the Macalester campus (beautiful campus and area), or a beer at the Groveland Tap (Summit beer, brewed in St. Paul). Then a drive from downtown St. Paul via Shepard Road, across the Mendota Bridge (Highway 55) into Minneapolis. Take Hiawatha Avenue/Hwy 55 once you cross the Mendota Bridge and visit Minnehaha Park (gorgeous huge oaks and a few nice overlooks (best is on the bridge to the Minnesota Veterans Home, which is right next to the park (if not considered in it).

You can park at the park and walk around to see the falls and walk down the stiars by the falls for a different view and take some trails off in different directions. The bridge to the Vets Home is not far from the falls. 5-miute walk. If the line is not too long get lunch at Sea Salt right in the park. Pitcher of Summit to refuel. If you can mix a quick drive up the west river parkway (which is what Godfrey Parkway turns into east of Minneahaha Park) all the better! You could take it up to Lake Street and then turn around and come back.

From the main park, follow Minnehaha Parkway west and follow the wonderful twisty road all the way to Lake Harriet (with a stop at Lake Nokomis if you feel like it). Park on Lake Harriet Parkway and walk around the lake. Or rent a bike from niceridemn.org bike stalls and tour the chain of lakes. Lake Harriet is my favorite place in Minnesota in the fall. Great mix of aspens, ashes, oaks and maples. The walking path is a hallway of color if you hit it right.

Don't forget about non-fall-color sightseeing too. Downtown Minneapolis and the riverfront area are great to visit.

Apple Valley...
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5. Re: October visit to St. Paul and environs - fall leaves too

Would Stillwater, Minnehaha Falls Park or Ft Snelling area offer good views as well?

minneapolis
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6. Re: October visit to St. Paul and environs - fall leaves too

Absolutely... those are popular places during peak colors. If you can visit Stillwater during the week, I'd recommend it as that is absolutely one of the most popular weekend destinations. If you don't know the back way into Stillwater, you can get stuck on the road for quite a while listening to Harley's. I believe Ft Snelling has a lot more oaks & elms, but check the DNR site on that.

7. Re: October visit to St. Paul and environs - fall leaves too

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