Summer break has come to an end, and that means you may not get much vacation anytime soon. However, there’s always an opportunity to find a mini-escape. Take advantage of Mother Nature’s annual display of fall foliage and dedicate a day to taking a mini-road trip without straying too far from Bloomington.
Stay at one of Bloomington's 40-plus hotels and be located minutes from these suggested fall foliage drives. Return to Bloomington and Mall of America® to dine at one of our exceptional restaurants.
Summit Avenue in St. Paul by Robert Ferdinandt Summit Avenue
Location: St. Paul
Distance: About 16 miles, 20-minute drive
History buffs in particular will take interest in Summit Avenue. Historic mansions line the street that has been declared the country’s best–preserved road from the Victorian era. Some of the mansions on Summit Avenue date back to before the Civil War and are national historic landmarks, such as the James J. Hill House, F. Scott Fitzgerald House and the Frank B. Kellogg House.
Suggestions: You can sign up for a walking tour or simply take a stroll through the neighborhood on your own. Summit Avenue is also home to the Cathedral of St. Paul, where you can overlook the capitol’s downtown. If you are in the mood to grab a coffee, Nina’s Coffee Café is known to be a gem of St. Paul and is located nearby right off Selby Avenue.
FYI: All areas of this road are handicap accessible; however, some streets are cobblestone and have stone curbs, which can be difficult for some.
Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway
Location: All around Minneapolis
Distance: Depends on what parks you choose to visit
Take a mini-road trip by driving through the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway, a 50-mile linked series of parks, which take a circular path through Minneapolis. Stops along this path include the downtown riverfront, Nicollet Island, Boom Island, Lake Bde Maka Ska, Lake Harriet, Minnehaha Regional Park and more.
Suggestions: Since the beginning of the byway is located at Minnehaha Regional Park, start your trip there with an astonishing view at Minnehaha Falls. Get out of your car for a bit to stretch and get some fresh air and a little exercise, because there are plenty of paths for you to explore at St. Anthony Main. From the Stone Arch Bridge to the Hennepin Avenue Bridge, you are sure to find impressive sights at this stop. This is a perfect place to grab a bite to eat as well. Stop by Lake Bde Maka Ska or Lake Harriet to see the fall colors alongside the lake. Stone Arch Bridge
FYI: Because this is a chain of parks and lakes, you may not have enough time to explore everything. Map out the path beforehand to decide which places you want to see and places to simply pass through.
Afton State Park by Mark Lissick Afton State Park
Distance: About 30 miles, 35-minute drive
If you are looking to get further away from the hustle and bustle of the city, Afton State Park is the perfect place. This park was established to preserve unique natural features, so there is no doubt that you will find impressive views here. Not only is it located by the St. Croix River and based in rolling glacial moraines and bluff land, but the park also consists of pine forests with a diverse wildlife population.
Suggestions: Stop by the park office for a map before venturing out. Self-guided programs are also available.
FYI: The park is cut by deep ravines that drop 300 feet into the river, displaying magnificent slabs of sandstone and contributing even more to the unique view.
Location: All over the Twin Cities
Minnesota wine grape harvest occurs in the early fall, and many local wineries allow guests to help out with their annual grape picking and crushing process. The Cannon River Winery in Cannon Falls offers a unique fall harvest experience that involves grape picking, wine tasting, and a meal; afterwards, you’ll witness the grapes you hand-picked being crushed into the beginning stages of wine. While you’re in the area, take a bike ride along the Cannon Valley Trail to see the area’s beautiful fall colors.
At the Carlos Creek Winery in Alexandria, the Grape Stomp draws thousands of vinos each year who compete in grape stomping (often while wearing crazy outfits), explore a juried art show, and enjoy food and live music. Unique to this event: a “Lucy Look-A Like” stomp, where guests dressed up as Lucille Ball pay homage to the famous grape stomping incident in I Love Lucy. Cannon River Winery in Cannon Falls
FYI: The exact time of grape harvest season can vary from year to year due to weather patterns. If you’re planning on visiting a local winery this fall, call ahead to make sure their grapes are ready to be picked.