Fall is a special season in Minneapolis Northwest. The weather is exceptional, the leaves are stunning, and the region overflows with exciting opportunities for kids and parents to get outdoors and celebrate. Explore our top recommendations for fun autumn activities for families.
Kid-Friendly Events at Elm Creek Park Reserve
Get your fall color fix at Elm Creek Park Reserve, Hennepin County’s largest park. This 4,900-acre green space features miles of trails where your family can hike or bike their way through some of the most spectacular fall foliage in the region. The park also offers Fall Color Tram Tours. Hop on one of the tractor-drawn cars to see all the beauty of the fall colors without having to walk the more than 20 miles of the park, an especially good option for little tykes who may have trouble keeping up on a long hike.
Throughout the season, Elm Creek’s Eastman Nature Center also offers several family friendly events. The fun kicks off with the Minnesota BioBlitz, a 24-hour event where kids will enjoy guided tours of the grounds and join local scientists in a race to identify as many plants and animals as possible. And in early October the center begins its Apple Cider Demonstrations, where you can learn about the history of cider and try your hand at making a mug using the center’s authentic wooden press.
In mid-October, the whole family can lace up their sneakers for one of Elm Creek’s annual fall runs, the Allina Health Autumn Woods Classic. Take your pick from the 10K Graham Cracker Run, the 5K Chocolate Run/Walk or the 1K Mini Marshmallow Fun Run. No matter where you place, every runner gets a s’more after they cross the finish line! Then, celebrate your accomplishment with games, crafts and kid-oriented performers.
Finally, Squirrel’s Pumpkin Patch and Puppet Show will delight your kids with the story of Squirrel and his mystery acorn. Spoiler alert: The acorn is actually a pumpkin, and kids get a chance to pick out their own miniature pumpkin to take home and carve!
Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park Fall Equinox for Families Festival
Celebrate the fall equinox at Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park's endless array of fun fall events. After hiking through 160 acres of trails or paddling along the riverbanks, relax by the fire and celebrate the official start of fall.
There are tons of fun activities at Coon Rapids Dam throughout the season, including kayaking, biking, and fishing. You can also take advantage of one of the park’s Free Family Fun Days, which offer exploration through hands-on activities that everyone in your family can enjoy at their own pace. Get up close and personal with local wildlife as part of the Feed the Animals program and test your balance at the park’s slacklining event.
Family Paddling Adventures
To get even closer to nature, consider a leisurely family kayak ride on America’s mightiest river through the Mississippi River Paddle Share program, one of the first in the country and designed for people who love to kayak but don’t own one. Rental and return stations are positioned throughout North Mississippi Regional Park and other nearby parks, allowing you to paddle to your heart’s content. Feel the peace and calm of being surrounded by brilliant fall colors, as you and your youngster can point out wildlife along the shore, like osprey, deer and beavers. Kayakers must be 18 or older to operate a kayak by themselves, so be sure to keep your little ones in a two-person kayak with an experienced adult. Simply reserve your kayak, pick it up at the designated rental station and return it to one of the corresponding return stations when you’re done.
Twin Cities Harvest Festival and Maze
The fall equinox also marks the opening day of the Twin Cities Harvest Festival and Maze in Brooklyn Park. Starting Sept. 22, this essential fall festival is open every Saturday and Sunday through October, including Thursday, Oct. 18 and Friday, Oct. 19 during MEA weekend. Conquer Minnesota’s largest corn maze, crafted in the shape of the Minnesota Timberwolves logo, or take it easy and go through the straw bale maze. Enjoy hayrides across the fields, pick the perfect pumpkin to carve and feed the charming animals in the petting zoo. The festival showcases live music, plenty of cider and hot chocolate, a wicked pumpkin slinger, a giant slide, and, if that’s not enough, a corn pit! It’s like the multi-colored ball pits you know and love, but instead of plastic balls, kids can dive and play in a giant pool of yellow corn kernels. This is the type of fun you can only experience at the Twin Cities Harvest Festival and Maze!
Fall on the Farm at Eidem Homestead
Autumn is an ideal time to visit Eidem Homestead, a 10-acre living-history farm that’s been in the Eidem family for more than 80 years. Today, visiting the beautifully restored Victorian house and grounds is like stepping back in time to the beginning of the 20th century when the area was one of the top potato-growing regions in the country. On Oct. 13, you can celebrate fall turn-of-the-century-style at the homestead’s Fall on the Farm event. Kids get to see where their food comes from at the garden harvest and even use old-fashioned tools to dig up potatoes and other veggies. They will also learn how to prepare and bake fall treats in the kitchen with the authentic wood-burning stove and experience what school life was like back in the early 1900s at the homestead’s mock one-room schoolhouse. A fall craft will be on hand and kids are welcome to say hello to the homestead’s goats and chickens, too.
Not-So-Scary Halloween Fun
Have a scary good time at one of the area’s most popular Halloween celebrations, Anoka Halloween! Known as the Halloween Capital of the World, this spooky annual celebration is filled with great festivities for the whole family. Kick off the Halloween fun at the Children's Pumpkin Carving Contest, on Saturday, Oct. 20, 3-4 p.m. at Akin Park. Enjoy family bonding time while you carve a masterpiece with your little ones. The event is free to the first 100 children that are 12 and under. Continue the not-so-scary adventure with the Anoka Halloween Light up the Night Parade on Main Street at 7 p.m. and finish the night off with fire, food, music and spooktacular fun at the bonfire at the River Plaza (City Hall) at 8 p.m. Combine Halloween amusement and nature exploration at the Big Woods Halloween at Eastman Nature Center. Your family can navigate the giant web walk, get face-to-face with a live snake and test their brewing skills at the witch's cauldron. And don’t miss the puppet shows, trick-or-treating and refreshments. Bonus tip: Big Woods Halloween is Oct. 27 and reservations are recommended.
For more autumn excitement, enjoy our Fall Itinerary for Family Fun and discover the best ways to Get Your Harvest On this season! Then share your adventures with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #WeLoveMNW.