Autumn is best enjoyed outdoors. It’s the time to sit by a bonfire and enjoy the smell of wood smoke, rotting leaves, and hot spiced cider. It’s the time for hayrides, apple picking, and corn mazes, too. Minnesota is the perfect place for fall pastimes like these, so put on your favorite boots and a cozy scarf and consider which of the following adventures is right for you.
What could be more pleasurable and picturesque than a trip to an apple orchard? Nothing! Afton Apple Orchard in Hastings grows thirteen varieties of apples (including our beloved Honeycrisp) on their 200 acre farm. This pick-your-own orchard purposefully grows short trees so that even children can pick apples without a ladder. Yay! Depending on the time of year, you can also pick strawberries, raspberries, and — most importantly — pumpkins at Afton Apple Orchard. There is a five dollar admission charge for entry and produce is sold by the weight. Included with the admission fee are some of your favorite fall festivities: a corn maze, hayrides, cider pressing demonstrations, and a petting zoo. As if a day picking apples isn’t delightful enough, tiny goats are sure to make it extra special. Why? Because goats make everything better.
Apples (and even apple pie) are not all one requires for a perfect fall. No, autumn wouldn’t be complete without at least one pumpkin. From that one pumpkin you can make a jack-o’-lantern and toast up some pumpkin seeds for a healthy snack. Now you could get your pumpkin at the store, but let’s admit right here and now that that isn’t ideal. A much better option would be to pick one from the patch at Peter’s Pumpkins & Carmen’s Corn in Shakopee. At Peter’s Pumpkins everything is grown traditionally, meaning that no pesticides are used and all of the weeding is done by hand. Considering the size of their farm, that’s pretty impressive. That’s also how you know you are getting a quality pumpkin, from your home state, grown with love and possessing plenty of character. (You need an interesting pumpkin to make an interesting jack-o’-lantern, you know.) There is no entry fee to look at pumpkins, but if you want to take one home, that does in fact cost money. While you have your wallet out, you can also stock up for fall feasts with other Minnesota-made items such as honey, maple syrup, preserves, and fresh eggs.
Okay, we’ve got the produce handled. You now have more apples and pumpkins than you know what to do with. What’s next? Might I, dear reader, recommend a trip to the Twin Cities Harvest Festival and Maze in Brooklyn Park? Indeed, it is Minnesota’s largest corn maze. (You heard me!) This year the maze is designed to honor the Minnesota Vikings, and a portion of ticket sales will be donated to the Vikings Children’s Fund. Speaking of tickets, be sure to purchase them online for ten dollars or you’ll be stuck paying twelve at the gate. Your ticket gets you access to the corn maze, the straw bale maze, the corn pit (literally a gigantic pit of corn kernels), the petting zoo, and a hayride. A climbing wall, pumpkin slinger, and pony rides are available for additional admission fees. You will also find some of your favorite festival foods such as caramel apples and mini donuts. The more mini donuts in life, the better.
While you may wonder why you live here in the dead of winter or the sweltering heat of summer, fall in Minnesota is perfection. We get the idyllic climate, the fall colors, and one last chance to enjoy our scenic landscapes before the snow buries us all. Fall is fleeting, but that’s what makes it special. Get out there and make the most of it while you still can!
By Liz Walker