Parents have to face a great challenge during this time of year. How do you let the kids enjoy some good old-fashioned seasonal fun without exposing them to (A) horrifying things that will require costly therapy down the road, or (B) drunken oafs who might say no-no words in public? Fortunately, there are plenty of wholesome family destinations to enjoy around the Twin Cities this fall, such as these three that would let us use their photographs.

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Pinehaven Farm

28186 Kettle River Blvd, Wyoming, MN

Pinehaven Farm is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to fall fun. Perhaps their greatest draw is the live exotic animal show presented by Cock-A-Doodle Zoo, where you might see lemurs, pacas, porcupines, raccoons, foxes, and even a kangaroo. Your kids can hand-feed the lemurs once the show is over, and then head over to the Kritter Korral to pet the goats, sheep, horses, emus, and even a mini cow! A skeletonized pirate band will play daily, and Minnesota’s own Jack Sparrow, who is absolutely not skeletonized, will provide a decidedly livelier take on the pirate spirit. Your kid’s head will spin with all the festive activities to enjoy, including touch-a-tractor, tug-of-war, barrel broncos, Charley’s corn pit, gem mining, pumpkin and corn cannons, colossal ladder ball, an authentic Native American teepee, the Spidee web crawler, the grain train, corn and hay bale mazes, and much more. It can be overwhelming experiencing everything that Pinehaven Farm has got to offer, but make certain you go and see Farfel the Pumpkin Eating Dragon and Bertha and Martha the Chatty Chickens!

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Fall Colors Cruise

98 Walnut St, Hudson, WI

Let the snobby New Englanders think that they’ve monopolized beautiful fall foliage all they like — we’ve got the stuff in spades as well. On select Saturdays and Sundays from mid-September through October St. Croix River Cruises will hold their annual Fall Colors Cruises, which take two hours to go from Hudson to Afton and back again. The ship hugs the shore to provide scenic views of the bluffs, which are in peak brilliant red, yellow and orange. This is bird country, with eagles, hawks, and all the other smaller birds they’re known to terrorize. “Kids love being on a boat,” said Cathy Jarvis, co-owner of St. Croix River Cruises. “When they see ours pull up to the dock, they swear it’s the biggest they’ve ever seen! We also let them visit with the captain during the cruise — something they’ll never be able to do again on an airplane.” The cruise is handicap accessible, has enclosed and outdoor seating, and offers cocktails, beer, wine, and juice for the kids. See about their Sunday Champagne Brunch Cruise for an even more lavish outing with the family!

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A & G Corn Maze

10448 345th St, St. Joseph, MN

A & G Corn Maze is another attraction jam packed with activities guaranteed to exhaust your children into a state of beautiful quietude for the whole ride home. Their greatest hit is their giant jumping pillow, a colorful inflated bladder set in the ground which kids can hop around on like over caffeinated rhesus monkeys — “a cross between a trampoline and a bounce house,” as co-owner Jessie Welsh put it. Every year the place is visited by a unicorn, whose horn is so subtly anchored to his pate that little kids will swear they’ve finally found the real deal. True to their name, A & G Corn Maze has got a ten acre grainy labyrinth that can take up to an hour to complete, but they keep another more manageable one for their smaller guests to tackle. Families can compete against one another on the giant human foosball field, which is better experienced than described, watch as ears of corn and entire pumpkins get launched from cannons at startling velocities, and even cut their own pumpkin fresh off the vine. A & G Corn Maze’s food is exceptional and includes freshly dipped caramel apples, mini donuts, and kettle corn made according to a fiercely guarded secret recipe.


By David Scheller