Where to Get a Taste of Fall in Minneapolis-St. Paul
The sweet, homey aroma of apple pie and the purple squish of wine grapes between the toes. Craft beer foaming above a fresh-poured mug and wild-rice brats sizzling on a grill. Autumn offers a feast for the senses with late-summer harvests and lingering warmth for outdoor dining and festivals.
The Twin Cities courts foodies of all kinds with eclectic food trucks, plentiful orchards of sweet crispy apples, classes to teach fresh kitchen techniques, and festivals devoted to everything from new wines to wild rice. Here are some tasty ways to savor fall!
Pick, Stomp, Savor the Grapes at a Minnesota Winery
Visitors to Minnesota’s more than two dozen wineries — many of them within 30 minutes of the Twin Cities — find more to do than just sample reds, whites and ports made from grapes developed for Minnesota’s cold climate. Stillwater’s St. Croix Vineyards hosts a Grape Stomp Festival Sept. 9-10. Red Wing’s Falconer Winery and Waconia’s Schram Vineyards invite volunteers to help them harvest the grapes. Chisago City’s WineHaven celebrates a Federweisser Festival Oct. 28-29, and on Nov. 4 and 5, Minnesota’s oldest winery, Alexis Bailly Vineyard, hosts Nouveau! in a toast to the season’s first wines being uncorked. Warehouse Winery in Minneapolis hosts monthly Wine Down Wednesdays with complimentary appetizers, live music and of course, samples of five different award-winning wines.
Hoist a Beer at Oktoberfest
Prefer a coffee-scented stout? Or a crisp fresh hops brew? Craft beers flow from taps throughout the Twin Cities year-round, but fall puts beer front and center with German-inspired celebrations that blend polka music, drinking songs, games, dancing, wurst, sauerbraten and strudel. St. Paul hosts Oktoberfest Sept. 16-18 at downtown’s Rice Park, and later there’s the Twin Cities Oktoberfest at Minnesota State Fairgrounds’ Progress Center building, Oct. 6-7.
Enjoy the Harvest at a Farmers Market
With whiffs of fresh basil, yeasty artisan bread and an explosion of color in neatly arranged piles of vegetables, Minneapolis’ Mill City Farmers Market inspires a steady flow of shoppers near the Mississippi River. Besides locally grown produce, vendors sell organic meats and cheeses, fresh pasta, jams and jellies, dog treats and fruity shrubs for killer cocktails. Crowds also head to St. Paul Farmers’ Market in Lowertown Saturday and Sunday for more locally produced foods and goods.
Sip Sweet Cider with a Kick — Right at the Source
Southwest of Lakeville, Sweetland Orchard in Webster harvests 49 varieties of apples and pears for its hard ciders. The ciders are made mostly with apples, but in addition to pear, there’s also a strawberry rhubarb version.
Paddle a Pumpkin in Stillwater
Stillwater’s shopping and dining delight visitors year-round, but its Harvest Fest and Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off inspire local restaurants and provide gawk-worthy photos of pumpkins that clock in at around 1,500 pounds. Sample the fare of the Chili Cook-Off, stock up on nicely spiced baked goods, and watch daring contestants trying to paddle the farthest on the St. Croix River while riding in a carved-out pumpkin as a makeshift boat.
Find a Favorite Apple Orchard
Apple lovers line up for Minnesota originals such as Zestar, SweeTango and Honeycrisp at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s AppleHouse on the southwest edge of the Twin Cities. More than 50 varieties ripen through early November. Sample what could be the next big hit in the apple world with early-October tasting weekends near Chaska. Other harvest hot spots (some with U-pick options) include Anoka County Farms, Applewood Orchard, Aamodt’s Apple Farm and Victoria Valley Orchard.
Sharpen Your Skills in a Professional Kitchen
Cooks of Crocus Hill can help aspiring chefs and bakers make the most of fall harvests, bountiful orchards and a seasonal migration to heartier fare with hands-on classes at locations on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue, Minneapolis’ North Loop and Stillwater’s downtown. Look for pastries and confections, grilling and roasting, canning and make-ahead meals, global cooking and delectable date nights.
Sample Wild Minnesota Rice at the Harriet Alexander Nature Center
Roseville celebrates one of Minnesota’s most iconic foods with its annual Wild Rice Festival at Harriet Alexander Nature Center Sept. 16. Pow Wow Grounds cafe and a number of food trucks serve wild rice bratwurst and soups, as well as fry bread, fry bread tacos, and muffins for attendees who come for live music, dancing, games and native crafts. Gatherers hand-harvest wild rice in the shallows of northern Minnesota lakes late August through early September.
Take Advantage of Patio-Weather Dining
Before it starts getting too cold, savor a warm fall evening on one of the Twin Cities’ favorite patios. Snag a seat at the seasonal Sea Salt Eatery near Minneapolis’ Minnehaha Falls or Lake Harriet’s Bread & Pickle. Vines richly drape St. Paul’s historical site, W.A. Frost, which also features a romantic patio. Want something downtown? Enjoy a beer and plate of Scotch eggs with rooftop lawn bowling at Minneapolis’ Brit’s Pub. Or, try Inver Grove Heights’ B-52 Burgers and Brew, featuring a casual patio dining atmosphere, suburbs-style.