Every year, the transition between summer and fall seems to hit a little too soon -- the sun doesn't seem as warm, the air is too crisp, and it gets dark so quickly. But for all the griping about the weather we Minnesotans do, autumn in this state is pretty amazing -- so we created a list of the things we love most about fall in the Twin Cities and beyond. What are we missing? Tell us your favorite things about fall in Minnesota in the comments.
See also: 50 Reasons We Love Summer in Minnesota
50. The U of M Homecoming concert TCF Stadium is about as subtle as an Adam Sandler movie. Blunt and brimming with undergraduate-level bawdiness, the gridiron for Gopher football occasionally moonlights as a concert venue. And when it does, the gates open wide for shows that are a shade smaller than the Super Bowl's halftime entertainment, but last far longer.
49. Political campaigns After Labor Day, temperatures cool, but the election season heats up. The run up to the first Tuesday in November means debates, attack ads, and barnstorming through towns small and large. It's a lot of fun, if you're into that sort of thing. Otherwise, we suggest avoiding the TV and radio until the first freeze sets in, at least.
48. Zombie Pub Crawl Zombies have been having a moment for the past decade. Minnesota was ahead of the trend, however. Not only do we hold a Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of zombies, but we also had the first Zombie Pub Crawl. Over the years, the freaky party has gone from a humble gathering of about 30 undead to a stinky mass of about 30,000 dead drunks. Some will say that the boom in attendance has made the event a little too intense, and the crew has definitely gotten younger. But regardless of whether or not you attend this epic zombie party, it's still amazing to see the awesome costumes posted online the next day.
47. Football Nothing signifies the beginning of fall like the start of football season, especially on the college and pro levels. For Minnesota fans, taking in a U of M or Vikings game has typically meant heading inside to the climate-controlled confines of the Metrodome -- but no longer. This fall, if you're lucky enough to get your hands on a ticket, you can enjoy the changing colors while taking in some action outside at TCF Bank Stadium.
46. Fall babies at the zoo If you're the type of person who watches cute cat videos and goes "Awww" every time you see a photo of a puppy, you probably know about the cuddly, fuzzy farm babies at the Minnesota Zoo. But did you know there are also fall babies? The zoo is letting these young'uns into the regular exhibits -- from itty bitty lynx and wolves to beavers and porcupettes. You can't get up close and personal with these little critters, but you can see 'em without the fear of getting on their moms' bad side.
45. Caramelpalooza Hosted by the St. Croix Chocolate Company, this event is a celebration of one of the best pairings known to mankind -- caramel and chocolate. From specialty caramel tastings to hand-dipped caramel apples, the ooey-gooey, sticky, sweetness of caramel is front-and-center at Caramelpalooza in Marine on St. Croix. Also, there's a guy dressed up as CaramElvis -- how could you miss the King of Karamel?
44. Layering Up Can we talk about the weather? The great thing about fall is that it's not too hot, not too cold, but somewhere in the middle. And in Minnesota, the middle means 30 degrees. But hey, that's all the more reason to pull the sweaters and denim and flannel out from the back of your closet (as if you ever stopped wearing it). All sorts of fun and unique looks are possible when your chief concern is adding a little extra warmth to your body rather than, you know, not freezing to death.
43. Wits' Fall Season Each year, MPR's Wits brings improv, comedy, and music together with high-profile guests hosted by John Moe at the gorgeous Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. Whether the night's lineup showcases the literary talent of Neil Gaiman, the laugh-out-loud antics of Maria Bamford, or "Weird Al" Yankovich's truly witty lyricism, audiences are always in for a treat.
42. Kids are back in school Whether you have annoying neighbor kids or a few children of your own, fall comes as a welcome reprieve from the months of trying to ensure that your kids don't kill each other. Perhaps we sound jaded, but everyone reaches their screaming, hitting, and whining limit eventually.
41. Oktoberfest Prost! We aren't just psyched for the big Oktoberfest celebration at the State Fair Grounds (October 3-4), we're also polishing our steins and ironing our lederhosen for the multitude of other Oktoberfest events around the Twin Cities (SurlyFest, Harriet Brewing's Rauchfest, and 612Brew's Oktoberfest). With a craft beer scene as booming as ours, you'd be hard-pressed to find a local brewery that isn't planning some excuse to grill up brats and wash them down with brewskis. Ah, tradition.
40. Sever's Corn Maze Getting lost in a field of corn has never been so much fun. Now in its 18th year, Sever's Corn Maze invites all into its massive maze to spend an hour or so trying to get out the other end. Along the way, folks will find fun facts and clues at various checkpoints. Upon their escape, they will be greeted with family fun that includes a pumpkin patch, petting zoo, live music, and food.
39. St. Croix River It may require a bit of a trip outside the city, but looking at the St. Croix River bordered by the reds and yellows of the surrounding trees is worth it. Whether it's watching the leaves fall along the rushing waters Interstate State Park or finishing up a shopping day in Stillwater with an evening boat tour along the river, there's no better time to go.
38. Hockey season starts A lot of people don't realize it, but the number-one winter sports season actually begins in the middle of fall. NHL preseason action begins in September, and the puck drops on the regular season in early October. That's gotta be music to the ears of all those strange folks out there who just can't get enough of cold and ice.
37. Trail of Terror The Midwest's largest Halloween event returns every October to coax screams out of the poor souls trekking through the woods of Shakopee -- the Trail of Terror. With zombies and other frightful creatures roaming the grounds, there's no shortage of scares for those brave souls looking for a little heart-pounding action. Test yourself on the Howling Pines Woods Walk, "check in" at the Hotel 666 for the evening, or delve into the Crystal Caverns. If you've got a good eye, a mean shot, and an intact brain, be sure to try out Zombie Paintball there, too.
36. Twin Cities Book Fest Bibliophiles are a special kind of nerd. Unlike the band geeks, they subsist on silence. Just don't call them bashful, because together they can really wail. The list of speakers at this year's Twin Cities Book Fest is typically diverse and inspiring. It includes Harvard psychologist Stephen Pinker, poet Noa Hyugen, and Julie Schumacher, a novelist who teaches at the U of M.
35. A Tribute to the Replacements The bastards of young and old convene every November to hoist a glass and a tattered flag to a Minneapolis rock band who reminded us that covers shouldn't be pretty. First Avenue's musician-laden backstage makes the 494-35W interchange look placid, but they always seem to pull it off. Until the 'Mats got back together, this was as close as most folks came to hearing the stuff live.
34. Hot food Have you been fighting lasagna and beef stew cravings over the past few months in fear of full-body sweats at the dinner table? The temperature is lowering, which means our hot food threshold is growing. And with the return of hot food comes the return of fall flavors. Ready for busts of cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves? We know we are.
33. Gaining an hour of sleep at end of Daylight Savings Time Hey, sometimes small things make all the difference. And who doesn't enjoy gaining an hour of sleep just for being alive during the first Saturday each November? With temperatures getting cold, it's a comfortable hour, as well. Consider it one of fall's small pleasures.
32. Home-brewed beer Beer tastes good all year round. But there's something about growing the ingredients yourself that makes it a little bit better in the fall. If you didn't take advantage of the Longfellow Community Hop Garden, we suggest finding someone who did, because now that the traditional harvest season is behind us, the best of the home-brewed stuff is just around the corner. Want to get into the game yourself? The Minnesota Home Brewers Association is hosting a Learn to Brew Day November 8 in New Brighton.
31. Choreographers' Evening For over 40 years, Choreographers' Evening has been offering patrons a rapid-fire taste of local dance talent. Each year, a Minnesota choreographer is chosen to curate an evening at the Walker Art Center loaded with seven-minute segments from up-and-coming movers, established troupes, experimental performers, and beloved local mainstays. It's a great way for lovers of dance to revisit the performers they love, but it also serves as an excellent entry point for those new to the Twin Cities dance scene.
30. Stillwater Harvest Fest Just a short drive outside the Twin Cities, Stillwater is home to a good old-fashioned fall celebration that boasts a chili cook-off, a pie-eating contest, and (of course) pumpkin everything. The Harvest Fest is fall family fun at its best, and you'll probably get to peep at the gorgeous autumn leaves on your drive over to check out the event's giant pumpkin weigh-off. Who knows, you might end up seeing a World Record-sized pumpkin (they had one in 2010).
29. Saint Paul Art Crawl Forget the big outdoor art festivals found in summer. The fall art crawls are far more interesting and cozy. The Saint Paul Art Crawl is no exception, with buildings, studios, galleries, and more to explore over three days. This year over 300 artists will be showcased at 21 locations. And while the event is primarily in Lowertown, guests will find special happenings in other areas as well, including along University and Grand Avenues, and on the East Side. This year's happening should be extra fun, with the Green Line offering free transportation for art crawlers during the weekend (MetroTransit will also have free bus passes available for download as well).
28. Wine tours Relax, winos. There's plenty for you to do, too. Check out the Three Rivers Wine Trail, which connects five of Minnesota's oldest wineries. The Federweisser Festival is a solid sampling of soon-to-be finished wines, and the Cheese and Chocolate weekend speaks for itself. More impish aficionados should check out the competitive grape stomp at Morgan Creek Vineyards, on October 4.
27. Pumpkin Picking When fall rolls around, there's a little spot inside our hearts that still keeps a lookout for the Great Pumpkin, a la Charlie Brown. While it might not show up, you can still find us out traipsing around in local pumpkin patches, picking the perfect ultra-orange squash to carve out and turn into a piece of Pinterest-perfect Halloween art.
26. The Return of Flannel Yes, the tank tops and skirts of summer can feel nice on a toasty day. But we know that all true Minnesotans really can't wait until the weather's cool enough to don the attire of our favorite lumberjack and his blue ox. The checkered look is perfect for just about any outdoor activity, from a brisk morning hike to fishing in one of our thousands of lakes. Duluth Trading Company may rank Minneapolis as only the fourth-best city for flannel (behind San Francisco?!), but we know we're number one.
25. Candy Getting smashed on Halloween is cool and everything, but for those of us who remain children at heart, it's all about the candy. And call us crazy, but nothing says fall like big bowls of candy corn and corn syrup pumpkins. Who cares if they taste like sweet, chalky wax? Nostalgia is the name of this game.
24. U of M campus is revived Do you feel that? The back-to-school jitters, the power of thousands of inquisitive minds hard at work, and the cities' sudden infusion of youthful vigor? How about the Gopher riots, frat parties, and general beer-fueled, stunted-prefrontal-cortex shenanigans? Oh, campus life. You keep us young.
23. The World Series The biggest event featuring the Boys of Summer is in the autumn, of course, and it's aptly known as the Fall Classic. Though it's been more than two decades since the Twins took part, there's no better way to celebrate fall than by hunkering down in a warm comfy room and enjoying the World Series.
22. Art Attack/Cache Art-a-Whirl is one of the biggest gallery hops in the nation. And while it's a lot of fun, it can be pretty intense. In the fall, you can revisit those same spaces without quite the same level of crowds. Despite its name, Art Attack is a more chill happening in the Northrup King Building. Meanwhile, Cache at Casket Arts offers similar pleasure on the same weekend. At both places, you'll find a variety of studios to explore and artists to meet, including talents working in furniture design, book binding, print art, natural beauty supplies, and more. Both events are a great way to check out what Northeast artists have been up to since summertime, and it's also a great pre-holiday shopping event for those who like to gift local.
21. Leftovers Believe it or not, there are some people who love Thanksgiving solely for what comes after: leftovers. Turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey hot dish, turkey on salad, regular ol' re-heated turkey and fixings... we could go on, but we're already counting down the days until Thanksgiving.
20. MCAD Art Sale Could that work of art be the next big thing? You're sure to find something awesome at the annual MCAD Art Sale. Each year, the school hosts this three-day event offering an insane amount of student work at a variety of price points. There are stacks of photography, print art in a variety of styles, paintings of every dimension, sculptures for inside and outdoors, and everything else you could imagine. There are tiny pieces for $25, and massive ones that will require a U-Haul to take home. Even if you can't afford opening night, which runs about $150, there will still be plenty of things to consider taking home during sale hours on Saturday (admission is $20-$25 this night) and Sunday (admission is free).
19. FallCon The Midwest Comic Book Association organizes two conventions every year -- one in the spring, and one (you guessed it) in the fall. These conventions are for the true local die-hard comic book fans -- put on by a team of comic-lovers who support independent creators and dealers. FallCon covers 100,000 square feet at the State Fair Grounds where fans can meet some of their favorite artists, dress up, and build relationships with the local comic community.
18. Apple picking There's nothing like the crunch of a crisp apple plucked right off the tree... and the best time to go apple pickin' is in the fall. There's about a month-long window where you can head out to orchards around the Twin Cities and eat your way through a few trees while gathering enough goods to take home and munch on for weeks to come. Plus, if you're a baker, saying you made an apple pie with fruit you actually picked is the ultimate bragging right.
17. Thanksgiving Minnesota knows how to stuff its face, as evidenced after spending an hour at the State Fair. But the fact that we have to wait a whole three months for another excuse for a giant meal is a travesty. Between the huge heapings of food, football, and even the Drumstick Dash 10K to burn off a few calories, there's arguably no better holiday. And if you're not in a cooking mood, the Twin Cities has plenty of open restaurants for you to head to.
16. The return of comforters Gone are the nights of sweating beneath flimsy cotton sheets during the hottest nights of summer. It's time to welcome comforters back into our lives and bask in the lack of night sweats and the marshmallow-like feel of down feathers. There's nothing quite like a comforter to keep you company on cold nights. Cuddle up, y'all.
15. Movember Mustaches are no longer just for diabolical villains to twirl while tying damsels-in-distress to train tracks. Nowadays, they're pretty much everywhere -- from waxed curlicue mustaches to Errol Flynn-inspired facial hair to bushy Burt Reynolds 'staches. And during the month of November, lots of guys ditch their razors and let nature go to work for Movember. We celebrate this momentous month with our Show Us Yer 'Stache contest -- awarded to the readers' choice for the best facial hair of the year.
14. Halloween This one is a no-brainer. Unless you actually eat brains. In that case, you should stay home, because Halloween is for the living, and it only gets better as you age. Among many other parties around the Twin Cities, the Chateau LaSalle throws a kegger each year, transforming the Victorian mansion into a wicked dance party. You'll have to pay a couple bucks to get in, but the sight of gyrating ninjas and devils and giant Whoopee Cushions will forever haunt you -- in a good way.
13. SmartWool Socks Among first-world problems, being the owner of cold, clammy feet ranks right above missing last call, and right below locking your keys in the car. Prevent this coming fall trend with the moderate luxury of SmartWool socks. They always seems to know whether it's freezing or just a tad chilly. No itching, no bulky bullshit, and no more ice cubes for toes. Let the pampering begin.
12. Instagram When the first leaves start drifting off the trees, you'll be sure to see 'em on Instagram (probably tagged with #mnfall #leaves #omg #winteriscoming) before they even hit the ground. We confess: We're suckers for all those photos steeped in filters like Earlybird and 1977 showing off some of the Twin Cities' finest landscapes. Whether it's Lake Calhoun's shoreline on a chilly day or a pile of leaves in the neighborhood -- we're proud of Minnesota's fantastic fall photo-ops.
11. Ciders When we aren't slugging back beers, we're sipping Minnesota's other official fall beverage: hard apple cider. Check out our list of some favorite quaffs for fall, fresh from the orchard.
10. Cirque Du So Gay One of the most fun and inclusive bike rides happens in the fall each year at Queer Bike Gang's Cirque du So Gay. At this happening LGBTQ riders and friends get dressed up in silly costumes, and happily bike along to various destinations where they stop to complete tasks and play games. It's also an opportunity to learn a little bit about the great organizations and businesses in the Twin Cities supporting LGBTQ causes, including health services, youth programs, and political advocacy (not to mention cool bookshops, sex-positive stores, and dance parties).
9. Renaissance Festival The Minnesota Renaissance Festival may be coming to a close in the next few weeks, but that still leaves plenty of time to meet knights and fairies, buy some themed gifts, or catch a medieval show. Not to mention the food, which features favorites like giant turkey legs, pork chops on a stick and caramel apples. It's the perfect pick-me-up between the State Fair and Thanksgiving.
8. Twin Cities Marathon Look at you running all those miles! We'll be over here, on the sidelines, taking in the crisp autumn air with a hot cup of coffee and some encouraging words as you huff and puff on by. Whether watching alongside one of the scenic lakes or while staked out by the river, join in the fun by screaming at complete strangers to keep running, ideally between bites of your breakfast sandwich. You're going to get hungry out there. (You also might see Chewbacca chugging along.)
7. Fall-flavored beers Yes, the pumpkin spice trend may have gone a bit too far when it invaded our cookie aisle (I'm looking at you, pumpkin spice-flavored Oreos). But adding a little bit of spice or fall flavor to a beer can still do wonders. Just look at Indeed's Sweet Yamma Jamma Ale, which blends sweet potatoes and spices in a way that'll have you craving a crisp autumn evening by a bonfire. Also, seasonal kegs: Forget watermelon kegs, 'tis the season for pumpkin kegs.
6. Rocktober After summer block parties finally go the way of the frost-massacred mosquito, it's time to get back to the clubs. October is traditionally when a voluminous amount of local/national/global acts push through with high-profile concerts. They leave the critically minded with a fresh memory when they decide why the year mattered. Plus, homework sucks.
5. Soap Factory's Haunted Basement Each year for Halloween, the Soap Factory tries to traumatize us by sending us down into its haunted unfinished basement. After participants sign a waiver, they descend into complete darkness to discover what horrors await, be they bad smells, spinning rooms, undead terrors, or ominous coffin masters. Thankfully, Northstar Bartenders Guild sets up shop in the Exile Lounge to offer drinks to calm your nerves before and after.
4. Fall cycling Cycling is great in the summer, but there's something about a crisp ride beneath rows of rows of color-changing trees that can't be beat. Plus, you won't be dying of dehydration or trying to conceal your back sweat by the time you reach your destination. And don't forget: It's never too early to prep your bike for winter riding.
3. Costume contests Halloween gives us an excuse to stuff our faces with candy... and to dress up however we want. Wherever you go, you're sure to see some incredible get-ups, but our favorite spot in town is First Avenue's annual Halloween bash. This is First Avenue like you rarely see it: packed to the brim with everything from a human Sharknado to E.T.'s Elliott, and just about everything in between. Get a head start on your Halloween look this year -- with crafty costumes and easy disguises.
2. Picked to Click The finest and most notorious of new Minnesota music talents are lined up and picked for a yearly critical kickball team. It's not terribly scientific, and bands like Low, Polica, and Doomtree prove that second place is sometimes the place to be. Still, it's an enduring snapshot of how the locals consume their tunes at any given time, and an amazing scapegoat for what ails ya.
1. Leaf watching While you can watch the trees turn colors and shed just about anywhere in the state, the best leaf watching is done well outside the Twin Cities -- preferably along the North Shore. There, you'll see miles upon miles of foliage turn brilliant yellows, vibrant oranges, and burning reds along the horizon. Don't make the long drive up north without consulting the DNR for information on when fall colors typically peak as well as an updated map of what's peaking where.
Bonus: We also love fall because it's not winter. And rest assured -- winter is coming.