Minnesota offers vibrant autumn color and provides a kaleidoscopic backdrop for your event.
New England often gets the most credit for its spectacular fall color, but many rank Minnesota in the top tier for seasonal beauty, making fall an ideal time for meetings anywhere in the state. From the North Shore of Lake Superior to the Twin Cities and Rochester, there are a variety of venues with ideal seasonal settings that can cater to groups of all sizes.
Duluth, the gateway to the scenic North Shore of Lake Superior, offers a wealth of hotels suitable for autumnal meetings of all sizes.
The Radisson Duluth Harborview offers excellent views of the city’s wooded hills. As Radisson’s only round hotel, this venue features a rotating restaurant, the Apostle Supper Club, and has 15 floors. The hotel can accommodate groups up to 300.
Another option includes the Inn on Lake Superior that is situated just off the Duluth Lakewalk with views of the woodlands on the horizon. The inn has 174 rooms, most with balconies, and additional meeting spaces for up to 200.
Nature lovers can find miles of wooded trails within the city limits, while bird-watchers can witness the fall migration (August to December) of some 76,000 eagles, hawks, falcons, and vultures from Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. Groups can also explore the city’s Skyline Parkway, a continuous, heavily treed trail along the city’s Lake Superior and St. Louis Bay coastlines.
Visitors with extra leisure time may want to take a short road trip north on Minnesota Highway 61, which parallels the lake, to stop at Split Rock Lighthouse or Gooseberry Falls state parks, both less than a half hour northeast of Two Harbors. The North Shore Scenic Railroad provides narrated day trips between Duluth and Two Harbors.
For the northern part of the state, color peaks from mid-September to late-September.
The state’s largest city by population offers the most meeting venues and a world-class convention center, but it is not all skyscrapers and concrete. Minneapolis is known for its heavily treed streets and has been awarded national honors for its woodsy parks.
Lodging ranges from large convention hotels such as the downtown Marquette Hilton, within the city’s tallest building (the IDS Center), to the picturesque Nicollet Island Inn on a Mississippi River island. The Marquette offers panoramic views of the city’s trees in peak fall color from its 50th-floor meeting spaces, while the 23-room Nicollet Island Inn is surrounded by wooded landscapes along the Mississippi. The inn’s two meeting rooms can host smaller groups of 50 to 100. Larger groups with events at the inn often stay at several hotels that are only a short distance away.
“Guest comments say that it feels like you are not in a corporate setting,” says Larry Abdo, the owner of the Nicollet Island Inn. “The bar has large windows overseeing the park and color along the riverbanks.”
A plethora of free-time activities ranges from the Ultimate Touchdown Tour of U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings, to partial day trips to the suburban Paisley Park, the former home and recording studio of Minneapolis musical icon, Prince. Experience the Twin Cities also organizes a variety of tours, including of breweries and distilleries, and for sightseeing.
Separated from its twin city by the Mississippi River, the capital city of St. Paul retains historic charm with a modern, cosmopolitan vibe.
The Saint Paul Hotel showcases old-world design and features contemporary meeting services for groups up to 250. Many guest rooms face the tree-lined river. Fall flowers bloom in its seasonal gardens, and guests can find more autumnal color across the street in Rice Park.
Both its banquet meals and its St. Paul Grill destination restaurant feature Midwestern favorites like walleye, wild rice soup, and chicken potpie, in addition to steaks and seafood.
The InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront is a larger downtown hotel that can host groups of all sizes, including up to 1,000 guests in the grand ballroom. Some meeting rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the wooded riverbank.
Guests at both hotels may enjoy walking along the riverwalk or can schedule guided walking tours through companies such as CynCity Tours or ToursByLocals. Leafy, mansion-lined Summit Avenue is especially scenic in the fall. And Padelford Riverboats run through October on the Mississippi with narrated sightseeing cruises.
Field trips can be arranged throughout October to Fort Snelling to see its 1904 cavalry barracks that sit atop bluffs with a stunning view of the heavily wooded confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers.
Less than an hour’s drive northeast of St. Paul is the quaint river town of Stillwater, founded in 1843 and often regarded as one of America’s best small towns for fall color. Its immaculately preserved historic Main Street and its location on the tree-lined St. Croix River set it apart from most towns in the metro area.
Best suited for smaller meetings, Stillwater is home to two historic inns, the Water Street Inn with 60 rooms and the Lowell Inn with 35 rooms. These and other establishments have easy access to the JX Venue, an event space that can host up to 720 guests.
Take your group on a narrated trolley tour of old Stillwater, or take a self-guided walking tour of the various shops and restaurants housed in well-preserved buildings from the 1800s. Wine connoisseurs may visit the nearby St. Croix Vineyards, while golfers can arrange an outing at a number of courses, including the wooded Logger’s Trail Golf Course.
Peak times for the central part of the state are from late September to early October.
Fall color also abounds in Rochester, a southern Minnesotan city that is home to a plethora of meeting and convention facilities and is served by Rochester International Airport. Best known as the home of the renowned Mayo Clinic, Rochester also offers a variety of outdoor activities and lodging.
One of the premier convention hotels is the Kahler Grand Hotel, home to 552 rooms and 14 meeting spaces. Its restaurant-quality banquet meals are likely to include local, seasonal dishes, such as Amish chicken and walleye.
Guests can find an abundance of fall color on a walk through the Mayo Clinic campus just across the street. A six-block walk will take them to tree-lined Silver Lake.
The Mayowood Stone Barn is a unique meeting venue without guest rooms. Originally owned since the early 1900s by several generations of the Mayo family, it is now operated by Powers Ventures. Colorful, giant bur oaks stretch across the spacious grounds, and the former horse barn has been transformed into elegant event spaces.
Leisure time activities in Rochester include strolling along downtown’s park trails that feature public art and murals along the routes. Group tours can be arranged through the Rochester Trolley & Tour Co. for wine and cider tastings at three wineries, craft beer tastings at three microbreweries, or a shorter history tour of downtown.
Rochester’s fall colors peak a bit later than in more northerly Minnesota cities, from the end of September to as late as mid-October.