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Affordable Fall Road Trip: Scenic Minnesota

Enjoy beer, heritage and colorful vistas west of Minneapolis

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Brew up a memorable four-day, three-night adventure beginning and ending in Minneapolis. You’ll be on or near the Minnesota River Valley National Scenic Byway, winding past colorful foliage brimming with eclectic roadside attractions. (343 miles)

Day 1: Minneapolis to New Ulm (110 miles)

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Drive southwest on Highway 169 and stop at the butter-yellow barnlike Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store in Jordan. Indulge in cotton candy and childhood favorite sweets. Near Mankato, keep eyes peeled for bald eagles, roaming bison and gushing waterfalls at Minneopa State Park. For $5, tour the century-old August Schell Brewing Co. in New Ulm, which celebrates its German roots. Bite into bratwurst and Wiener schnitzel and acclaimed sauerkraut balls at Veigel’s Kaiserhoff, which has been sating appetites since 1938. (Pack dirndls and lederhosen for Oktoberfest, held this year on Oct. 4-5 and Oct. 11-12.)

spinner image A waterfall at Minneopa Falls
Minneopa State Park has many on-site recreational activities.
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Where to stay: Once chosen “Best of the Midwest” by BedandBreakfast.com, New Ulm’s Bingham Hall Bed and Breakfast has fall rates starting at $109.

Day 2: New Ulm to Granite Falls (80 miles)

Say “guten morgan” to “Hermann the German,” a 32-foot copper statue atop a cupola supported by 10 columns. It commemorates a Germanic folk hero victorious in a crucial battle against Roman legions. History buffs can visit the Brown County Historical Society, which houses exhibits about the Dakota Sioux conflicts with 19th-century settlers. Learn about local life in the 19th and 20th centuries at the Redwood County Museum, in a building that was once a home for paupers. On the way to Granite Falls, detour to Grandview Valley Winery for memorable scenery and made-from-scratch pizza with whimsical names, such as “Cuban Pickle Crisis.”

Where to stay: Prairie’s Edge Casino Resort has $75 rates from Sunday to Thursday, as well as an RV park. Full hookup is $30, Sundays through Thursdays.

Day 3: Granite Falls to New London (53 miles)

A Sherman tank, fighter planes and a Holocaust boxcar are on display at Granite Falls’ Fagen Fighters WWII Museum (suggested donation, $10). Drive an hour northeast on Highway 23 to charming New London, where you can spend time in tempting art galleries, crafts shops and boutiques. Enjoy a lip-smacking lunch of soup and salad and desserts to die for at the Middle Fork Cafe, open for dinner Thursdays through Saturdays. Your nightcap: homemade beer on tap at Goat Ridge Brewing Co.  

Where to stay: The year-old GrandStay Hotel & Suites offers fall rates starting at $139, including a heated pool and breakfast. Accessible rooms are available.

Day 4: New London to Minneapolis (100 miles)

You’re in the state with more than 10,000 lakes, so grab coffee to go and take a gander at 5,406-acre Green Lake in nearby Spicer. Then meander back toward the Twin Cities on Highway 12, stopping in hospitable small towns along the way. Make time to see the quirky Twine Ball Museum in Darwin, with the largest ball of twine rolled by one man. (It measures 40 feet around and weighs 17,400 pounds.) Admission is free. Take home a road-trip souvenir: your own twine ball starter kit.

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