Man sitting above the Mississippi River in Minneapolis looking at a laptop and smiling

Social Distance Friendly Things to do in Minneapolis This Fall

As we continue to manage the course of our lives during an unprecedented global pandemic, finding time to circle back to the hobbies or goals that define us may feel like a daunting task. However, one of the primary recommendations for coping with stress throughout this abnormal era is to maintain your daily routines as much as possible, such as outdoor exercise or maintaining social relationships, as long as they can be carried out in a safe, productive, and healthy way.

So as another Minneapolis summer cools off and transitions into a Midwest fall, the changing of seasonal guard presents us with ample opportunities to take up new and stimulating activities or ambitions, ideal for keeping us sane and sharp during these turbulent times. Netflix can only comfort us so much, so if you’re in need of exploring healthy options for taking your mind off your worries, here are some social-distance friendly things to do in Minneapolis this fall: 

keep your distance 6 feet apart graphic

Help fight the spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota: Visit Twin Cities United Way to make a donation.

Explore The Land of 10,000 Lakes 

Now is one of the better times, if not the best time, to get better acquainted with all the natural splendor the great state of Minnesota has to offer. According to the Mayo Clinic, engaging in outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, fishing, and kayaking are low-risk, social-distance friendly activities, and you don’t have to travel outside of Minneapolis to relish nature’s amenities. Minnehaha Regional Park in South Minneapolis is free to visitors and home to the famously beautiful Minnehaha Falls. A more family-friendly hiking trail is Winchell Trail in South Minneapolis, a five-mile pathway nestled right on the shores of the Mississippi River, with enough trees and outdoor tranquility to help you forget you’re still immersed in metropolitan Minneapolis. 

view of Minnesota lakes and forests from above

Fishing aficionados have dozens of lakes within the Twin Cities to cast off at. Wirth Lake in Golden Valley and Bryant Lake in Eden Prairie are more relaxing bodies of water filled with Blue Gills and Largemouth Bass, while more experienced fishermen looking to stay within city limits may want to check out Lake Johanna or Snail Lake in the Northern Metro, where muskies have been known to be occasionally caught. For a fun day out in the water, there are several kayak rental companies based in Minneapolis, such as Paddle Share Station in North Mississippi Regional Park and Wheel Fun Rentals in Bde Maka Ska lake.      

Camp It Up 

Autumn is Minnesota’s last call for camping, and spending a fall weekend engulfed in the majestic settings of the great outdoors might be just what the doctor ordered if facing a winter of quarantine. The pandemic has seemingly caused a resurgence in camping, and the isolated pastime is not only an ideal activity that naturally forces social distance measures, but has also been found to alleviate stress and benefit your mental health

lit up tent on Lake Superior shoreline as sun sets on water

There are dozens of camping options located less than an hour drive away from Minneapolis, and most of them require online reservations to ensure that they’re not overpopulated. Afton State Park in Hastings, MN is less than forty-five minutes away from Minneapolis, and offers nearly thirty backpacking spots and over twenty miles of hiking trails, many of which overlook the immaculate scenery of the St. Croix River. Less than a half-hour away from Minneapolis lies Baker Park Reserve, an ideal camping setting for a weekend in a tent, grilling out for a picnic, and navigating through more than 2,700 acres of pristine nature. If you’re looking for something that has just about every camping resource you can think of, look no further than Lebanon Hills Regional Park, located in Eagan, MN, a half-hour drive away from Minneapolis. This is the largest park in the Dakota County Parks System, featuring scenic marvels ranging from grasslands, to forests, to lakes, to even mountain bluffs that are home to multiple downhill biking trails.  

Take The Scenic Route

You don’t have to pack a backpack, lace up some boots, and pitch a tent to enjoy all the outdoor sightseeing that runs rampant through and around Minneapolis. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the luxury of your car! What’s a more social-distance friendly way to view the wonders of Mother Nature than going out for an Autumn afternoon cruise? Spend a Sunday morning taking the scenic route to the St. Croix River Valley, a two-hour round trip excursion that will showcase breathtaking cliff-side scenery overlooking twisting river trails and rugged terrains of rocky hillsides.

highway in Minnesota surrounded by color changing trees

Or, you can pack a picnic and take the car out to River Bluffs Regional Park, located an hour away from Minneapolis, near St. Cloud, and a perfect route for viewing the dazzling array of fall colors on trees and adjacent hillsides. Even if you’re not looking to drive out of the way, the Minneapolis Grand Rounds Scenic Byway just outside of Bryn Mawr provides a quick trip to cruise through a variety of natural features such as wetlands, riverbanks, lagoons, and creeks, all nuzzled in the backyard of Minneapolis.      

B.Y.O.F. Picnic 

A cool, but not chilly Autumn afternoon can serve as the ideal backdrop for an old fashioned picnic, no matter what the quality of the food you’re working with is. And as long as you follow the necessary precautions for a socially-distanced meal, such as staying six feet apart from anyone you’re not quarantining with and refraining from sharing food or public cooking amenities, you can still enjoy an appetizing meal outdoors with a little peace of mind. For best safety measures, pre-make your food before heading out to a picnic, and if you’re planning on meeting up with anyone, avoid sharing food, beverages, utensils, or containers of any kind with them.  

woman sitting on picnic blanket with dog nearby

The number of quality picnic spots residing within Minneapolis is nearly infinite. You can find plenty of benches or open fields surrounding Lake Calhoun or Lake Harriet in South Minneapolis that are remotely secluded from any passerbys, or the recently renovated Loring Greenway near Loring Park, ideal for anyone looking to stay around Downtown Minneapolis. The 24-acres of lawn that surround the 10-acre Centennial Lakes of Edina provide one scenic location after another for spreading out and enjoying a sunset picnic, and if you’re seeking an inspiring view of the Minneapolis skyline as the backdrop for a home cooked meal, look no further than Boom Island Park.    

Virtualize Your Hobbies  

It seems like event ideas are going digital. As we further into fall, finding more socially-distant ways to stay in touch with friends and family may seem like a daunting task. If you’re already getting worn out by resorting to Skype, Zoom, or Facetime to socialize with the people you care about the most, it’s time to get creative with your virtual hangouts! Start a Zoom book club with your friends and discuss the latest literary masterpieces over a glass of wine in the comfort of your living room.

wine and book club virtual meeting

Heat up some popcorn and start a Netflix party with your fellow movie critics, which allows you to simultaneously view and chat with each other. Organize a game night by using Jackbox Games, a gaming service that allows everyone to stream the same screen and play a wide variety of games ranging from trivia to mad libs. Whatever your hobbies or interests may be, odds are there’s a way to virtually pursue them from a socially safe distance.  

Drive-In Theaters  

Another growing social-distance friendly trend that has emerged out of the pandemic has been the resurgence of drive-in movie theaters. There are several drive-in movie theaters within an hour drive from Minneapolis that have implemented occupancy restriction policies to safely accommodate all customers, and allow viewers to tune into radio stations to listen to the movies from inside their vehicles.

cars lined up at drive-in movie theater

If you’re fixing to watch some of your all-time favorite cinematic classics, Vali-Hi Drive-In in Lake Elmo is open seven nights a week, and has been featuring iconic films such as E.T., Jaws, and Back to the Future. The Elko Speedway & Drive-In Theater in Elko New Market is a half-hour drive outside of Minneapolis, and switches between new releases and old favorites every weekend. And if you’re up for a little bit a drive, the iconic Starlite Drive-In Theater in Litchfield, MN is just under an hour-and-a-half away, but is well worth the trek to watch a weekend double feature at this long standing Minnesota staple. Get your Drive-In movie theater on quick, as once fall ends, they won’t reopen until summer.

Searching for more great things to do in the Twin Cities Metro? Read our post: Social Distance Activities in Bloomington, MN.

Online Classes 

If quarantine has you stuck with finding educational or productive ways to fill spare time, perhaps looking into the wide variety of online classes Minneapolis has to offer can help you productively pass the time. Anyone interested in harnessing their screenwriting skills or learning a new software should checkout Film North, a St. Paul-based non-profit organization that features a wide variety of online classes this fall, ranging from filmmaking production courses to film or television screenplay workshops.

The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis – online classes page

For the writers out there struggling with writer's block or miss getting together at open mics to get feedback on poetry, The Loft Literary Center in Downtown Minneapolis is offering plenty of online writing classes for the fall. Any aspiring chefs or curious culinary artists looking to upgrade their kitchen skills can check out the virtual classes conducted by Cooks of Crocus Hill, a Minnesota-based culinary production company where online cooking masterminds will guide you through your computer on how to master a stir-fry, bake Irish soda bread, or learn the recipe for the tastiest empanada!     

Build a Website 

Whether you’re an avid sports jersey collector looking to sell your memorabilia or you’re a blogger with an opinion on just about everything, this fall can serve as the perfect opportunity to finally build your own website. Getting professional help to launch your own website is easier than ever, and can help you spend a season of socially distancing focusing on establishing and enhancing whatever online presence or brand you have in mind. Learn how you can build a luxury web design for your company, small business, or personal hobby, and spend your quarantine time this fall wisely.

man blogging on Wordpress on laptop

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