12 Best Places to See Fall Colors in the Midwest for Families

A young girl wearing a pink coat and purple rain boots stands at the edge of the water on School House Beach with an array of colorful fall foliage in the distance.
Photo Courtesy: Antonia Grant
Door County, Wisconsin

The Midwest is one of the best places to see fall colors in the United States! Decorated in hues of gold, auburn, and copper, the Midwest knows how to put on an autumn show. Many families reserve fall school breaks to stay in cozy cabins, tell ghost stories around bonfires, and of course, admire the dazzling array of colors. But where are the best places to see autumn colors in the Midwest with kids? Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of the 12 Best Places to See Fall Colors in the Midwest for Families to help you decide. From Minnesota to Ohio, these locations are sure to impress kids and adults alike. Embark on one of the best fall vacations in the Midwest with kids to take in the breathtaking autumn hues, and most importantly make memories together as a family! 

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Best Places to See Fall Colors in Minnesota for Families

Some of the best fall colors in the Midwest for families can be found in Minnesota. While you can find fall colors around most of the state, we’ve narrowed it down to two outstanding locations you can’t miss this fall!

North Shore, MN

Mid-September – Early October

If you’re seeking fall foliage in the Midwest, the North Shore of Minnesota is certainly one of the best places to see it! Dotted with charming towns along the shore and outdoor adventures galore, the North Shore will prove to be one of the best fall vacations in the Midwest with kids! From Duluth to Cook County, soak in dazzling hues of amber, crimson, and vivid yellow. Those looking for amazing views can hike the Oberg Mountain Loop to glimpse fall foliage and views of Lake Superior. Families with older kids or experienced trekkers can also consider the Tettegouche Lake Overlook, a 5.3-mile loop around Tettegouche Lake. Then, head to Split Rock Lighthouse. Not only can you take in the fall colors, but you can also learn about this historic lighthouse. Finally, there are plenty of cozy cabins promising crisp autumn air, indoor fireplaces, and maple-flavored everything! 

Iron Range, MN

Mid-September – Mid-October

Take one of the best Midwest fall getaways for families to the Iron Range of Minnesota. This northern stretch of towns from Crosby to Ely is known for its mining and includes three specific “ranges”, the Cuyuna, the Mesabi, and the Vermilion. Each offers fantastic fall colors in the Midwest for families! Let autumn colors erupt around you as you hike Giants Ridge, near Biwabik. In Ely, learn about wolves at the International Wolf Center. Then, enjoy ample opportunities for fall hiking, canoeing, or camping in the area. In fact, Ely is also the western hub for entering The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Or, head to Cuyuna for epic scenic fall drives, mountain biking, and hiking. Maximize the autumn ambiance with a weekend stay at Cuyuna Cove. Here, choose from a cozy cabin or safari tent. You can even mountain bike and hike right from the property!

Best Places to See Fall Colors in Wisconsin for Families

Head to Wisconsin to discover dazzling fall colors in the Midwest with kids! While Wisconsin is well-known for its cheese, it is also one of the best places to view autumn foliage. Here are three fantastic options to soak up cozy autumn vibes with your kids.

Door County, WI

Late September – Mid-October

Door County, Wisconsin is certainly one of the best Midwest fall getaways for families. Here, you will be greeted by a kaleidoscope of autumn hues in gold, russet, and auburn. Firstly, drive up the peninsula on the western side for a string of enchanting towns. Not to mention, an abundance of roadside apple stands selling everything from donuts to pies to fresh apples. Be sure to stop at Sweetie Pies for the best pie in Door County! Then, head to Washington Island to take in the fall colors from School House Beach. Afterward, warm your belly with some hot soup from Jackson Harbor Soup. Back on the mainland, hike in Peninsula State Park or The Ridges Sanctuary for outstanding colors and fresh air. Plus, enjoy a tasting at one of the many wineries or Island Orchard Cider. Autumn in the Midwest with kids doesn’t get much better than this!

Lake Geneva, WI

Mid-October to Late-October

Families will adore glimpsing fall foliage together in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Firstly, meander the scenic Geneva Lake Shore Path, where the lake will shimmer as it reflects the brilliant autumn palette. As one of the best places for fall colors in the Midwest for families, Lake Geneva also offers the chance to view the colors from the water! Embark on a cruise with Lake Geneva Cruise Line to enjoy the colorful display, as well as hear historical tales from the captain. Families will also find a plethora of opportunities for scenic drives, hiking, and biking. In fact, Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy offers a picturesque boardwalk hike perfect for kids. Afterward, visit the nearby Apple Barn Orchard & Winery. Grab a homemade pie from the general store to complete your fall escape! Finally, Lake Geneva is also one of the best places to see fall colors near Chicago (less than 2 hours away!).

Great River Road, WI

Late September – Mid-October

If you desire one of the best Midwest fall getaways with kids, look no further than the Great River Road in Wisconsin. Following the Mississippi River, this scenic drive covers 250 miles and several charming towns along the way. To see the best fall colors in the Midwest with kids, journey the full trek, or select a town or two to explore. Towns like La Crosse, Prescott, and Stockholm offer chances to hike, bike, shop, and more! In La Crosse, don’t miss the stunning autumn views from Grandad Bluff. Then, visit the National Eagle Center to learn more about our national bird. Perrot State Park is another great option to be immersed in autumn hues of crimson and gold. In Stockholm, head to the Maiden Rock Winery & Cidery for a day of family fun. Here, adults can enjoy tastings, while kids play in the hay or defeat the corn maze.

Pro Tip: There is a Minnesota side to this road too, covering quaint towns like Red Wing, Lake City, Wabasha, and Winona. No matter which side you choose, you are sure to enjoy some of the best fall foliage in the Midwest!

Best Places to See Fall Colors in Michigan for Families

Michigan offers some of the best fall vacations in the Midwest! In fact, the Upper Peninsula offers some of the best autumn foliage in the United States. Embark on one of these Michigan fall vacations to soak in the fall colors and crisp autumn air.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, MI

Late September – Early October

Two people ride on a chair lift up the Porkies with a view of brilliant fall colors and Lake Michigan behind them.
Photo Courtesy: Amanda Gayle Photography

Families seeking Michigan fall vacations will adore Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Located near Ontonagon, this area is affectionately called the Porkies. Here, families can enjoy some of the best fall colors in the Midwest! During your autumnal visit, embark on hikes and scenic drives to enjoy the full display. One of the most iconic places to see fall colors is Lake of the Clouds. Families interested in hiking will find trails around the lake. Or, reach one of the most picturesque nearby overlooks by car. Chasing waterfalls? Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is known for them! Bond Falls is sure to be a hit with kids. Afterward, enjoy breathtaking views by a chairlift at the Porcupine Mountains Ski Area. Finally, reach the highest point around by trekking up Summit Peak! A short hike will take you to the 50-foot watchtower, where you can enjoy the magic of fall within the canopy.

Pro Tip: Don’t miss the chance to eat at The Konteka, where you can see wild bears being fed while you dine inside!

Marquette, MI

Late September – Early October

Marquette, Michigan, is next on our list of places to see fall colors in the Midwest for families. Nestled along Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula, Marquette offers one of the best Michigan fall vacations due to its dazzling array of color and autumn activities. Here, enjoy the brilliant fall views by hiking or biking. Iron Ore Heritage Trail is a great option for both activities. If you have more time, take the short hike to Thomas Rock, where you will be rewarded with epic views and colorful autumn hues. Driving the scenic routes of County Roads 510 or 550 is another great way to glimpse fall foliage. In fact, just off County Road 550, Sugarloaf Mountain offers easy and difficult trails leading to the same phenomenal view. End your day with a warm belly at Jean Kay’s Pasties, a must-eat in the Upper Peninsula.

Best Places to See Fall Colors in Illinois for Families

If you’re looking for some of the best fall foliage in the Midwest, then head to Illinois! Here, you’ll find scenic byways, hiking, and more to enjoy fall colors near Chicago and beyond.

Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway, IL

Mid-October – Early November

A bridge is shrouded in fall colors along a path at Mathiessen State Park.
Photo Courtesy: Anaise Berry

One of the best places for fall colors in Illinois is the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway. This stretch of road covers 150 miles from Ottowa to Havana, Illinois. Spend your autumn hiking, bird watching, biking, or canoeing with a splendid autumnal backdrop. If you’re searching for the best fall foliage in the Midwest, you won’t be disappointed. Near Havana, visit the Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge, ideal for hiking and wildlife viewing. Take a slight detour and head up Peoria Heights, known for its string of mansions and stunning views near Peoria. Afterward, enjoy fine dining and shopping. Nearby, visit the farm animals and go apple picking at Christ Orchard. Closer to Ottowa, take kids hiking amongst the fall foliage at Starved Rock State Park, where they will be bathed in golden yellow. Older kids will love the thrill of exploring the haunted mansion at Spider Hill Haunted Attractions

Galena, IL

Mid-September – Late October 

Families seeking one of the best Midwest fall getaways will adore Galena, Illinois. One of the most charming American towns, Galena offers a variety of fall family activities. Firstly, find an abundance of crunchy leaves at Apple River Canyon State Park, where you can select from five hiking trails. Then, Chesnut Mountain Resort offers cruises along the Mississippi River. Enjoy the vibrant colors of fall as you learn about local history and wildlife on the narrated cruise. Even better, each cruise includes an alpine slide and scenic chair ride before and after! Local wineries also get into the autumn harvest spirit with tastings and events. Galena Cellars Vineyard and Winery is a family-friendly option. Adventure-seekers in the family will also love zip-lining through the canopy at Long Hallow Canopy Tours. Finally, Galena is one of the best places for fall colors near Chicago, as it’s less than 3 hours away.

Best Places to See Fall Colors in Indiana for Families

Indiana offers some of the best fall colors in the Midwest for families. We’ve narrowed it down to two amazing places to spend autumn in the Midwest.

Brown County, IN

Late September – Early November

We would be remiss without mentioning Brown County, Indiana on the list of places for the best fall foliage in the Midwest! Here, you’ll find a kaleidoscope of vivid colors, bonfires, apple cider, and pumpkins around every turn. They have even set up a fall Leaf Cam so you know exactly when to visit! Brown County State Park is the first stop for leaf-peeping. Whether you drive through or hike one of the many trails, you are sure to see a breathtaking display of autumn brilliance! Afterward, let kids find a pumpkin to carve or decorate from Kelp’s Greenhouse & Pumpkin Patch. Finally, locals won’t let you leave town without tasting the iconic persimmon pudding or caramel apple sundae at Miller’s Ice Cream House. With so much to offer, it’s no wonder that Brown County is one of the best fall vacations in the Midwest for families!

Parke County, IN

Late September – Mid-October

Known for its enchanting covered bridges, Parke County, Indiana is also ones of the best places to see fall colors in the Midwest with kids! Certainly, taking a scenic drive in search of fall colors and all thirty-one covered bridges is the first thing to do! Afterward, families can get cozy around late-night wood fires with a round (or two!) of s’mores and hot apple cider. Additionally, kids will delight in picking their own apples or finding the most delicious caramel apples at Ditzler Orchard. Outdoor enthusiasts can spend fall days hiking at Shades State Park or Turkey Run State Park (cabins or camping available on-site too). Turkey Run State Park is also one of the best state parks in the Midwest for families! As one of the most charming Midwest fall getaways with kids, Parke County also offers unique chances to go antiquing or visit Amish country stores.

RELATED ARTICLE: Exciting Family Itinerary For Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge

Best Places to See Fall Colors in Ohio for Families

Don’t miss some of the best fall foliage in the Midwest located in Ohio! Amidst the rolling hills, be sure to spend time viewing some of the best fall colors in the Midwest from this fantastic state park. 

Hocking Hills State Park, OH

Early October – Late October 

Located near Logan, Ohio (just over an hour from Columbus), Hocking Hills State Park offers some of the best fall colors in the Midwest for families. Here, families can hike amongst caves, waterfalls, and leaf-studded autumn in the Midwest at its best! Ideal for all skill levels, kids will love exploring Old Man’s Cave (less than a mile out and back). Additionally, families can’t miss Ash Cave, one of the most spectacular features of the park. Canoeing, camping, and other hikes are also available. Then, older kids will love zooming through the colorful autumn foliage with Hocking Hills Canopy Tours. Plan your trip accordingly, and you can attend the Circleville Pumpkin Show (typically held in mid-October). As one of the best Midwest fall getaways with kids, Hocking Hills State Park also offers cozy cabins on-site. Finally, for a true feast of fall colors, stay in one of the tree-houses!

Happy Travels

A large family stands amongst fall foliages in the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan, one of the best places to see fall colors in the Midwest for families.
Photo Courtesy: Amanda Gayle Photography

Families seeking fall colors in the Midwest surely found their next Midwest fall getaway with kids on this list! From Ohio to Minnesota, autumn is one of the best seasons to enjoy all the Midwest has to offer. From flavors of maple, apple, and pumpkin to hues of scarlet, vivid yellow, and amber, fall in the Midwest will certainly please everyone in your family. The time frame for peak colors is short, however, so be sure to book your stay and enjoy the brilliant hues of the season. Regardless of where you choose to view fall colors in the Midwest with kids, we know you will make a cornucopia of happy memories together. Happy autumn adventures!

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision. 

*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.

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The Families Love Travel Team has a zest for life and an even bigger passion for globetrotting! Comprised of real-life travel professionals, we work hard behind the scenes to provide dynamic solutions for adventuring with children. Our enthusiastic team understands the challenges that often accompany traveling with kids and is committed to making Families Love Travel an inclusive space to convey these experiences.