I have visited the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum many times and in all seasons of the year, but this week was the first time my husband came along with me. And, as is often the case when he is along, we discovered some new areas that I would not have seen on my own. Like a lot of people during the pandemic, we have been looking for ways to be outside more.
The weather is getting colder and as I write this, the first flakes of snow of the season are falling, so now is a good time to visit the arboretum. Some of the trees and plants are past peak, but many are still vibrant and beautiful and there is much to see at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum display areas and on the trails outside of the main gardens.
Reserve a Time
If you want to visit the arboretum, you’ll need to reserve a time slot online. The arb is taking pandemic precautions seriously, as it must, so it is limiting the number of visitors. I reserved our slot the day before we visited and there were slots open throughout the day. You’ll get a ticket for a half hour slot during which you should arrive and when you drive up to the gate, you just show your ticket through your car window. The gate attendant scans the ticket and you drive in. Be sure to bring a mask. The visitor center is open, so you can get maps and use the restrooms. The gift store is also open and there is a brand new exhibit of Covid-19 inspired art that was being installed the day we were there. The cafeteria and upper floor of the visitor center is closed.
Follow the Arrows!
In order to maintain distances among visitors, the arboretum staff have marked off routes through all the gardens and even the trails outside of the display gardens. Most routes are one-way. Hopefully, you will be better at going the right direction than we were.
Display Gardens Still Lovely
As we get passed mid-October, many gardens in Minnesota look a bit bedraggled. But not at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Even on a gloomy day, the rose garden was filled with blooms. The fall perennials were in full flower, especially the dahlias, asters and goldenrods that were present in several display beds. Amsonia, one of my favorite perennials for fall foliage color, looked stunning in a bed near the visitor center. The home demonstration garden still had some good-sized tomatoes on the vines!
We also wandered over to the area near the “You-Betcha” stick sculpture, where a display of scare crows had been assembled. I loved the woodland fairy scarecrow, though my husband really liked “Dr. Crow-ci,” a scare crow in honor of the famous infectious disease specialist.
Green Heron Pond
After touring the gardens, we checked out step counter and realized we needed to do more walking to get in our recommended 10,000 steps for the day. We ended up walking around Green Heron Pond, which is a beautiful natural area not far from the visitor center. We did not spot any green herons—one of my favorite water birds—but the scenery was beautiful, grasses and shrubs, all colored with autumn hues. The trail is partially on board walk and partially ground, but it is a very pleasant walk and we saw parents and children enjoying the wild spaces.
We were tempted to head out to Spring Peeper Meadow, too, but decided it was getting late. Instead, we took the Three-Mile Drive in our car, admiring the fall foliage on all of the trees. If you are considering planting a new tree, drive the arb route first to see what you like. It’s a wonderful display of Minnesota hardy trees.
Finally, we could not head home without a trip to the Apple House just down the road from the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. I stocked up on my favorite pie and sauce apple, and Steve managed to find some jams and relishes to try. There was a food truck featuring apple cider, apple cider slushies and apple mini-donuts, too, which we had to hit before the ride home.
If you’re looking for a fall (or winter, or spring, or summer) outing, the arboretum is a great option for everyone.