Since 1985, the experienced captains and crews at Paradise Charter Cruises and Minneapolis Queen have been shepherding guests along the azure surfaces of Lake Minnetonka and the Mississippi River. Their fleet of five vessels steers customers around the area while accommodating them with full-height glass windows, enclosed outer decks, bar and restaurant options, and karaoke performances by prize-winning big-mouth bass. Boats glide along the coastline of Lake Minnetonka, catching sights of small lakeside towns, and down the Mississippi River to the backdrop of the Minneapolis skyline, Saint Anthony Falls, and the setting sun.
Fall is in the air at Minnetonka Orchards, where a corn maze is just the beginning of the autumnal adventures that await kids and families. After navigating the twists and turns of the maze, guests can wander through the apple orchard to pick a fresh juicy globe or marvel at how weird bugs look. Visitors can also shop for jams, apples, and other farm fare at the barn, or go on a leisurely stroll on one of the walking trails. Kids' entertainment comes by way of the climbable hay mountain, the corn crib slide, and barnyard friends including goats, sheep, and bunnies.
A rustic red barn nestled in the fields of New Prague stands as the centerpiece of Next Chapter Vineyard. Around it stands six acres of vineyards blooming with marquette, frontenac, gris, and le crescent grapes. On these grounds, the Tulloch family mashes, presses, and ferments their varietals into a range of red and white wines. They often demonstrate their process to curious visitors and incorporate old winemaking techniques, such as grape stomping and wine bottling. Nearby, guests can pick apples at the Montgomery Apple Orchard.
Deep within a secluded, 200-year-old forest, more than 100 actors terrify visitors at Scream Town's more than five haunted attractions. Scares begin as the fabled and deranged Blood family puts chills into hearts while roaming the facility’s Oak Blood Forest, which patrons wander without tour guides, protective wagons, or flashlights. Over in the 10-foot-plus cornfield, guests navigate a 15-minute maze that passes through a meat freezer with frozen cow parts, a botanical center with living vines, and an alien-occupied zone. Further foreboding hangs over the more than 7,000-square-foot Circus Asylum, a wooden maze where circus freaks petrify visitors by creating balloon animals of three-headed poodles. A guide leads small groups along the Scream Town path where sasquatches are rumored to prowl, and the 500-foot, pitch-black Rabid Alley startles guests with creepy sounds and in-your-face sensations. Once patrons have returned to safety, they can decompress from the cache of frights with snacks such as mini donuts or hot cider.
Perched atop the highest point of Woodland Township, the Woodland Hill Winery spans six and a half of Minnesota's most verdant acres. The intimate winery produces unique, small-batch wines under the direction of owners Mike and Katie Dickerman. This couple does everything, from picking the grapes and fermenting them to running the tasting room and organizing events. They host daily wine tastings with pairings of chocolate and cheese. They even stock an olive oil and bread bar, since a regular bar probably seemed a little redundant.
A mural occupies the corner of the tasting room, fooling the eye with a painted passageway that heads back to an old world-style wine cellar. But the physical surroundings prove much more cozy and modern, with cafe-style tables and a sleek, wood-accented bar. This is the setting for frequent special events, such as September's Fondue Fridays or October's Ladies Night Out, which features wine tastings, karaoke, and an extensive list of craft vendors.
With a passion for boating the waters of Lake Minnetoka to take in views of the region's natural beauty and lush green landscapes, Wayzata Bay Charters' owners charter their 60-foot lake cruiser to make the experience accessible to all. The owners decked out their two-level cruiser—which can host up to 60 people—with a full bar, two satellite TVs, satellite radio, a 2,000-watt sound system, and enough helium balloons to keep both the boat and the party afloat. Believing a jaunt on the lake makes for an ideal event whatever the occasion, they've designed packages specifically for weddings and bachelorette parties, and they still offer public cruises to assure everyone has a chance to take to the water.