Tucked along the St. Croix River Valley not far from the Twin Cities, you’ll find a charming small town that boasts big city magic. Every autumn, Hudson, Wisconsin bursts with leaves turning red, gold and orange, and the community’s friendliness paired with top-notch experiences make moments here all the more memorable.
Hudson is lovely in any season, but it’s especially great for autumn adventures with friends and family. From delicious local restaurants to the stunning waterfalls at Willow River State Park, we’ve divided the Hudson fall experience into 3 can’t-miss segments: downtown, riverside and out in nature. Whether you and your travel companions stay for a week or a weekend, do (at least) all three for a complete and uniquely-Hudson experience.
DOWNTOWN HUDSON’S CHARM
The first thing we notice along 2nd Street, Hudson’s downtown main street, is its menagerie of local gems. From home stores to fashion shops, confectionaries to restaurants, local is a way of life here. And the charm is real — whether it's the city’s window-decor competitions or the downtown’s brick-only building regulation, strolling with friends down 2nd street is full of stop-worthy surprises and picture-perfect selfie backdrops.
For the epitome of fall Hudson charm, book a ride on the Hudson Trolley. All set under spectacular fall color, you and your friends or family can choose from a variety of tours — historic, haunted, wine for the adults, story time for the kids and more.
Here’s Where To Eat in Hudson
Eating in downtown Hudson is an experience worth savoring and sharing. With its variety of one-of-a-kind restaurants, it’s effortless to find something for the whole family.
Raise a toast with craft cocktails and shareable plates at the cuban-inspired Pedro’s del Este, and/or try the best wings in town (try the Bree’s Knees wings) at Barker’s. Get dessert to-go from St. Croix Bakery, run by royalty- and celebrity-serving Chef Froke (Oprah Winfrey likes his red velvet cake), or local favorite Knoke’s Chocolates, with fall-themed sweets like caramel apples and chocolate leaves. Head down into the authentic cellar-atmosphere of the Winzer Stube to taste family-perfected German recipes, and enjoy live music and craft beer at Hop & Barrel. When it comes to food in Hudson, we could go on and on.
There are so many options, but it’s easy to try them all with the Hudson Food Walk. On this 3-hour culinary tour, you’ll sample the fares of multiple local staples. The Food Walk’s friendly guides also give a taste of Hudson’s vibrant history, all revolving around the food you’re eating. From there, you’ll know exactly where you want to eat throughout the rest of your time in Hudson — and what you’ll want to take home with you. Book your spot before you go, and look forward to all the deliciousness you’ll enjoy.
RIVERSIDE ALONG THE ST. CROIX
A two-block walk from Hudson’s 2nd Street will bring you right up to the banks of the St. Croix River, one of few nationally protected — and beautifully clean — Wild & Scenic Rivers. A hand-in-hand stroll among the fall color along Lakefront Park, spanning most of Hudson’s St. Croix River shoreline, is sure to spark some unforgettably golden moments. And don’t miss a chance for a picture under the iconic Hudson Arch, or maybe even a free concert at the bandshell.
What To Do Along the St. Croix River
The perfect kick-off to time spent along the St. Croix is sharing a meal on the riverview patio of Pier Five Hundred. Try anything off the menu, especially the brie cheese curds with lingonberry ketchup — they’re classically Wisconsin with a gourmet twist.
At the top of our Hudson-in-fall must-dos is a St. Croix River Cruise. Bring the family aboard for a 2-hour fall color tour, or choose from a variety of other tour types. Enjoy a family meal at your seats in the ship’s dining room, then venture out onto the open-air decks for an uninterrupted view of the St. Croix River bank’s show-stopping color.
For the art enthusiasts, make your way into galleries at the Phipps Center for the Arts. The galleries are always featuring the new and unique works by local artists. Time your trip right, and you’ll catch Hudson’s autumn Spirit of St. Croix Art Festival along the river.
OUT IN NATURE: HUDSON’S NATURAL BEAUTY
Whether with family or friends, Hudson’s outdoors are sure to awe, inspire and refresh. And as an official Tree City USA, the leaves are sure to deliver eye-popping color every fall.
Where To Go for More Fall Color
From forest trails to city overlooks, Hudson has more than its fair share of fall’s natural beauty.
The most popular fall color spot in Hudson is Willow River State Park. Take in the park’s cascading waterfalls, draped in fall color. Here, you’ll find over 17 miles of hikeable trail. Bring the family canoes for an on-the-water experience, or your bicycles to wheel your way under the red, orange and yellow tree canopies. Camping here’s an option, too, if you’re looking to make campfire memories under the stars.
To get away from any crowds and find refreshingly quiet serenity, try Perch Lake, one of Hudson’s best kept secrets just a 15-minute drive from town. It’s a non-motorized lake that’s lesser known, so you’ll enjoy even the quietest sounds of fall here — every crunch of leaves underfoot and the distinct call of the occasional loon. Rent kayaks or canoes and/or bring the family fishing rods to enjoy this lake to the fullest.
Head back toward downtown Hudson for views overlooking the city, immersed in the colors of fall. From the top of either Birkmose Park or Prospect Park, you and your fellow travellers can marvel at the St. Croix River’s sweeping majesty beyond all your new favorite spots in downtown Hudson, poking up through the sea of reds and yellows. It’s a bird's-eye perspective of all the new memories you’ve made during your fall adventure in Hudson.
Lastly, we can’t forget about where you’ll stay. Choose an accomodation like the Phipps Inn (the 1800s Victorian home of the late railroad baron turned philanthropist Mr. Phipps), or any of the trusted hotels up “on the hill,” as the locals call it.
Use our Fall Color Report to see live fall color conditions — it’ll help you time your Hudson adventure for the most colorful moments.