Things to Do in the Brainerd Lakes Area of Minnesota
I have been vacationing in the Brainerd-Lakes Area of Minnesota since before I can remember. The family friendly activities, beautiful sunsets, fantastic fishing and unique small town shops make this area a must-visit, especially in the summertime. The term "Minnesota Nice" definitely applies to this region, as the locals are always welcoming and hospitable to the thousands of tourists that venture to the area.
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Where to stay in the Brainerd-Lakes Area, Minnesota
Relaxation and adventure converge on the sparkling waters of Gull Lake at this lakeside getaway.
Experience classic luxury amidst lush landscapes, golf courses, and the shores of Gull Lake.
A family-friendly haven with endless activities, from golf to water fun, in a picturesque setting.
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Things to do in the Brainerd-Lakes Area, Minnesota
Visit historic downtown Nisswa for great shopping! Stop by the Dock Panther to pick up a cute new outfit for your favorite kiddo or swing by Ardor Boutique to find jewelry made by Minnesota locals.
If you have kiddos, you absolutely have to take them to the Nisswa Turtle Races, which just celebrated their 60th anniversary! Held every Wednesday during the summer, the turtle races are a fun, competitive way to spend a couple of hours!
Play mini golf at Pirates Cove in Brainerd! There are two 18-hole courses to choose from, complete with a pirate ship and waterfalls. You can even learn pirate trivia along the way!
See the Brainerd Lakes Area from above with a Brainerd Zipline Tour! Located in the Pillsbury State Forest near Gull Lake, you can take in the beauty of the surrounding area in exhilarating fashion.
Visit Paul Bunyan Land in Brainerd! Be welcomed by a 26' tall lumberjack that might just know you by name... Enjoy the amusement park rides and tour the pioneer village!
Shop at Christmas Point Wild Rice Co. in Baxter! Don't let the name fool you. Christmas Point sports three floors of shopping, from clothing to kitchen accessories to furniture, there is something for everyone! When you're done shopping or need a recharge, enjoy the Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich and a bowl of cream of chicken wild rice soup, and sip on a hot Milky Way latte. Don't forget to grab a piece of homemade fudge on your way out!
Play disc golf at Breezy Point! This course is an 18-hole, hilly, wooded challenge course that provides quite a challenge for even the seasoned disc golfer.
Speaking of golf, there are several beautiful golf courses in the area as well, including The Pines at Grandview Lodge, The Classic at Madden's on Gull Lake and Whitebirch on Breezy Point Lake.
Wet a line with a fishing guide from Nisswa Guides! I can personally attest that these guys are the best in the business, and you will not go home empty handed. In addition to catching your dinner, you will have the opportunity to see some of the Brainerd Lakes Area's most scenic lakes.
Places to eat & drink in the Brainerd-Lakes Area, Minnesota
My absolute favorite place to go for breakfast is Stonehouse Coffee in Nisswa. They are famous for their scones (I highly recommend the cherry raspberry almond scone, though you really can't go wrong with any of them). Try their Mayan Mocha! You won't regret it.
Ganley's Restaurant is a staple in the Nisswa area. Open for breakfast and lunch, they are a family owned diner style restaurant that always serves quality food. Try an omelette or French toast for breakfast and then come back for a patty melt and a chocolate shake for lunch! Their shakes and malts are incomparable.
Lakes Latte in Pequot Lakes offers a variety of breakfast paninis and of course, coffee. Their Due North Latte is a must have if you love hazelnut and caramel!
Minnesota Traders Co. in Pequot Lakes serves breakfast, lunch, and brunch, as well as cocktails. Try their chocolate lavender Italian soda or their North (of the border) specialty coffee if you're looking for a pick me up, and a charcuterie board if you get peckish.
Rafferty's Pizza in Nisswa is a casual, kid friendly restaurant where you can dine inside or out. Their buffalo chicken pizza is well loved, as is their calzone!
After you grab a bite at Rafferty's, head down a couple of storefronts to Big Axe Brewing and enjoy a flight of craft beers and sours or a housemate cream soda or root beer.
Grizzly's Wood-fired Grill in Baxter is a great dinner spot, especially if you're craving steak or ribs. Their brisket Mac and cheese is *chef's kiss* good.
Ernie's on Gull serves anything from tacos to local fish to burgers, and everything is top notch! The view of Gull Lake doesn't get much better than Ernie's.
For something a little fancier, Bar Harbor Supper Club on Gull Lake offers an upscale dining experience with premier views of Gull Lake.
If you're looking for a little bit of sweet, head to the Chocolate Ox, with locations in downtown Nisswa and at Grandview Lodge. They serve a wide selection of Kemp's ice cream and also carry a huge variety of old fashioned candy.
Need to Know
Looking for more travel inspo? Check out my guide, 3 Days in Eureka Springs.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to the USA.