IN A LAND OF 10,000 LAKES, where do Minnesotan’s go to celebrate summer? The Brainerd Lakes Area… where everything that makes summer great can be enjoyed! Here are the top 10 things to do in Brainerd MN this summer…
1. World-Class Golf
Golf Digest ranks the Brainerd Lakes Area as one of the “Top Golf Destinations in the World.” What makes Brainerd best is that golfers have a variety of Brainerd MN golf courses to choose from, all within 45 minutes of each other. These exceptional courses include Cragun’s Legacy Courses featuring three golf courses from one remarkable Clubhouse, the Breezy Point Resort courses, including Deacon’s Lodge, Grand View Lodge’s Pines and Preserve golf courses and Madden’s golf courses which include The Classic, Pine Beach East and Pine Beach West. Additionally, each facility offers resort lodging and golf packages and all are happy to schedule tee times at any neighboring course.
2. More Waters to Make Waves On
Beautiful, sparkling lakes are Brainerd’s best asset and recreating on them will always remain one of the best things to do in Brainerd MN. There are over 450 waterways in the area, each with its own charm. Topping the list are Gull Lake, North Long, Round, Cullen and Pelican Lake. Brainerd’s countless waters bring countless opportunities for enjoying them, just pick your favorite way to explore. You might prefer the quiet solitude of paddling a canoe or kayak, the power and thrill of jumping the wake in a speedboat or partying with friends aboard a decked-out pontoon boat. And if you don’t BYOB (Bring Your Own Boat), Brainerd makes it easy to rent a craft, either at a resort marina such as at Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake, or at one of many boat rentals located both on and off the water.
3. Tour Gull Lake in a Luxury Yacht
A must-do for every visit to Brainerd is a sightseeing, theme or live music event, or dining cruise aboard the magnificent 65’ luxury yacht, on the Gull Lake Cruises North Star. This one-of-a-kind vessel on Gull Lake features two bars on two levels. An outdoor observation deck on the top level offers beautiful landscape views, and the indoor salon on the main level lets you cruise in ultimate comfort. Conveniently docked at Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake, Gull Lake Cruises offers both day and evening public cruises, as well as private charters for any occasion.
4. Best Bike Rides in MN
Explore new things to do in the Brainerd Lakes area by bike. Two of Minnesota’s best trail systems are in the Brainerd area. The Paul Bunyan Trail, one of the longest paved trails in the nation, starts in Brainerd and ends 120 miles north, in Bemidji. This trail’s terrain ranges from flat and open to hilly and scenic, with numerous areas to stop, rest and enjoy northern Minnesota’s beauty along the way. For mountain bike enthusiasts, the 800-acre Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails is one of the state’s newest and finest. Just 16 miles east of Brainerd in Crosby, over 30 purpose-built trails with breathtaking rides and overlooks challenge riders. The trails are suited to everyone, from beginner to pro. Bike trails maps and rentals are all available.
5. Where Fishing Legends are Made (and Live)
The Brainerd Lakes Area is located right in the heart of Minnesota’s most legendary waters – Gull Lake, Mille Lacs, and Leech Lake. Walleye, northern pike, largemouth bass, sunfish and crappies are all prized catches for those who drop a line. Now what you may not know is that Brainerd Lakes is home to fishing legends, too. Al & Ron Linder of In-Fisherman fame, and Babe Winkelman of Good Fishing, all call Gull Lake home. To fish the Brainerd waters, you can bring your own boat and launch it at several public launches, or plan to do a guided fishing trip with one of the many experienced guides in the area.
6. Pretty Great Shopping
A unique group of communities makes up the Brainerd Lakes area–– Brainerd, Baxter, Nisswa, Pequot Lakes and Crosby–– and each offers uniquely different shopping experiences. Quaint, one-of-a-kind stores abound selling art, crafts and stylish furniture, many with that Northwoods flair. Plus, there are distinctive up-north designs in clothing, home goods, toys and more to be found. You may enjoy going on the hunt for antiques, another favorite draw for visitors. Summer also offers special opportunities for shopping with more stores, extended hours, and once-a-year sales events. Be sure to check the Chambers or your lodging facility for dates and details.
7. Paul Bunyan: The Legend. The Place.
They say everything is bigger in Brainerd, mostly because Brainerd’s past and present are woven around tales of the big man himself, Paul Bunyan. So, to make each Brainerd visit legendary, your first stop has to be the Brainerd Chamber Welcome Center for a photo op with Paul Bunyan. Your second stop, a photo op with the statues of both Paul & Babe, located at the entrance to Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake. As you tour the area, try to spot all of the uniquely decorated statues of Babe the Blue Ox, and find Paul’s size 80 boot print at a major, local retailer. Enjoy food and drink specialties named for the legend at area eateries. And don’t forget a stop to Paul Bunyan Land, an iconic amusement park located just 8 miles east of Brainerd. It’s a great thing to do with kids in Brainerd, where they will make a memory no kid ever forgets—when the 26-foot tall talking Paul knows your name when he bids you “Hello!”
8. The Wildlife of Brainerd
When you come to the Brainerd north woods, you expect to see deer, chipmunks, squirrels and a list of water-loving species too long to name. But did you ever imagine you could feed a giraffe, ride a camel, or get up-close and personal with animals from around the world? You can do all this and more at the Safari North Wildlife Park in Brainerd. Put some educational fun into your getaway and learn about conservation and animal behavior in a family-friendly, outdoor environment. There are youth and adult activities to participate in, plus kids can try mining for treasures or enjoy a play area. Coming to the Safari North in 2020 is the endangered snow leopard, typically found in the rugged mountains of Central Asia.
9. Start Your Engines at the Brainerd International Raceway
Looking for some fast action? There is nothing like the Brainerd International Raceway (BIR) to get your adrenaline pumping. BIR has racing events throughout the summer—from drag racing and superbike racing to the BIR Performance Driving School where you can drive a race car 130 mph around the racetrack. The annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals brings the best drag racers and the fastest cars, to the world-renown BIR track.
10. Eagle Eye Views on a Zipline
Ever imagine what the view must be like for an eagle– soaring above the lakes and forests of Brainerd? It’s indescribable! So, try to put it into words for yourself after you experience ziplining from the top of Mount Ski Gull on a Brainerd Zip Line Tour. With 15-mile views, you’ll see the Gull Lake area and its surrounding forest like never before. There are 7 zip lines, challenging suspension bridges and even an optional, exhilarating 50-foot free-fall drop to experience. This is a unique way to make your getaway in the Brainerd Lakes with family and friends simply unforgettable.