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8 Super Fun Things to Do in Brainerd this Winter
8 Super Fun Things to Do in Brainerd this Winter

Family playing in the snow

The cool, crisp air. The bright white snow. The smell of pine. Yes. Winter will be upon us soon. While there’s nothing better than curling up on the couch in front of a roaring fire or your favorite TV show, the winter season is also the perfect opportunity to get away and enjoy fun seasonal activities.

And one of the best places for your winter getaway is Brainerd, MN. We may be a little biased—after all Cragun’s Resort has been a year-round resort destination for more than 75 years—but we think we can convince you, too.

Here are some of the winter events and activities you, your friends or your family can take advantage of in the winter months.

Winter Activities in Brainerd

1. Snowmobiling


Snowmobiling in Brainerd

Brainerd is located in the heart of snowmobile country. The Gull Lake Lighted Trail runs past Cragun’s Resort and is connected to 1,000 miles of groomed trails in the Brainerd Lakes area. Maps of Brainerd snowmobiling trails are available at the Cragun’s Resort Marina or the Snowmobile Center.

Bring your own sled or rent one from us. Choose one of our Polaris snowmobiles with the clean and efficient Polaris engines. We offer both single rider and 2-up snowmobiles for rent. We emphasize safety by requiring viewing of a video and review safe operation and familiarity of the sled to insure a comfortable, safe ride. There is also a large selection of rental winter clothing, helmets and boots to keep you warm and comfortable.

2. Skiing

Mt. Ski Gull is located just 7 miles down the road from Cragun’s Resort and offers downhill skiing, tubing and snowboarding along with all of the rental equipment. Mt. Ski Gull typically opens Thanksgiving weekend and offers special hours and rates for holiday weekends. Cragun’s guests receive discounted rates at Mt. Ski Gull.

Skiing in Brainerd

Photo credit:

The Pine Beach Ski Trail makes Cragun’s the winter vacation headquarters in North Central Minnesota. Groomed, double-tracked ski trails for all levels of skiers begin on the Pine Beach Trail at Cragun’s Resort and features over 25K of trails traversing the winter beauty of the Pine Beach area with its wildlife, frosted pines and wetland winterscape. Trail loops extend into the Pillsbury State Forest. Cragun’s also offers a large supply of skis, boots and poles for rent.

Cross-country skiing in Brainerd

3. Ice Fishing

Gull Lake is one of Minnesota’s finest ice fishing lakes. Cragun’s ice fishing houses are placed at the “dropoff” in front of the resort (there’s no need to go across the bay to find the “lunkers”). They feature 4 or 6 holes, heated, and equipped with lights, chairs, and “rattle reels”. Our guests have caught several trophy walleye, northern and panfish. Our staff will walk or drive with you to your fish house, open holes and get you set up for a “reel” Minnesota tradition. If you have your own ice fishing equipment and want to try other areas on Gull Lake or other lakes in the area, Cragun’s staff can advise you on where the fish are biting.

Ice Fishing in Brainerd

4. Ice Skating

A big, lighted, resurfaced outdoor ice skating rink is set up on Gull Lake, right in front of Cragun’s resort. A huge bonfire with plenty of firewood and extra marshmallows is nearby to warm you up on chilly days.

Ice skating in Brainerd

5. Horse Drawn Trolley Rides

Horse drawn trolley rides in Brainerd

Horse drawn trolley rides are one of our guests’ favorite winter activities. A team of beautiful Clydesdales will pull you in a 20 passenger trolley during this half-hour narration around the resort. Learn many interesting facts about Cragun’s. It’s perfect for all seasons, be sure to make this a relaxing part of your stay. The horse drawn trolley rides are available based on the team’s availability. A tractor driven trolley ride may be substituted when the horses are not available.

Winter Events in Brainerd

6. Nisswa City of Lights Celebration

The Nisswa City of Lights Celebration welcomes the holiday season with a countdown to lighting up the town that culminates with a fireworks display Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, which is the day after Thanksgiving. The downtown area lights up all at once at 5:30 p.m., with holiday lights adorning trees and fences, stores and other buildings. Festivities for the annual event begin in the afternoon with horse-drawn wagon rides, live reindeer, storytelling, food merchants, bonfires, hot cider and donut holes at the Pioneer Village and holiday carolers. After the countdown to turning on all the lights, Santa Claus makes an appearance and fireworks shoot up over town at 7:30 p.m.

If you’re looking to spend the entire Thanksgiving weekend in Brainerd, we offer a Thanksgiving package 4-day and 3-night package for just $450 plus tax.

Students from Pequot Lakes sing carols during Nisswa City of Lights

(Photo credit: Brainerd Dispatch)

7. Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza

Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza

The Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza began in the early 1990’s and the popularity of ice fishing allowed this event to grow year after year. The great thing about this event is that all of the proceeds benefit local charities. 2017 marks the 27th Anniversary of the Brainerd Jaycee’s Ice Fishing Extravaganza. It will be held on January 28, 2017 at Hole in the Day Bay on Gull Lake. This event is an ice fishing contest where anglers compete for over $200,000 in cash and prizes. There are 150 spots on the prize board and the values are distributed throughout the list. Contestants are judged on the weight of their fish only—not the particular species of fish caught or length. All fish are weighed and are time-stamped so in the event of a tie the first fish weighed takes precedence. Prizes for the contest range from a new Ford truck to Ice Castle Fish Houses, a $2500 vacation at Cragun’s Resort to four-wheelers and ice augers. Cragun’s Resort has a shuttle service running to the contest site starting at 9:00 am on Saturday morning.

8. Gull Lake Frozen Fore

Gull Lake Frozen fore in Brainerd

The Gull Lake Frozen Fore is a 3-day celebration of all things winter bringing together a weekend of activities and fun for adults throughout the state. The event will be held February 24-26, 2017. Friday night begins with the 5th Annual Frozen Flop (our version of winter swimming), followed by the Tent Party, which is located in the middle of Hole-in-the-Day Bay on Gull Lake.

The Tent Party will showcase an ice bar, food and live music. Saturday’s event begins when you jump on provided shuttles, or drive your snowmobiles or vehicles and play nine holes of winter golf at 9 different locations around the Gull Lake.

Closing out the Frozen Fore weekend is Sunday’s Food Fest event, which features a variety of local dining options showcasing flavors from their restaurant in a taste competition for the best flavors in the area.

And the fun doesn’t stop with these events and activities. Cragun’s Resort guests can enjoy a number of incredible activities and entertainment options on property. Coming up this winter there’s the Antique Snowmobile Rendezvous in Pequot Lakes in January, Crosslake Winterfest in February, Nisswa Winter Jubilee in February, and St. Patrick’s Day Celebration in Crosslake in March. There’s also dog sled rides, broom ball, ice bowling, winter zip-lining and so much more.

Did we convince you? If so, we hope to see you soon! Check out Cragun’s entire activities calendar to discover dozens of other things to do this winter.

Ready to make a reservation? Get in touch with us today to make a reservation request.