Whether you want to golf, boat or jump off the trampoline anchored in the lake, Madden’s on Gull Lake near Brainerd gives guests plenty to choose from. Families prefer lakeside cabins, and kids’ programs promise supervised activities—and a break for parents (from $239).
Loose-meat sandwiches and pie baked fresh daily at The Barn are worth the trip to town.
Since the 1950s, families have brought little ones to Paul Bunyan Land to enjoy amusement rides, like the Tilt-a-Whirl, and This Old Farm Pioneer Village for a peek into outbuildings stuffed with gear from settlers’ lives.
Cycle Path and Paddle in Crosby rents bikes and kayaks to explore Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area.
Self-guided tours through a cool, dark tunnel at Croft Mine Historical Park reveal Crosby’s mining history.
Classy Iven’s on the Bay pleases fans of seafood and beef with its outstanding sushi, walleye and steaks served in a dining room facing North Long Lake.
Prep for four-hour guided fishing trips with Walleye Dan by eating handmade doughnuts and drinking joe from beans roasted at StoneHouse Coffee and Roastery in Nisswa.
Walleye chowder with sweet corn, bacon and potatoes is an ideal lunch at Northwoods Pub in Grand View Lodge, which is a fantastic place to stay, whether you’re looking for a lodge room or a luxurious cottage (from $185).
Downtown Nisswa concentrates quality shops into a few blocks: Zaiser’s for North Woods home accessories; Turtle Town Books and Gifts for children’s books, puzzles and toys; Lundrigans Clothing for casual, up-north resort wear; and The Chocolate Ox for a wide array of candies and ice cream.
At Lost Lake Lodge, the upscale, family-friendly dining room serves breakfast, lunch and dinners; the menu includes burgers and sea scallops. Come to dine or to stay; simple lakeside cabins make it easy for travelers to unplug. Packages start from $99 per adult per night.
More information: Brainerd Lakes Chamber (800) 450-2838; explorebrainerdlakes.com 
Bring the Kids
Turtle races For the past 50 years in Nisswa, youngsters have splashed and yelled encouragement to surprisingly zippy reptiles in hopes theirs would be the first to cross the finish line. Register online to enter the race, and go to midwestliving.com/turtle  to watch our video. (218) 963-2620; nisswa.com