Midwest Living Review
Located on a narrow peninsula that juts into south Gull Lake's Wilson Bay, this Brainerd classic (from 1929) includes two miles of shoreline, half of it beach. Many of the 287 hotel, cottage and villa units take advantage of the super-close lakeside location. Guests register at historic Madden's Inn, the resort's central hub with a restaurant, pool and hotel rooms. It's a short stroll to a sweets shop, caf and market, art gallery and the old-school recreation hub with tennis courts, lawn bowling, shuffleboard, bocce ball, and croquet. Many guests opt for inclusive plans that include activities such as Adventure Cove for kids and dining at five restaurants. Our favorite? The dining room at vintage Madden's Lodge, with a sweeping view of Gull Lake. Guests also can play golf on three courses (including the renowned Classic), rent bikes for the East Gull Lake Trail finished in 2010, or relax with a massage or pedicure at The Spa at Madden's overlooking the lake. The seasonal resort is open April through October. Other highlights: croquet and bocce courts. 208 rooms (from $149); 28 suites (from $242); and cabins (from $197). While the resort feels kind of spread out and not particularly walkable, we could see how guests can settle into their "neighborhood" and not feel like they have to venture beyond it.