For generations, dozens of resorts in the Brainerd area—130 miles northwest of the Twin Cities—have drawn travelers seeking laid-back lake escapes.

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Pandemic-related closures and restrictions may be in place. Please check destinations' websites before making travel plans.

Do

Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area Once a landscape of mining pits and rock stockpiles, the area now attracts recreation enthusiasts with more than 25 miles of mountain bike and paved bike trails, camping, yurts, and lakes with 25 miles of shoreline. In Crosby, rent bikes at Cycle Path. cuyunalakes.com

Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area
Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area

Fishing Whether you're a veteran angler or just want to expose a kid to a few hours out on the lake, the region offers thousands of places to go. (Minnesota residents can fish for free in most state parks.) For a guided experience, try Walleye Dan. walleyedan.com

Jack Pine Brewery Sample craft brews like the Duck Pond brown ale or Lone Wolf IPA in a 7,400-square-foot brewery with patio. Free brewery tours are offered on Saturday afternoons. jackpinebrewery.com

Paul Bunyan Land Since 1950, families have come to enjoy the talking Paul Bunyan figure, Babe the Blue Ox statue and amusement rides, like the Tilt-a-Whirl and merry-go-round. Guests can also explore Pioneer Village's 45 historic buildings. paulbunyanland.com

Paul Bunyan Land
Paul Bunyan Land

Paul Bunyan State Trail Bring your bike to explore this 112-mile paved path, or rent one from Trailblazer Bikes (with shops in Nisswa and Brainerd). paulbunyantrail.com

Shopping Nisswa's downtown concentrates quality shops into a few blocks: The Chocolate Ox for candies and ice cream; Found: A Curated Life for modern home goods, clothing and accessories; and Buffalo Plaid for "Up North" themed décor. nisswa.com

Turtle Races For the past 57 years in Nisswa, thousands of kids have urged turtles across the finish line with splashes and yells. Register in person. Organizers hope to resume the tradition in 2021. brainerd.com

Nisswa turtle race

Turtle Races

Eat

Antlers Restaurant Chandeliers made from mule deer antlers sparkle over surf-and-turf fine-dining at Whitebirch Golf Course in Breezy Point. breezypointresort.com

The Barn Loose-meat sandwiches, fluffy buttermilk pancakes and slices of homemade pie draw crowds to the Brainerd diner. The Barn Facebook

The Classic Grill Large windows overlook the golf course at Madden's on Gull Lake resort. Try juicy burgers and pork rib chops. maddens.com

Northwoods Pub For affordable dining at Grand View Lodge, stop here and try the creamy walleye chowder with sweet corn, bacon and skin-on potatoes; a nicely spiced broiled walleye fillet with tangy remoulade on grilled ciabatta; and crisp, perfectly seasoned fries. grandviewlodge.com

The Local 218 Come to the Brainerd restaurant for craft beer and an eclectic menu that includes hamburgers, seafood, seared ahi tuna and fried chicken. local-218.com

Sherwood Forest Regionally inspired foods, such as beer-battered walleye tacos and bison meatloaf sliders, fit in with the early 1900s log cabin design in Nisswa. sherwoodforestmnlodge.com

StoneHouse Coffee and Roastery Enjoy beans roasted in-house and scones made with the Nisswa roastery's ground wheat. stonehousecoffee.com

Zorbaz A staple of Minnesota's lake culture, this family-friendly party bar on Gull Lake serves big portions of pizza and Mexican food—and beer, of course. zorbaz.com

Where to stay

Breezy Point Resort The Dockside restaurant has live music, and the double-decker Breezy Belle takes guests out for leisurely lake tours. Lodging ranges from inn rooms to spacious vacation homes. breezypointresort.com

Cragun's Resort and Hotel Families band together for karaoke, horse-drawn trolley rides, bonfires and water-skiing lessons. Most of the 266 cabins and rooms overlook Gull Lake. craguns.com

Grand View Lodge A 60-room boutique hotel opened in 2019, adding to lodging choices that already included cabins, villas and townhomes. Guests can enjoy three golf courses, a spa, indoor and outdoor pools, and lake activities such as paddleboard yoga. grandviewlodge.com

Staffers at Grand View Lodge help guests light a fire for s'mores.
Staffers at Grand View Lodge help guests light a fire for s'mores.

Kavanaugh's Sylvan Lake Resort One- to three-bedroom cottages and condos overlook Sylvan Lake. When you're not at the beach or on the lake, try recreation options such as indoor and outdoor pools, tennis, rental bikes, and hiking. kavanaughs.com

Lost Lake Lodge It's small—13 cabins—but service is fantastic, and the dining room dishes up creative fare like smoked salmon with dumplings. Relax on the private beach or get out on the lake in a canoe, kayak or pontoon boat. lostlake.com

Madden's on Gull Lake Families prefer lakeside cabins; golfers score rooms facing fairways. Spend days playing tennis, boating, trap shooting, biking or jumping off the trampoline in the lake. maddens.com

Quarterdeck Resort The main lodge features bright, spacious and recently renovated rooms with balconies overlooking Gull Lake. Beach houses and lakeside cottages accommodate groups. Moor your own boat or rent a pontoon boat to explore Gull Lake. quarterdeckresort.com

For more information visit Brainerd Lakes Chamber explorebrainerdlakes.com