Visits to Park Rapids (190 miles northwest of the Twin Cities) aren’t complete without a walk across the headwaters of the Mississippi River, but that’s just the start of a weekend adventure here.

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Itasca State Park


Aunt Belle's Confectionary Watch employees stir buttery caramel in copper-bottom pots, and then check out the impressive selection of fudge, turtles, truffles and nut brittles.

Character Challenge Adventure Park A 370-foot zipline ride, trapeze-style balancing bar and free-fall experience draw thrill-seekers.

Heartland State Trail One of the country's first rails-to-trails projects runs 49 miles from Park Rapids to Cass Lake. If you didn't bring a bike, rent one at Northern Cycle in Park Rapids. Tiny Dorset is a 6.5-mile ride east; ride another 5.5 miles to reach Lake Belle Taine and Nevis, where you can pose by a giant tiger muskie.

Itasca State Park After the ritual walk across the headwaters of the Mississippi River, look for wildlife-even the occasional black bear-at Minnesota's oldest state park, which contains 100 lakes, 250-plus campsites, cabins, bike trails and a swimming beach. At the Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center, learn the meaning of loon calls and let the kids try on forest firefighter

Itasca State Park

Shopping Park in the middle of the street (really!) to stroll through downtown. Beagle and Wolf Books and Bindery sells Minnesota novels and great cabin reads; Amish Oak and Americana Furnishings, downtown's largest store, glows with the warm tones of maple and cherry furniture. Find T-shirts, loon whistles, moccasins and souvenirs at Trading Post.


The Good Life Cafe Local ingredients star at this Main Street hangout. Try the walleye BLT with homemade tartar sauce.

La Pasta Italian Eatery In nearby Dorset, the self-proclaimed Restaurant Capital of the World, this eatery serves authentic Italian dishes like chicken Genovese atop linguini.

Minnesoda Fountain A sprinkling of malt powder tops the big-enough-to-share Dusty Road sundae at this ‘50s-style favorite downtown. Subs and soups (we love the homemade chicken and dumplings) round out the menu. Minnesoda Fountain on Facebook

Minnesoda Fountain

Necce's Ristorante Sip a spiked basil lemonade while you wait for a beautifully browned crock of manicotti or lasagna. Homemade spumoni with raspberries makes a sweet finish.

Rapid River Logging Camp Established in 1954, the modest property still serves breakfasts and dinners fit for loggers' appetites.


Brookside Resort The 29-cabin family resort on Two Inlets Lake caters to week-long vacationers. Activities include golf, tennis, pool parties, water-skiing, painting lessons, boat rentals and bingo.

Mantrap Lodge Renovated cabins, cottages and vacation homes appeal to groups eager to ditch the TV in favor of the beach. The owners emphasize family fun by staging activities like bingo, minnow races and hayrides.

Royal Starr Resort Settle into one of 13 cabins with full kitchens in nearby Nevis. Use kayaks and canoes, rent pontoons, or just enjoy the lake view. Kids love the playground and fishing pier.

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