Located in the heart of Minnesota, the Brainerd Lakes region is a haven for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts. Offering a plethora of captivating activities, there’s an abundance of things to do in Brainerd Lakes for every type of traveler no matter the time of year. From serene moments by crystal-clear waters to adrenaline-pumping outdoor escapades, this picturesque destination has it all. Join us as we explore the diverse array of experiences and uncover the best activities that make Brainerd Lakes an absolute must-visit for your next adventure!

Cultural Activities

Attend Local Events and Festivals

In the Brainerd Lakes area, you’ll find numerous community events that showcase the region’s cultural richness. These events bring together a mix of music, art, and history. Be sure to attend some of the annual Brainerd events like the Arts in the Park festival and the Little Falls Dam Festival to fully experience the local culture.

Visit Cultural and Heritage Sites

When visiting the Brainerd area, you shouldn’t miss its historical and cultural sites. In nearby Little Falls, you can find the Charles A. Lindbergh State Park, which is dedicated to the aviation pioneer. In Brainerd itself, make sure to pay a visit to the Crow Wing County Historical Society and Museum, where you can learn about the region’s history through artifacts, photos, and exhibits.

Engage in Traditional Experiences

To immerse yourself in the local culture, you can engage in several unique experiences available in the Brainerd Lakes area. Visit the Franklin Arts Center, where you can attend workshops, view art exhibits, or even participate in community theater productions. To get a taste of the area’s natural beauty, spend some time exploring the scenic trails and parks that surround the Brainerd lakes.

Things to do in Brainerd Lakes: Outdoor and Nature Activities

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Nature Trails and Hiking

The Brainerd Lakes area is a paradise for those who love spending time outdoors, especially on its beautiful nature trails and hiking paths. You can explore the Paul Bunyan Trail, which offers over 120 miles of paved biking and hiking trails, taking you through scenic forests and along picturesque lakeshores. Another great option is the Northwoods Trail System, where you can immerse yourself in the tranquil atmosphere of the region.

Water Activities

There’s no shortage of things to do in Brainerd Lakes that involves water, with numerous public beaches where you can swim and relax in the sun. For avid anglers, the area boasts excellent fishing opportunities – cast your line and try your luck at catching various fish species, including walleye, bass, and pike. Boating enthusiasts will appreciate the vast network of lakes and waterways perfect for canoeing, kayaking, or renting a pontoon.

Adventure Sports

For thrill-seekers, there are so many things to do in Brainerd Lakes, offering a wide range of adventure sports options. From adrenaline-pumping mountain biking trails that will test your skills and endurance to hitting the links at some of the region’s best golf courses, there’s something for everyone.

  • Mountain Biking: Nisswa is popular for its challenging mountain biking trails
  • Golf: Multiple golf courses are dotted across the area, catering to different skill levels

Relaxation and Wellness

Spas and Wellness Centers

Treat yourself to a rejuvenating experience at one of the many spas and wellness centers in the Brainerd Lakes area. Pamper your senses with a variety of services such as massages, facials, and body treatments. Some popular choices include the spa at your hotel or lodging and specialty wellness centers around Little Falls.

Beaches and Pools

Find tranquility and recharge at the picturesque beaches and pools throughout Brainerd Lakes. Enjoy a refreshing swim, soak up the sun, or relax with a good book in hand. Whether you prefer the sandy shores of a beach or the comforts of a hotel pool, you will find plenty of options to unwind and take a break from everyday stresses.

Parks and Gardens

Discover the beauty of nature in the Brainerd Lakes region with a peaceful walk through parks and gardens. Explore walking trails that lead you through lush greenery and offer stunning views of the surroundings. Visit Pine Grove Zoo, a hidden gem in Little Falls, for a delightful encounter with animals in a serene setting. Reconnect with the tranquility of nature and enjoy the restorative effects it has on your well-being.

Food and Culinary Activities

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One of the best things to do in Brainerd Lakes is taste all of the delicious food on offer. The area boasts a variety of food options, from local cuisine to international flavors. Immerse yourself in the culinary delights of Brainerd Lakes with these food-centered activities.

Local Cuisine Tasting

The Brainerd area offers a wide range of restaurants that celebrate local food and ingredients. A must-try dish is the walleye, a freshwater fish native to the region. You can find it in many forms, such as fried, grilled, or in a sandwich. Visit popular spots like the Last Turn Saloon and Iven’s on the Bay to savor their take on this regional favorite. Don’t miss the chance to taste local beer at breweries like Jack Pine Brewery and Roundhouse Brewery.

Cooking Classes

Enhance your culinary skills by enrolling in one of Brainerd Lakes’ cooking classes. Several establishments offer lessons on how to prepare and cook locally sourced ingredients. This hands-on experience allows you to learn new techniques and bring home your knowledge of Brainerd Lakes’ cuisine.

Visit Local Markets

A visit to the local markets in Brainerd Lakes gives you the opportunity to explore the region’s fresh produce and artisanal products. Stroll through bustling farmers markets such as Nisswa Farmers Market and Pequot Lakes Market in the Park, where you can find an array of fruits, vegetables, meats, and handmade goods. Engage with local vendors, discover unique flavors, and bring home some delightful souvenirs or ingredients to cook with later.

Entertainment and Nightlife

In Brainerd Lakes, you’ll find a variety of entertainment options to fill your nights. The vibrant nightlife scene offers something for everyone, from live shows and performances to bars and nightclubs.

Live Shows and Performances

The area is known for its rich music and arts scene, with numerous venues hosting live music, theater performances, and other events throughout the year. Catch a show at one of Brainerd’s local theaters or enjoy an evening of live music at a nearby bar or restaurant. No matter your taste, you’re sure to find something that piques your interest.

Bars and Nightclubs

If you’re looking for things to do in Brainerd Lakes on a night out, the area has a diverse selection of bars and nightclubs to explore. From laid-back pubs and breweries to high-energy dance clubs, there’s a spot for every type of night owl. Take the opportunity to mingle with locals and enjoy a drink or two while experiencing the nightlife this charming Minnesota region has to offer.

Evening Cruises or Tours

For a unique evening experience, embark on an evening cruise or tour through the stunning lakes of the Brainerd area. These excursions provide a relaxing way to take in the natural beauty of the region, all while enjoying dinner, drinks, and maybe even some live music onboard. It’s an ideal way to unwind and make the most of your Brainerd Lakes getaway.

Shopping and Souvenirs

Local Artisan Shops

When visiting Brainerd Lakes, don’t miss the opportunity to explore local artisan shops that showcase a variety of handmade and unique items. You’ll find everything from pottery, handcrafted jewelry, and decorative pieces made by talented local artists. These shops are a great place to pick up gifts or souvenirs that have a personal touch and reflect the spirit of Brainerd Lakes.

Popular Shopping Districts

For a more extensive shopping experience, Brainerd Lakes has several popular shopping districts to cater to your retail needs. Check out Downtown Brainerd for a mix of local boutiques, specialty shops, and dining options. If you are looking for unique clothing and accessories, be sure to stop by some of the region’s renowned boutiques, which highlight local designers and unique fashion finds.

Unique Finds

Your shopping excursion in Brainerd Lakes wouldn’t be complete without seeking out some unique finds. Keep an eye out for shops specializing in quirky and one-of-a-kind items, such as antiques, vintage clothing, or local delicacies. These hidden gems not only provide a fun and distinctive shopping experience but also offer a great chance to take home a small piece of Brainerd Lakes to remember your trip by.

Family-Friendly Activities

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Children’s Museums and Attractions

If you’re looking for fun things to do in Brainerd Lakes with the kids, the area offers a variety of children’s museums and attractions. The Paul Bunyan Land features a pioneer village and an amusement park with a giant talking Paul Bunyan statue. Your little ones will be thrilled to learn about the area’s history. In Little Falls, you will find the Pine Grove Zoo and the Minnesota Military Museum—both fun and educational stops for the entire family.

Parks and Play Areas

Outdoor lovers will be delighted by the parks and play areas in the Brainerd Lakes region. Be sure to visit the Crow Wing State Park and explore its beautiful trails, perfect for hiking and picnicking. For some water-based fun, check out the many waterparks in the area. Zorbaz is a popular spot, combining a beach atmosphere with fun activities like beach volleyball, making it a destination you won’t want to miss.

Interactive Workshops

Engage the family’s creative side with interactive workshops in the Brainerd Lakes area. These workshops allow children and adults alike to explore their hobbies and learn new skills. For instance, try your hand at pottery or take a painting class. With so many diverse workshops, you’re bound to find one that piques your interest.

While in the Brainerd Lakes area, you’ll find plenty of family fun and a wide range of places to stay. The region offers something for everyone, ensuring an enjoyable vacation for the whole family.

Practical Tips

When visiting the Brainerd Lakes area, it’s essential to respect local customs and traditions. Minnesotans are known for their friendly and polite demeanor, often referred to as “Minnesota Nice.” Be sure to greet others with a smile and practice good manners. In public spaces, maintain a respectful volume while conversing.

Your safety should always be a priority during your trip. Brainerd Lakes is generally a safe destination, but taking precautions never hurts. Keep an eye on your belongings and avoid leaving them unattended. At the lakes, follow posted signs and guidelines for swimming, boating, and fishing. If venturing into the woods or participating in outdoor activities, dress appropriately and carry a first aid kit and a map or GPS device.

The Brainerd Lakes region offers a variety of accommodations and attractions for different budgets. To find the best deals, consider booking your hotels outside the peak season, typically between June and August. Visit the traveler favorites like Paul Bunyan Land, but also explore lesser-known attractions for a more budget-friendly adventure.

For dining, try some local eateries where you will find delicious meals at more reasonable prices. Keep an eye out for discounts and available coupons to save on attractions and activities. Utilize free and low-cost natural attractions, such as hiking trails and public beaches, to help maintain your budget.

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