With more than 500 lakes in the area, Brainerd is a great place to hook a big fish and do water sports, from classic waterskiing and wakeboarding to standup paddleboarding and paddleboard yoga. Check into one of Minnesota’s most enduring resorts, such as Madden’s on Gull Lake (218-829-2811, maddens.com) or Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge (218-678-2885, ruttgers.com), or seek out old-fashioned cabins such as Black Pine Beach Resort (218-543-4714, blackpinebeach.com) on the Whitefish Chain of Lakes.
Prairie Bay, arguably Brainerd’s most creative restaurant, opened Prairie Bay Getaway Summer Bistro at Quarterdeck Resort in May so guests can finally enjoy lakeside scenery with wood-fired pizzas, sushi, and raspberry crème brûlée. Other standouts include Cru at Grand View Lodge, a restaurant and wine bar modeled after a wine cellar, Iven’s on the Bay with anniversary-worthy views of North Long Lake, and Ernie’s on Gull Lake for a more casual vibe. Nisswa, known for fun boutique shopping, celebrates its 50th year of weekly turtle races.