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Land of 10,000 Lodges

Jan 27, 2018 06:13AM ● Published by Editor

Breezy Point on Lake Superior. PHOTO BY AARON BOSANKO/COURTESY ODYSSEY RESORTS

BY RACHEL FERGUS, TAMMY GALVIN, ANNE KOPAS, AND LIANNA MATT OF MINNESOTA MONTHLY - JANUARY 26, 2018

In today’s increasingly frenetic world, there is no better pause button than to spend downtime at a resort or lodge. Thankfully, Minnesota is chock-full of them and has been since the late 1800s, when fishing camps sprouted up as quickly as loggers departed. Arriving by rail, affluent sportsmen of Minnesota and neighboring states gave rise to the first semblance of a true “man cave”: rather primitive, one-room, hand-hewn log sanctuaries heated by lone fieldstone fireplaces.

As roads and thoroughfares emerged in the 1920s, cars became more affordable, and the golden era of lakeside retreats exploded. Wealthy families streamed in from Wisconsin and Illinois, and the rustic dwellings took on the familiar log-cabin or lodge look, with the same (or larger) fieldstone fireplaces, knotty pine walls, massive beam-lined ceilings, and boulder foundations.

During this time, the north woods of Minnesota and Wisconsin became gangsters’ preferred playground, fueled in large part, of course, by Prohibition. Lodges often came with basements or separate cabins on the property devoted to stills and speakeasies. The likes of Al Capone, John Dillinger, and Baby Face Nelson chose Wisconsin for their solitude while other lesser known public enemies and bootleggers opted for the North Shore.

In the late 1940s and ’50s, landowners began adding cabins (mostly for housekeepers), which became profitable rental units as property values—and taxes—began to soar. Many other resort owners eventually had to sell to buyers, who promptly tore down what lodges and cottages had existed to build singular, massive “cabins.”

Despite years of tumult, many classic lodges survive, in most cases because they either found friendly benefactors who fell in love with the properties and couldn’t bear to see their demise, or because subsequent generations of families have devoted their lives to the care and upkeep of these treasures.

Today, these same generations run some of the best resorts in the Midwest, and generations of families return season after season, year after year—keeping traditions alive and making new memories for generations to come.

Here are several of the best properties that have sprung to life throughout the region, many of which have been around in some form since the early 1900s. Consider one for your next getaway. You might just get caught up in the nostalgic, laid-back vibe that any lodge worth its weight in, well, logs should provide.

     

Northwest

Brindley’s Harbor Resort

Enjoying the water is top priority for many guests at this family resort on Leech Lake. Brindley’s protected harbor has 37 slips (with electricity) and a 17-foot-wide launch ramp. Its onsite bait house keeps anglers well stocked. Accommodations include variously sized cabins, duplexes, and log homes, while the main lodge features a convenience store, game room, library, overstuffed leather chairs, and the requisite fieldstone fireplace. 9530 Pine Point Rd. NW, Walker, 218-547-1721, brindleysharbor.com

Chase on the Lake

On the shores of Leech Lake, this resort also offers access to the historic downtown. Guests can stay in a hotel room, condo, or the seven-bedroom home that comes with its own lakeside deck and beach area. Other amenities include an indoor lap pool, icehouses for rent, and a sauna next to a cold-water-plunge pool (kept at 65 degrees) modeled after the traditional Finnish pastime of enjoying a sauna before jumping into freezing water. 502 Cleveland Blvd., Walker, 888-242-7306, chaseonthelake.com

Douglas Lodge

On the southeastern tip of Lake Itasca, in the incomparable Itasca State Park, sits a series of 15 cabins, the historic Douglas Lodge—the oldest surviving building in the state park system, built in 1905—and the seasonally available Douglas Lodge Four-plex, built some 23 years later by the Civilian Conservations Corps. The complex offers rustic living combined with modern amenities such as air conditioning (not in the Four-plex), wi-fi, and a full-service restaurant. 36750 Main Park Dr., Park Rapids, 866-857-2757, dnr.state.mn.us/sate_parks

Fair Hills Resort

Kids jumping off a platform into a lake at Fair Hills Resort
Fair Hills Resort - PHOTO BY JEAN LACHAT


This Detroit Lakes resort aims to recreate your childhood vacations up north—and make them even better. Given they were named among Travel and Leisure’s 2017 list of “America’s Best All-Inclusive Resorts,” they’re doing a pretty good job. Sign up for lessons in water skiing, tennis, sailing, and golf, or see the weekly Hootenanny variety show. With more than 100 cabin units, there’s sure to be a floor plan that fits your family. But they won’t spend much time there, with activities including Hydro Flight Sports (ever want to fly with a water jet pack?), yoga, massages, and paint classes. You may never see the golfer in your family again thanks to the Fair Hills Executive Course and Wildflower Golf Course.
24270 County Hwy. 20, Detroit Lakes, 800-323-2849, fairhillsresort.com

Five Lakes Resort

Keep your vacation tranquil at Five Lakes Resort. On this private lake, no motors are allowed, making the water pristine and perfect for any wildlife watching, fishing, sailing, swimming, and other aquatic fun. As part of the Fair Hills resort family, you have free use of their amenities, which include golf and tennis, but with such a picturesque spot at Five Lakes, you might not want to go anywhere else. 34665 Camp Cherith Rd., Frazee, 800-323-2849, fivelakesresort.com

Half Moon Trail Resort

Almost every day at the Half Moon Trail Resort offers at least one craft or family activity, such as Bingo, a resort-wide potluck, bonfires complete with s’mores and kettle corn, and tournaments that span casting, carpet ball, and billiards. The outdoor heated pool, sandy beach, volleyball court, playground, hiking trail, and more keep you entertained around the resort, but just a few short drives away are more state parks, golf courses, and dining. 34881 County Hwy. 46, Park Rapids, 888-732-0272, halfmoontrail.com

The Lodge on Lake Detroit/Best Western Premier

Mixing a modern stay at Best Western Premier with the north lake shores you love, the Lodge on Lake Detroit offers convenience and comfort off Highway 10 in Detroit Lakes. For extra pampering, check out their Renewal Spa Suite, with a king-size bed, gas fireplace, aromatherapy for two, whirlpool, and private balcony overlooking the lake. 1200 E. Shore Dr., Detroit Lakes, 218-847-8439, thelodgeonlakedetroit.com

Northern Pine Lodge

Since 1914, this family resort has been getting people back out into the sunshine, lake waters, and forest of Park Rapids. Stay in the log cabins—complete with stone fireplaces and cathedral ceilings—or in the lodge. Either way, you’ll enjoy dawn-until-dusk entertainment, including resort games such as tennis, basketball, and miniature golf. 14588 230th St., Park Rapids, 218-732-5103, northernpinelodge.com

Royal Starr Resort

The Royal Starr Resort’s cabins share all the knotty-pine touches of your childhood cabin memories—including two resort dogs—but with perhaps roomier accommodations, nicer amenities, and free wi-fi. Rent a boat, go hiking, or jump off the inflatable trampoline into the lake. The resort is open from spring through late fall, with select cabins open through winter, so make sure to schedule a trip, whether for the traditional weeklong getaway or the two-night “Starr Vacation” stay. 19238/19222 Echo Ridge Dr., Nevis, 800-822-0701, royalstarrresort.com

Ruttger’s Birchmont Lodge

This Bemidji Lake resort once hosted Malcolm Forbes, of the business magazine bearing his name. Today, it boasts two lodges with wood-paneled rooms, as well as a variety of lakeside cabins, a restaurant, a bar and lounge, and an indoor pool. The resort is open in winter, too, and rents out cross-country skis and snowshoes to visitors—and if weather permits, there’s even an outdoor ice skating rink. 7598 Bemidji Rd. NE, Bemidji, 218-444-3463, ruttger.com

Sportsman’s Lodge on Rainy River

Although you’re in the walleye capital of the world at Lake of the Woods, you will also find plenty of muskies, saugers, rock bass, and crappies nibbling at your hook. Stay in one of the 14 cabins, 30 lodge rooms, or 8 new villas, which feature modern amenities such as gas fireplaces, flat-screen TVs, and air conditioning. When you’re not on the lake, with the resort’s rental boats or your own, enjoy the indoor swimming pool, hot tub, spa services, bar, live entertainment, two restaurants, game room, and more. 3244 Bur Oak Rd. NW, Baudette, 800-862-8602, sportsmanslodges.com

Wheelers Point Resort & Lodge

Make sure to bring your fishing pole when you stay at Wheelers—at the junction of the Rainy River and the Lake of the Woods, you’ll be right in the middle of the walleye capital of North America. After your day out on the lake with boat rentals or ice houses, relax at the ViewPoint Saloon and Grill, or kick back in the resort’s modern cabins. 2605 River Lane NW, Baudette, 800-542-2435, wheelerspoint.com

White Birch Resort

This is where family camping meets luxury. Open year round, White Birch has 15 lodging options ranging from one-bedroom cabins to six-bedroom houses. Though activities change based on season, guests who visit between Memorial Day and Labor Day will find a heated pool, a water trampoline, yard games, and various rental boats. 18882 N. Blackduck Lake Rd. NE, Hines, 218-835-4552, whitebirchresort.net

Northeast

Bearskin Lodge

On its namesake East Bearskin Lake, this resort sits near the middle of the Gunflint Trail. Townhouses and cabins don’t have TV or wi-fi; instead, guests get outdoors with BWCA permits and onsite nature activities. Children’s events give parents time to enjoy massage therapy. In winter, dogsled trips and about 43 miles of ski trails open to visitors. 124 E. Bearskin Rd., Grand Marais, 800-338-4170, bearskin.com

Big Sandy Lodge & Resort

With 14 villas, 7 cabins, and 18 lodge hotel rooms, this year-round resort has something for everyone. Take up casual and fine dining options in the Bears Den Sports Bar and Pines Restaurant, respectively, along with onsite recreational activities including watercraft rentals with a lakeside gas station and a swimming beach. The lodge has three indoor common-area fireplaces and a large three-tier deck overlooking the lake with a full-service bar on the lower-level patio. 20534 487th St., McGregor, 218-426-5040, bigsandylodgeandresort.com

Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior

Pamper yourself at Bluefin Bay resort on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Surrounded by the Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Bluefin Bay and its vicinity provide some of the most diverse recreational opportunities anywhere, from mountain biking and hiking to golf and tennis. Onsite amenities are abundant for a perfectly relaxing—or action-packed—vacation. 7192 W. Hwy. 61, Tofte, 218-663-7296, bluefinbay.com

Breezy Point on Lake Superior

Tucked into the rocky outcroppings of Lake Superior, Breezy Point offers awe-inspiring views and peaceful solitude. Twelve cabins, complete with all of the modern features and amenities, are available, along with an outdoor-lover’s paradise. Hike in nearby Gooseberry and Grand Portage state parks, snowshoe along the North Shore, or take a kayak or canoe tour of the lake before ending the night with bonfires and s’mores. 540 Old North Shore Rd., Two Harbors, 218-389-4522, breezyonsuperior.com

Burntside Lodge

The century-old Burntside Lodge, on the crystal-clear Burntside Lake in Ely, is the closest you can come to the Boundary Waters while still having electricity and indoor plumbing. Although there’s no TV, and wi-fi only in the main lodge, there’s plenty of fun to be had paddling, hiking, and hydrobiking. And there’s always downtown Ely’s shops, spas, and restaurants. 2755 Burntside Lodge Rd., Ely, 218-365-3894, burntside.com

Caribou Highlands Lodge

In the Sawtooth Mountains of Lutsen, Caribou Highlands’ views are difficult to beat any time of year. This family-friendly spot has kids’ activities as well as golf and spa treatments, all near the shores of Lake Superior. Accommodations range from lodge rooms to log cabins, finished in luxurious mountain style. 371 Ski Hill Rd., Lutsen, 800-642-6036, caribouhighlands.com

Cove Point Lodge

No matter which room you rent in the Cove Point Lodge, you’ll have a breathtaking view of Lake Superior and Minnesota’s North Shore, guaranteed. Or, families can spread out a little more in one of the rustic and Scandinavian-inspired modern cottages. Enjoy seasonal adventures, such as snowshoeing (with complimentary snowshoes), snowmobiling, bicycling, swimming, and hiking directly from the property, or at nearby attractions including Split Rock Light House and Palisade Head. Other resort events will keep your days full, but remember that it’s OK to treat yourself to a massage, a sauna session, and a relaxing day of fine dining at the Lodge Dining Room, too. 4614 Hwy. 61, Beaver Bay, 800-598-3221, covepointlodge.com

Eagle Nest Lodge

More than 600 feet of sandy beach make this resort a natural choice for a lakeside retreat. Choose from 16 cabins and enjoy seasonal activities such as fishing, cross-country skiing, and more. If you come in the summer, make sure to check out the Activity & Naturalist Program—the guest favorite being the huge waterslide that the staff created from the top of the resort’s hill down to the lake. 58761 Eagle Nest Rd., Deer River, 218-246-8701, eaglenestlodge.net

Eagle Ridge Resort at Lutsen

On Minnesota’s “mountain,” this resort features skiing and snowboarding in the winter, along with an indoor-outdoor pool heated and open year round. When the ice and snow are gone, guided nine-person Voyageur canoe trips are available on the Poplar River, meant to give visitors a taste of the journeys that 19th-century fur traders took through Minnesota. 445 Ski Hill Rd., Lutsen, 800-360-7666, eagleridgeatlutsen.com

East Bay Suites

Grand Marais was voted USA Today’s Reader’s Choice for Best Midwestern Small Town in 2017, and East Bay Suites is the lodging to match. The hotel is a mere 15 steps from the shoreline and offers beautiful views of Lake Superior and convenience to downtown Grand Marais, the Superior Hiking Trail, Sawtooth Mountains, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. 21 Wisconsin St., Grand Marais, 800-414-2807, eastbaysuites.com

Grand Ely Lodge

No matter the season, the Grand Ely Lodge wants you to explore, offering complimentary fishing poles, kayaks, canoes, paddleboats, and snowshoes to get you out discovering the miles of surrounding lakes and bluffs. Find the ideal balance between adventure and pampering with amenities including room service, whirlpool, sauna, indoor pool, flat-screen TVs, and more. While you’re here, don’t forget to check out the city’s North American Bear Center and International Wolf Center, too. 400 N. Pioneer Rd., Ely, 800-365-5070, grandelylodge.com

Grand Superior Lodge

This resort is all about the Lake Superior view: Book a lakeside room and fall asleep to the sound of waves. Choose from hotel-style rooms, roomy cabins, and a sunny, nautical-themed beach house, all with TV, mini fridges, and wi-fi. Watch massive oar ships pass by from your cabin patio; try biking, skiing, or snowshoeing onsite or in a nearby state park; or grab a homemade wild-rice baguette at the lakeside restaurant. 2826 Hwy. 61, Two Harbors, 800-627-9565, grandsuperior.com

Gunflint Lodge

Just south of Canada on Gunflint Lake, this 90-year-old resort is the essence of “north woods.” Take a break from wi-fi in cabins ranging from one to five bedrooms, each with a stone fireplace and some with full kitchens and hot tubs. (Rustic canoer cabins are available for those who need fewer amenities.) Stay in for massage treatment and classic Minnesota dinners of walleye and wild rice, or head out for guided Boundary Waters canoe and fishing trips. 143 S. Gunflint Lake, Grand Marais, 800-328-3325, gunflint.com

Lakewood Lodge

Fall in love with the sights and peace of Chippewa National Forest along the Bowstring Chain of Lakes. At Lakewood Lodge, the hosts have offered north-woods hospitality for more than 17 years, and the resort itself has been going for more than a century. Check into one of 15 cabins surrounding the lake, put away your suitcases, then run down to the shoreline for beach activities, fishing, boat rentals, and more. Hunters, snowmobilers, and cross-country skiers can find their seasonal haven here, too. 53206 County Rd. 35, Deer River, 800-495-8437, lakewoodlodge.com

Larsmont Cottages

The cottages at this lodge-style resort aren’t as rustic as the name suggests. They feel more like Craftsman suburban condos, casual but refined: full kitchens with granite countertops, two-way gas fireplaces, and sweeping views of Lake Superior. The resort includes an indoor pool, an outdoor hot tub, a sauna, and a masseuse. The resort’s Ledge Rock Grille is one of the nicest restaurants in the area, complete with cedar-planked sockeye salmon and a robust wine list. 596 Larsmont Way, Two Harbors, 866-687-5634, larsmontcottages.com

Ludlow’s Resort

Over the past 70 years, multiple generations of the Ludlow family have built about 20 cabins on this pine-covered island on Lake Vermilion. Ranging from a romantic one-bedroom to a family-style five-bedroom, the cabins flank the outer perimeters to ensure lodgers take in the beauty of the “lake of red sunsets.” Amenities include a sauna, full-service spa, paddleboats, kayaks, sailboats, canoes, and hydrobikes, along with tennis, racquetball, and a fitness center. 8166 Ludlow Rd., Cook, 877-583-5697, ludlowsresort.com

Lutsen Resort

Nestled in a private cove on the North Shore, historic charm and modern comforts await at Lutsen. Founded in 1885 by a Swedish immigrant, it’s one of Minnesota’s oldest resorts. Although the current owners have expanded its holdings to include more condos, cabins, and townhomes, they’ve maintained the resort’s natural aesthetic and the historic main lodge. The lobby lures guests with a roaring fire and oversize burlap checkerboards, and the log cabins are especially cozy, each with a full kitchen and wood-fire stove. 5700 W. Hwy. 61, Lutsen, 218-206-8157, lutsenresort.com

Naniboujou Lodge

In the historic Naniboujou Lodge’s dining room, the domed, technicolor ceiling, painted in bold Cree Indian designs, inspires awe as the largest native rock fireplace in Minnesota—a 200-ton work of art, measuring 20 feet tall. Canada lies about 20 miles east of Naniboujou’s deck—from where you can head to the shore’s northern most state park, Judge C. R. Magney, for its 3,000 acres of trails, plus the incredible Devil’s Kettle waterfall, into which half the Brule River disappears inside a pothole. Back at the lodge, keep a deck of cards on hand and avoid sensitive family discussions, as you won’t find phones, TV, or internet in any of the rooms. 20 Naniboujou Trail, Grand Marais, 218-387-2688, naniboujou.com

Nelson’s Resort

This 80-some-year-old resort on Crane Lake retains a 1930s feel with a retro welcome sign, candle-lit dinners, home-baked desserts, and a phone shack behind the lodge. Guests stay in cabins ranging from one to three bedrooms (with, don’t worry, bathrooms and hot water). Fishing enthusiasts can BYOB(oat) or borrow one from the resort and fish with one of the resort’s 10 guides. If it’s a rainy day, there’s a library and game room onsite. 7632 Nelson Rd., Crane Lake, 800-433-0743, nelsonsresort.com

North Star Lake Resort

Jutting out into the 1,000-plus acres of North Star Lake, this resort offers both beach and pool, horseshoes and shuffleboard, volleyball, and biking. A vacation here means truly getting away from it all, with wood-paneled cabins, a fisher’s paradise, a large game room, and water amusements including trampolines, climbing rock, spin wheel, and water woosh for hours of fun. 37948 N. Star Rd., Marcell, 800-356-6784, northstarlakeresort.com

Oveson’s Pelican Lake Resort & Lodge

Besides Pelican Lake’s clear waters and fishing wealth, Oveson sits next to Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Make excursions to the nearby Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary to see black bears from the observational deck, or learn about the state’s mining history at the Soudan Underground Mine. The resort is open year round—yes, with winter swimming in a newly renovated indoor pool—so check out skiing hill Giants Ridge in Biwabik, too. 4675 U.S. Hwy. 53, Orr, 218-757-3613, ovesonpelicanlakeresortandinn.com

Pehrson Lodge Resort

People boating on the lake at Pehrson Lodge Resort
Pehrson Lodge Resort - PHOTO BY CLAYTON DODWELL


The family-run Pehrson Lodge Resort has something old and something new, with more than a century’s worth of lakeside history and a brand new lodge completed last summer. With an entertainment center, an indoor lake-view balcony, and 7,200 square feet of space, this lodge is the newest gem to the Lake Vermilion resort, which already boasts windsurfing, waterskiing, nature programs, and cabins offering beautiful views of the beach, lake, and forests. 2746 Vermilion Dr., Cook, 218-666-5478, pehrsonlodge.com

Sugar Lake Lodge

Lakeside cabins, lakefront lodge rooms, and golf-course villas surround towering northern pines here, where visitors can partake in the water activities afforded by Sugar Lake or try their luck on the Par 72, Joel Goldstrand-designed Sugarbrooke Golf Course. Dine on hand-crafted burgers or a walleye sandwich at Otis’s Grill & Bar, or, for more upscale but no less locally sourced fare, try the main dining room at the lodge. 37584 Otis Lane, Cohasset, 218-327-1462, sugarlakelodge.com

Superior Shores

When a resort is this picturesque—think: one mile of shoreline, thousands of feet of pebble beach, and 60 acres of north woods—you might expect it to be secluded. Not so with Superior Shores. This excursion hot spot includes Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock Lighthouse, Canal Park, and Superior Hiking Trail. Enjoy dog-friendly rooms and lodgings ranging from luxurious to rustic. 1521 Superior Shores Dr., Two Harbors, 800-242-1988, superiorshores.com

Timber Trail Lodge & Resort

This four-season family resort, with modern accommodations, offers direct Boundary Waters access. Located 7 miles from Ely, it sits on the south shore of Farm Lake, one of four interconnected lakes offering motorized boating, surrounded by more than 1 million acres of wilderness. Lakeside and river cabins are available, with a variety of amenities for every family size and budget.  629 Kawishiwi Trail, Ely, 218-365-4879, timbertrail.com

Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge

The only lodge dedicated to dogsledding welcomes both beginning mushers and winter pros. Besides normal day and overnight trips, courses have been designed for photographers and even kids. After all the activities, relax in the Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge and nearby retreat cabins with featherbeds, private bedrooms, and cozy fireplaces, enjoying family-style meals courtesy of Wintergreen’s kitchen crew. 1101 Ring Rock Rd., Ely, 218-365-6022, dogsledding.com

Central

Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center

Arrowwood offers plenty of water options: If boating, fishing, or swimming at the full marina on the Lake Darling shore isn’t your style, head inside to the 38,000-square-foot water park. Modern hotel-style rooms await in the main lodge (with wi-fi, kitchenettes, and TV), along with one-family lake homes and colorful cottages sleeping two to 14 guests. Other attractions include horseback riding, a spa, an 18-hole golf course, and several restaurants. 2100 Arrowwood Lane NW, Alexandria, 320-762-1124, arrowwoodresort.com

Arrowwood also runs a smaller resort in the Brainerd Lakes area, with a main lodge for guest rooms with similar amenities, a water park, an arcade, and a restaurant. 6969 Lake Forest Rd., Baxter, 218-822-5634, arrowwoodbrainerdlodge.com

Boyd Lodge

Between Whitefish Lake and Rush Lake, this resort began as a fishing lodge in the 1930s. While fishing is still one of the main attractions, the lodge now offers movie nights, turtle racing, swimming (in a lake or a pool), and BYOB social events for adults. When winter arrives, a broomball rink is set up on one of the lakes. For indoorsy people, cabins have cable TV, and cottages include a bar area, a big screen, and surround sound. 36539 Silver Peak Rd., Crosslake, 218-543-4125, boydlodge.com

Breezy Point

Once the getaway spot of 1920s movie stars, this Pelican Lake resort now offers hotel-style suites, lakeshore cabins, and secluded log houses with up to 11 bedrooms. Enjoy golf, boating, guided fishing tours, a full-service spa, beach games, bonfires, and a two-mile trail open year round. Dining options range from the country club–style Antlers Restaurant to a grill and bar—and after dinner, catch an Elvis impersonator show on the Dockside Lounge deck. 9252 Breezy Point Dr., Breezy Point, 800-432-3777, breezypointresort.com

Clamshell Beach Resort

Set on the Whitefish Chain of Lakes, Clamshell Beach is about 30 miles north of Brainerd. The resort has a variety of four-season cottages, including a “golf cottage,” opening this year, that lets visitors stay about a quarter mile from Whitefish Golf Club, an 18-hole golf course that provides special rates to those staying at the resort. Other non-golf-related amenities include two swimming pools (one for big kids and another for little ones), a tennis court, and a kids’ club to give parents a break. 35197 S. Clamshell Dr., Pequot Lakes, 888-252-6743, clamshellbeach.com

Cragun’s

On the sandy shore of Gull Lake, this year-round resort offers air-conditioned lakeside cabins, plus several “reunion houses” big enough to host an entire extended family. Cragun’s offers all-ages waterskiing lessons, an indoor sports complex, and beach volleyball. In the winter, there are horse-drawn trolley rides, dogsled rides, and “ice bowling” (snow tubing into a set of bowling pins). Five separate restaurants give guests a variety of dining and bar options. 11000 Craguns Dr., Brainerd, 218-825-2700, craguns.com

East Silent Lake Resort

The first vacationers arrived at this northwest Minnesota resort in 1915, and a multitude of families has made the trek since. Over the decades, three distinct styles of accommodations have arisen on the shores of the lake: luxury lake homes, one- to three- bedroom cabins, and guest rooms and suites. A recently completed, 8,000-square-foot lodge houses The Café, a casual, from-scratch dining experience. 30424 410th St., Dent, 218-758-2716, eastsilentresort.com

Grand View Lodge

Founded in 1916, Grand View Lodge on Gull Lake has provided guests in the Brainerd Lakes area with memorable vacation experiences for more than 100 years. Today, resort amenities include waterfront activities, spa services, onsite restaurants, championship golf, and quintessential “up north” lodging options, ranging from single rooms in the main lodge to groups of 16 people under one roof. 23521 Nokomis Ave., Nisswa, 866-801-2951, grandviewlodge.com

Kavanaugh’s

This resort combines the rustic with the modern, with cozy cabins and three-bedroom, three-bathroom condos, all equipped with air conditioning, gas fireplaces, wi-fi, cable TV, and grills. Hikers and bikers can enjoy a mile of trails within the resort itself (snowmobile rentals available), or can head to the nearby Paul Bunyan Trail for miles of paved woodland exploring. You can rent boats ranging from kayaks to pontoons to enjoy Sylvan Lake in the summer. 1685 Kavanaugh Dr., East Gull Lake, 218-829-5226, kavanaughs.com

Lost Lake Lodge

Sandwiched between Gull Lake Narrows and Lost Lake, this resort has fishing, boating, paddle boarding, and swimming. Cabins feature modern amenities, such as HD TVs, air conditioning, and wi-fi, and for visitors who don’t want to cook in the cabin or over a campfire, the lodge restaurant serves more than your typical camp food, including steak, butternut-squash ravioli, and almost an entire school of fish. 7965 Lost Lake Rd., Lake Shore, 800-450-2681, lostlake.com

Madden’s

Aptly described as a place where you can “do it all, or nothing at all,” Madden’s balances old-fashioned family fun and serious pampering. With several packages to choose from—think: romance, spa, and golf—as well as dining options at the resort’s multiple restaurants, there’s plenty to do on the shores of Gull Lake. Kids can enjoy day-long camps, or the entire family can make use of the tennis and croquet club, nature tours, and a fully equipped marina with all types of watercraft. 11266 Pine Beach Peninsula, Brainerd, 218-829-2811, maddens.com

Peters Sunset Beach Resort

When you book your stay on Lake Minnewaska, you’ll have to pick between the traditional summer cabins of your childhood and the more contemporary townhouses. An 18-hole golf course connects to the resort, but other recreational activities, such as fishing, hiking, and racquetball, are available, too. Pet-available rooms are on hand, and when you book seven nights, you receive two nights free. 20000 S. Lakeshore Dr., Glenwood, 800-356-8654, petersresort.com

Quarterdeck Resort

A pool and fitness center mark the newest attractions at Quarterdeck starting this year. The resort features lakeside cottages, studio-bedroom lakeside suites, and one-bedroom rooms in the main lodge. Nearby attractions include the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway (with 110 miles of snowmobile trails from Brainerd to Bemidji) and Brainerd zip-line tours. 9820 Birch Bay Dr., SW County Rd. 77, Nisswa, 800-950-5596, quarterdeckresort.com

Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge

A girl holding a walleye at Ruttgers Bay Lake Lodge
Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge - PHOTO COURTESY RUTTER’S BAY LAKE LODGE


What started as a humble rest stop for fishermen in 1898 has become a sprawling resort complex on the shore of Bay Lake near Brainerd, complete with the state’s oldest resort golf course (built in 1921). Guests can choose from rooms adjoining the main lodge and cabins to two-story cottage and villa rentals, and kids stay free. Activities include spa treatments, a ropes course, horseback riding, and a weekly tour of local breweries—or you can eat at one of four onsite restaurants and cafés. 5039 Tame Fish Lake Rd., Deerwood, 800-450-4545, ruttgers.com

Train Bell Resort

Yes, there is a 45-foot train, and yes, you can ride it. Still, the Train Bell Express is just one of many unique activities available alongside the crystal-clear waters of North Long Lake. The resort’s lakeshore cabins, condos, and grand lodge are open all year, and some seasonal activities include Charlie the Chicken’s famous chicken toss, minnow races, outdoor movies, and a resort-wide dance. 21489 Train Bell Rd., Merrifield, 800-252-2102, trainbellresort.com

Wilderness Point Resort

Between the cabins, the forest-hidden villas, and the private beach on Middle Cullen Lake, you’ll feel renewed after a week at Wilderness Point. For daytime activities, visit the boutiques of Nisswa and Pequot Lakes or take in a round of golf (miniature or regulation) on the nearby greens. 6316 Wilderness Rd., Pequot Lakes, 800-231-4050, wildernesspointresort.com

Southern

Cedar Valley Resort

Nestled in Minnesota’s bluff country, this resort features eight four-season cabins, with one, “Big Timber,” boasting a fully accessible first floor for guests with physical disabilities. In the summer, the Root River Bike Trail opens, with rental bikes available at the resort. Guests can visit Lanesboro, a 5-minute drive away, and explore Amish stores, plus a fish hatchery. Winter activities include tubing down the bluffs and horse-drawn sleigh rides. 905 Bench St., Whalen, 507-467-9000, cedarvalleyresort.com

Iowa

Honey Creek Resort

Located in the Honey Creek State Park on the 11,000-square-acre Rathbun Lake, Honey Creek Resort features plenty of indoor and outdoor activities. Take advantage of the state park’s naturalist programs or its miles of hiking trails, splash around in the indoor waterpark, rent out a boat, and check out the resort’s seasonal activities. Pick between the lodge, luxury cottages, and RV park—and let your vacation begin. 12633 Resort Dr., Moravia, IA, 866-797-5308, honeycreekresort.com

Wisconsin

The Abbey Resort

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, is a quaint lakeside town to begin with, so when you add an upscale resort, you’re bound to have a fun, relaxing vacation here. Indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a marina, a 1,000-square-foot arcade, an award-winning Avani Spa, and seasonal activities for all ages can be found within this resort’s 90 acres, making every season the best season. 269 Fontana Blvd., Fontana, WI, 800-709-1323, theabbeyresort.com

Cable Nature Lodge

Named after the nearby town of Cable, Wisconsin, Cable Nature Lodge combines the best of natural, rustic beauty—located on 22 acres in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (pronounced sho-WAH-ma-gun, if you want to sound like a local)—with creature comforts. Opened in 2005, the cedar-and-knotty-pine-paneled lodge houses seven rooms as well as the Rookery Pub, which offers more upscale, award-winning dining than its name suggests, with a seasonally influenced menu that incorporates fresh fish, steaks, and local produce. 20100 County Hwy. M, Cable, WI, 715-794-2060, cablenaturelodge.com

Camp Wandawega

A cabin at night at Camp Wandawega
Camp Wandawega - PHOTO BY BOB COSCARELLI


​The proprietors here warn potential visitors to read their “Manifesto of Low Expectations” before booking any of the cabins or bunkhouse. “Vintage” here means old and unimproved, and that’s just the way David Hernandez and Tereasa Surratt like it. They believe in connecting people to the simple pleasures of simpler times. From a speakeasy getaway in 1925 to a house of ill repute in the ’30s, this place’s walls can sure speak volumes. Accommodations run the gamut, from “vintage” cabins and campsites to a teepee and a treehouse that provides a bird’s eye view of the camp’s namesake lake. W5453 Lake View Dr., Elkhorn, WI, No phone-visit airbnb.com for reservations, wandawega.com

Canoe Bay

A canoe along with equipment sitting by a dock at Canoe Bay
Canoe Bay - PHOTO BY MICHAEL GRIMM/COURTESY CANOE BAY


Canoe Bay was named the “No. 1 Resort in the Midwest” by Conde Nast Traveler in 2016, but it’s not for families—it’s for adults. Those 21 and over can enjoy Canoe Bay’s 300 idyllic acres of romantic and peaceful getaways in Wisconsin’s hardwood forest. With your stay, enjoy a chef’s three-course tasting menu, complimentary in-room breakfast, a massive book and DVD library, and some old-fashioned outdoor adventures. In each luxurious lodging option (except for the simplified retreat of ESCAPE tiny homes), unwind with a Jacuzzi and king-size bed for a perfect night’s sleep. W16065 Hogback Rd., Chetek, WI, 715-924-4594, canoebay.com

Garmisch USA Resort

More than 90 years ago, local artisans built Garmisch USA Resort on the shores of Lake Namakagon with Bavaria in mind. Through its towering timber-beam ceilings, massive stone fireplaces, and warm wood paneling, the lodge retains an Old World charm unlike others in the area. Each cabin comes with its own personality—check out Blarney Castle, built like an actual castle, or the Chateau des Alpes, where you’re apt to break into a yodel. The resort’s Bierstube Lounge features an assortment of hearty German fare, including wurst, sauerkraut, and schnitzel. 23040 Garmisch RD., Cable, WI, 715-794-2204, garmischresort.com

Hawks View Cottages

With two lodges—one perched on a hillside cedar grove overlooking the Seven Hawks Vineyard—Hawks View Cottages is not your typical resort complex. Its second lodge, located one mile north of Fountain City, Wisconsin, sits on a high rugged bluff with stunning views of the Mississippi River Valley and surrounded by 60 acres of forest and vineyard. For a more intimate escape, try one of five cottages complete with wi-fi, full kitchens, and soaking tubs. Fountain City, WI, 651-293-0803, hawksview.net

Holiday Acres

From winter horse-drawn sleigh rides to windsurfing and hiking, there’s no shortage of seasonal activities here. A variety of lodging options are available year round that blend simplicity, comfort, and homeliness. As you enjoy your vacation, stay on the lookout for the local legendary animal, the Hodag—a 7-foot-long, frog-headed, half-dinosaur monster. 4060 S. Shore Dr., Rhinelander, WI, 800-261-1500, holidayacres.com

Pat’s Landing Resort

Located on the shores of Chief Lake and owned by Treeland Resorts, Pat’s Landing Resort has the lake views for summer fun and the snowmobile and skiing trails for winter lovers. Spacious cabins, luxury condos, and the historic Pat’s Landing Bar & Grill pair relaxation with all the fun you’ll have partaking in outdoor and family activities. 9630 Treeland Rd., Hayward, WI, 715-462-3874, patslandingresort.com

Spider Lake Lodge

Time seemingly stands still at Spider Lake Lodge. Built in 1923 of sturdy tamarack and cedar logs from the surrounding forest, it began as an outdoorsman’s rustic retreat. Today, it’s a stylish couples escape, where guests choose from seven distinctively designed guest rooms. Located at a dead end on the shores of Spider Lake, this adults-only, technology-free haven is the definition of serenity. 10472 W. Murphy Blvd., Hayward, WI, 715-462-3793, spiderlakelodge.com

Stout’s Island Lodge

In the late 1800s, Frank D. Stout used his lumber fortune to build a summer dream home on a 27-acre island on Red Cedar Lake. Modeled after the Adirondack resorts in upstate New York, Stout spared no expense, shelling out $1.5 million (that’s about $35 million today) in construction over the years. Entering the 1912 lodge today transports visitors to a bygone era as gleaming, wide-plank hardwood floors usher them into baronesque wealth and carefree days spent playing croquet, fishing, canoeing, or simply enjoying a good read. Choose from a variety of quaint cabins or main-lodge rooms. The full-service restaurant is open for continental breakfast (included with room), lunch, and dinner. 2799 27th St., Birchwood, WI, 715-354-3646, stoutsislandlodge.com

Treeland Resorts

This resort’s family owners have owned the land since 1912, when the resort was a dairy farm and logging sawmill. Since then, they have built 28 log cabins and added 10 motel suites at Treeland’s “The Original” Resort. Refuel at the restaurant, ice cream parlor, and bar before heading out to the resort’s beach, marina, pickleball courts, and greens for practicing putting and chipping. Treeland Resort was so successful, it started branching off, so check out its other lodging options on the Chippewa Flowage. 9630 Treeland Rd., Hayward, WI, 715-462-3874, treelandresorts.com

Wild Eagle Lodge

When you’re not on the sand in the summer, you can rent jet skis and boats onsite at Wild Eagle Lodge. Stop by the resort in the cooler seasons and explore the area by snowmobile and snowshoes. Unique family and children’s activities will fill your time, and when you need a break, the wide variety of lodging options provide the relaxation you crave. 4443 Chain O’ Lakes Rd., Eagle River, WI, 877-945-3965, wildeaglelodge.com

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