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Things to Do in Detroit Lakes

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Detroit Lake / Eric Ward

Things to Do in Detroit Lakes

By Caitlin Hannah

Detroit Lakes boasts a bustling main street, hundreds of lakes, thrilling mountain biking, award-winning golf and events that happen all year long. Find out where to go while you’re exploring this popular northwest Minnesota town.

WHERE TO SHOP

Whether you choose to window shop its historic main street or hunt for unique finds at the flea market, Detroit Lakes has a wide variety of locally owned shops to support.

Washington Square Mall and charming storefronts line downtown. Explore popular boutiques like Leela & Lavender, The Nines, Mainstream Boutique, Vintage N Vogue, JQ Clothing Company, Beautiful Junque and regional chains like Maurice’s and Glik’s. Bluebird Books is one of the newest shops on the block and offers a wide selection of books to entice any reader.

Shady Hollow Flea Market in Detroit Lakes

Shady Hollow Flea Market in Detroit Lakes / Dee George

For trendy home décor and gifts, LIT offers some of the best selection in the region. Find lake life apparel and gifts at Red Willow. Travel down Washington Avenue to visit their original location located in an adorable historic home filled with specialty food items, kitchen gadgets, home décor and more. Explore 14,000 square feet of antiques at SuLaine’s Antique Mall or get your beach gear by the water at Lakeshirts.

One of the region’s most popular attractions is Shady Hollow Flea Market, which has welcomed shoppers for more than fifty years. With up to 100 vendors operating across 3.5 acres, it’s a must-see for fans of antiques, vintage finds, locally made goods and repurposed décor. Shady Hollow Flea Market is open every weekend from Memorial Day through Labor Day and every Saturday in September.

Mountain biking in Detroit Lakes

Mountain biking in Detroit Lakes

WHERE TO GO OUTSIDE

Detroit Lakes has 400 lakes within 25 miles of the city. That is a lot of water and there are plenty of ways to enjoy it all year long. Anglers can fish on the pier at City Beach on Detroit Lake, rent a boat from J&K Marine or go out with a local fishing guide. Many hotels, resorts and campgrounds offer canoes, boat launches and docks for guests to enjoy. Ice fishing is also popular and come winter, the frozen lakes will be lined with ice houses and hearty anglers.

Detroit Mountain Recreation Area is a popular spot for skiing (downhill and cross country), snowboarding, tubing, and fat biking during the winter. The rest of the year, outdoor enthusiasts enjoy mountain biking for all skill levels. If you’re traveling with kids, visit their natural outdoor play area with logs and boulders combined with tunnels, slides, and a climbing net.

Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge

Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge

In winter, outdoor enthusiasts will find hundreds of trails for snowmobiling, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing throughout Becker County. Popular trails follow state and county roads and connect Detroit Lakes to nearby towns like Frazee, Vergas and Lake Park or border the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge.

The Heartland State Trail, North Country Scenic Trail, and Pine to Prairie International Birding Trail all pass through Detroit Lakes and are popular spots to go hiking and birding. Watch for wildflowers like the Showy Lady’s Slipper in the spring and summer.

Women Golfing at Wildflower Golf Course

Women Golfing at Wildflower Golf Course  / Micah Kvidt

If you’re looking to hit the links, Detroit Lakes is a popular spot for golf and offers award-winning courses at the Detroit Country Club, Forest Hills and Fair Hills Resort’s Wildflower Golf Course.

Be on the hunt for 150 sailboat sculptures throughout the city that were designed by area artists to celebrate the city’s sesquicentennial in 2021.

WHERE TO EAT / DRINK

There are plenty of places to eat and drink in Detroit Lakes, from strolling through downtown, walking down the beach or sitting on a deck overlooking the lake.

In the downtown block, Brygge Taps & Tastes and Roasted Pub & Eatery offer burgers, sandwiches, wood-fired pizzas and more. Try a locally made brew at Bucks Mill Brewing, which opened in 2022 and offers traditional brews, non-alcoholic versions of their most popular beers, sours, seltzers, and homemade root beer. Fuel up for your day with breakfast at Main Street Restaurant or grab a coffee or pack a picnic lunch at La Barista or Chickadee Coffee Roasters.

If you’re looking to dine by the water, head to the City Beach area that boasts several spots like Hub41, Lakeside Tavern and Brewery, El Loro and Mi Cartagena Café. Casual spots like Long Bridge Bar & Grill and Bleachers Bar and Grill are local favorites. If you’re looking for a special spot to celebrate, The Fireside offers fine dining overlooking Detroit Lake. Find fresh sushi, hibachi, or American comfort food at Sapphire that offers delicious options for any palette.  

A summer staple is the seasonal hotspot, Hotel Shoreham, with an expansive menu with favorites like ribs, walleye and fresh seafood, steak, pasta, and square cut specialty pizzas. And one of Detroit Lakes’ claims to fame is being home to the original Zorbaz, the popular pizza, pasta and Mexican food joint that has become a summer tradition in several other lakeside destinations.

WHERE TO STAY

If you want to be close to the water, there are hotel chains like Holiday Inn, which offers its own marina and boat rentals. Best Western Premier's Lodge on Lake Detroit and Fairfield Inn & Suites are also just steps away from City Beach. Other places to stay include the Country Inn and Suites, AmericInn and Quality Inn.

Resorts offer a little more room to roam and a boatload of ways to get out on the water. Plan a stay at Fair Hills Resort, Rainbow Resort or Valhalla Resort to take advantage of larger lodging options, sandy beaches, on-site dining and more.

The sun sets over WE Fest

The sun sets over WE Fest

FESTIVALS & EVENTS 

Detroit Lakes offers incredible events throughout the year, and many have become annual favorites for travelers. For 40 years, every August country music fans have been coming to WE Fest at the Soo Pass Ranch. Past performers have included Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, Darius Rucker, Brothers Osborne, Jo Dee Messina, and other fan favorites.

Artists and local makers are the draw to annual events like Art in the Park or the Street Faire and classic fair fun is found at the Northwest Water Carnival and Becker County Fair. Runners have raced for over 20 years at the Dick Beardsley 25k, ½ Marathon, 10K and 5K. Birders flock every spring migration to see more than 250 species of birds at the Festival of Birds along the Pine to Prairie Birding Trail and other sites.

People posing for a picture in the ice palace at Detroit Lakes Polar Fest

Ice palace at Detroit Lakes Polar Fest / Paul Vincent

In February, Polar Fest is a celebration of all things winter with an ice fishing derby, frozen golf, fireworks, sled dog rides, laser tubing, kites on the frozen water, and in the past, incredible ice castles made from ice harvested from Detroit Lake.

The Historic Holmes Theatre hosts events and shows throughout the year. Recent productions and shows have included Godspell, the Fabulous Armadillos, and the Concordia Orchestra.

Plan your stay in Detroit Lakes or explore other areas of northwest Minnesota.

Caitlin Hannah

Caitlin Hannah is Explore Minnesota's senior digital social strategist. When traveling around the state, she likes spending time near the water, hiking, antique shopping, trying new restaurants, and watching hockey.