Experience the Rural Charms of Central Minnesota

Take a three-day cruise between Alexandria and Fergus Falls to experience central Minnesota's winding country roads, magnificent parks and lakes, and charming main streets.

Day 1: Alexandria

Alexandria is at the hub of a lakes area known for its resorts, fishing and boating. Stop at the Legacy of the Lakes Museum (formerly the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum) to see resort memorabilia and classic old wooden boats. Go back even further in time at the Kensington Runestone Museum, featuring a large rock with inscriptions that may have been carved by Vikings in the 1300s.

Don’t miss a photo op posing next to Big Ole, a giant statue of a Viking. In the countryside near town are the Carlos Creek WineryLake Carlos State Park, with a swimming beach and boat access, and Theatre L’Homme Dieu, a summer theater offering comedies and musicals.

Scenic road in Maplewood State Park

Take the scenic route through Maplewood State Park

Day 2: Cruise on Country Roads

Although Alexandria and Fergus Falls both sit along I-94, quiet roads wind through the rural landscape between these two cities and make a lovely drive through rolling hills and villages, past lakes, farms and stands of woods. There are lots of fun finds along the way. Stop at a wayside off Co. Rd. 38 and enjoy the panoramic view from Inspiration Peak, the highest point in the area. In the tiny village of Vining, watch for an assortment of quirky sculptures created by a local resident and displayed along the road.

At Battle Lake, enjoy the work of regional artists at the Art of the Lakes Gallery. Nearby is Glendalough State Park, with hiking trails, a sand beach and wildlife observation blinds. In the tiny hamlet of Phelps, an 1889 flour mill sits in a lovely park alongside the millpond and stream; it’s a great spot for a picnic. From here, make your way southwest to Fergus Falls.

Day 3: Fergus Falls

Fergus Falls, on the Otter Tail River, is the largest city in the area. Its several lakes, a main street with 19th-century architecture and a walkway along the river all make this city especially attractive. Check out the Otter Tail County Historical Museum to learn about the area’s Indian and pioneer heritage. A 1920s theater has been renovated as A Center for the Arts, hosting a variety of performances, and a downtown gallery displays the work of area artists.

At the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center, trails wind through the tall grass prairie and past the wetlands that both define this “prairie pothole” region. You can watch for birds here and at other sites along the 200-mile Pine to Prairie Birding Trail, a driving route with Fergus Falls as its southern anchor.

Trip Extenders: Perham, Pelican Rapids & Maplewood State Park

Head north from Fergus Falls to visit two small towns and a scenic state park. Perham has a quaint main street with several shops. Another highlight here is the In Their Own Words Veterans Museum, with exhibits and videos from interviews with area veterans. 

Pelican Rapids claims the “world’s largest pelican” (a 15-foot-tall town landmark) along the millpond and dam in town. Nearby are the rolling forests of Maplewood State Park, with several lakes, a swimming beach, boat and canoe rentals, and a scenic overlook. In the autumn, the forest takes on brilliant hues and the park is a popular fall color destination.

Note for cyclists:  bring your bike along and explore the Central Lakes State Trail, a 55-mile, paved rail-to-trail route between Fergus Falls and Osakis, just east of Alexandria. Enjoy the same landscape of rolling hills, fields, wetlands and lakes at a slower pace.