dog jumping into ottertail lake at sunset

Things to Do in Otter Tail County

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Dog jumping off a dock into Ottertail Lake at sunset / Allie Hoeft

Things to Do in Otter Tail County

By Explore Minnesota

Otter Tail County is one of the state’s largest counties encompassing 21 towns from tiny town of Vining to the city of Fergus Falls. It’s a haven for outdoor recreation and boats 1,048 lakes, more than any county in the United States. Find out where to go while you’re exploring this popular spot in central Minnesota.

Periwinkle Marketplace

Periwinkle Marketplace / Kvidt Creative


Otter Tail County boasts several charming main streets. In nearly every town you will find local boutiques, gift stores, specialty groceries and more.

For home décor, gifts, kitchen gadgets, gourmet groceries and more, try The Market in Fergus Falls or Battle Lake, Periwinkle Marketplace, or The William’s Company Store in Ottertail. In Perham, The Back Porch, Nest or Wild Goose are also filled with a variety of goods and offer great gift options.

Never Winter Clothing in Battle Lake

Never Winter Clothing  / Kvidt Creative

For women’s clothing, accessories, and footwear, visit Dahlia’s Downtown Boutique, The bric, or Dandelion & Burdock in Fergus Falls or Neverwinter Clothing Co. in Battle Lake.

For handmade beauty and health products, SoapWerks Naturals Bath & Body in downtown Fergus Falls produces small-batch handmade bath and body products. For fans of spring in Minnesota, don’t miss their natural lilac scented soaps and lotions.

Goose Gang Toys in Perham

Goose Gang Toys  / Kvidt Creative

Goose Gang in Perham is a top spot for toys, puzzles, board games, and more. Grab a bag of their homemade popcorn for a snack, including flavors like dill pickle, cheese pizza, and cake batter.

The county also boasts incredible artisans selling their works in their own spaces or galleries. Try Paul’s Metal Petals and Art of the Lakes in Battle Lake for incredible metal sculptures, paintings and more.

Glendalough State Park in Battle Lake

Glendalough State Park / Kvidt Creative


One of the standout features of Otter Tail County is its mesmerizing natural environment. Comprised of rolling prairie lands — and the most lakes in any U.S. county, including the namesake Otter Tail Lake — the county exudes a classic, laid-back Minnesota lakeside vibe.

Glendalough State Park in Battle Lake is a fantastic destination for hiking, with numerous trails that meander around the park’s lakes, forest, and prairie. Altogether, you’ll find 9 miles of hiking trails in the park, including two interpretive nature trails. If you’ve only got time for one, try the brief but dazzling 3.3-mile hike around Annie Battle Lake.

Visitors are surprised by the size and incredible beauty of Maplewood State Park in Pelican Rapids. Find great fishing (bonus: you do not need a fishing license to wet a line in a state park), with eight major lakes in this 9,250-acre park. Enjoy 25 miles of hiking trails, 20 miles of horse trails, 21 miles of snowmobile trails or 5 miles of ungroomed back-country cross-country ski trails. Hallaway Hill is especially stunning in the fall with vibrant fall colors and views of multiple lakes.

New York Mills Regional Cultural Center gallery

New York Mills Regional Cultural Center / Kvidt Creative


The New York Mills Regional Cultural Center hosts dozens of visual arts, music, dance literary and theater performances throughout the year. The attached sculpture park has celebrated public art for more than 20 years and even features a labyrinth to explore.

Otter Cove in downtown Fergus Falls will keep the kids busy with multiple interactive spaces that highlight physical play, artistic exploration and imagine. Don’t miss the adorable Minnesota themed section.

Nyberg Sculpture Park, Vining

Nyberg Sculpture Park / Kvidt Creative

The tiny town of Vining has become a popular tourist attraction thanks to the massive metal structures at Nyberg Sculpture Park. The park features about 10 other sculptures, include a giant coffee cup, an elephant made entirely out of lawnmower blades and an infamous “big foot” sculpture you need to see to believe. 

For more roadside attractions, Otter Tail County boasts multiple giant otter statues including Otto the Otter, the World’s Largest Turkey, the World’s Largest Loon, and Pete the Pelican.

Biking Central Lakes Trail

Central Lakes Trail, Alexandria


The Central Lakes State Trail is relatively flat and easy to ride — perfect for families and groups of all ages and abilities. The Heart of the Lakes Trail is a 10-foot wide, 32-mile long, multi-use recreational trail connecting the communities of Perham and Pelican Rapids via Maplewood State Park.

Nearby, the Glendalough Trail serves up a 12-mile loop of easy riding between the town of Battle Lake, along the shore of West Battle Lake, around tranquil Glendalough State Park and back into town.

The Prairie Wetlands Learning Center in Fergus Falls

The Prairie Wetlands Learning Center portion of the North Country National Scenic Trail  

For something more ambitious, the North Country National Scenic Trail is an absolute gem. The entire trail spans 4,600 miles between North Dakota and Vermont, with 800 of its best miles in Minnesota. The trail’s path through Minnesota slices right through Otter Tail County, with easily accessible trailheads in Maplewood State Park and Fergus Falls.

With select viewing sites throughout the county, the Pine to Prairie Birding Trail stretches more than 200 miles between Fergus Falls in the south to Warroad in the north. Eleven of the sites are within 20 miles of Fergus Falls with 275 species of birds in the Minnesota zone.

An aerial shot of Batlte Lake

Battle Lake  / Kvidt Creative


With 1,048 lakes in the county, your options for aquatic adventure are practically unlimited. For the marquee “Lake Life” experience, head to the biggest among them — the county’s namesake, Otter Tail Lake. Nearly the entire lake is less than 15 feet deep — ideal conditions for catching smallmouth and largemouth bass — but ardent anglers will also find active populations of walleye, northern pike and crappie.

No gear? No problem. Contact one of the region’s many local fishing guides for rod and reel rentals or guided fishing adventures, and leave the work to them.

Many resorts in the area have boats available for guests, including Barky’s Resort and is especially notable as one of the few places in Otter Tail County that offers boat rentals to the general public, with jet skis, pontoons and motorboats among the many options.

Kayaking on Battle Lake in Glendalough State Park

Kayaking on Battle Lake in Glendalough State Park / Kvidt Creative

For canoers and kayakers, paddling the Otter Tail River or Pelican River is a unique way to explore the region’s many lakes, rivers, and ecosystems. Pelican Paddle Company offers kayaks and paddleboards for rent.

Public beaches are abundant throughout the county including Pebble Lake Swimming Park in Fergus Falls, Paul Miller Park in Perham, Eagle Lake Public Access, Lions Park Public Beach and Glendalough State Park in Battle Lake or Long Lake City Beach and Wayside Rest in Vergas.

Playing a round at one of the 10 (yes, 10!) golf courses in the county is another excellent outdoor activity. Play a round (or two) at Lida Greens Golf Course in Pelican Rapids, Pebble Lake Golf Course in Fergus Falls, Thumper Pond Golf Course in Ottertail, and more.

Family at Zorbaz

Nothing says "summer in Minnesota" like a lakeside meal at Zorbaz


When it comes to dining, seek out spots with a view of the lake. Overlooking the shoreline of Otter Tail Lake, sip margaritas and play beanbag toss from the large outdoor seating area at Beach Bums Bar & Eatery.

A Minnesota take on a beach bar, Zorbaz is an “up north” favorite for pizza, nachos, burritos, and fun summer drinks adorned with plastic bobbers instead of paper umbrellas. For a lakeside picnic, Maple Beach Resort & Grill serves up burgers, fries, and hefty onion rings.

In downtown Fergus Falls, the Scandinavian inspired Töast serves Swedish pancakes, French toast topped with rhubarb compote, and specialty toasts topped with smoked salmon, Swedish meatballs, fluffernutter, and more.

1910 Sip House

1910 Sip House / Kvidt Creative

Find Minnesota-made beers at ABC Brewing Co. in Battle Lake, Disgruntled Brewing in Perham, Fergus Brewing Company and Outstate Brewing Company in Fergus Falls or Drastic Measures in Wadena. Find crafted ciders in a quirky repurposed grain bin and vibrant outdoor space at 1910 Sip House in Battle Lake.

For something sweet, get a scoop at Uncle Eddie’s Ice Cream Shop in Fergus Falls or visit Farmer’s Daughter Rustic Bakery in New York Mills. Fuel up for a day of adventure at Betty’s Pantry in Ottertail, Lakes Café in Perham, or Cornfield Café in Pelican Rapids.

Open seasonally May – September, Blackboard in Vergas is a cozy spot in a former schoolhouse with additional seating in their screened in porch, outdoor deck, and green space. The menu celebrates local and seasonal ingredients and features live music on summer nights.

Whistle Stop Inn Bed and Breakfast red train car cabin

Whistle Stop Inn Bed and Breakfast, New York Mills


There are plenty of places to stay in Otter Tail County, including hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, or classic lakeside resorts. For a truly unique experience, stay at Whistle Stop B&B in New York Mills where you can sleep in a repurposed railroad car.

For a more traditional hotel or motel stay, try the Pelican Motel or Lakes Inn at Dunvilla in Pelican Rapids. In nearby Fergus Falls, stay at the AmericInn, Comfort Inn, Hotel 8, or the Country Inn & Suites with their own indoor Minnesota-shaped swimming pool. 

A couple on a wooden swing at Shady Grove Resort, Ottertail

Shady Grove Resort, Ottertail / Kvidt Creative

For a resort getaway, Thumper Pond offers a family-friendly indoor water park or stay near the lake at Bonnie Beach Resort, Bladow Beach Resort, Holly’s Resort, Shady Grove Resort, Sunset Bay Resort, and more.

To truly get away from it all, stay at The Hideaway at Xanadu Island, a small resort on a four-acre island that has welcomed guests for more than 40 years near Battle Lake.

International Turtle Races mural

International Turtle Races mural / Kvidt Creative


Summer is arguably the busiest time for local events and festivals as the community is bustling with visitors. The International Turtle Races in Perham take place Wednesday morning from June to August. The races kick off alongside Turtle Fest in June, that include a half-marathon, street dance, brew fest and a parade. SummerFest in Fergus Falls features live music, local food and drink, classic car shows, a parade, fireworks, and more.

In July, the Phelps Mill Festival hosts an arts and craft show, live music, food and drink, family-friendly activities, and more. In August, Looney Days in Vergas features a loon calling contest, wiener dog races, water ski show, street dance, and more. Eat all the watermelon you can, support local makers, see classic cars, and more at Vining’s Watermelon Day.

Halloween corn maze aerial

Get lost in a Minnesota corn maze to find fall family fun / Jenny Anderson

Find fall harvest festivals, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, and Oktoberfest celebrations scattered throughout the county all season long.

The area embraces winter with the Ottertail Polar Plunge that has raised nearly 334,000 for Special Olympics Minnesota and the Ottertail 100, a plowed lake race on Otter Tail Lake.

Plan your stay in Fergus Falls, Otter Tail, Pelican Rapids, or Perham, and enjoy your time in Otter Tail County