Make New Memories at a Minnesota Resort

By Erica Wacker

Family bonfire Grand View Lodge, Brainerd Nisswa

Toasting marshmallows around the campfire, staying up late to catch fireflies, playing tag with the kids from the next cabin. If you grew up in Minnesota, these images may remind you of summers spent at a lakeside resort. Even if you haven’t been to one, it’s never too late to start a new tradition and make some memories of your own.

Minnesota is home to more than 750 resorts that range from quaint to luxurious, with a large concentration in the northern half of the state. Though not as numerous as they were 30 years ago, today’s resorts have upgraded, expanded and diversified, enticing travelers to get away and experience life’s simpler pleasures.

“There’s something nostalgic about a resort vacation,” says Su Ugstad, owner of Balsam Bay Resort on Big Sand Lake near Remer. “You go as a kid and it sticks with you, even if you just went one time. It’s something that’s so unique, laidback, friendly and wholesome.”

Family Traditions

Resort family near Grand RapidsThose who vacation at resorts often find themselves coming back year after year, and even generation after generation. Whether it’s a certain patch of beach, a particular lakeside cabin or a lucky fishing spot, there’s something that makes these places feel like a home away from home.

The connection between resorts and families applies not only to the guests, but often to the owners as well. Peters Sunset Beach Resort on Lake Minnewaska in Glenwood, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, has employed five generations of the Peters family. Cabins designed specifically for family reunion groups, tennis courts, a swimming beach and kids play area add to the family-friendly atmosphere.

Dating back to 1898, Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge in Deerwood is the longest-running family-operated resort in Minnesota. Today, the founder’s great grandchildren run all four Ruttger’s properties, which include Birchmont Lodge in Bemidji, Sugar Lake Lodge near Grand Rapids and Pine Mountain Camping Resort near Backus.

Unique Accommodations

When it comes to sleeping arrangements, the choices are plentiful. Cabins, with anywhere from one to as many as 10 bedrooms, are ideal for families or groups of friends. Just bring your suitcases and some food to cook, and make yourselves at home. A kitchen stocked with dishes, pots and pans, living and dining areas, and linens are usually included. Some cabins come equipped with fireplaces, air conditioning, TVs, grills and other extras.

For couples or smaller groups, many resorts offer rooms in the main lodge. Some have kitchens, fireplaces and even hot tubs, and are steps away from everything the lodge has to offer, which may include a game room, dining area, bait shop, laundry facilities and other amenities for all guests to use.

No two resorts are the same, and each one caters to different types of travelers. Some, like Lutsen Resort and Bluefin Bay on the North Shore, have townhomes and condos available for rent, while others, including Balsam Bay and Kitchi Landing Resort in Cass Lake, feature campgrounds for RVs, trailers and tents. Or ditch the land altogether and spend your time on a houseboat at Timber Bay Lodge on Birch Lake or Hiawatha Beach Resort on Leech Lake.

Activities for All Ages

Peters Sunset Resort in GlenwoodOne of the best things about a resort vacation? You never have to leave the premises if you don’t want to. Usually located on a lake or river, resorts give their guests access to boats, places to fish, swimming beaches and other water-based fun, like hydro-bikes and floating trampolines. Some also have heated swimming pools for splashing and hot tubs for relaxing.

If you’d rather have someone else do the cooking while you’re on vacation, many resorts feature full-service restaurants open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some have snack bars, convenience stores and pubs to supplement your meals. Or take part in a true Minnesota tradition: Cedar Rapids Lodge north of Bemidji hosts a weekly potluck dinner, and Nelson’s Resort on Crane Lake is known for its Thursday night smorgasbord.

On-site spas can be a draw for couples retreats and girlfriends getaways. Book your services, such as massages, facials, body treatments and nail services, a la carte when you arrive, or as part of a lodging package. A few resorts with full-service spas include Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria, Surfside on Lake Superior in Tofte and Thumper Pond Resort in Ottertail.

For golfers, more than 40 Minnesota resorts have courses on the property; some, like Cragun’s, Madden’s, Giants Ridge and Grand View Lodge, have more than one. Look for specials that combine overnight stays with rounds of golf.

Plan your Minnesota resort vacation and search for places to stay by location, amenities and other features in our comprehensive lodging directory.