The Brainerd Lakes Area is rich in history and up-north natural beauty, making it a popular vacation destination for both play and relaxation. Whether you’re looking to enjoy a challenging round of golf, a day out on the lake, or a memorable stay at a picturesque lakeside resort, Brainerd is a great place to take your family. Here are just a few of the many highlights of this area.
paul bunyan land1 Family Fun Guide To Brainerd


Paul Bunyan Land
17553 State Highway 18
Brainerd, MN
Hours: Open daily Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., plus select holidays
Ages 3-17: $14.95
Ages 18+: $12.95
Seniors: $11.95

I remember visiting the legendary Paul Bunyan as a kid, in both Brainerd and Bemidji. But the 26’ tall statue in Brainerd is the one that left me completely perplexed. Paul could talk. And he called me by name! It wasn’t until I was older that I caught my dad secretly giving our names to a park attendant. It was a great gig while it lasted! Paul Bunyan Land has since relocated from the space I once visited in my youth to join This Old Farm Pioneer Village. Now your family can enjoy both the rides and attractions (cost of admission includes all day use) associated with Paul Bunyan, and take in a wide variety of antiques and collectibles from days gone by at the Village.

northland arboretum1 Family Fun Guide To Brainerd


Northland Arboretum
14250 Conservation Drive
Baxter, MN
Visitor Center Hours: Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and some Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Trail Hours: hiking and biking trails open sunrise to sunset daily during spring, summer, and fall
Trail use fee: $3 for adults, $1 for children, free for Arboretum members

Resting on over 500 acres of natural beauty, the Northland Arboretum provides the ability to experience the local environment and wildlife, plus tools to learn more about how to protect them. Get out on their nature trails for a walk or a ride on your bike. You’ll find the Monet Bridge and Pond, the Girl Scout Secret Garden, plus many beautiful flower beds maintained by local volunteers.

Get out on the lake!

boating on gull lake1 Family Fun Guide To Brainerd

(credit: Brenda Score)

Lakes are plentiful in the Brainerd area and so are the reasons to get out there and enjoy them! From fishing at this year round world-class destination, to building sandcastles at the beach or cruising the lake with a ski boat or a slower paced pontoon, there’s something for everyone. There is a public boat access on virtually every lake, so bring your water craft or choose from a wide variety of rentals. Getting out on the water is the only way to truly experience the Land of 10,000 Lakes!

Host a family reunion!

family reunion1 Family Fun Guide To Brainerd


If you’ve been looking for a place to gather your family for some relaxation, play, and just plain catching up on life, Brainerd has you covered. Family reunions are commonplace here, and for good reason. The area offers endless outdoor opportunities and a multitude of options for lakeside lodging. Check out this list of places to lay your head. There’s something for everyone, whether it’s roughing it under the stars or indulging in luxurious privacy, complete with top-notch children’s programs and relaxing spas. My family has stayed at a number of beautiful Brainerd Lakes properties over the years, for both business and pleasure — and for a week-long family reunion — and we are always completely smitten with the idea of a return visit to the area.

pirates cove adventure1 Family Fun Guide To Brainerd

(credit: Brenda Score)

Play some mini golf!

Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf
17992 State Highway 371 North
Brainerd, MN
Hours: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily
Ages 13+: $7.95
Ages 4-12: $7.50

Mini golf is always a hit with our family, no matter where we play. But this pirate themed course was an exceptionally fun time. We putted next to cascading waterfalls, through a dark and cool mountain cave, over footbridges, and across a pirate ship. The course was clean and well cared for, and us older folk enjoyed the round just as much as our young buccaneers.

the pines golf course1 Family Fun Guide To Brainerd


Play some big golf, too!

For those of you who like to swing your clubs with a bit more might, Brainerd is truly a golfer’s paradise, ranked as “One of the Top 50 Golf Destinations in the World” by Golf Digest. Area courses and resorts have received numerous national golf awards, offering a variety of challenging holes and awe inspiring scenery. Make a tee time and enjoy the best golf in the Midwest!

paul bunyan trail1 Family Fun Guide To Brainerd


Paul Bunyan State Trail

Enjoy hiking, biking, or in-line skating from Brainerd’s landmark trail, the scenic Paul Bunyan State Trail. Built on a former Burlington Northern corridor, and over 100 miles in length, this generally level and paved trail lets outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and abilities experience some of Minnesota’s most beautiful woods, lakes, and farmland. The trail winds from Crow Wing State park near Brainerd, north through charming small-town communities and the more secluded Chippewa National Forest, to Lake Bemidji State Park. With local equipment rentals, multiple locations for trail access, and a variety of on-trail services such as food, drink, bike repair, and lodging, this signature trail is not to be missed. Check out this virtual tour from the DNR for a better look!

brainerd international raceway1 Family Fun Guide To Brainerd


Brainerd International Raceway
5523 Birchdale Road
Brainerd, MN

And for those of you looking for speed and action-packed excitement … Brainerd International Raceway boasts a world-class drag strip, plus road racing. BIR is a favorite of racers at all levels. Fans enter the gates to experience the heart pounding adrenalin of speed, horsepower, and competition, as racers provide the thrills. There are many events scheduled over the summer, with something sure to please every race enthusiast.

Brenda Score is the Minnesota blog author of A Farmgirl’s Dabbles, where she shares stories of family and fabulous food. You can find Brenda, on Facebook atAFarmgirlsDabbles, and on Twitter as@farmgirlsdabble.


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