MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Resorts in parts of Minnesota are reporting a record September for visitors.

While they weren’t sure what to expect at the beginning of summer because of COVID-19, many are finding the season has been extended.

Labor Day is the unofficial end to summer, but summer-like vacations are continuing at destinations like Grand View Lodge for families like the Kellys.

“We just had the option to do that since the kids aren’t in school,” mom Stacey Kelly said.

The Kellys are at the resort to relax, but general manager Mark Ronnei says many are choosing to work and distance learn right here. He says they had to increase the Wi-Fi bandwidth to meet the doubled demand.

“The families are saying we don’t have to be home, let’s go up north,” Ronnei said.

The resort would typically be booked for conferences, but with that business on hold for now, others are filling in the gaps.

“September will be the most guests we’ve ever had in the month of September. And it’s because instead of conferences … it’s all going to be families and couples,” Ronnei said. “It’s easy to social distance when we have 1,000 acres.”

Madden’s on Gull Lake COO Ben Thuringer says it saw more first-time visitors than ever. Families are making up for lost corporate business.

“It’s definitely exceeding what we expected. Typically we’re changing gears to go into conference scenarios right now, but it’s still summer for us, so we have all of our summer activities still available,” Thuringer said.

The family-owned resort says it’s grateful Minnesotans have chosen to stay close to home.

“So the combination of the families traveling, the golfers traveling and great weather has really helped us out,” Thuringer said.

Families say they’re making the most of the unusual year.

“We’re just really trying to find the silver lining in all of this,” Kelly said.

The extended season is happening other parts of the state. According to Explore Minnesota, some Ottertail County businesses are seeing more visitors at places that can stay open. And the North Shore and Cook County, home to the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area, are also seeing an increase.

Jennifer Mayerle

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