Just a two-hour drive up north and you’ll find a beautiful area, perfect for a weekend getaway. The Brainerd Lakes Area is a refreshing vacation spot from the hustle and bustle of the Twin Cities. 

Full of scenic views and tons of charm, this northern gem has everything you would need for a great leisure escape, jam-packed with plenty of choices for your mini-vacation.

To find out more about these options, I thought we’d go straight to the experts. Kathi Nagorski is a public relations and special events coordinator with the Brainerd Lakes Chamber. She was full of ideas on how visitors could best spend their time in the Brainerd Lakes Area — especially in this upcoming fall season.

So without further ado, here’s Kathi and her recommendations on the 10 best ways to spend a day in Brainerd.

Credit: Brainerd Lakes Chamber

The Fishing

Explore Brainerd Lakes Fishing

World-class fishing is a great reason to visit the Brainerd Lakes Area, especially during the fall. Gull Lake offers great walleye fishing during September and October but there are hundreds of lakes to choose from here with good fall fishing. You can find species from crappies to trout, walleye to muskies.

Credit: Brainerd Lakes Chamber

The Golfing

Explore Brainerd Lakes Golfing

It may be difficult to find finer golf courses in all of Minnesota, which is a major reason why Golf Digest has ranked this region one of the “Top Golf Destinations in the World.” Area golf courses, many designed by legends in the game, become even more picturesque as Mother Nature splashes her paintbrush through the woods bordering the fairways.

Credit: Brainerd Lakes Chamber

The Hiking and Biking

Explore Brainerd Lakes Trails

With more than 100 miles of paved trail, the Paul Bunyan Trail, which stretches from Brainerd to Bemidji, provides a great outlet to stretch your legs, take in the scenic views and enjoy the outdoors before the winter cold sets in.

Credit: Brainerd Lakes Chamber

The Shopping

Explore Brainerd Lakes Shopping

With stores big and small, the Brainerd Lakes Area is a dream come true for shoppers. Many gift shops offer one-of-a-kind finds while the major retail stores provide that familiar place where you can find what’s on your checklist.

Credit: Brainerd Lakes Chamber

The Dining

Explore Brainerd Lakes Dining

From small diners where you can grab a sandwich and a piece of homemade pie to unique restaurants serving gourmet meals, you will be able to satisfy any craving in Brainerd. Look for many familiar names here, as well as those rare local finds. And be sure to check out the many old-fashioned candy shops and ice cream parlors, sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Credit: Brainerd Lakes Chamber

The Scenic Views

Explore Brainerd Lakes Fall Attractions

Whether driving along County Road 77 around Gull Lake, Camp Lincoln Road near Lake Hubert or the newly reconstructed Riverside Drive along the Mississippi River, options abound in the Brainerd Lakes Area for a leisurely ride along scenic roadways to take in the striking fall colors.

Credit: Brainerd Lakes Chamber

Franklin Arts Center

Explore Brainerd Lakes Franklin Arts

The Franklin Arts Center on Washington Street in Brainerd, housed in the former Franklin Junior High School, is home to art studios and living quarters of numerous area artists. It also is home to the Crossing Arts Alliance, which serves to promote and enhance arts opportunities in the area through facilities, partnering and programming. The art gallery is open Tuesdays through Fridays as well as the second Saturday of each month. Look for the fall calendar of events for additional details.

Credit: Brainerd Lakes Chamber

Northland Arboretum

Explore Brainerd Lakes Northland Arboretum

The Northland Arboretum, with more than 500 acres in the heart of Brainerd and Baxter, showcases a variety of flowers, trees and wildlife. Fall provides a perfect time to explore the arboretum trails. Points of interest include the Monet Bridge and Pond, the DNR Landscaping for Wildlife project, as well as many flower beds and displays.

Credit: Brainerd Lakes Chamber

Downtown Brainerd

Downtown Brainerd

Since 2007, the Brainerd Main Street Program has worked to improve, revitalize and stimulate economic opportunity in Brainerd. A $1.6 million downtown revitalization project has helped place the spotlight on the great shopping and dining opportunities in the re-energized historic district. New cobblestone sidewalks plus streetscape lighting and landscaping can be found by those walking or biking the downtown district.

Credit: Brainerd Lakes Chamber

The Corn Maze

Brainerd’s Corn Maze

Check out the Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch at The Farm on St. Mathias and the Haunted House and Haunted Corn Maze at Paul Bunyan Land at This Old Farm Pioneer Village. Every fall, both major attractions host fun — and sometimes spooky — activities for people of all ages. The Farm on St. Mathias is an 80-acre farm three miles south of Brainerd along County Road 21. Paul Bunyan Land, an amusement park, is east of Brainerd along Highway 18. You can also visit the giant Babe the Blue Ox here, outside Paul Bunyan Bowl.