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If you’re looking for a day trip or weekend getaway, Brainerd in Crow Wing County is the perfect place. With its picturesque lakes, hiking trails, and quaint shops, it’s easy to spend a day or two exploring all the attractions this town has to offer. Here are some of the fun things to do in Brainerd Minnesota any season.
I’m not going to lie, the first time I went to Brainerd I was a little overwhelmed. People kept saying how many fun things to do there were, but I couldn’t get past Paul Bunyan Land Amusement Park.
Short on time, decided to head home right after. But there is so much more to do. I did some quick research and headed back for multiple trips.
If you are like me you may want more than a Day Trip to Brainerd, here are some of my favorite things to do, places to eat, and stay on your next adventure.
Outdoor activities and beautiful parks all sitting right next to Mille Lacs Lake, Brainerd is a popular destination with a little bit of everything!
Things to do in Brainerd Minnesota
Safari North Wildlife Park
Location: 8493 Minnesota 371, Brainerd, MN 56401
The Safari Wildlife Park’s mission is to promote lifelong learning and foster environmental respect. They achieve this by providing positive experiences that last a lifetime. The Safari Wildlife Park is a load of family fun!
Safari North Wildlife Park in Brainerd MN has Bears, Giraffes, Cougars, Giger, Wolves, Bobcats, Alligators, Snakes, Turtles, and more. They also have a few different experiences to make it extra special.
They include the chance to feed giraffes, a parakeet encounter, and camel rides. There is a barnyard and petting area too!
Safari North is a great place to explore. What I love is you don’t have to deal with any crowds.
Stage North Theatre Company
Location: 1001 Kingwood Street, Brainerd, MN 56401
Looking to sit back and watch some live entertainment. You need to check out the Stage North Theatre Company. They have performances going on all the time. Their usual performance center is at the Franklin Arts Center Theatre.
Stop in and see a performance of Annie or The Crucible!
Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf
Location: 17992 Minnesota 371, Brainerd, MN 56401
Enter the world of 18th-century Pirates. This is a fun family activity you need to do! They have two different beautifully landscaped 18-hole mini golf courses. With a mountain cave, food bridges, pirate ship, and even a waterfall.
Pick a course that looks fun or do them both!
Pine Beach East at Madden’s
Location: 11266 Pine Beach Peninsula, Brainerd, MN 56401
Home to a 618-yard Par 6 Minnesota’s only Par 6, Pine Beach East is a great course for anyone looking for a challenging round of golf.
The Pine Beach East golf course was originally designed by Scotsman James Dalgleish in 1926. It has retained its traditional charm, but some changes have been made to make it more modern and playable.
This is a great place to swing your clubs.
Brainerd Zip Line Tour
Location: 9898 County Road 77 Southwest, Nisswa, MN 56468
If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush while on your Brainerd Lakes vacation, be sure to take the Brainerd Zipline Tour! This tour will take you on a journey through the trees, suspended sky bridge, and 50-foot free-fall drop, all while experiencing breathtaking views of the area.
This is an impressive course with amazing staff to help you out. After doing the 7 different zips, all with hand braking, you’ll have the option to do a 50 foot free fall drop. It had me weak at knees. If you have a fear of falling, you can easily skip it!
I highly recommend this adventure. I took my sister on this trip and we both had a blast! Definitely one of our favorite things to do in Brainerd Minnesota.
The Brainerd Zip Line Tour is a lot of fun! Top 9 Tips about the best Zipline Tour in Brainerd
Northland Kart Kountry
Location: 17568 Minnesota 371, Brainerd, MN 56401
Northland Kart Country is the perfect place for the go-karters of the family. There are three go-kart tracks – Can-Am, Indy, and Bullit – each with its own unique atmosphere and features.
the Can-Am Track is family-friendly, and Indy Racing is high-performance fun. You gotta check out the Off-Road Karts too!
There’s also a batting cage, a bungee bounce, water wars, VR action world, a jump shot, a climbing wall, a video arcade, a spin zone, mini golf, and a snack shack.
Northland Kart Country family fun is the perfect place to spend a day with family or friends!
North Central Speedway
Location: 9651 Minnesota 371 Business, Brainerd, MN 56401
The North Central Speedway in Brainerd Minnesota is a 1/3 mile dirt track that hosts racing from April through October. The track is located in a rural area and features banked turns and a high-speed finish.
Paul Bunyan Land Amuseument Park
Location: 17553 Minnesota 18, Brainerd, MN 56401
Paul Bunyan Land is a fun place, especially for younger kids. The small Amusement Park has all the best carnival rides. The best part is seeing the larger-than-life Paul Bunyan say Hi to your kids.
You’ll see his companion Babe the Big Blue Ox in the parking lot.
The park has little to no wait for rides. Whimsical large pumpkins, and a jail cell photo op. There are some big kid rides too, but it’s more geared toward younger children.
Location: 17553 Minnesota 18, Brainerd, MN 56401
This fun stop is part of Paul Bunyan Land. While one half is an amusement park, the other is an old pioneer village. Walk through the Music Store, Find the school house or the Saloon!
There are a few places to explore. Each building is filled with antique pieces from that time.
What I was surprised most about was the enormous collection they’ve amassed. With buildings that go on forever. When you are there, see if you can find Paul Bunyan’s Pocket Watch!
Three Bear Waterpark at the Holiday Inn Express
Location: 15739 Audubon Way, Brainerd, MN 56401
When it comes to epic waterparks, Three Bear Waterpark in Brainerd always comes to mind. That’s because it has the Big Splash, a 1,000-gallon splash bucket, and two 300’ slides. There is a giant hot tub for adults that can fit 18 people.
Two basketball hoops and a lazy river! The kid’s play area has a plunge slide, tot slide, and Cub Express.
When you get hungry, head over to the nearby food bar. What I love is that they have locker rooms on site! No need to run back to your room.
If you are not staying at the hotel, call before coming in. They offer public passes from Sunday – Thursday. This is on my kid’s list of the best things to do!
Three Bear Waterpark has a priority entrance for hotel guests. Ensure you can get in by booking a room.
Gull Lake Cruises
Location: 11000 Craguns Drive, Brainerd, MN 56401
Being right next to the water, you should really get on it! Gull Lake Cruises offers luxury yacht cruises on Gull Lake, as well as private charters for any occasion.
Their boats are comfortable with sightseeing cruises for daytime and evening dining cruises. The outdoor observation deck is perfect for taking in beautiful scenery while relaxing at the indoor salon.
Downtown Brainerd St Patrick’s Day Parade
Location: 708 Laurel Street, Brainerd, MN 56401
Stop into Brainerd in the Spring for St Patrick’s Day.
The Crosslake St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Celebration is back and bigger and better than ever! This iconic event has a long 48-year history and was voted WCCO’s Viewer’s Choice for Best Parade in MN.
This celebration has high energy and fun for all ages, with individuals chasing the Lucky Leprechaun to find the Pot O’ Gold. In the parade, float after float is buzzing with activity, music, and candy.
Brainerd Ski Loons Water Ski Show Team
Location: 501 Laurel Street, Brainerd, MN 56401
Have you ever seen a water ski show in person? Throughout the season, the Ski Loons get together and put on Free Shows throughout the community.
With pyramids, jumps, and more, your kids will love it. They regularly appear at Lum Park and at Ruttger’s Resort. Love water skiing? You should find out how you can join the team.
They are always looking for new members. If you are looking for some fun things to do in Brainerd Minnesota, check them out!
Brainerd International Raceway
Location: 5523 Birchdale Road, Brainerd, MN 56401
The Brainerd International Raceway is the largest racetrack in the Upper Midwest. There you can see all kinds of racing from Drag strips to motorcycling to Drifting. They even have a racing school.
The three-quarter-mile drag racing strip is considered the fastest in the world after Tony Schumacher went 337.58 MPH on it in 2005.
One of the most popular events is the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, with Top Alcohol and Top fuel cars. When big events aren’t going on street cars will test their speeds there.
There are also two road racing courses. A 2.5-mile, 13-turn track called the Competition Road Course and a 3.1-mile Donnybrook Road course with 8 turns. The last turn is a 300-degree right-hand clover!
If you want some good entertainment, or even to test out your own vehicle, I recommend stopping in for a visit.
Thinking of taking your kids to Brainerd International Raceway? Here are some great tips!
Billy Bones Raceway
Location: 17944 Minnesota 371, Brainerd, MN 56401
Right next to the pirate golf adventure is the Billy bones Raceway. This is a great place to let the wind go through your hair. They have three go-card tracks, including a special track designed just for kids, 100lbs and less.
For older kids, I recommend doing the Wicked Willie’s Aggressive track. It has tight corners and hairpin turns through the ruins of an old pirate fort. You must be 40 inches and with a parent, or over 48 inches to go solo.
Buster Dog Park
Location: 1101 East River Road, Brainerd, MN 56401
Bringing your favorite four-legged friend with you to Brainerd? You gotta let them run free at Buster Dog Park.
The dog park is a completely fenced-in one-acre place for the dog to run off-leash. There are some great shady trees for humans. Plenty of space to see your dog at all times!
Location: 602 Juniper Street, Brainerd, MN 56401
Gregory Park is a great place to spend a day with the kids with over 11 acres to explore. There are plenty of activities to keep them busy, like 2 playgrounds, tennis courts, pickleball courts, and a basketball court.
And if they need to take a break, there’s a Pavilion with a kitchenette and restrooms. Take a stroll around the fountain or listen to some music at the historic bandstand. Plus, there’s a Skating Rink and Gazebo for colder days.
Paul Bunyan State Trail
Location: 3124 State Park Road, Brainerd, MN 56401
The Paul Bunyan Trail is a long-distance biking trail that connects Brainerd to Bemidji. The ride starts in the town of Brainerd and winds its way through rolling hills and farmland, with stunning views of lakes, rivers, and forests along the way.
The bike trail is around 115 miles long. It is the longest continuously paved rail trial in the country. There are also several rest stops along the way. If you are up for a biking challenge, this is a great one. Otherwise, feel free to do it in smaller sections as I have.
Lakes Area BMX
Location: 10415 Town Hall Street, Brainerd, MN 56401
If you’re looking for a hardcore BMX course that will give you a real adrenaline rush, then the Lakes Area BMX course is perfect for you. With steep backsides, deep turns, and downhill sections, this track is sure to let you race at your best.
Get some dirt on those tires. Young and old come out and do this fun sport! You’ll be hooked at your first practice. Or head out and race others! There’s nothing like it!
Crow Wing State Park
Location: 3124 State Park Road, Brainerd, MN 56401
If you’re looking for a hike, Crow Wing State Park is a great option. The park has miles of trails that wind through the woods and along the river. The park sits along the Mississippi River, making it a prime paddling location.
I absolutley love all the fun things to do in Brainerd MN at the park.
On the hiking trail, you’ll notice a historical church onsite. It actually is used still and is the only MN State Park that has a historic church onsite.
Like most MN State Parks, they also have great camping on-site. It’s a perfect place to stay and will help you stay within budget on vacation.
This is on my list of top 10 state parks to visit in MN, mostly because of how scenic the hikes are!
Crow Wing State Park is on my list of top 10 state parks to visit in MN, mostly because of how scenic the hikes are! Click here to find out more about Crow Wing State Park’s great trails and other things to do by clicking here.
Lakes Area Music Festival
Location: 711 Laurel Street, Brainerd, MN 56401
Take a trip to the Brainerd Lakes Area this summer for the annual Lakes Area Music Festival. Over 180 artists from the nation’s leading orchestras and opera companies will come to perform chamber music, orchestra, and opera. The event takes place in the beautiful lakes region and is a great way to spend a summer day.
VR Action World at Kart Kountry
Location: 17568 Minnesota 371, Brainerd, MN 56401
VR action world is a new immersive park that features virtual reality attractions to let your mind explore like never before. This park has 10 simulators and hundreds of games and challenges that can be enjoyed by anyone, young or old.
The platforms offer the most advanced technology and graphics which helps to fully disconnect from reality and transport you to amazing new worlds.
The simulated environment is explored in 360 degrees and places the user inside the virtual environment to give an immersive experience. There are also real angled motion, roaring engines, and spinning wheels (racing sim) for a truly immersive experience.
Great Pumpkin Festival
Location: 523 South 5th Street, Brainerd, MN 56401
Sticking around for Brainerd in the Fall? It’s a truly beautiful place to be and most of the season fun is still around. You’ll need to check out the Great Pumpkin Festival.
It is a fun-filled event that is held in Brainerd, MN each year. Activities and events include: MN Adult and Teen Challenge, pumpkin rolling races, sack races, three-legged races, wheelbarrow races, and bouncy ball races (Hippity Hoppity). The festival is free and open to the public.
Location: 5523 Birchdale Road, Brainerd, MN 56401
If your idea of a perfect summer day includes some good music, lakeside relaxation, and plenty of activities to keep you busy, then head to Lakes Jam in Brainerd.
This festival features several music stages, watercress racing, lawn mower racing, poker tournaments, and more. So whether you’re into country music or rap, there’s sure to be something for you at Lakes Jam.
Crow Wing Viking Festival
Location: 2000 SE 13th St, Brainerd, MN 56401
The Crow Wing Viking Festival celebrates the Viking age and its history with authentic Viking costumes, crafts, weapons, and games. Think Renaissance Festival but with Vikings!
The festival is family-friendly and features reenactments that are historically accurate but still appropriate for all. Parking is free and gates open at 9:30 am.
Ice Fishing Extravaganza
Location: Hole in the Day Bay, Gull Lake
While summer may be one of the most popular seasons for Brainerd Adventures, the Winter months are what made them world famous!
The Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza is the largest charitable ice fishing contest on earth, and it’s always a great time. Held annually ten miles north in the Brainerd area.
The event features hundreds of anglers from all over the world competing in a variety of events. The proceeds from the event go to local charities.
Say Hello To Paul!
Location: 7393 MN-371, Brainerd, MN 56401
Get our photo taken with Paul Bunyan. This statue is super easy to find at the Brainerd Welcome Center. As you roll into town, stop in and say hello! Chasing the Paul Bunyan Statues is one of the fun things to do in Brainerd Minnesota and all over the State!
Wonder where else to see Paul Bunyan Statues are around Minnesota? Check out: Everything you need to know about Paul Bunyan statues in Minnesota
5Rocks Distilling Co.
Location: 25 Washington Street Northeast, Brainerd, MN 56401
If you’re looking for a microdistillery with impeccable service and a taste that’s distinctly Minnesota, 5Rocks Distilling Co. is the place to go. The family-owned business offers guests personalized attention and top-notch products.
Selling Vodka, Amaretto, Gin, Whiskey, Bourbon, and more. Each of their brews is made in small batches, helping to control the quality. They stay true to their MN roots and even have a Cold North Vodka crated from MN-grown Wild Wrice and Sugar Beets!
Stop into their cocktail room and try something out. Or pick up a cocktail kit to try at home. Kids are allowed in before 7 pm.
Location: 1551 Northern Pacific Road, Brainerd, MN 56401
If you’re looking for a place to enjoy a delicious craft beer while spending time with family, then look no further than the roundhouse brewery in Brainerd MN. They have non-alcoholic options like soda and kombucha that are great for any age.
Their taproom is open daily with indoor seating and a patio for outdoor seating. Outside, you might even have a live band playing!
Stop into their Wreck Room for some ax-throwing. They have a coach onsite to guide you through it if it’s your first time.
So whether you’re coming for a quick drink after work or spending the afternoon grilling out with friends, we’re sure you’ll love our venue!
Jack Pine Brewery
Location: 15593 Edgewood Drive North, Brainerd, MN 56401
If you’re looking for a brewery that specializes in hard ciders, Jack Pine is the place for you. The brewery has a wide variety of cider flavors to choose from, and they often have seasonal and limited edition releases. Plus, the beer is delicious too – check out their pale ale, IPA, and brown ale.
Pets are welcome on the patio. They have games and plenty of non-alcoholic drinks to keep kids hydrated. Even though they sell food, there are always food trucks parked outside so you won’t go hungry. Jack Pine Brewery is the perfect place to enjoy a drink in Brainerd.
Dennis Drummond Wine Co
Location: 11919 Thiesse Road, Brainerd, MN 56401
Dennis Drummond Wine Co is a small restaurant in Brainerd, MN that offers a large selection of cheese and wine. The restaurant is family-owned and operated, and its motto is “Food you can enjoy.”
They have a wide variety of wines to choose from, as well as locally made cheese. It’s a great place to stop for a meal or a drink with friends.
They have a good side ballroom that works great for large events. They offer winery tours, but the biggest draw is the Bistro food!
Coco Moon Coffee Bar
Location: 601 Laurel Street, Brainerd, MN 56401
Coco Moon Coffee is a locally owned and operated coffee shop located in the heart of Downtown Brainerd. They offer a variety of coffee drinks, pastries, and non-coffee drinks.
If you are staying overnight or just need a pick-me-up in the middle of the day as I do, you need to stop into the Coco Moon Coffee Shop.
Knotty Pine Bakery
Location: 707 Laurel Street, Brainerd, MN 56401
If you’re looking for an artisan bakery that focuses on pies, pastries, kronuts, cakes, and scratch-made treats, look no further than At Knotty Pine Bakery.
Whether you’re in the mood for a classic apple pie or something a little more unique, like a blueberry pie with lavender whipped cream, you’re sure to find something to your taste at Knotty Pine.
What I love about Knotty Pine Bakery is the order online feature for pick-up, No more worrying about getting there first thing to get your fresh baked bread. Order it ahead. Or if you are like me, stock up and bring some home with you back to the Twin Cities.
Goody’s Gourmet Treats
Location: 1531 Northern Pacific Road, Brainerd, MN 56401
If you got a sweet tooth, you need to check out Goody’s Gourmet Treats. They have everything you could want from gourmet popcorn to Ice Cream and candies! What I wasn’t expecting to see was their selection of craft soda. They make their own Northern Soda.
The Local 218
Location: 723 Mill Ave, Brainerd, MN 56401
If you are looking for a great atmosphere, amazing food and cocktails, and friendly company, you need to visit The Local 218. They serve amazing American favorites like Burgers, Po-Boy’s, and Philly Cheese Stakes.
In addition to the great food, they have a fully stocked bar with inspiring cocktails. You will find something to wet your appetite.
Grizzlies Wood Fired Grill
Location: 15159 Edgewood Dr N, Baxter, MN 56425
Looking for fresh food made from scratch? Come in and try their house-made mac-in-cheese, bear creek pasta, or fresh Atlantic Salmon. They have wood-smoked rotisserie baby back ribs and wood-roasted chicken.
They have a great atmosphere for the entire family plus amazing service. You gotta try them out!
Location: 14901 Edgewood Dr N, Baxter, MN 56425
Everything you’d expect from a diner like good food, Malts, Shakes and so much more. They are always busy but don’t worry, they know what they are doing and flip tables quickly so guests are never waiting long.
I recommend getting their Bacon Cheeseburger and order of Cheese Curds!
Lum Park – Beach & RV Park
Location: 1102 J Street, Brainerd, MN 56401
Lum Park is a beautiful park to swim at. With a large public beach, the kids will be loving it. They also have Disc Golf and boat access on site. This is a city-run park, but there are 18 campsites there.
Questions about Brainerd MN
What is Brainerd is known for?
Brainerd, Minnesota is known for its natural beauty and outdoor recreational activities. Located in the heart of the state’s lakes country, Brainerd is surrounded by more than 500 lakes, making it a popular destination for fishing, boating, and other water sports.
The Mississippi River also runs through the city, providing opportunities for kayaking and canoeing.
What are my favorite things to do in Brainerd Minnesota?
I love the public parks, and sitting along the waterfront, whether it’s the Crow Wing River or the Mississippi, you’ll find me close to the water. My kids will be on the go-kart track or the bike trails!
My husband on the other hand loves the race tracks! While Brainerd may be a small town, there are plenty of fun things to do. This is the perfect opportunity for a weekend getaway or a day trip!