Find Your Space in Detroit Lakes: 10 Outdoor Activities
Can you feel it? That breath of fresh air is definitely real. It’s time to emerge from our homes and explore again. After being cooped up for so long, doesn’t some time with Mother Nature sound awfully appealing? Your family deserves a break from it all, and there is no better place to reflect, relax and recreate than Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.
The great outdoors beckons you. See how you and your family can celebrate a year of working from home, virtual school and any other nuisance you’ve overcome. This trip is well-earned. Explore these ways to take your first steps and strokes back into some genuine R&R.
1. Connect With Nature
Whether a scenic stroll suits you or an adventurous hike is more your family’s style, start at one of Detroit Lakes’ parks and preserves. You have plenty of space to explore and maintain a healthy distance from others as the area is part of the North Country National Scenic Trail, which runs from North Dakota to Vermont. On the serene shores of Muskrat Lake and Lake Sallie, Dunton Locks County Park has 53 acres to discover, with hiking and biking trails, two fishing piers and two covered shelters with equipment you can use for a memorable summer barbecue.
Learn about Detroit Lakes’ history, flora and fauna on educational displays as you explore swamps, marsh, woods, prairie and trout streams in the 117-acre Sucker Creek Preserve. Then, drive 25 minutes northeast of Detroit Lakes to Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, a 43,000-acre oasis featuring trumpeter swans, elusive gray wolves, porcupines, bears and more (oh my!). For a more confined, but nonetheless magical hike, step onto the 1.6-mile prairie marsh trail sprinkled with wildflowers at The Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District. Other highlights include Buffalo River State Park, Maplewood State Park and Itasca State Park.
2. Go Ride a Bike
Bike the multi-use Heartland Trail from the City Park to the Highway 10 East underpass and 5 miles along the newly opened paved trail. The family-friendly trail takes the rider through woods and prairie near U.S. Highway 10 to a scenic overlook of Acorn Lake near Frazee. This segment of the Heartland Trail will eventually span from Park Rapids to Moorhead and into Fargo, North Dakota.
Detroit Lakes’ warmer months uncover a world of mountain biking on wintertime ski slopes. Feel the rush as you speed down trails and across wooden ramps, and catch air on elevated features at Detroit Mountain, where you can rent your bike on-site. The family-owned and operated Maplelag cross-country ski resort north of Detroit Lakes has miles of trails to explore and hosts the Laddies Loppet mountain bike races every Labor Day weekend. Need a new bike or accessory? Make a stop at DL Bike Shop on Washington Avenue in Detroit Lakes before your adventure.
3. 150 Sails Up
Detroit Lakes is celebrating its sesquicentennial in 2021 and you’re invited on a 150-sailboat hunt! Area artists creatively decorated 150 sailboat sculptures sponsored by businesses throughout the Detroit Lakes community. While the ultimate celebration day for the city of Detroit Lakes is July 29, there are events marking the occasion all year.
4. Horseback Riding
Saddle up for a ride with a view at Timberline Ranch, only minutes from Detroit Lakes. Rides start at age 5 and horses hold anyone weighing 225 pounds or less. Hour-long rides are available during daily trots at 9 am and 11 am. Two guides on every ride lead you and your family through a beautiful forested coulee and along hills for a scenic view. In its 24th year, Timberline Ranch opens May 14 and closes Oct. 1.
5. Pooch Friendly
When you bring your favorite pack member along on vacation, you’ll be delighted to find pet-friendly lodging, dining and dog park romping. With separate fenced areas for small and large dogs, Detroit Lakes’ dog park gives your pooch plenty of running space. Several hotels, resorts and campgrounds are pet-friendly. When it’s time to dine, bring Fido on a leash to restaurants with outdoor decks or patios including Lakeside Tavern, Hub 41, Zorbaz, Bleachers Bar & Brill, Hotel Shoreham, Holiday Inn and Sunlite Bar & Grill.
6. Music, Music, Music!
Grab your blanket or lawn chair and relax on a summer evening in the City Park as live music plays in the bandshell each Tuesday from June through August. Slip on your dancing shoes as many bars and grills feature live music on the weekends. No less than Blake Shelton is headlining the WE Fest Country Music and Camping Festival Aug. 5 through 7, an annual tradition for more than 35 years at Soo Pass Ranch, 5 mere miles south of Detroit Lakes.
7. Shop Outdoors
Detroit Lakes has an array of unique shops on Washington Avenue downtown, where you can support local businesses aiming to recover from the pandemic. On weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day, seek out antiques, jewelry, collectibles and decor at Shady Hollow Flea Market. There is a grill and rotating food trucks on-site at the market, and those in the know say the kettle corn is a must! The summer kicks off when Lakeshirts Beach Shop across from the Detroit Lakes City Beach opens for the season. Find T-shirts, hoodies, surf-inspired casualwear, swim gear and groovy discounts at its famous outdoor tent sales.
8. Scenic Dining
Meals are served with a view in Detroit Lakes, with many restaurants having outdoor patios and lakeside locations. Lakeside Tavern and Zorbaz serve casual eats and plenty of beers on tap right at Detroit Lake, and you can get family-friendly comfort food at Hub 41 nearby. Catch a game at Bleachers Sports Bar and Grill, Pit 611 or Sunlite Bar & Grill. Enjoy fine dining at Detroit Lakes icon The Fireside. Sip wine while overlooking Rose Lake at Spanky’s Stone Hearth, or try the top-rated steaks and barbecue ribs on the outdoor patio at Spitfire Bar & Grill.
Long Bridge Bar, Grill and Marina brings the flavors and laid-back feel of the islands to its waterfront spot, along with a marina to moor your boat. Step back in time along Lake Sallie at the historic Hotel Shoreham Bar, Bistro and Pizzeria built in 1910. Brygge Taps and Tastes has the vibe on hygge with an outdoor fireplace that provides a spot for cold beers, burgers and light bites. Fuel up at local coffee shop LaBarista; try the locally roasted beans and freshly baked sweets at Roasted Pub and Eatery; or sip an espresso drink on the patio at Mi Cartagena Cafe, directly across from the City Beach at Little Detroit Lake. Diners have enjoyed the best view of Big Detroit Lake at The Ice House Restaurant at the Holiday Inn Detroit Lakes – Lakefront since 1976, but don’t kid yourself: The burgers, brunch and prime rib would be good from any vantage point.
9. Go Fishing
With more than 400 lakes within 25 miles, Detroit Lakes has an incredible array of places to have a reel good time. You can fish off the pier at the City Beach on Detroit Lake, or rent a boat from J&K Marina and fish for walleye, bass, trout, perch and other panfish in the peaceful waters. Hop aboard with one of our local fishing guides to make the catch of a lifetime. Return in the fall to pursue lunker muskies! The area hotels and lakeside resorts and campgrounds cater to fishing enthusiasts with kayaks and canoes, boat launches and docks. Check the weekly Detroit Lakes fishing report before casting your net. Be warned: You’ll be hooked on this sport after the first bite.
10. Tee Off
Are you a family of golfers? Maybe Dad wants a small getaway. Detroit Lakes has seven golf courses that offer nine and 18 holes. Wildflower at Fair Hills may not remain one of the state’s best-kept golf secrets for much longer. Sporting a “Prairie Links” design, the par-72 course is as beautiful as it is challenging — a true reward for a tough year. If putting is more your style, Forest Hills Resort has mini-golf in addition to its 18-hole championship course. Hard ice cream and a candy shop make this a hole-in-one.
With so much to do, start planning your trip here today.