The Ultimate Guide to a Water-Filled Family Vacation in Detroit Lakes
In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, stands out as a popular destination for family vacations. It’s easy to see why. Detroit Lakes sets a picturesque stage for many an activity, but you don’t have to get on the water to have a good time. Of course, would you really want to miss out on the swimming, scuba diving, jet skiing, fishing and paddleboard adventures? We didn’t think so!
With the stress of everyday life, an escape to natural beauty appeals to all of us. After a long year of school, kids are ready to unwind. Parents have been working hard. Finding some much-needed R&R shouldn’t be a chore also. Enter Detroit Lakes, where, as we already hinted, there is no shortage of activities. The hardest part of a trip here might be choosing what to do next, unless you just see where the day takes you—there’s no going wrong.
Detroit Lakes’ universal appeal is evident. Families in the Midwest make the trip as part of a tradition. No matter where you hail from, now, with the world reopening, is the time to explore a beautiful part of this country you may have never visited. Parents will find great ways to relax and kids could jump in the lake all day if allowed.
Don’t take our word for it. Seeing is believing in Detroit Lakes. Get your feet wet here and then start planning for the family vacation you always wanted to enjoy!
Life’s a Beach
Nothing quite sounds like family fun time than a day (or days) at the beach. Detroit Lakes City Beach is a mile of sand that is pure bliss. Sunbathe, pick up your favorite book or take a dip along West Lake Drive. Once you have settled in, you may not want to move. And guess what? You don’t have to because this is a vacation. If family members get restless, there’s a Frisbee golf course at the adjacent City Park. Or, discover a couple of the 150 four-foot, artist-decorated sailboats in the community that are anchored within the park.
With more than 400 lakes within 20 miles, you won’t find much better freshwater diving anywhere than Detroit Lakes. Discover artifacts from ancient bison, tools from bygone eras and more under the water’s sweet serenity. Tri-State Diving offers lessons and trips, as well as longer experiences that include a celebratory cookout following dives. No one in your family will soon forget this adventure.
Row (or Ride) Your Boat
What better way to see what all the fuss is about than on a boat? There are plenty of options to choose from regardless of your speed. Motorboat, kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, paddle boats, pontoons and wave riders are available at local marinas.
Walleye is the fish of choice among many anglers, though you’ll find bass, crappie and northern pike too. Whether you reel one in or not, this is literally the stuff of legends. Where do you think the tradition of telling fish stories around a family campfire came from? We won’t tell if the story gets bigger and better over time! Big Detroit, Sallie and Melissa Lakes are only a few of the many options available in Becker County. Local fishing guides will get you going in the right direction to make sure you don’t let this trip be the one that got away.
Turn to the Tube
Even in a destination with so much to explore, it’s easy to enjoy a lazy summer day by inner tubing down the Otter Tail River. This easy two-hour ride will be a highlight for the whole family, especially if the turtles, beavers and eagles are out playing as well.
Be One With Nature
While the Detroit Lakes community has plenty to be proud of when it comes to welcoming visitors, we still take a bow to Mother Nature. Before taking a dip in the lake, build up a sweat with some good old-fashioned exploration.
North Country National Scenic Trail runs from North Dakota to Vermont, but dare we say the highlight is an 11-mile stretch through Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is worth the 25-minute drive from Detroit Lakes. No less than the famed trumpeter swan likes to drop annually in this 43,000-acre celebration of nature.
The 53-acre Dunton Locks County Park is another terrific option for your family to hike and bike through. Be sure to stop and enjoy the views of Muskrat Lake and Lake Sallie, or try to catch a fish this big, if that’s your line.
Sucker Creek Preserve presents 117 acres of swamps, marsh, woods, prairie and trout streams. What better place for a game of “Eye Spy” than a setting filled with so much flora and fauna.
Don’t forget your binoculars when packing, as even novices will revel in the birding opportunities here in Detroit Lakes. If there is a better way for families to bond, we haven’t found it yet.
Let’s Go Ride a Bike
You can speed down the mountain or find an easier path to cycle through a morning or afternoon here. You won’t be disappointed either way. Families with young children may prefer Heartland Trail from the City Park to Highway 10 East, featuring 5 miles on a newly paved path. Nothing beats a ride through woods, prairie and a scenic view overlooking Acorn Lake.
The more adventurous types will love what the summer months unearth from our winter ski season. The same slopes that make Detroit Mountain a hot spot when Jack Frost visits transform into exhilarating trails for mountain bikers. Wooden ramps and elevated features add to the challenge—and fun! Load up your mountain bike and travel north to Maplelag Resort for another biking adventure.
If you need some new wheels before a great ride, just stop by DL Bike Shop, where you can also snag some accessories.
You may be a family of golfers—or perhaps Dad is the only one keen to hit the links. Detroit Lakes has seven courses (nine and 18 holes) to choose from, making it a great place to tee it up. Wildflower at Fair Hills is said to be a secret gem, except for those who’ve enjoyed a great round there. Forest Hills Resort is your spot for mini-golf, always a vacation staple.
Restaurants and Retail
What goes well with rest and relaxation? How about restaurants and retail. Here, you can continue to enjoy the glorious weather while dining or shopping. Lakeside Tavern and Zorbaz will always be classic casual stops in Detroit Lakes. Brygge Taps & Tastes has a variety of burgers, salads and sandwiches you’ll love washing down with your favorite drink. New beers are served up weekly at Detroit Lakes newest brewery, Bucks Mill Brewing right in the heart of downtown. You won’t go hungry or thirsty with all the choices we serve!
Historic downtown Detroit Lakes, specifically along Washington Avenue, is always popular for its shopping. Shady Hollow Flea Market, just south of Detroit Lakes, is a treasure trove, and not just for the kettle corn! Across from the City Beach, your favorite souvenir tee at Lakeshirts Beach Shop is on the rack or at their famous outdoor tent sale.
Each member of your family is sure to go home happy after their visit to Detroit Lakes. Make them even happier by promising a return trip. With so much to enjoy on land and water, Detroit Lakes has the right mix to make a big splash.