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About the Brainerd Lakes Area
It's one of Minnesota's most well-established resort areas and yet visitors find the fresh lake water, sun-kissed skies and serene golf courses so intriguing they've been returning here for generations. Brainerd Lakes in north central Minnesota offers a rich vacationland full of history, gorgeous pine forests, pristine lakes and one of its core elements: tradition.
Iowans and upper Midwesterners have long kept it their secret indulgence, going "Up North" for the weekend to escape the farmland humidity and congregating with family and friends at the "cabin" in a transplanted vacation community. Brainerd is, after miles and miles of open farmland, the first northern point along Hwy 371 where the land sprouts pine trees and the terrain turns into forest. Several key lakes, Gull, Pelican and the Whitefish chain are now famous as much for the prestige of owning property there as they are for the clear blue waters and happy fishing they afford. While the population has since pushed northern Minnesota tourism farther north, Brainerd is considered a premier resort community and offers endless hours of play.
Brainerd Lake Property
Lakeshore in the Brainerd lakes area is in high demand and with the long-held family tradition of owning cabins, turnover can be slow. Premier lakes— the Gull Lake Chain, Pelican, Long Lake and the Whitefish Chain sell for upwards of $4,000 a foot. Luxury homes on these lakes are valued well over $1 million. Outlying lakes offer more affordable property, but demand far outweighs the supply. Those looking to buy Brainerd lake property need to begin their search early and be patient. Other options are to buy out of the area, look for lake access homes or buy a smaller in-town home and make use of public access and amenities. Resorts, both small and luxury, still operate fully each season and many private Brainerd cabin rentals are also available.
Lakes & Communities
There are 465 lakes in the Brainerd lakes area, with several lake-chains. Area communities include Baxter (on the western side of Brainerd proper), Pequot Lakes, Nisswa, Lakeshore, Breezy Point, Crosslake, and Manhattan Beach. Outlying communities of Pine River, Crosby, Pillager and Little Falls offer easy day trips to local attractions. Brainerd is only 131 miles from Minneapolis, 122 to Duluth, 137 to Fargo/Moorhead and 62 miles to St. Cloud. It's an easy drive up interstate from Iowa and its central location just on the south edge of Minnesota's forests offers a full playground of nature to explore.
It's Famous Resorts
Brainerd resorts are an attraction in themselves and superb places to visit and stay. The luxury resorts on Gull Lake offer premier golfing, modern spas, fine and casual dining and an array of activities for couples and families. Cragun's Golf Resort was established in 1940 and offers golf and gorgeous lake views; the Grand View Lodge & Spa offers 4 golf courses on its private grounds and Madden's Resort has 1,000 acres, 63 holes of golf, a spa and 77 years of expertise in pampering guests. Breezy Point Resort on Pelican Lake opened in 1921 and hosted Hollywood stars of the 1930's and ‘40's; Manhattan Beach Lodge also drew Hollywood guests and notorious Chicago ones in the 1920's, it offers guests a taste of its past with rustic features and home cooked dining; Ruttger's Bay Lake Lodge has been operating since 1898 and situated 18 miles from Brainerd on Bay Lake offers fishing and golf. There are also private homes for rent, and several national chain hotels.
Attractions & Events
What draws visitors to the Brainerd lakes area is the lake living experience, the family tradition of going to the cabin and the wonderful golfing, fishing and shopping that the area offers. Guests may take a helicopter ride over the lakes area, kids and adults enjoy the Pirate's Cove Adventure Golf Park and the Brainerd International Raceway offers NASCAR-style, stock-car and drag races throughout the season. There are water parks, mini-golf, riding stables, air shows and large flea markets.
Some of the area's historic sites are the Charles Lindbergh Museum in Little Falls (a half hour drive south), the MN Military Museum at Ft. Ripley (15 minutes south); the Crow Wing Historical Society in Brainerd; the Old Farm Museum, just east of Brainerd with replicas of an old log house, schoolhouse, sawmill and blacksmith. Just a few miles north of Brainerd, Nisswa offers an antique railroad car and historic village as well as some of the area's most unique shopping. The Nisswa Family Fun Center has a water park and family-centered entertainment. Just southeast at Mill Lacs (a little over an hour's drive) visitors can enjoy the amenities at the Grand Casino and Hotel. There is also a Mill Lacs Indian Museum with historical information on the people who originally settled the Brainerd lakes area. North at Crosslake there is a historic log village that showcases the European settlers' early life.
You won't want to miss out on some of the Brainerd lakes area's most famous dining experiences. From Rafferty's Pizza in Nisswa and the mall in Brainerd to the find dining of Ivan's on the Bay, Ruttger's Bay Lake Lodge, Manhattan Beach Lodge—known for its scrumptious home style cooking; to Rockwood's Grill and Backwater Bar in its 1930's rustic log atmosphere—there's a taste and variety for all. Can't live without McDonalds? Brainerd and Baxter along Hwy 371 offer fast-food as well as unique casual diners and coffeehouses. You'll find department stores, an indoor mall and stores like Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Home Depot along the 371 corridor in Baxter.
A Logging Past
Centuries after the Ojibwe had already fished and hunted the Brainerd area; the first European settlers arrived on Christmas Day in 1805 when Lt. Zebulon Montgomery Pike decided to camp there. The first white settlement, dubbed Crow Wing, was established just eight miles south of the current Brainerd location by Allen and William Morrison. Soon a strong fur trade made the area a popular location for trapper and native commerce. When Fort Ripley was founded nearby, more Europeans moved in. But by 1847 the fur trade was dying out and soon the area turned to the logging industry. When the Northern Pacific Railroad built a bridge over the Mississippi at present-day Brainerd the village of Crow Wing was abandoned and the city of Brainerd began to form.
Brainerd was originally called "the Crossing" because of its bridge, and it wasn't until three years later in 1870 that the city of Brainerd was named after Ann Eliza (Brainerd) Smith, the wife of the Northern Pacific railroad's president, John Gregory Smith. Brainerd soon became a thriving railroad and wood product center and if you drive through parts of the old area of town, you can still see remnants of the extensive railroad and lumbar yards that once dominated the city. With the end of the logging period, Brainerd became a resort fishing destination and tourism remains one of its primary economies.
To vacation in the Brainerd lakes area is to carry on a long history of family tradition, summer fun, rich memories and the enjoyment of some of Minnesota's most prized lake areas.
For more information about Brainerd Lakes area real estate, please contact LakePlace.com online.