Fun awaits in Detroit Lakes Minnesota

Cover: Detroit Lake, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Home to a wide variety of outdoor activities, events, festivals, shopping, and dining, Detroit Lakes is the place to be for year-round fun in Minnesota.

As one would anticipate, a city with “Lakes” in their name is the center of water pursuits and Detroit Lakes definitely delivers in this category. Outdoor splendor awaits on the sparkling waters for boating, fishing and water sports enthusiasts, with over 400 lakes within 25 miles of the city.

Detroit Lake at sunset, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Detroit Lake at sunset, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those that prefer their water activities in the city, Detroit Lake’s pristine mile long beach is perfect for beach fun, while also providing access for launching boats and water activities.

Things to do in and around Detroit Lakes Minnesota

When you manage to tear yourself away from the clear blue waters of the Detroit Lakes region, so many activities await on land. From shopping to mountain biking to events, Detroit Lakes has something for everyone from sunrise to sunset.

Downtown Detroit Lakes

Downtown Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Downtown Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A stroll through downtown Detroit Lakes is a perfect way to spend an afternoon. Offerings range from antiques to boutiques and everything in between, with lots to see and explore. Stop for a bite, find a place for a beer, or just enjoy viewing the historic buildings and chatting with friendly locals.

Along the way, swing by the library and check out the cool sculpture of a child reading a book out front, which was created by local artist, Hans Gilsdorf.

Child reading a book sculpture by Hans Gilsdorf in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Child reading a book sculpture by Hans Gilsdorf in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Then, head down to the Washington Square Mall for more shopping and dining options, perhaps to take in a movie and to snap a shot with your catch of the day.

Kim Hull, Washington Square Mall, Detroit Lakes
Kim Hull, Washington Square Mall, Detroit Lakes
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

What’s the deal with those pretty fish around town?

In 2002-2003, 50 sunfish were created and designed by local artists, with several of the fish auctioned to cover the artist’s expenses. All 50 were then placed around Detroit Lakes in public places and have since become a favorite of locals and visitors alike.

Want to see them all? Detroit Lakes has created a Sunny in Detroit Lakes map with locations of all of the fish statues – which assists with locating them, as the fish are moved from summer to winter locations and back each year.

Detroit Lakes Sunfish, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Detroit Lakes Sunfish, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Festivals & events

Detroit Lakes hosts numerous festivals and events throughout the year ranging from markets to sporting events to concerts – so many that, according to the mayor, Detroit Lakes averages one event per week. Check the Detroit Lakes events calendar for a full list of things to do throughout the year.

Street Faire at the Lakes

Street Faire at the Lakes, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Street Faire at the Lakes, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Summer in Detroit Lakes kicks off with Street Faire at the Lakes and we were in town for the 2016 edition.

Food court & live music at Street Faire at the Lakes, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Food court & live music at Street Faire at the Lakes, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

Located across six blocks of downtown Detroit Lakes, the Street Faire includes 125 juried artists, live music, a food court, and children’s activities. Free to attendees, Street Faire at the Lakes is held annually in early June.

Children's activities at Street Faire at the Lakes in Detroit Lakes
Children’s activities at Street Faire at the Lakes in Detroit Lakes
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Andy Rogers trying out the chairs at Street Faire at the Lakes
Andy Rogers trying out the chairs at Street Faire at the Lakes, Detroit Lakes
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

WE Fest Country Music Festival

Each August since 1983, country music fans gather in Detroit Lakes for one of the top events of the year in the genre, the WE Fest Country Music Festival on the shores of Lake Salle. Held at Soo Pass Ranch, the natural amphitheater, which has a permanent stage and sound towers, holds over 50,000 people. Adjacent to the facility are 10 campgrounds that can accommodate up to 35,000. Past performers have included Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Brooks & Dunn, Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts and many more.

Other things to do in Detroit Lakes

Detroit Mountain

Detroit Mountain, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Detroit Mountain Resort, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Here’s a really cool story. Detroit Mountain was the local ski hill for half a century until it fell into disrepair and closed in 2004. Missing the swoosh of the slopes, the local community pulled together, formed a non-profit, the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area, Inc., and began raising funds to bring skiing back to their community.

Talking with Jeff Staley of Detroit Mountain
Talking with Jeff Staley of Detroit Mountain
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

After raising $8.5 million dollars in private donations, the new lifts outside the all new lodge began to turn a decade later in 2014. Now a year-round facility, Detroit Mountain offers skiing, snowboarding, tubing, a terrain park, cross-country ski trails in the winter and summer mountain biking with flow and downhill trails and a skills course.

Learn more about Detroit Mountain »

Detroit Mountain's fat tire bike rentals
Detroit Mountain’s fat tire bike rentals
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Hiking

Hiking at Itasca State Park, Park Rapids, Minnesota
Hiking at Itasca State Park, Park Rapids, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Lace up your hiking boots and get ready to hit the trail because Detroit Lakes has multiple state parks and hiking options nearby. Maplewood State Park, Buffalo River State Park, and Smoky Hills State Forest are all within a 30-minute drive and Itaska State Park, where you can cross the headwaters of the Mississippi, is only an hour away.

Or how about a hike through Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge’s 43,000 acres? Located about 18 miles from Detroit Lakes, the refuge provides a chance to explore 20 lakes and three rivers, view 250 bird species, including bald eagles, and includes a segment of North America’s longest scenic trail, the North Country National Scenic Trail.

Let’s Go Fishing

Of course, fishing is huge in Minnesota and now that I’m an expert fisherwoman (I caught my first on our very first fishing excursion earlier in the week in Minnesota), I can tell you – I get it. Fishing in Minnesota is super fun and I am hooked (pun intended).

But, for our evening in Detroit Lakes, “Let’s Go Fishing” had a different meaning and we met some people who are the definition of “Minnesota nice.”

Dave Hochhalter, Ron Zeman, Betty Hochhalter, Cleone Stewart, Let's Go Fishiing, Detroit Lakes
Dave Hochhalter, Ron Zeman, Betty Hochhalter, Cleone Stewart, Let’s Go Fishiing, Detroit Lakes
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

“Let’s Go Fishing” offers lake adventures to seniors, veterans, youth and the physically challenged free of charge and we were fortunate to explore Little Detroit Lake by pontoon as their guest. Fully staffed by volunteers, our hosts for the evening were captain Dave Hochhalter, first mate Betty Hochhalter, and city council member, lake historian and comedian, Ron Zeman.

Momma Loon and her baby, Detroit Lake
Momma Loon and her baby, Detroit Lake
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to learning about the history of the area and their organization on our spectacular sunset ride, we saw a momma loon with her baby on her back, found a very talented SUP fisherman, and, of course, waved at everyone we passed by along the way.

SUP fisherman on Detroit Lake, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
SUP fisherman on Lake, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Such a beautiful way to end the day in Minnesota! Learn more about Let’s Go Fishing in Detroit Lakes Minnesota on their website.

Where to stay

Where to stay: Best Western The Lodge on Detroit Lake
Where to stay: Best Western The Lodge on Detroit Lake
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Detroit Lakes has a wide variety of accommodation options to suit all preferences and budgets. For our visit, we stayed at the beautiful, lakeside Best Western Premier Lodge on Lake Detroit.

The Lodge has an upscale feel with rustic accents and a relaxing atmosphere. Our spa suite was fabulous, with spectacular lake views, a jacuzzi, and a fireplace. The Lodge also has a day spa, fitness center, comfortable seating areas both inside and out, a delicious complimentary breakfast, and a friendly, helpful staff.

Spa Suite, The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Where to Stay: Spa Suite, The Lodge on Lake Detroit, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Learn more about The Lodge Detroit Lakes »

Places to dine and enjoy a beverage in Detroit Lakes

Zorbaz

Zorbaz Pizza Shack, Detroit Lakes
Zorbaz Pizza Shack, Detroit Lakes
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There’z nothing like a cazual evening zipping Bobbin’ Blue Margaritaz while chowing down on nachoz and pizza as you gaze out at the beautiful blue waterz of Detroit Lakez at Zorbaz.

Kim Hull & Caitlin Rick at Zorbaz in Detroit Lakes
Kim Hull & Caitlin Rick at Zorbaz in Detroit Lakes
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Zince 1969, gueztz have flocked to the eclectic bar and reztaurant that substitutez every “s” for a “z.” Arriving by boat, car, foot and bike, people pack the iconic beach bar acrozz from Detroit Lakez beach. Zpecializing in Mexican food and pizza, Zorbaz haz a huge azzortment of tap beerz, live muzic on the weekendz, and a great patio. On the way out, head to the zhop next door and grab a t-zhirt. Not to be mizzed.

Huge assortment of tap beers at Zorbaz, Detroit Lakes
Huge assortment of tap beers at Zorbaz, Detroit Lakes
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Lakeside Tavern

Lakeside Tavern, Detroit Lakes
Lakeside Tavern, Detroit Lakes
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Just a couple of blocks down from Zorbaz, Lakeside Tavern serves 24 tap beers, burgers, pizza and other fare. And, if you feel someone brush against you as you sip your beer but, when you turn, no one is there – no worries, that may be just one of six reported ghosts that hang out at the Tavern as well.

Located in the former Lakeside Hotel, which was built in 1891 and has a colorful past filled with stories of bank robber owners, vanishing patrons, and ghosts, the present day Lakeside Tavern is reportedly haunted by a little girl, two men and three women. When we stopped by, no hauntings to report – just quite a few patrons enjoying some late evening sun, cold beer, pizza and stunning lake views.

Sunset on Detroit Lake
Sunset on Detroit Lake
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go

Kim and Greg on a pontoon on Detroit Lake
Kim and Greg on a pontoon on Detroit Lake
Photo: Caitlin Rick

Location

Detroit Lakes is about 205 miles northwest of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St Paul and 45 miles east of Fargo-Moorhead.

Climate

Summer time is ideal in Detroit Lakes, with average daytime highs reaching just under 80 F (27 C) then cooling off in the evenings to the 50s F (13 C).

Winter daily highs average in the teens and 20s F (-7 C), perfect for skiing and winter sports. At night, ramp up the fireplace and grab some hot chocolate, when temperatures hover around 0 F (-18 C).

Prepare for the outdoors and changing weather

As many summer activities in and around Detroit Lakes are outside, remember to bring sunscreen, mosquito repellent, good walking or hiking shoes, a rain jacket and a sweater or jacket for the evenings when the day begins to cool.


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Explore Minnesota and the Detroit Lakes Chamber of Commerce for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.