While visiting Gull Lake, there’s no doubt you’ll spend time on the water and explore all the nature, shopping, restaurants and touristy things the area has to offer. You can certainly check out the local Minnesota wildlife around the lake, but what about the more exotic varieties? Snow leopards, vervet monkeys, caracals, and a number of lions, tigers and bears all make their home at Safari North Wildlife Park in Brainerd.
Safari North is a unique outdoor park loaded with opportunities to learn more about animals while making lasting family memories. In addition to critter peeping, kids and adults alike will enjoy all the activities the zoo has to offer. The park proprietors, Kevin and Kelly Vogel, have dedicated their life’s work to wildlife care and conservation and have curated quite the collection of animal exhibits for their guests to enjoy!
LOTS TO DO AT THE ZOO
Feeding Jigsaw and Puzzles, the park’s two giraffes, should be at the top of your list of park activities. The duo always loves a free handout, and it’s a great way to get up close and personal with a zoo resident. Another way is to hitch a ride on the ‘ships of the desert,’ aka, the zoo’s camels! It’s a unique experience, and the camels provide a bird’s-eye view of the grasslands exhibit.
Other close-up opportunities can be found at the park’s Parakeet Encounter where you can mingle with hundreds of birds that hang out in the parakeet landing. Little ones especially love the Barn Yard and Petting Area, a great place to feed and pet all the domestic animals that roam this miniature farm.
Safari North also has a mining sluice for experiencing how miners of the past discovered their treasure. Kids are always enthralled by the Dino Dig and a chance to make the next big discovery, as well as the play area featuring a playground and giant climb-on spider web. At the Jungle Jumpers attraction, see how your jumping ability stacks up against the jumping power of animals around the world.
Finally, brand new this year is the park’s 10-acre Safari Expedition where you’ll see lions, hyenas, monkeys, zebras, wildebeest, bison, eland, nilgai, ostrich, emu and more. Ten acres sounds like a big area, but not to worry, the zoo has a new locomotive train to make it an easy trip for everyone.
Safari North hosts a wide array of mammals, reptiles, primates, birds and even some endangered species within its gates. These animals come from all over the world, specifically Asia, Africa, South America, Australia, and some from closer to our home here in North America.
On the park’s Africa trail, you can see a host of animals that you’d see if you were on safari, including flamingo, addax, hyena, wart hog, monkeys, porcupine, tortoise, jackal, and kudu. The Asia trail takes you on a tour of the greatest continent, with opportunities to view antelope, water buffalo, leopards, macaque, deer, and tiger.
The diversity of climate and vegetation in South America makes those animals unique and often unusual. South American animals adapt to conditions ranging from the rain forests of the Amazon to the mountains and volcanoes of the Andes. On the park’s South America trail, you can view rhea, llama, alpaca, macaw, kinkajou, and brahma.
Most of the zoo’s animals representing Australia are unique to that continent. On this trail, you’ll enjoy seeing the kangaroo, wallaby, kookaburra, parrot and emu. In contrast to those exotic species, the North America trail features more familiar animals such as raccoon, fox, squirrel, bear, coyote, owl, eagle, cougar, alligator, wolf and bobcat.
VISIT THE ZOO BUT STAY AT THE BEACH
Unforgettable adventure awaits at Safari North Wildlife Park. Plan to spend the entire day to watch all the animal antics, experience all the activities and attractions, and take lots of photos at the various designated photo spots – don’t miss the giant grizzly and the waterwheel! The park has a “Snack Shack” with some great options for lunch, or just a quick snack and drink, as well as a gift shop with tons of souvenir items to remember the trip.
Don’t forget: no pets or outside food is allowed in the park, which is also smoke free. The zoo closes for the season on October 3, 2021, so plan now to get your visit in before the animals have to hibernate for winter. Contact us today to book your lakeside cabin and begin planning all your fun-filled vacation activities in lakes country. The wildlife is waiting for you!
Brainerd International Raceway is the largest racetrack in the Upper Midwest, offering the most diverse motorsports schedule anywhere – and all events are back for the 2021 season! With a world-class drag strip and two road courses, the venue hosts drag racing, road racing, endurance racing, Superbike racing, drifting, and autocross competitions, cruising events, and car shows. The small lake on property even hosts watercross competitions, where snowmobiles race on open water.
After a hiatus for many events last summer (and most of 2020), the Raceway is pulling out all the stops to welcome back guests for a high-octane experience. Wedged between State Highway 371 and North Long Lake in Brainerd, the Raceway has come a long way since its modest beginnings in 1968. Its colorful history and world-class racing have helped put Brainerd “on the map.”
LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS
The NHRA Nationals is the main draw each year at the Raceway, making its stop here every August. The much-anticipated event brings the world’s best drag racers together for the ultimate race with the fastest dragsters in front of 100,000 spectators.
The event was originally called the NorthStar Nationals. More than 50,000 fans attended the inaugural race as they watched Shirley Muldowney win the Top Fuel Dragster finals and Mark Oswald set a world speed record of 256.41 mph in his Top Fuel Dragster. Other winners in the early years of that event were Kenny Bernstein, John Force, Jim Head, and Joe Amato, the winningest Top Fueler in NHRA history, who won in Brainerd four times in the 1980s.
The fastest show on Earth returns to Brainerd International Raceway for the 39th annual event August 20-22, 2021. (The Lucas Oil Series Divisional races will be held August 18 and 19.) At center stage is ground-pounding, lightning-fast drag racing featuring every household name in the industry. The Raceway is widely known as the fastest drag strip in the country and remains a favorite stop for race teams.
The Top Fuel Dragsters get down the quarter-mile track in less than four seconds at speeds over 330 mph, cranking out 11,000 horsepower along the way! Every race ticket comes with a pit pass, so fans can watch teams tear down their race cars and rebuild them between races. Stand within feet of the crews as they crank up the car, sending the burn of nitro fuel into the crowd – you can’t get that anywhere else.
PERFORMANCE DRIVING SCHOOL
In addition to the many racing engagements, the facility’s Performance Driving School holds classes May through September for any skill level driver. The primary class is open to the general public and anyone 16 years of age or older with a valid driver’s license. No previous experience of any kind is necessary. The Raceway also hosts three additional courses:
StreetSmarts Advanced Defensive Driving Course is open to anyone 16 years of age or older with a valid driver’s license. This full-day course is a combination of classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction. This exciting, safe and eye-opening course led by experienced track and safety professionals teaches real emergency driving techniques to help keep you safe on the roadways.
The SafeGuard Threat Protection Driving Course is open to the general public. SafeGuard provides the skills and knowledge to safely evade danger, give pursuit and protect passengers regardless of the speed and inherent dangers required to do so.
The SafePursuit Emergency Vehicle Operators Course is open only to qualified law enforcement personnel for training and certification purposes. These events are scheduled by request.
Tickets for any course or event can be purchased at BIRMN.com.
PLAN YOUR STAY AT GULL LAKE BEACH RESORTS
Catching a race is just one of the many fun, family-friendly events that will help make unforgettable vacation memories. Gull Lake Beach Resorts is situated in the heart of the Brainerd Lakes region, located right on Gull Lake’s best beaches, and just a short drive from all the local action. These perfectly appointed properties will be an amazing home base for your next vacation getaway. Contact us today to book your lakeside cabin and begin planning all your Gull Lake area events and activities.
The opportunity to pack your bags, get out of town and swap out daily responsibilities for fun and entertainment is an opportunity nobody wants to pass up. Picking an amazing vacation destination often begins with setting your travel sights on a place that pairs scenic beauty, options for fun, and just as many moments dedicated to rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. If you’re a traveler with time set aside to discover and explore something new, setting your sights on a summer or fall in Brainerd, Minnesota is a must!
This inviting locale is loved by locals and visitors alike for its plethora of options for fun and spectacular natural beauty that’s made to match. Integrated into the greater Brainerd Lakes region of the state, this is a central Minnesota vacation destination that promises to be as intriguing for solo travelers with a heart for adventure as it is for couples looking to make the most of a romantic escape or families looking forward to spending quality time together somewhere new.
Whether you’re looking forward to time in the forested, hilly, and lake-centric great outdoors while you’re in town or can’t wait to make the most of the many world-class amenities that await, Brainerd is the best option when versatile vacation experiences top your priority list. When you’re putting the finishing touches on your itinerary be sure to add the following stops, activities, and attractions to the summer and fall fun so you can easily turn a great trip into an absolutely unforgettable experience that will have you coming back for more!
Things to Do While You’re Here: From Green Spaces to Waterparks
Wonderful weather is part of the lineup for those who venture towards Brainerd in the summer or fall. That makes it easy to want to spend as much time outdoors as possible with good reason! Fortunately for travelers with their sights set on this exciting destination, there are a variety of parks to choose from and enjoy that caters to a desire to make the absolute most of time in green spaces while you’re visiting.
Lum Park should definitely be on your list of must-visit places to enjoy during your escape this summer or fall in Brainerd. Situated at 1619 NE Washington Street, this spacious destination is visited by some in the name of camping fun but for others, it’s simply a place that offers up tranquility and opportunities for recreation in equal measure. Lum Park hosts lush green spaces, towering trees that give visitors plenty of inspiration for a picnic as well as easy water access for those who prefer to spend a warm afternoon on the waves casting a line and waiting for something good to bite! If you’re feeling more like working on that summer tan, Lum Park hosts a public beach where you can grab a chair, settle in and soak up the rays without interruption. While some may choose to swim, Lum Park is also a place where you can enjoy some friendly competition if you’re up for that too. The park hosts a wonderful disc golf course as well as a volleyball court. If you happen to be traveling here with little ones, make the most of time on the playgrounds which are sure to please.
Gregory Park is another great option if you’re in the mood to stroll the trails, enjoy the scenery and let little ones play! Gregory Park is located at 511 N. 5th Street and is easy to spot thanks to the massive central water fountain that has long been one of its most intriguing defining features. Gregory Park hosts a variety of playgrounds that will keep kids entertained throughout the afternoon and is also home to basketball and tennis courts for those that are looking to put their athletic skills to the test during a visit! Towering trees throughout the park make for great climbing experiences too!
If you happen to be in town when summer temperatures start to rise, swapping out your green parks for some of Brainerd’s best waterparks is a good way to go! While these are perfect places to cool off mid-summer, they’re just as fun in the fall before cooler weather rolls into Minnesota. Start your waterpark adventures with a trip to Three Bear Waterpark. Situated within the parameters of a hotel at 15739 Audubon Way, Three Bear Waterpark is the perfect place to curb a craving for swimming, sliding, and adrenaline-pumping fun for the entire family! This indoor waterpark includes access to incredible waterslides, tubing adventures, a lazy river, and hot tubs for a luxurious touch too. If you happen to work up an appetite during your visit, there’s an on-site eatery that will help visitors refuel with ease. The waterpark is open to those without a hotel reservation Sunday through Thursday and the cost to enjoy time here is $14.99 per person.
Those looking for even more in the way of waterpark fun will want to make time on the itinerary for a day at the Paul Bunyan Waterpark too! Located at 6967 Lake Forest Road, the Paul Bunyan Waterpark is a family-focused destination where visitors can make the most of a massive indoor complex dedicated to one-of-a-kind waterslides, time on the lazy river, hot tubs, pools designated for swimmers of all ages, and even options for water basketball. This waterpark expands to dry land and hosts access to an arcade as well as outdoor volleyball courts when you want to mix and match the fun.
Get into Nature: Hiking Trails and Bike Rentals
Finding time to get into nature and enjoy the wonder of it all isn’t hard to do when you’re in Brainerd. This destination boasts plenty of natural beauty to explore and discover, particularly for those who are excited to lace up their boots and hit the hiking trails! While a hike during the summer in Brainerd is sure to inspire, there’s something special about a fall trek when the leaves are changing colors. Either way, you’ll have plenty of options and routes to relish when you’re excited to get more into the great outdoors.
Crow Wing State Park is a good place to start if you’re looking to enjoy a more leisurely trek and could stand to pair it with some great views too! Crow Wing State Park is situated at 3124 State Park Road and enjoys a location at the confluence of the Crow Wing and Mississippi Rivers. This former frontier town is today a great place to enjoy lush surroundings, follow the pathways, keep your eyes peeled for birds and savor waterfront views too. If you’re willing to incorporate some stairs into your experience, this destination provides a route to Chippewa Lookout where you can take in the Mississippi River sights from a new vantage point.
A hike through Pillsbury State Forest is also a welcome option for those who have a bit more experience on the trails and are excited to push their limits a little more. Pillsbury State Forest is located off of County Road 77 in Brainerd. The trails at this locale are loved for their trajectory through heavily forested terrain made up of both coniferous and deciduous trees. As you make your way along the pathways that call Pillsbury State Forest home, you’ll encounter a collection of lakes and ponds as well as a plethora of wildflowers and wildlife including deer and beavers.
While walking your way through a summer or fall getaway to Brainerd is sure to be an inspiring activity, there’s plenty of options for those who prefer to hit the trails on two wheels as well. Renting a bike and exploring the vast terrain is a great way to enjoy your surroundings and a wonderful option for those who are looking to cover more ground in less time. Both Muddy Bikes and Easy Riders Bicycle and Sports are great choices for those who are looking to take things at their own pace on the trails. For visitors hoping to amp things up a bit and find themselves leaning towards dirt bikes or motorized adventures, a rental selected at Brothers Motor Sports in Baxter is likely the way to go.
Family Fun Activities
Brainerd is an exceptional vacation destination in both the summer and fall seasons for families that are excited to get out of town and enjoy some well-earned time together enjoying activities that cater to visitors of all ages. When you’re here, there’s definitely no shortage of options for activities to choose from that keep a family-friendly focus top of mind.
Begin your family-fun adventure in Brainerd by heading over to the Safari North Wildlife Park. Situated at 8493 MN-371, the Safari North Wildlife Park is the perfect place to get up close with some of the world’s most exotic creatures and learn more about conservation efforts that are keeping endangered species thriving too. Open from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. daily, the Safari North Wildlife Park is home to hundreds of animals including lemurs, giraffes, kangaroos, and beyond. Tour the wildlife park in traditional style or sign up for an up-close encounter when you’re hoping to learn more about some of these amazing creatures.
If adrenaline-pumping fun is more your family’s style, you’re in luck with a trip to Brainerd and the ever-popular Northland Kart Kountry experience! This oasis of fun features a fantastic go-kart track where family members can put their driving skills to the test in some friendly competition that’s sure to thrill. Located at 17568 MN-371, Northland Kart is open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. offering up a flexible scheduling option so you can race whenever you’re in the mood to do so!
When you’ve crossed the go-kart finish line, slow things down a bit by heading over to Pirates Cove Adventure Golf with the entire family. Situated at 17992 MN-371, Pirates Cove Adventure Golf is a pirate-themed 18-hole putt-putt experience that everyone is sure to enjoy. This stop comes complete with waterfall and cave features within the whimsical and meticulously maintained landscape. The course is open from 10:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. daily for those ready to grab a club and get that hole-in-one.
Lakeside Beaches to Check Out
A trip to Brainerd Country can hardly be considered complete without some time on the sand. This area hosts a wide variety of lakeside beaches to check out that are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, or just enjoying time soaking up the sun and building sandcastles.
The Whipple Beach Recreation Area is a good place to find yourself when you’re looking for outdoor options that are paired with a view. Located at 14441 Oakwood Drive in Baxter, Whipple Beach offers visitors access to an inviting stretch of shoreline paired with benches, a fishing pier, picnic pavilions, playgrounds, and more! Customize your time on the sand to fit your preferences and feel free to breathe easy in this scenic locale.
Restaurants to Enjoy
Finding fantastic places to dine is half the fun of any trip and your summer or fall travels to Brainerd are no exception to the rule! If you’re here and find yourself craving some savory American fare in a setting that speaks to a touch of old-time nostalgia, be sure to head over to the Northwind Grill at 603 Laurel Street. This inviting eatery serves up burgers, sandwiches, and home-style favorites in abundance and invites guests to settle in a cozy booth while they make the most of the menu options. Counter seating is available here too and the service is known for being friendly!
Places to Stay in Brainerd
For all of the fun and excitement a trip to Brainerd promises to bring, there’s something exceptionally wonderful about knowing you’re booked into rental accommodations that keep you close to the places you can’t wait to explore. Visitors who partner with Gull Lake Beach Resorts can customize their stay to fit their needs and exceed expectations too. Many of our properties feature open-concept design and offer up waterfront views paired with tasteful furnishings, fantastic fireplaces, and full kitchens for those moments when you’re not dining out. Reach out today to learn more about our many property options and to begin planning your summer or fall getaway to Brainerd!