There's plenty of nonstop summer lake fun to be had in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota – one of the state's most popular recreation destinations during the summer. It's home to various lakes popular for fishing, swimming, water sports and more. No matter your interest or activity of choice, here are 10 things to do in Detroit Lakes this summer.
The Detroit Lakes region is known for its mile-long, sugar-sand city beach with adjacent shaded City Park. Guests can enjoy the public playgrounds, picnic shelters and bandshell with scheduled family-friendly performances. The city's Recreational Center and Washington Ball Park is located directly across from the beach for visitors to access both the facilities and the water within steps. Five blocks west of the City Park along West Lake Drive, Peoples Park along Rossman Avenue offers sand volleyball courts, pickle ball and a skateboard park. Get the freshest produce in Peoples Park each Tuesday and Saturday at the Lakes Area Farmers' Market.
Get an up-close view of what's on the bottom of area lakes with weekend Discovery Scuba dives in the Detroit Lakes area. Guides and equipment rentals help you explore some of the finest inland diving. Or, soak up the sun by leisurely tubing the Otter Tail River east of Detroit Lakes.
A sandbar dividing Big and Little Detroit Lake makes an excellent spot to watch the sunset. In fact, the town earned its name from a French Catholic priest who camped out on the lake and exclaimed, “What a beautiful dètroit!” The word “dètroit” translates to “strait” in French. The town eventually changed its name to Detroit Lakes to avoid confusion from the major city in Michigan.
Detroit Lakes is home to dozens of miles of mountain bike trails that go past lakes, wilderness and marshlands. Put your pedals to the metal on the trails with a mountain biking adventure at Maplelag Resort, Detroit Mountain Recreation Area and Mountain View Recreation Area. For those seeking a super workout, take to the trails with a fat bike and return in the winter for a mega exercise challenge! Dunton Locks County Park provides a shorter bike trail with shelters for bikers to enjoy a packed lunch at a picnic table.
Cyclists willing to venture outside of Detroit Lakes can visit Maplewood State Park, Buffalo River State Park and Itasca State Park as well as the expansive Heartland Trail to the east.
Aside from biking, hiking is another way to get outside and explore nature in the Detroit Lakes area. North Country National Scenic Trail, the nation's longest hiking trail at more than 4600 miles, stretches 60 miles of back country pathways in the Detroit Lakes area. Located in Becker County, the trail runs through Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to a wealth of wildlife like foxes, raccoons, porcupine, rabbits, deer and a variety of birds. The trail is approximately 18 miles east and north of Detroit Lakes and will take hikers through landscapes of rising conifers, tangled hardwood trees canopied overhead, and views of streams and lakes.
Sucker Creek Preserve, highlighted by mineral springs and a woodsy creek leading to the mouth of Sucker Creek at Big Detroit Lake, is a slightly smaller location spanning 117 acres with its own paved pathways. The preserve is conveniently located on the eastern edge of the city, giving hikers quick access to escape and delve into nature as they go along marshlands, woods and prairie with interpretive signage.
Lastly, Dunton Locks County Park, at 53 acres, is well worth the visit. A quick drive three miles south of Detroit Lakes will take you to a multi-use park where you can indulge in hiking, biking, fishing, birding and enjoying the idyllic view as you walk over a bridge dividing Lake Sallie and Muskrat Lake.
If you're headed to Detroit Lakes this summer, there will be plenty of events to check out. The Festival of Birds, Street Faire at the Lakes, Northwest Water Carnival, WE Fest, Dick Beardsley Marathon, pow wows, Richwood Winery Grape Stomp, Laddies Loppet Mountain Bike Race, Cruise DL Night, Arts & Crafts in the Park, 4th of July fireworks, and Quake the Lake Powerboat Races with Antique and Classic Boat Show are just some of the fun events for your whole family.
Detroit Lakes' three 9-hole and four 18-hole golf courses are hidden gems in the region, suitable no matter your skill level. Detroit Country Club hosts its Pine to Palm Golf Tournament in August. Talented golfers will team up to compete as they tackle challenging long shots and holes, and the weeklong event will end with winners awarded with trophies. Detroit Country Club has 36 holes and overlooks Lake Sallie and Lake Melissa, which are surrounded by hardwood trees. Read more about the area's golfing options here.
Detroit Lakes is one of Minnesota's top fishing destinations with more than 400 lakes in the area. But with so many lakes, how do you know the top lakes to visit during the summer? Local fishing guide Brad Laabs is an expert of fishing hot spots in Detroit Lakes, and he says Big Detroit is the best spot to stock up on good muskie, walleye, large-mouth bass, large northern pike and several types of pan fish. Other popular fishing destinations are Sallie, Melissa, Many Point, Beers, Big Toad, Tamarac, Height of Land, White Earth, Pelican, Lida, Otter Tail and McDonald lakes.
You can eat, drink and be merry on a Detroit Lakes getaway with some of the most unique wining and dining options in the region. About fifteen minutes from Detroit Lakes is Spanky's Stone Hearth with views overlooking Rose Lake. Other popular places for waterfront dining include The Fireside, Zorbaz (it's recommended to get the macho nachos to pair with over 80 beers to choose from), Long Bridge Bar & Grill, Holiday Beach Bar & Grill, historic Lakeside Tavern and the new Hub 41 restaurant across from the city beach.
To mingle with the locals, head over to The Brew Ales & Eats in downtown Detroit Lakes where you can cozy up next to an outdoor fireplace while enjoying your dinner and craft beer. When it's time for a cup of locally roasted coffee and a baked on-site cupcake or cookie, the new Roasted Pub and Eatery, located on Washington Avenue, offers satisfaction for your sweet tooth as well as farm-to-table dining and bar. For a tasty walleye dinner, head a short distance south of Detroit Lakes to the historic Hotel Shoreham. Travel north of Detroit Lakes for locally made and bottled wine at Richwood Winery, complete with a tasting room overlooking the vineyards and live bands to entertain you and your friends.
Detroit Lakes offers plenty of historic, art and cultural activities that are native to west central Minnesota. Check out the 30 four-foot, hand-decorated sunfish sculptures and the Historic Holmes Theatre, or enjoy free music in the park on Tuesday evenings all summer long. The City Park bandshell also hosts the annual performances of Shakespeare in the Park. Detroit Lakes is also proud to welcome its newest feature, a sculpture called “Once Upon a Time,” in front of the public library. The sculpture was created by local artist Hans Gilsdorf and depicts an oversized child reading a book with a sense of wonderment.
The Detroit Lakes area is a mecca of “Up North” shopping. Summer in Minnesota is the best time to find handmade art and score flea market finds in Lakes country.
Scout for vintage typewriters and Victorian jewelry at several hidden gems like SuLaine's Antique Mall, which is 14,000 square feet of stocked vintage finds. Shoppers can browse through 70 dealers showcasing their best vintage. Another place to nab antique pieces is Shady Hollow Flea Market—open weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day—with 3.5 acres of quaint boutique cabins and more than 50 vendors with an equally impressive and diverse selection of goods ranging from old tools to glassware and fine collectibles.
Washington Square Mall is the spot to shop for fashionable outfits. Its convenient location in a historic building in the downtown area makes it easy for shoppers to walk to other stores and restaurants for lunch breaks. Other shops worth checking out are Norby's Department Store, boutiques along Washington Avenue and Lakeshirts Beach Shop.
Bird is the word here in the Detroit Lakes region, home to more than 275 species and part of the Pine to Prairie International Birding Trail. Hear the call of the Common Loon echo across the lake in early morning or late evening. Birders that are new to the area can pick up a Birding Hot Spot map from Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge and the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce to scout for hard-to-find species. Among the birds to look for in the area are Black-backed Woodpeckers, Chestnut-collared Longspur and Golden-winged Warblers.
Not everyone is planning to get married, but if you are, Detroit Lakes is an amazing place to tie the knot. If you're dreaming of a unique location to express your wedding vows, Detroit Lakes has several venues to make your day memorable. Choose from natural settings by a peaceful lake with fresh water breezes, a charming restored barn, historic ballrooms and cozy woods of the north. Enjoy the convenience of lodging offered at many of the locations.
See more of the top things to do in the Detroit Lakes area, including local festivals and other entertainment, on our website here.