For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to explore the Brainerd Lakes area… mostly because of Paul Bunyan Land, yes I am a true Minnesotan! We decided to book a trip there in July after found an awesome Airbnb for $100 a night! We've decided that the best way to travel with Summit is with a kitchen and a separate room for him to sleep in. Yes- that means he sometimes sleeps in the bathroom in the Pack N Play, but woah- we really started to get better sleep during our adventures when we made that discovery!!
Anyway- back to our trip. We stayed at Anita's cabin next to her home near Nisswa through Airbnb. It was perfect for us! A kitchen, eating area, living room, bathroom and bedroom. Definitely lots of room to spare! She did have a boat for us to use if we wanted, but Summit is a little daredevil right now and we opted not to bring him on the water.
When we arrived, we headed right to downtown Nisswa. Nisswa is known for their downtown shopping, awesome breweries and turtle races! Yes- you heard me right- turtle races! Sadly, we didn't participate in the races this year because they are on Wednesday's only. If we come back next summer- we will definitely plan to be there on a Wednesday.
We had quick bite at Ye Old Pickle Factory. It wasn't the best food, but we had the entire patio to ourselves and the service was quick. Both are super important when you are traveling with a 2 year old! After we finished eating, we did some shopping and of course I had to find the local bookstore: Turtle Town Books & Gifts. I always love it when an independent bookstore has recommendations. I bought The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey based on the awesome review and I'm really excited to read it! Of course we had to take pictures at the Totem Pole store and ride the pony outside. Special shout-out to the random stranger who have me a dime so Summit could ride. Who carries dimes with them these days?! Obviously I should be...
We started to walk back to our car when it started raining so we ducked into a random Burlington Northern train/exhibit. It was fun and free for us to keep cover during the rain! We were still a little early for our Airbnb so we headed over to the Nisswa Historical Society Pioneer Village. It doesn't take much for me to get excited over mannequins in historical houses- haha! It was a very inexpensive way for us to learn about the history of the area- for all three of us it was only $4! From there we headed to our Airbnb, made dinner and went for a walk on the Paul Bunyan Trail- which was basically right outside the cabin door. We slept really well after our long day!
The next day, we got up bright and early to head to Paul Bunyan Land in Brainerd, which was about 30 minutes away from our cabin. I was SO excited to go! The animated Paul Bunyan has been welcoming guests by name since 1954 and has been on my bucket list forever! But there was lots more to do besides get creeped out by Paul knowing your name, they had rides, animals, gemstone mining, historical buildings and more. We spend 3.5 hours there, which is a lot of time with a 2 year old! Well there wasn't a ton of rides Summit could go on because of his age/height, we did enjoy the train, carousel and cars. Summit really loved saying hi to the animals and spending an hour running around the historical buildings. The buildings were awesome- tons of old metal advertising signs, planes, cars, the train station used in the Disney movie, Iron Will, etc. It was so fun to just run around and let our toddler be a toddler!
Summit immediately fell asleep when we started driving, so Matt and I took the scenic route around downtown Brainerd, grabbed some drive-through coffee and stopped at a few antique stores. We ended up back in Nisswa and didn't really want to cook so we had quick dinner at A&W. Wow- root beer from a tap is amazing! It was actually really nice to sit on their patio and enjoy our burgers. Then we headed over to Gull Dam Brewing because I had heard amazing things about their Raspberry beer… it was REALLY good and pretty much beat Castle Danger Brewing in Two Harbors. I am so sorry for cheating on you, North Shore!! There was live music when we arrived so Summit had the best time dancing to the music and running around with the other little kids :) It was a very family-friendly atmosphere, with lots of games/legos/toys for the kiddos to enjoy while the adults enjoy some delicious beer. I would highly recommend checking this place out if you are in the area.
The next day we packed up our stuff and checked out of our nice Airbnb to go berry picking! Jake and Scout's Berry far is located in Lake Shore, just 15 minutes away from Nisswa. They had tons of blueberries ready for picking which are pretty much Summit's favorite fruit! Unfortunately the raspberries were too picked over, but we still had fun checking out their farm and walking through a garden with tons of flowers they cut and sell at the local Nisswa Farmer's Market.
That about sums up our fun and fast-moving 3 days in Nisswa! We had a blast and can't wait to go back next year. Turtle races are a must, as well as Big Axe Brewing, the Nisswa Farmer's Market, biking to downtown and more…. do you have any suggestions on what we should do next time? Please let me know! I love hearing tips from you and adding to our future family adventures.