Aside from the prominent Twin Cities (Minneapolis-Saint Paul), the lesser-known Brainerd ranks highly among the best cities to explore in Minnesota.
Located in Crow Wing County and two hours north of Minneapolis, Brainerd is an outdoor lover’s paradise with over 460 lakes within 25 miles, multiple rivers, lush forests, and beautiful parks.
If you fancy a round or two on the links, there are more than 450 holes of golf within 30 miles.
And when you’ve had enough of the outdoor activities, Brainerd is home to several museums, and breweries, and even has its own international raceway.
Those who live to discover the hidden gems of travel destinations and are seeking an exciting and captivating adventure will surely love the town of Brainerd.
The Best Things to Do in Brainerd, MN
Let’s get into some of the top attractions and best things to see and do in Brainerd, Minnesota.
1. Northland Arboretum
Address: 14250 Conservation Dr, Baxter, MN 56425
The Northland Arboretum was founded in 1972 and serves as a nature reserve for the towns of Brainerd and Baxter, aiming to educate and encourage locals and tourists to connect and protect the environment.
The Arboretum is a non-profit venture with 583 acres of land, and it provides an excellent opportunity to admire and bask in the fascinating beauty of nature.
Boasting an extensive walk-only trail system, the Northland Arboretum also has a wide-ranging and immaculate garden, and wonderful rolling greens.
See Related: Best Places to Visit in Minnesota
2. Lum Park
Address: 1619 NE, Washington St, Brainerd, MN 56401
Lum Park is one of the places you don’t want to miss when visiting Brainerd. It is a beautiful family spot that offers great adventure and various outdoor activities.
Lum Park is a renowned stop for an array of exciting recreational activities for both solo or group adventures. It has notable amenities that provide convenience to all of its visitors.
The park includes picnic tables, a playground, disc golf, and a lakeside beach to relax at Rice Lake. With its convenient grounds, serene and passive ambiance, and scenic views of nature, Lum Park surely is a delightful place for guests interested in both active and passive outdoor activities.
See Related: Best Things to do in Victoria, Minnesota | Top Attractions
3. Safari North Wildlife Park
Address: 8493 MN-371, Brainerd, MN 56401
Aside from the recreational spots and notable establishments in Brainerd, the city is also home to a wonderful (and picture-worthy) animal conservation center, the Safari North Wildlife Park. The park is highly engaging, with the opportunity to feed giraffes and parakeets and ride on a camel.
And if you want something more relaxing, you can go for a ride on a train through their 10-acre expedition where you’ll see lions, hyenas, monkeys, zebras, wildebeest, bison, eland, nilgai, ostrich, emu, rhea, and more.
Due to the immense amount of activities offered, guests can look to spend around 2 to 4 hours in the park, wandering and exploring its grounds.
The Safari North Wildlife Park offers an excellent travel experience for all ages and is the perfect spot for the whole family. If you are having an extended visit, you can lodge at Quality Inn & Suites throughout your visit.
See Related: 9 Reasons to See Duluth Fall Colors in Minnesota
4. Kiwanis Park
Address: 1101 E River Rd, Brainerd, MN 56401
Another great park not to miss when checking out Brainerd is the 37-acre Kiwanis Park.
It is a beautiful family spot located between the fascinating Mississippi River and Boom Lake, and it serves as the Brainerd community’s relaxing destination. It’s a great spot to do an array of outdoor and recreation activities. Kiwanis Park provides a lovely gazebo, a playground, fishing areas, trails, and a canoe launch. The park also has space for dogs to run and play.
See Related: Best Things to do in Alexandria, Minnesota
5. Paul Bunyan Land
Address: 17553 MN-18, Brainerd, MN 56401
Enjoying a day at the Paul Bunyan Land amusement park is one of the best things to do in Brainerd.
It is an incredible and blood-pumping destination that offers 27 rides to experience. The park was previously an old farm that was renovated and turned into a must-visit amusement park.
Upon entering, the 26-foot-tall talking statue of Paul Bunyan greets visitors by name and is surrounded by 30 rides and attractions. The activities to enjoy in Paul Bunyan Land are riding a roller coaster, merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, dodgem’ cars, climbing walls, and more.
Paul Bunyan Land is also home to the Pioneer Village which consists of more than 40 buildings with antiques from the late 1800s and early 1900s. This is the largest collection of antiques in Minnesota!
See Related: Best Mexican Restaurants in Minnesota
6. Bane Park
Address: 1701-1799 S 7th St, Brainerd, MN 56401
Bane Park is another incredible spot to explore and enjoy in the fascinating city of Brainerd.
The park provides essential amenities and facilities that every one of the park’s visitors can use.
It has a spacious open area to use for a refreshing picnic, a splendid playground, an open air ice rink for skating or hockey, and a lovely pavilion for relaxing.
Bane Park is an excellent destination for an individual, group of friends or family to enjoy quality time.
Aside from the various outdoor activities, the park showcases nature’s splendor, which is undoubtedly a sight to see when in Brainerd.
See Related: Best Parks in Minneapolis
7. Buffalo Hills Park
Address: 2104 Graydon Ave, Brainerd, MN 56401
Minnesota is a state filled with excellent and stunning parks, such as Brainerd’s Buffalo Hills Park. It is one of the best parks to see and admire while visiting Brainerd. The park provides both nature’s stunning views and a variety of exciting outdoor and leisure activities.
Buffalo Hills Park is an excellent destination for Brainerd visitors and residents looking for a pleasant environment to engage in recreational activities, as well as unwind while appreciating the beauty of nature. The park features multiple handy facilities and services that provide a fantastic outdoor adventure experience.
Picnic areas with tables and grills, play structures, sports play areas, and trails are some of the amenities that can be found and enjoyed in the 19 acres of Buffalo Hills Park. You can also checkout Econo Lodge if you need to relax after the picnic.
See Related: Best Things to do in Alexandria, MN
8. Gregory Park
Address: 511 N 5th St, Brainerd, MN 56401
Looking for an entertaining and exciting park in the great town of Brainerd, Minnesota, isn’t difficult when there’s a long list of wonderful parks to choose from. Gregory Park is one of them.
It is another excellent location for various outdoor activities for an individual, group or family seeking to spend time in the wilderness. Gregory Park is a beautiful spot for everyone who wants to be one with nature and admire its charm.
There are picnic areas, sports areas for games like basketball and tennis, a skating rink, and a large playground for children. Gregory Park contains a variety of pathways to explore, accessible features, and an event area that may be utilized for celebrations and gatherings.
See Related: Things to do in Wabasha, Minnesota
9. Crow Wing County Historical Society
Address: 320 Laurel St, Brainerd, MN 56401
The great town of Brainerd, Minnesota, is home to a variety of beautiful spots and attractions not to miss when exploring the city. Among these wonderful destinations is the interesting Crow Wing County Historical Society.
Built-in 1917, the museum is housed in the old Crow Wing County Jail and Sheriff’s residence. The museum has exhibits on display consisting of artifacts, artworks, and writings relating to the history of Minnesota’s lumber, mining and railroad industries.
In addition, the Historical Society also has its own research library where you can investigate your own history and look through hundreds of old pictures, books, and maps.
10. Nisswa Family Fun Waterpark
Address: 4871 Co Rd 77, Nisswa, MN 56468
Located 20 minutes outside of Brainerd, the town of Nisswa is undeniably an incredible destination situated in remarkable geology and abundant pristine water.
This land’s blessing produces an excellent opportunity to have great attractions and among them is the Nisswa Family Fun Waterpark.
The park provides an array of great adventures, including beautiful pools to take a swim in, water slides, trails for riding bikes or hiking, and an excellent playground.
Biking, kayaking, and inflatable party rafts are some of the park’s additional activities. Concessions are available in the waterpark, from drinks to snacks, ice cream and so much more. The Nisswa Family Fun Waterpark is truly a memorable family-friendly travel experience.
See Related: Tettegouche State Park
11. Three Bear Waterpark
Address: 15739 Audubon Way, Brainerd, MN 56401
Another excellent family waterpark to enjoy is the nearby Three Bear Waterpark. It is among the great places to check out in town and a destination for those seeking a place to have fun.
The indoor waterpark offers a variety of exciting things for all ages to enjoy. It has a lovely activity pool where games like basketball and volleyball can be played, a tube and body slide, a slide for toddlers, and hot tubs.
Aside from being a great water park in town, the Three Bear Waterpark also serves as a holiday and great getaway destination.
Playing by the pool, enjoying the slides, checking out the park’s lazy river, and bonding with family and friends are some of the activities to enjoy in this family-friendly waterpark.
See Related: Minnesota vs Wisconsin: What’s the Difference?
12. Northland Kart Kountry
Address: 17568 MN-371, Brainerd, MN 56401
Mild to extreme adrenaline-filled adventure can be experienced at Northland Kart Kountry. If you need a little speed and wind in your hair while putting the pedal to the metal, then it is among Brainerd’s must-see destinations for you.
Since 2015, the go-kart track has been a fun family spot filled with exciting and thrilling activities. Northland Kart Kountry features a variety of go-kart recreation and activities to get into.
Bullit Karts, Indy Racing Karts, Junior Karts, Bungee Bounce, Batting Cages, Jump Shot, and Rock-Climbing Wall are some of the exciting adventures within.
Beating the heat is also available in Northland Kart Kountry for it features an exciting activity of water wars where visitors can engage in exciting water balloon warfare.
See Related: Best & Fun Things to Do in Minneapolis, MN
13. Nisswa Area Historical Society
Address: 25605 Lower Cullen Rd, Nisswa, MN 56468
Located 20 minutes outside of Brainerd, the spectacular town of Nisswa also has its own historical spot, the Nisswa Area Historical Society.
It is a historical place and museum that houses the town’s historical data, artifacts, and various other historical items. The museum collects, preserves, and presents Nisswa’s fascinating history.
Nisswa Area Historical Society is a self-guided museum with many entertaining and exciting stories to discover. An ideal destination to enjoy a pleasurable and passive indoor activity.
The rich history of Native American roots, lifestyle, culture, and exciting events that led and contributed to what Nisswa has become today is showcased in the museum.
A serene ambiance and beautiful scenery surround the grounds of Nisswa Area Historical Society. The heritage garden of the museum is a lovely spot to relax after learning about the town’s past in the museum.
See Related: Best Things to do in Winona, Minnesota
14. Billy Bones Raceway
Address: 17944 MN-371, Brainerd, MN 56401
A variety of adventure and more blood-pumping activities can be experienced in Billy Bones Raceway. It is an exciting car racing track in town that has various thrilling activities to do and should not be missed when visiting Brainerd.
Billy Bones Raceway is a pirate-themed racing track that is surrounded and filled with an old ship, treasure chests, bones, and a variety of pirate-related decorations.
Billy Bones Raceway has three go-kart tracks: Zoom Lagoon, Wicked Willie’s, and Parrot Bay Speedway. The tracks can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages and provides a fun and memorable racing experience.
The Zoom Lagoon is an 820-foot family racing track, Wicked Willie’s is a competitive, more challenging, and aggressive type of racing track, and Parrot Bay Speedway is a racing track made for kids.
The family-friendly facility is open to all ages looking to have some fun
See Related: Best Things to do in Red Wing, Minnesota
15. Crow Wing State Park
Address: 3124 State Park Rd, Brainerd, MN 56401
Crow Wing State Park is among the fascinating wonders of nature and must-see places of Brainerd.
It is a charming state park that represents the site of Old Crow Wing, one of the most populous towns in Minnesota during the 1850s and 1860s.
The state park features an array of exciting recreational activities and outdoor adventures to experience.
Hiking along the Red River Ox Cart Trail is among the extensive list of Crow Wing State Park highlights, as well as stopping by the historic Beaulieu House.
Crow Wing State Park is equipped with camping, picnic shelters, fishing spots, historical sites, and scenic trails.
Nearby are the legendary rivers of Mississippi and Crow Wing.
Lock In Your Travel Now
Find Cheap Flights
Use Skyscanner to find flight deals. As my personal favorite flight search engine, Skyscanner scours websites and airlines across the globe, leaving no stone unturned to help you find the best deal possible. And if you really want to take your savings to new heights, pair Skyscanner with Going (Formerly Scott's Cheap Flights). With access to exclusive mistake fares delivered straight to your inbox, you'll be packing your bags and jetting off on your next adventure before you know it.
Travel insurance is a low cost way to ensure your travel plans go smooth no matter what's thrown at it. Cover yourself against illness, injury and theft, and protect the arrangements you've made with our flexible travel cancellation insurance. My favorite options for travel insurance are:
Book Your Accommodation
In order to capture the widest selection of properties and the best price, use Booking.com as they have the cheapest rates for guesthouses, hotels, luxury condos, B&Bs and so much more.
Want More Destination Ideas Direct to Your Inbox?
Be sure to join the ViaTravelers Newsletter for expert tips, tricks and inspiration for your next travel journey!
Discover the Best Travel Tools
Be sure to visit our page on our favorite travel resources to learn how you too can visit over 10 countries in year.