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15 Best Things to Do in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota

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Situated along the shimmering shores of Detroit Lake lies an off-the-beaten-path destination of the Midwest – Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. This picturesque paradise is not your average vacation spot; it’s an all-year-round wonderland brimming with exhilarating experiences and boundless fun for all who venture here.

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a culture seeker, a shopaholic, or a thrill-seeker, Detroit Lakes has it all. As the heart of Northwest Minnesota‘s vacation destinations, this enchanting town boasts over 400 lakes within 25 miles, giving you access to a freshwater haven like no other.

Tucked away amidst the lush landscapes, Little Detroit Lake sparkles like a secret find. As one of the region’s best-kept secrets, this smaller sibling of Detroit Lake offers a peaceful escape, perfect for intimate gatherings, fishing adventures, kayaking, and serene boat rides. Detroit Lakes also boasts a fishing scene that’s second to none, and they have the insider scoop with the latest Detroit Lakes Fishing Report.

Welcome to Detroit Lakes, Minnesota

So step into a world of excitement as we unveil the best things to do in Detroit Lakes. From outdoor escapades that embrace every season to cultural events that ignite the soul and from water sports that make a splash to tantalizing dining experiences, this article will be your ultimate guide to unlocking the magic of Detroit Lakes.

Things to Do in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota

1. Go Bird Watching at Pine to Prairie International Birding Trail

Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge

The legendary Pine to Prairie International Birding Trail is in Detroit Lakes, making it a birdwatcher’s delight. You can spot over 250 bird types along this famed track that stretches 200 miles (321 kilometers). 

In addition, the city hosts the Detroit Lakes Festival of Birds each year. This festival occurs in May when numerous resident bird species dot the trees and swooping the skies.

If you come during this time of year, you should stop by the Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge to see the dramatic mating ritual of the Greater Prairie-Chickens.

2. Visit City Park

Detroit Mountain Recreation Area, Minnesota

Address: Washington Park, 1355 Washington Ave, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501, United States

City Park is the perfect destination for a delightful picnic or a fun-filled excursion with family and friends. Complete with multiple hiking trails, picnic tables, and seating areas. It offers a serene setting for quality bonding time. 

For sports enthusiasts, the park boasts the picturesque Lakeview Frisbee Golf Course, featuring 18 holes lined with traps, making it a unique and enjoyable experience when they play frisbee golf.

Golfers will be treated to gorgeous vistas, especially from the tee area of the 7th hole, which sits at the neighborhood’s highest point, offering panoramic views. Additionally, the park features tennis courts for those who prefer a lively match instead of frisbee golf. 

See Related: Best Minnesota State Parks

3. Excellent Shopping Experience at Washington Square Mall

Address: 808 Washington Ave, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501, United States

Your trip to Detroit Lakes would not be complete without a shopping spree. Consider visiting the Washington Square Mall, deep in the city’s center, which contains everything from a movie theater to good dining options.

The mall is 30 years old and a well-known landmark in downtown Detroit Lakes. Washington Square Mall also has various unusual boutiques where you may find the perfect souvenir from Detroit Lakes as you shop to your heart’s content.

4. River Tubing Excursions with K & K Tubing

Ottertail River, Minnesota

Address: 33551 MN-34, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501, United States

River tubing along Ottertail River with K & K Tubing is a relaxing yet exciting water-based activity for the summer months. You enjoy the calm while floating in the river and seeing what nature offers. The two-hour tube ride lets you float on the river while basking in a tranquil environment.

If you are traveling with kids, you can use separate tubes for the children to ensure you have all you need for a memorable family vacation. In addition, extra hours are occasionally available for free after spending the scheduled hours. 

5. Wildlife at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge

Address: 35704 270 St, Rochert, MN 56578, United States

Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge is a premier site of tallgrass prairie, hardwood, and pine forests that offers tourists excellent glimpses of trees, wetlands, and wildlife. It’s just outside of the city, approximately 25 minutes northeast of Detroit Lakes.

Remember your camera and binoculars to go on a guided visitors’ wildlife drive or tour the hiking trails to see refuge habitats and wild animals.

The refuge’s spring and fall bird migrations are massive. You can spy trumpeter swans, bald eagles, subtle ruffled grouse, scarlet tanagers, warblers, and many other species.

6. Experience the Northwest Water Carnival

Detroit Lakes is known for its charming festivals, which you should experience to get an authentic feel. The downtown area comes to life for two days in June with a festival showcasing art, culture, and gastronomy. The dates are the Friday and Saturday following Memorial Day.

Over a hundred artists’ booths usually display their one-of-a-kind works. Also, the performers boast of great music and tasty cuisine.

The Northwest Water Carnival takes place in July, right in the middle of summer. The Northwest Parade, which takes place on Washington Avenue and West Lake Drive, is well-known. At Bash on the Beach, you may also see live bands performing on the lake’s sandy beach.

See Related: Best Beaches in Minnesota

7. Enjoy Good Food at Roasted Pubs and Eatery

Roasted Pub and Eatery front entrance on Washington Ave, Detroit Lakes
Roasted Pub and Eatery / Facebook

Address: 815 Washington Ave, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501, United States

The Roasted Pub and Eatery, situated on Washington Avenue’s major highway, is recognized for its outstanding coffee and artisan beer. The well-roasted coffee leaves a lasting impression on coffee connoisseurs, and it goes great with their freshly prepared cupcakes. 

You can also choose from a selection of superb beef and poultry-based dishes. With all that good food comes a lovely and colorful indoor ambiance and additional outdoor dining on bright, sunny days.

8. Local Wine at Richwood Winery

Richwood Winery, Detroit Lakes
Richwood Winery / Facebook

Address: 27799 Co Hwy 34, Callaway, MN 56521, United States

Just 10 miles north of Detroit Lakes, Richwood Winery neighbors Buffalo Lake and is known for its excellent wine and stunning scenery.

This winery began in 2008 with grapes from Marquette and Frontenac Gris, then blended with other quality grapes. The result is fine wines that the owner will hang their hat on by saying they rival Napa Valley products.

When visiting, enjoy wine in the log cabin tasting room with incredible vineyard views. Check out these other top wineries in Minnesota to build your very own wine tour.

9. Enjoy Diverse Flowers at Bergen’s Greenhouses

Flowers in Bergen's Greenhouses
Bergen’s Greenhouses / Facebook

Address: 801 Willow St W, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501, United States

Bergen’s Greenhouses is a fourth-generation family business that has served the upper Midwest since 1921. Their goal is to produce, market, and distribute the best plants locally available as efficiently as possible.

They also implement sustainable recycling and eco-friendly practices that benefit the environment. In the greenhouses, you can find over 200 species of pretty petunias and 100 types of popular perennials.

They also grow over 8 million seeds for vegetables and spring annuals, and they have over 1.35 million garden mum clippings for the colder seasons. The greenhouses include a nice blend of plants, trees, and flowers of every kind, and each tour will surely put you in a good mood.

10. Wine and Dine at The Fireside

Steak with Rosemary

Address: 1462 E Shore Dr, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501, United States

The Fireside is a fine-dining establishment created in 1948. Over the past decades, it has become famous in Detroit Lakes. The community, as this restaurant, prides itself on its diverse house-made and hand-cut goods.

When you visit, you can enjoy the sun on the horizon while eating lunch in an elegant setting with a stunning view of Lake Detroit. They even provide outdoor seating if you wish to dine beneath the trees and sky while observing the beautiful lakefront. The Fireside is also suitable for events and will gladly assist you in making that momentous occasion even more remarkable.

11. Go Mountain Biking or Skiing at Detroit Mountain Recreation Area

Detroit Mountain Recreation Area, Minnesota

Address: 29409 170th St, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501, United States

The Detroit Lakes area boasts a plethora of remarkable routes perfect for mountain biking enthusiasts. Among the top spots is the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area, previously a family-owned Alpine Resort for skiing but now offers exhilarating downhill-flowing paths for the ultimate mountain biking experience. Take the lift up the mountain and race down the slopes to your heart’s content. 

Another fantastic option is the Mountain View Recreation Area, where you can immerse yourself in forested trails for an enchanting ride. Additionally, Maplelag Resort provides a network of paths designed initially for cross-country skiing, but they have become excellent mountain biking trails during the summer months.

Traverse through loops, test your technical prowess on slopes and drops, and enhance your overall fitness while enjoying the best mountain biking in this picturesque region.

See Related: Best Lakes in Minnesota

12. Hiking at the Spectacular North Country National Scenic Trail

A picturesque section of the North Country National Scenic Trail is close to the city, spanning approximately 4,700 miles (7,402 km) across several states. This trail segment, stretching from Reamer to Detroit Lake, presents an excellent opportunity for hikers to immerse themselves in natural beauty. 

The trail meanders through stunning landscapes, including the scenic Pine Lake, a haven for birdwatchers seeking glimpses of beautiful avian species. The trail’s rolling hills and valleys, adorned with captivating flora, offer a compelling hiking experience. 

Moreover, you need not dedicate your entire time to hiking, as the nearby Detroit Mountain Recreation Area beckons with its exceptional recreational offerings, promising to impress visitors with various activities.

13. Flea Market Experience

Crowd in Shady Hollow Flea Market
Shady Hollow Flea Market / Facebook

Address: 12673 Co Hwy 17, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501, United States

Shady Hollow Flea Market is a highly recommended destination for everyone who enjoys bargain shopping. Make sure to visit during the summer since it is open every Saturday between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

At Shady Hollow Flea Market, you can find everything from clothes and jewelry to books and other items for a meager price. After working up an appetite shopping, you can stop by the Shady Hollow Grill for delicious all-American dinners or go to the food trucks for corn dogs, donuts, and kettle corn.

14. Scuba Dive with Tri-State Diving

Diver suited up and getting ready to be checked out before getting into the water.
Tri-State Diving / Facebook

Address: 28300 Little Floyd Lake Rd, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501, United States

Minnesota is quite far from the ocean, yet that doesn’t stop anyone in the Detroit Lakes community from enjoying a scuba diving adventure! In fact, with the number of pristine lakes nearby, Detroit Lakes offers some of the finest freshwater diving in the world. 

On your visit, stop by Tri-State Diving to book a diving excursion. This diving store offers sales, services, rentals, and charters for aspiring divers exploring Minnesota’s freshwater lakes.

See Related: Best Scuba Travel Insurance Options

15. Explore SuLaine’s Antique Mall

Antique products in SuLaine's Antique Mall
SuLaine’s Antique Mall / Facebook

Address: 603 US-10, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501, United States

There’s plenty to feast your eyes upon and do at SuLaine’s Antique Mall. This location is the city’s most extensive collection and antique hub, with 14,000 square feet of display space and over 70 antique dealers. Explore a vast collection of apparel, postcards, souvenirs, coins, sports equipment, kitchenware, garden décor, antiquities, and more.

You can also discover seasonal bargains on the shelves, embellish your home with new household purchases, seek lovely furniture, peruse the bric-a-brac selection, and amass a collection of vintage objects to take home. 

The selection is relatively large, so narrow your ideal choices to a few categories before searching. Remember that the staff is always glad to assist you in your quest.

Accommodations near Detroit Lakes, Minnesota

Discover the perfect blend of comfort and adventure with accommodations near Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Vacation rentals offer the ideal combination of privacy and convenience, providing charming cabins and lakefront houses with all the amenities you can wish for. Many seasonal residents here are willing to rent out their cabins, so check VRBO for the best pricing and to go “up north” this year.

For those yearning for a delightful hotel stay, look no further than Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Detroit Lakes, MN. With well-appointed rooms, complimentary breakfast, and fantastic amenities like a heated indoor pool, this hotel ensures a memorable stay for couples, families, and solo travelers.


Where can I find great nightlife and entertainment in Detroit Lakes?

Detroit Lakes offers a vibrant nightlife and entertainment scene that caters to all tastes. The downtown area is a bustling hub with bars, pubs, and live music venues where you can enjoy a night of dancing, socializing, and live performances. Additionally, during the summer, the city comes alive with seasonal festivals and events that showcase the town’s rich cultural heritage.

Where can I find information on Detroit Lakes events and festivals?

To find information on Detroit Lakes events and festivals, you can check the official website of the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce. They regularly update their events calendar with upcoming festivals, concerts, and community gatherings within the vicinity. Local newspapers and online community forums are also excellent sources to stay updated on the latest happenings in Detroit Lakes.

What is the best time of the year to visit Detroit Lakes?

The best time of the year to visit Detroit Lakes is during the summer months, from June to August. During this time, the weather is pleasantly warm, and the lakeside location allows visitors to indulge in outdoor activities, including boating, fishing, and hiking. The area comes alive with festivals, events, and bustling downtown activities, providing a lively and exciting atmosphere.

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