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8 Best Things to do in Nisswa, Minnesota

Nisswa, Minnesota is one of our personal favorites in all of Minnesota. Here is a list of fun things to do in Nisswa.

As native Minnesotans, we are excited to provide a full list of all the top things to do in Nisswa, MN. We both grew up coming to Nisswa for turtle races in the heat of summer.

We spend most of our time travel hacking to find new destinations around the world. This time it was great to explore a city we are pretty familiar with.

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While summer is a great time to visit, the fall and winter are even better. Fewer people, more culture, and gorgeous views.

Good Ol Days Resort
1. Good Ol Days Resort Top Recommendation

Looking for a place to get away from it all? Look no further than Good Ol Days Resort! Set in the beautiful town of Nisswa, this resort offers everything you need for a relaxing vacation. With free bikes, free private parking, and a shared lounge, you'll have everything you need right at your fingertips. Plus, the hotel is located just 1.2 km from Nisswa and 6.7 km from Pauls Seaplane Base - making it the perfect spot for exploring all that this area has to offer! And when you're ready to relax, be sure to take advantage of the private beach area.

Modern Nisswa Escape
2. Modern Nisswa Escape with Deck Near Gull Lake!

Looking for an unforgettable escape in the beautiful Nisswa area? Look no further than this modern gem, situated right on the water with gorgeous views of Gull Lake! This 5-bedroom vacation rental home is perfect for large families or groups of friends, with plenty of space to spread out and relax. The fully equipped kitchen will make meal times a breeze, and you can dine al fresco on the deck while taking in the stunning lake views.

Alluring Nisswa Cabin on Gull Lake
3. Alluring Nisswa Cabin on Gull Lake with Fireplace!

If you're looking for a cozy and Alluring Nisswa Cabin on Gull Lake with Fireplace!, then this is the perfect spot for you! With free WiFi and lake views, this cabin provides everything you need for a relaxing getaway. The holiday home features 3 bedrooms, a kitchen with a dishwasher and a microwave, a washing machine, and 3 bathrooms. Towels and bed linen are offered in this accommodation.

Nisswa, Minnesota History & Overview

Nisswa History Town
Historic Nisswa Village

Nisswa is a northern Minnesota town with historic charm. The city was founded in the late 1800s and became known as the “Smiley” stop off the railroad. The town quickly grew when the invention of the automobile brought people from the cities up to the north to relax in the summer.

When you visit Nisswa you can go see the old railroad stop and even an old rail car. Kids (and adults) can climb in the old railcar and see what the conductors drive. And across the street is a small town built like the houses in the late 1800s for the whole family to explore.

Nisswa is located in Northern Minnesota and is a booming resort town that has year-long events. Nisswa is known for its Oktoberfest, Christmas, and summer turtle races which bring Minnesotans from all over up north. Nisswa is the perfect place to visit if you’re looking for a festive atmosphere and plenty of things to do. You’re sure to have a great time no matter when you visit!

See Related: Best & Fun Things to Do in Minneapolis, MN

Best & Fun Things to do in Nisswa, Minnesota

Here are some of the best things to do in Nisswa, Minnesota. Whether you enjoy old-town Minnesota antique shopping, outdoor activities, or finding a good restaurant, there is something in Nisswa for every personality.

We recommend staying for at least four days to get the experience. But a weekend getaway works just fine too!

See Related: Best Minnesota State Parks

Go out on (any) Lake

Sunset Over Gull Lake in Minnesota

There are so many gorgeous lakes within minutes of Nisswa it is hard to choose! The most popular lake is Gull Lake, complete with a Zorbaz bar (tons of fun) and more. But there are a number of less-traveled lakes that you can visit to experience the beauty of the untouched true north.

  • Lower Cullen Lake is less traveled than Gull Lake, but it still has a resort and plenty of boat rentals.
  • Upper Gull Lake is a great spot if you want to experience Gull Lake but keep it calmer. This small area of Gull Lake is connected to Roy Lake and Nisswa Lake which are mostly residential.

Out on the lakes, you can rent paddleboats, pontoons, speed boats, canoes, and paddleboards. If you are at a resort you can probably rent from them for free. Or bring your own kayak and venture off into the wilderness! Check out the amazing sunset that we captured on Gull Lake:

Minnesota Lake Sunset Timelapse: Northern Sunset in MN in 4K

See Related: Best & Fun Things to Do in Minneapolis, MN

Stay at Grand View Lodge

Grand View Lodge Lobby
Grand View Lodge with gorgeous windows.

The Grand View Lodge in Nisswa is a staple. Large wooden beams, warm cozy fires, and a basement bar perfect for (escaping from) the family. If you are looking for a relaxing experience, this is the place for you.

They have a spa onsite, and plenty of golf to leisurely play in the early morning. The resort has everything you need and then some. Here is their gorgeous lobby: The Grand View Lodge has hundreds of rooms and dozens of cabins for rent. Staying at Grand View is like staying at the ultimate cabin.

Lots of lake gear to rent & bars open for when you want to get cozy inside. It is also just a short drive into downtown Nisswa making it the perfect getaway.

See Related: Best Hotels in the Midwest

Go Dog Sledding like a True Northerner

Dog Sledding in Northern Minnesota

Dog sledding is a family-fun activity and a great way to experience the outdoors when it is cold and snowy. Dog sledding is a popular thing to do near Nisswa because it is so scenic! Large trees, frozen lakes, and fluffy snow make for the perfect dog-sledding atmosphere.

Just a short drive away from Nisswa you will find Suomi Hills Kennel. Here you and the whole family can enjoy dog sledding. The Kennel has a variety of options including one-hour rides and even rides across the lake!

We highly recommend the Dog Sledding For Dinner Tour. This one-hour-long tour stops at the Corner Club for dinner. The dog sledding dinner tour allows you and a friend the dog sledding experience with a tasty dinner to finish.

See Related: Best Cabins in Minnesota to Rent

Hit a Craft Brewery at Big Axe

Big Axe Brewery and Burger
Big Axe Brewery and Burger

Nisswa is home to Big Axe Brewing and their beers are worth talking about. We recommend coming to Big Axe Brewing for their Oktoberfest celebration. They have live music, beer specials, hammerschlagen, and more.

The beer at Bix Axe is worth bringing a growler home. Their red ale and coffee stout are our favorites. And their food is spectacular. Try it out! Have some time in Minneapolis? Visit these top Minneapolis breweries to continue your craft beer excursion.

See Related: Best Breweries in Duluth, Minnesota

Have a Steak at Bar Harbor Supper Club

The Bar Harbor Supper Club is known for its awesome summer patio and fantastic steak dinners. Their patio is perfect for the summer. Located right on the lack with ample boat parking, Bar Harbour is easy to get to and hard to leave.

The patio is much more casual than the dining room offering guacamole and other summer nibbles. Garlic cheese curds? Sign us up!

See Related: Best Mexican Restaurants in Minnesota

Go shopping on the main street

Main Street of Downtown Nisswa

Nisswa is a small town located in northern Minnesota, just a few hours from the Twin Cities. The town is best known for its main shopping street, which is lined with local businesses that have been around for decades.

The main street of Nisswa is also a great place to grab a classic Minnesotan gift for friends or extended family. If you’re looking for things to do in Nisswa, this area is definitely the place to start.

See Related: Best & Fun Things to Do in Minneapolis, MN

The Chocolate Ox

Chocolate Ox Turtle Fudge
Chocolate Ox Turtle Fudge…Yum!

Located right in the heart of the main street and is a must to stop in. The Chocolate Ox is Nisswa’s long-standing fudge and candy shop. They have an inventory of vintage candies and homemade fudge that is exceptional. Our favorite fudge is cookies and cream or peanut butter.

Grab a couple of little pieces and share with some friends…or just keep them to yourself.

See Related: Best Things to do in Hudson, Wisconsin

Lundigrans Clothing

Ok. This is the ultimate northern clothing store. Lundigrans has the best nordic clothing in the state. Cozy jackets, fluffy sweaters, wooly socks, and warm everything. Lundrigan’s is made for those who like to be outdoors. Stop in and get ready to find your next winter piece.

Pro tip: Head to the back of the store for the sale of merchandise. Buy out of season for the best deals!

See Related: Best Breakfast in Minnesota

More and more shops!

Martin's Shop in Nisswa

There are so many amazing stores in downtown Nisswa it is difficult to pick and choose which ones to tell you about. For the best Nisswa experience we recommend just walking the main street and popping into every store.

The main street is not too long and every shop has something unique to offer. And, when you need a break, there are plenty of food options!

See Related: Best Minnesota Family Vacations

Enjoy World’s Best Pizza at Rafferty’s

Rafferty's Pizza
Rafferty’s Pizza

We have a confession. We came to Rafferty’s and ordered basically one of everything on the menu…and we were not disappointed. Calzones, pizza, salads, cheesy bread, wings, sandwiches, and more. And all of it is GOOD! (and yes they offer gluten-free crusts!)

Our favorite thing on the menu at Rafferty’s is the baked potato pizza or a pepperoni calzone. We also really liked their boneless wings. And their cheesy bread. Don’t believe us? Just look at this crust:

Try them out. They even have a patio to sit outside when it is nice out. And they have cold beer on tap. Honestly, can you ask for anything else?

See Related: Best Things to do in Alexandria, Minnesota

Race a Turtle in the summer heat

One of the most popular things to do in Nisswa in the summer is to participate in turtle races. Kids from age 1 to 100 wager their turtle and at the official call let them free! Prizes range from gift cards to take-home souvenirs.

Turtle race days are very busy in downtown Nisswa. Plan to come early to get a parking spot and stop at one of the local establishments for some snacks and drinks.


Nisswa, Minnesota is one of the best small towns in all of Minnesota. There is no shortage of things to do no matter the season. In the summer, visitors can enjoy hiking and biking trails, swimming and paddling on one of the many lakes, golfing at one of the five courses, or shopping in the quaint downtown area. The fall brings beautiful colors and outdoor activities like hunting and fishing.

Winter transforms the town into a winter wonderland with snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice fishing. And springtime is perfect for enjoying the slightly warmer weather and getting back out on the lakes. No matter what time of year it is, Nisswa is a great place to slow time down during a weekend getaway.

Get away from the daily hustle and bustle while experiencing true northern Minnesota culture. What are some of your favorite things to do in Nisswa?

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