Nisswa, Minnesota is one of our personal favorites in all of Minnesota. Here is a list of fun things to do in Nisswa, MN.
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. Less people, more culture, and gorgeous views.
Table of Contents
- Nisswa, Minnesota History & Overview
- List of the Top Things to do in Nisswa
- Go out on (any) Lake
- Stay at Grand View Lodge
- Go Dog Sledding like a True Northerner
- Hit a Craft Brewery at Big Axe
- Have a Steak at Bar Harbor Supper Club
- Go shopping on main street
- Enjoy World’s Best Pizza at Rafferty’s
- Race a Turtle in the summer heat
- Conclusion on Nisswa, MN
Nisswa, Minnesota History & Overview
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.
Today, Nisswa is a booming resort town that brings Minnesotans from all over up north for year-long events.
From Oktoberfest to Christmas to summer turtle races, this city makes sure visitors have plenty to do!
List of the Top Things to do in Nisswa
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
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 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:
Stay at Grand View Lodge
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 on an 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 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
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 their 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 main street
The main shopping street of Nisswa is filled with local shops that have been around for decades. From local fudge shops to Lundrigan’s northern clothing, there is something for the whole family.
It’s a great place to grab a classic Minnesotan gift for friends or extended family.
The Chocolate Ox
Located right in the heart of the main street and 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
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!
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
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 the 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.
See Our Related Guides on Minnesota:
- 12+ Things to do Along the Minneapolis Riverwalk
- 19+ Best Saint Paul Restaurants
- Best Breweries in Minneapolis (Ranked)
- 13+ Things to do in Excelsior, Minnesota
- 13+ Things to do in Wayzata, Minnesota
- What to do Around Lake Minnetonka
- 11+ Best Lake Street Restaurants
- Best & Fun Things to do in Duluth, MN
Conclusion on Nisswa, MN
Nisswa is one of the best small towns in all of Minnesota. There is no shortage of things to do no matter the season. It’s a great place to slow down time.
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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