Photos courtesy of Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber and Civic Brand. Featured Photo by Debbie Center
Park Rapids is an old-fashioned, small-town feeling getaway at the gateway to Itasca State Park. Take a step back in time and slow down for a few days as you enjoy the old-time city and the scenic nature that surrounds it.
The Red Bridge Inn’s delightful pink facade welcomes visitors for a boutique experience. Right on the Fish Hook River and just two blocks from downtown Park Rapids, this Victorian-style inn provides a unique on-the-lake experience. Booking one of the seven unique rooms includes a home cooked breakfast and access to assets like two fishing boats, two pontoon boats, a paddle boat and a deck overlooking the water. As this bed and breakfast’s name suggests, there also is a picturesque red bridge on the grounds, aiding you in fully exploring the beautiful property.
4 p.m. – Walk the Red Bridge Park Sculpture Trail
Just alongside the Red Bridge Inn’s property is the Red Bridge Sculpture Trail. Take this time to stretch out your legs after your drive to Park Rapids and enjoy some fresh air. Various metal pieces of artwork decorate a trail that follows the river, providing for enjoyable scenery both ways you might look.
6 p.m. – Dinner at Y Steak House
After working up an appetite from walking the trail, head about a mile north of downtown for dinner. Y Steak House is an old-style steakhouse that’s been serving the area since 1946. With generous portion sizes, you’ll certainly leave with a full stomach
8 p.m. – Post Dinner Drinks
If you’ve still got some room left in you after dinner, head down the street for drinks. Consider grabbing a brew at The Royal Bar, a classic burger and beer spot that is basically a Park Rapids institution.
Start your day off right with breakfast at a classic spot, the Great Northern Cafe. Make sure to bring cash at this old-school diner, as they do not take credit cards. For a spot where your coffee cup never reaches empty, thanks to their attentive and kind waitstaff, this is the spot to go.
10 a.m. – Take a Stroll Downtown
Take time this morning to explore the treasures of Downtown Park Rapids. Beagle & Wolf Books and Bindery is a classic independent book store. Beyond a unique selection of reads, they also offer bookbinding and repair services. For an eclectic second-hand experience, stop by The Tin Ceiling, a store with cute displays and is self-described as “A Taste of Honey, A Touch of Class, & Lots of Funk!” Maybe bring home some gifts for your household with Rustic Cabin Decor‘s selection of home goods. And quilter or not, you must stop by Monika’s “Grandma and Grandpa shop” that is a quilter’s paradise.
12:30 p.m. – Lunch at The Good Life Cafe
At modern cafe, The Good Life Cafe, you can find updated comfort food in a friendly atmosphere with craft beer options. After filling up, stop by Minnesoda Fountain to be transported back in time for some ice cream in a 1950’s soda shop environment.
1:30 p.m. – Digest and Learn
While you let your lunch digest and have an ice cream cone in hand, take in some history at the Nemeth Art Center and Hubbard County Historical Society, which are in the same building at 301 Court Avenue.
3 p.m. – Playtime!
Time to head 25 minutes up the road to Itasca State Park. If you want to take on the area on your own, you can rent kayaks, canoe, bikes, pontoons, etc. from Itasca Sports, Inc. If a more structured and guided tour of the area is more your speed, head to Coborn’s Lake Itasca Tours and schedule their Narrated History & Wildlife Tour to see and learn all about the area.
There are many hiking trails open for all levels of activity. Be sure to grab a copy of the Itasca State Park Bird Checklist and check out some binoculars from Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center to keep an eye out for the numerous bird species to be found on the park grounds.
6 p.m. – Eat like a Minnesotan
Before leaving Itasca State Park, dine at Douglas Lodge Restaurant for some authentic lake-living food in a rustic cabin environment. Menu options include lavosh, tater tot hotdish and stuffed walleye.
9 p.m. – Wind down
Finish off your day back in downtown Park Rapids with drinks and desserts at Necce’s Ristorante. Pair a glass of Dow’s Late Port with their Tuscan Tiramisu or Necce’s Signature Big Chocolate Truffle Cake and complete your day on a sweet note.
After a long day of activities and exploring, grab some coffee to wake you up. Head down to 3rd Street to the Italian-inspired Bella Cafe for some java to prepare you for your last day in town.
Drive about 15 minutes east to Nevis to FireFly Event Barn & Taproom for their made-to-order brunch menu, including a $5 mimosa bar and $8-14 Bloody Mary Bar. This location is known for hosting rustic, romantic weddings, but after the party’s over, they host an unforgettable brunch at their picturesque space.
12 p.m. – Do it for the ‘Gram
What’s a weekend getaway if you didn’t document it? If you didn’t get enough photos from your day in the state park, consider stopping by these two iconic photo ops. Less than a mile away from your brunch is the World’s Largest Tiger Muskie statue, standing at 31 feet long. For another massive figurine, just 6 miles up the road from FireFly’s Taproom is the world’s largest Paul Bunyan statue at 112 Broadway St. W. in Akeley.
1 p.m. – Relax and Reflect
Head back to downtown to the inn to pack up and enjoy some time on the water. Rent a paddle boat or kayak and relax on the water some, reflecting on your peaceful weekend.
Before hitting the road, grab some Molly Poppin’s Gourmet Snacks to enjoy back home (or on the drive back, if you have low self-control). Their gourmet popcorn selection is unbeatable. From sweet finds like Almond Toffee and Caramel Apple to the savory side with Bacon Cheddar or Sour Cream & Chive, there is something for every palette. While in the shop, don’t forget to check out their range of gifts, like locally made bath and body products from Rawhide Soaps and Lotions.
Plan Your Trip
Any weekend you choose is going to be a good time, but if you’re looking for a specific event going on in town, here are a few events to catch:
2nd Street Stage, Thursday evenings downtown 6-8 p.m. (except for July 4th when it will be held July 5th instead).
Each Thursday, June 13 through Aug. 15, downtown Park Rapids hosts an outdoor family-friendly concert downtown with a beer garden and lots of people and dancing!
Nevis Muskie Days, July 26-27
Hit up this annual, townwide music festival in Nevis. This year, headliners will be Corey Medina & Brothers and The Big Wu, with more lineup to be announced as the time draws closer.
Taste of Dorset, Aug 4
Dorset, a small town just a few miles East of Park Rapids, has the highest number of restaurants per capita. Join the businesses of Dorset celebrating their fabulous event, featuring foods from the Restaurant Capital of the World. This event also includes their famous Mayor Election, where residents pay $1 to add a name of their choice to a hat, where the name on a drawn slip becomes mayor (the town’s population is only about 22!)
Water Wars, Aug 8
Come for some water-tastic small-town fun! At Water Wars, the town hoists a barrel up on a cable in downtown Main street and teams battle it out with water hoses. Water Wars is an exceptionally good time to come because then 2nd Street Stage kicks off right afterward!
Forestedge Winery Art Fair at the Winery, August 17-18
Expect lots of art along with wine tasting and music at this event just outside Park Rapids. Forestedge Winery is different because they make their wine from fruit grown in the region (raspberries, white cranberries, currants, etc…) and they’ve won plenty of awards for their beverages.