Vacation without leaving Minnesota

Originally printed in Lavender Magazine, March 2020

Call up friends and book a nine-bedroom cabin together in Nisswa.

There’s no need to purchase airline tickets if you’re looking for a place to escape. The Brainerd Lakes area, which includes the cities of Brainerd, Nisswa and Baxter, Minnesota, along with surrounding communities, is less than two-and-a-half hours by car from downtown Minneapolis. You can easily get there after work on Friday and have plenty of time to relax before returning to reality.

Do your Brainerd Lakes stay the right way by skipping the conventional hotel and heading to a resort. During my January 2020 visit, I was able to unwind at Grand View Lodge, located on Gull Lake in Nisswa. 

Dating back to 1916, Grand View’s Main Lodge is on the Historic Register of Historic Places, and the charm overflows. 

If you head up north with a group, Grand View offers cabins that have up to nine bedrooms, offering the perfect opportunity to plan a gathering with friends.

A room inside North, the 60-room boutique hotel at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa.

I stayed in Grand View’s 60-room boutique hotel, which opened in July 2019. Called North, the two-level property has the typical modern amenities you would expect when traveling, while providing close access to everything Grand View has to offer, including Gull Lake.

NorthPark, a new addition to Grand View Lodge, features an indoor pool, slide, workout facilities and a very large outdoor hot tub. Photo courtesy of Grand View Lodge

Located next door to the boutique hotel, the recreation center NorthPark has a huge outdoor hot tub, which ended up being a popular late night spot, even when I was there in the dead of winter. Inside NorthPark, you will find a pool, water slide, fitness room, yoga studio and locker rooms. Many of the offerings at NorthPark are included with the price of your room or cabin.

Grand View offers plenty of dining options on the property. At CHAR, Grand View’s steakhouse inside the Main Lodge, I enjoyed a lovely prime rib dinner and an old fashioned sitting next to a fire. Nearby, Cru Restaurant and Wine Bar has a wine cellar featuring over 2,000 bottles and has 25 wines available by the glass, serving up an elegant dining experience. Grand View also has a casual pub serving food and drink. In the summer, an on-property pizzeria will deliver to you anywhere at Grand View. And if you’re there during the right time of year, you must get your fix of ice cream at The Chocolate Ox, a favorite with many folks from Northern Minnesota and across the state.

Grand View Lodge patrons get a vast, all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, served in the Main Lodge, and it is included with your stay. The resort does a remarkable job offering gluten-free options at breakfast, including a separate section for gluten-friendly cookies, bread and waffle batter.

Grand View Lodge is a big property. A free shuttle service will bring you from your cabin or the boutique hotel to dinner or to their 1500 feet of natural shoreline on Gull Lake. Grand View is also home to two premiere golf courses, making it a popular summer destination.

Zaiser’s in Nisswa.

Nearby downtown Nisswa offers chances to shop, eat and drink, and it’s worth exploring the area. My friend Nick and I had a blast exploring Zaiser’s, a robust gift shop. From shoes to travel books to gag gifts, Zaiser’s has it all. The store has a GLBT section as well. 

StoneHouse Coffee and Roastery in Nisswa.

In the same strip mall, you will find a spot voted as one of the best coffee shops in Minnesota. Viewers of KSTP-TV’s Twin Cities Live selected StoneHouse Coffee and Roastery as a ‘best coffee shop’ in Minnesota as part of the show’s ‘Worth the Trip’ series. 

StoneHouse roasts their beans right on site. Their number one seller is the Dark Pearl, a medium dark blend. Other top coffees include the Italian Stallion, a dark blend, and Minnesota Nice, a medium roast. StoneHouse also sells their coffee in K-Cups for Keurig machines.

The scone is a must order at StoneHouse Coffee in Nisswa.

In addition to a cup of coffee, you must order a scone at StoneHouse. The in-house baked white chocolate blueberry scone was soft in the middle and crunchy on the outside. If you fall in love with them like I did, StoneHouse sells their scone mix so you can make your own batch at home. 

And across the street from Zaiser’s and StoneHouse is Rafferty’s Pizza, right on Main Street. Their restaurant was highly recommended when I was collecting suggestions for my trip to Brainerd Lakes. In addition to Nisswa, Rafferty’s has locations in Brainerd, Crosby and Crosslake.

My newest personal challenge: stay in the Brainerd Lakes area during each of Minnesota’s unique four seasons. I have winter checked off. Now it’s time to book a trip for spring and another this summer. It’s time to call up some friends and rent out a cabin.


Special thanks to Grand View Lodge in Nisswa for accommodating this visit. To book your stay, visit www.grandviewlodge.com.

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