Article courtesy of Explore Minnesota. Discover more Central Minnesota experiences at ExploreMinnesota.com/Central.
A trip to Otter Tail County in west-central Minnesota offers mesmerizing natural scenery, a laidback lakeside vibe and plenty of small-town charms.
Our Home Away From Home: Holly’s Resort on Otter Tail Lake
With over 1,000 lakes in Otter Tail County, there are plenty to pick from when selecting a Minnesota lake vacation destination.
For our weeklong getaway to Central Minnesota, Micah and I settled on Holly’s Resort, located on the shores of Otter Tail Lake. Even though we grew up about an hour away from this resort, we had never discovered all that the area has to offer and figured it was high time that we do.
As we checked into our lakefront cabin, we took a breath of fresh air and attuned ourselves to the sounds of life at the lake.
“The softly lapping waves, the soft laughter ringing out in the distance and the zooming boat motors conjured a wonderful Minnesota lake vacation feeling.”
Fun on the Water: Boating, Paddling, Fishing and Tubing on Otter Tail Lake
Most of our days at the cabin were spent alternating between soaking up rays on the dock, paddling in our kayaks, boating with our fishing lines dropped in the water and screaming with laughter as we tubed across the lake behind a jet ski. Once the sun set, we built a bonfire and roasted sticky marshmallows over the fire’s flickering glow.
Fish frys and grilling were our daily meal staples, but we also decided we couldn’t miss out on one of the most iconic summertime lake experiences around: boating to Zorbaz, a lakeside restaurant that offers an unlikely but delicious combination of pizza and Mexican food.
Hiking Up Inspiration Peak and Hallaway Hill
Even though there was plenty to keep us occupied at the resort, we were set on exploring the surrounding area, as well. Hiking adventures are always at the top of our list, so we climbed to the highest point in the county: Inspiration Peak. Then, we went to Maplewood State Park to hike up Hallaway Hill and take in the expansive view of the lakes and rolling hills below.
Exploring Nyberg Sculpture Park
For a quirky roadside attraction, we made our way to Vining to check out the Nyberg Sculpture Park. There, we were greeted by more than 15 whimsical sculptures, including a pair of dancing silverware, a massive watermelon, an astronaut, a metal elephant and a giant cactus.
Afterwards, we popped into Disgruntled Brewing for a pint. It was great to take a break and lounge on the cozy yellow indoor couches, then head to the large patio outside, fresh brews in hand.
More Great Places to Eat and Drink in the Otter Tail Lakes Area
There are many other fun and delicious places to refuel and refresh in Otter Tail Lake Country. Here are a few of my top picks:
Nest Coffee Shop: Grab coffee and treats at this comfy spot in Perham, Minnesota. There’s an extra perk here: The Kitchen Store, which features top-of-the-line cookware.
Smackin’ Cakes: Sate your sweet tooth at this delicious Battle Lake outpost touted for mouthwatering cookie dough treats, coffees and cakes.
Stella’s Bistro and Wine Bar: This cozy Battle Lake eatery’s menu features American appetizers, salads and sandwiches along with pizza and pasta and a robust wine selection, beers on tap and craft cocktails. A large outdoor patio helps make the most of summer.
Spanky’s Stone Hearth: Located on Rose Lake in Frazee, elevate your fine dining experience with Minnesota-inspired dishes made with locally sourced ingredients (try the charcoal steaks, fresh seafood and BBQ ribs) and seating offering stirring views of the namesake stone hearth fireplace inside or beautiful Rose Lake outside. This restaurant has received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence multiple times, mostly recently in 2020.
Maple Beach Burgers: This down-to-earth roadside burger restaurant in Pelican Rapids may be small but the burgers, fries and onion rings are huge on flavor.
Outstate Brewing Company: Head to Fergus Falls for a variety of distinctive craft beers brewed on premises and served in a warm and welcoming taproom located on the edge of the Otter Tail River.
Extend Your Trip With These Must-See Otter Tail Lake Attractions and Events
Looking back at our week at the lake, we can’t help but smile. There’s something about the fresh air and water that will keep us coming back for more — it’s a tradition we want to repeat for many years to come. Here are some additional experiences that warrant return visits.
Biking at Glendalough State Park: Ride the 11.8-mile bike loop trail that runs along two lakes, through woods, over the prairie and to the city of Battle Lake.
Hootenanny at Fair Hills Resort: Every Tuesday evening throughout the summer, catch the iconic singing, dancing, variety show. It will pull you right back into the good old days.
Perham Turtle Races: Embrace a Minnesota tradition by picking a turtle and cheering for it to cross the finish line.
Phelps Mill Festival: One weekend every summer, Phelps Mill holds a craft festival full of art, food and musical entertainment.
About the writer: Jenna Kvidt is based in St. Paul, Minnesota and is one of the co-creators of the travel website, Wander The Map. Along with her husband Micah, she travels the world in search of adventure, and works on photos and video projects along the way. Read Jenna’s and Micah’s blog on wanderthemap.com and see their photos and videos on Instagram: @wanderthemap.