This article is from DESTINATIONS magazine, your source for inspiration and resources about travel in Central and Northern Lakes Area Minnesota! Read on for more links and information about some of Detroit Lakes' most noteworthy sites and events, or click here to return to mndestinations.com, where you can browse travel articles about other communities throughout the region.

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Artwork by artist Troy Becker, for DESTINATIONS magazine
Artwork by artist Troy Becker, for DESTINATIONS magazine

People just love it in Detroit Lakes.

“DL,” as the locals call it, is a laid-back place where folks are happy to hang out by the water in their flip-flops all summer long, and then just as happy to head to the hills in their ski boots in winter.

A prime example of Minnesota’s famous ‘lake culture,’ Detroit Lakes is a magnet for summer tourists. Boating, tubing, biking, beach-going -- there’s never a shortage of outdoor fun in the sun. The community’s mile-long beach, just blocks from downtown, along with its generous smattering of stores, restaurants and lakeside hotels and resorts, are all big draws for warm weather visitors.

All year long, recreational opportunities, festivals, shopping, and community events abound. Autumn’s the scenic season for leaf-peeping, pumpkin patches and deer hunting; birders flock to this migration hotspot every spring; and winter’s the hottest time of year for skiers, snowmobilers and ice anglers.

The community calendar is packed with concerts and powwows, golf tournaments and flea markets, festivals and rodeos, street fairs and classic car cruises, and everything in-between.

DETROIT LAKES AREA 2021 CALENDAR OF EVENTS

Check out Detroit Lakes to find out for yourself why people just love it here.



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FUN FACTS ABOUT Detroit Lakes





  • Detroit Lakes is celebrating 150 years! To celebrate, fun events are happening throughout 2021. A sailboat sculpture regatta, contests and raffles, an all-school reunion and more are all a part of the festivities. City Sesquicentennial Day is July 29. Visit DL150.com for more info.
  • 412 lakes are within a 25 mile radius of Detroit Lakes!
  • Detroit Lakes is the home of WE Fest, one of the nation's biggest country music and camping festivals. This year's lineup includes Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley and many more!



(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)




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NOTEWORTHY THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Water, water everywhere: Ride the waves, take a dip or drop a line

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

There are plenty of places to get wet in Detroit Lakes.

The recreational lakes around town are popular for sailing, canoeing, jet skiing, kayaking, speedboating, pontooning, paddleboarding and other water sports, and it’s common for people to boat through several lakes at a time via the Pelican River chain. No boat? No problem. Rentals are available at J&K Marina at the Detroit Lakes City Beach.

Speaking of the City Beach, if you’re looking for a good place to take a dip or sunbathe, this mile-long treasure is a sure bet. It’s the most popular spot around for swimming, biking, scuba diving, socializing, yoga on the sand and other summer fun. It runs along West Lake Drive, just south of downtown. The City Park and Pavilion are at one end of the beach, and restaurants like Zorbaz and Lakeside Tavern are just across the strip. There are also motels and hotels right on the beach and nearby.

If you’re up for a fishing challenge, try muskie fishing. The muskie fishing opener is June 5, and Detroit Lake is one of the best muskie lakes in the state. Guide service is available throughout most of the area, or just get out there and hit the weedlines.

Dine and dance (or just grab lunch): Trucks & Tunes and Food Truck Fridays

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

Nosh some food truck fare and get your jam on at the Detroit Lakes City Park on Thursday evenings, during Trucks and Tunes, then head back to the park on Fridays for casual outdoor lunches at Food Truck Fridays. Trucks and Tunes brings multiple local food trucks together with live musicians at the park bandshell for fun outdoor gatherings from 5-8 p.m. on select Thursdays throughout the summer: June 17; July 1, 22 and 29; and August 12 and 26. Food Truck Fridays serve up casual outdoor lunches courtesy of food trucks parked near the pavilion, and may or may not include a little live music, too. Food Truck Fridays take place every Friday from May 21 to September 3, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. All events are free (except for the cost of food) and open to everyone. Sponsored by the Detroit Lakes Noon Rotary. Events may be canceled or relocated in the case of inclement weather; check ahead of the event for updated info.

Hit up the Becker County Fair

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

The rides, the games, the entertainment, the animals, the displays -- and let’s not forget about the food! What’s not to love about a good county fair? The Becker County Fair will be held at the Detroit Lakes Fairgrounds (at the junction of Rossman Avenue and West Lake Drive) on July 28-31.



Catch a show at the Holmes: Concerts, plays, comedians and more

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

The art-deco Historic Holmes Theatre offers an array of entertainment options, from local children’s theatre productions to professional touring dance groups, and from comedy acts to big-name concerts. Whether you’re planning a date night or just looking for something a little different to do, a visit to the Holmes is a great way to spend an evening in Detroit Lakes.



Test out the terrain: ATV trails abound around here

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

There are miles of ATV and OHV trails around, with the northeastern part of Becker County being a particular hotspot. The Forest Riders Trail in the Smoky Hills and Two Inlets State Forest is a 100-mile scenic ride through Becker and Hubbard counties, on terrain ranging from rolling and hilly to level and smooth. Some are joint trails that are used for snowmobiling in the winter. A local ATV club, Woods-n-Wheels, helps maintain the trails, organizes group rides and overnight trips, and even offers personal guided rides for interested visitors. Contact the club by visiting the Woods and Wheels ATV Club Facebook page or woodsandwheelsatvclub.com. Trail maps are also available at the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce office.



Detroit Mountain: A skiing and mountain biking mecca

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

Detroit Mountain Recreation Area, with its handsome ski lodge, hills for downhill skiing, snowboarding and tubing, cross country trails, mountain bike trails, hiking paths, skills park, natural play area and more, has been the area’s premiere recreation destination since it opened in 2014. It offers outdoor opportunities for every season.

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)



Northwest Water Carnival: A multi-day summer staple

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)



A major highlight of the summer in Detroit Lakes is the 85-year-old Northwest Water Carnival, a multi-day community extravaganza complete with competitions, contests, kids’ games, live music and the best-in-the-region Parade of the Northwest, all of which revolve around and celebrate the area’s love of the water. There are water fights, concerts on the beach, sand castle competitions and so much more. This year’s water carnival will be going on July 9-18.



Icy endeavors: Chills and thrills at Polar Fest

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)



A multi-day celebration of the good ol’ Minnesota cold, Polar Fest gives people plenty of reasons to get out of their warm houses and into the thrill of the winter outdoors. Events and attractions include a lighted ice palace, snow and ice sculptures, a Polar Fest Plunge challenge, the famous Poles ‘N Holes Ice Fishing Derby, and much, much more. The festival takes place in mid-February.



Be wowed at a powwow

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

Detroit Lakes is located just south of the White Earth Reservation, and local members of the White Earth Nation host powwows throughout the year. The biggest of them all is the White Earth Powwow, held in June at the powwow grounds in White Earth; it offers native dance, food, art and dress in celebration of the day the reservation was created. Later in the summer, the Pine Point Powwow Grounds in Ponsford hosts an annual Pine Point Powwow, which attracts hundreds of participants in a celebration of fellowship and history of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe in the Pine Point area. Watch local media for dates and times.

Shop 'til you drop

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

From whimsical little shops like Red Willow to contemporary downtown retailers like The Nines, Detroit Lakes has a lot to offer in the way of shopping. The Washington Square Mall, located right downtown, encompasses more than 20 local shops and businesses, including an 8-screen movie theatre. There are also independent thrift stores, boutique shops, and restaurants downtown.

Blaze a trail: Snowmobiling in Becker County

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

More than 200 groomed miles of trails are maintained in Becker County, and many area snowmobile clubs offer group rides and fun run events. The Detroit Lakes area is also home to some of the region’s best snowmobile racing. Maps and more information are available at the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce office.



Tuesdays in the Park: Bring your lawn chair and enjoy

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

Bring a chair or comfy blanket to sit on and nestle next to the City Bandshell for Tuesdays in the Park. These weekly concerts at the City Park feature family-friendly performances by some of the area’s best musicians, playing every Tuesday in June, July and August. Concerts are free, with free will donations accepted. Local food trucks are usually parked nearby for those who want to grab some grub. The music starts at 7 p.m.



Birders' paradise: Detroit Lakes is a migration hotspot

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

The Detroit Lakes area is home to over 250 species of birds. A mix of pine forests, deciduous woodlands, native tallgrass prairies, sand dunes, bogs, marshes, lakes and more make up a transition zone that attracts many avian visitors. The community hosts an annual Festival of Birds that attracts bird lovers from all over the world.

  • The Pine to Prairie Birding Trail runs through Detroit Lakes and extends 300 miles north to Manitoba, Canada. It features 23 birding sites, most of which are on public land or private reserves open to the public. Birding trail logo signs are in place at a number of birding locations, with interpretive signs in place at featured sites.

  • Excellent viewing of waterfowl and birds of prey is available at Hamden Slough, near Audubon. Its wetlands and natural grasslands are home to many interesting and unusual shore and marsh birds during their nesting and migratory seasons. Best viewing is during early morning and evening hours, May through November.

  • Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, located about 15 minutes northeast of Detroit Lakes, is also a great place to spot birds and other wildlife, as well as the buds and blooms of spring. The same can be said of Dunton Locks County Park, Sucker Creek Preserve and Maplewood State Park — all within easy driving distance of Detroit Lakes.



Putt around: 5 golf courses are within 5 minutes of town

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

Whether you’re looking for an easy evening game among friends, a competitive match, nine holes or 18, there’s something for every golfer in and around Detroit Lakes. Five minutes from Detroit Lakes are the Detroit Country Club, Lakeview Golf Course, Forest Hills Golf Course, Maple Hills Golf Course and River Hills Golf Course.

Of note is the week-long Pine to Palm Amateur Golf Tournament, one of Minnesota’s so-called “resort circuit” tourneys. Pine to Palm has been held at Detroit Country Club every August since 1932.



Find all the fish: Go on a 'Sunny in DL' sculpture scavenger hunt

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

Detroit Lakes is home to 18 unique sunfish sculptures, viewable at various locations around town. Created and painted by local artists, the 4-foot “Sunny in DL” sculptures range from the serious to the silly: one is rosemaled, while another has sunglasses; one sports a sun, while another has arms. The fish were made in 2002. Try and find them all!



Tour the town on your own two feet: Take the Art & Architecture Walking Tour

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

As the name implies, this walking tour is all about interesting art and architecture in Detroit Lakes. Historical buildings like the Detroit Lakes Public Library and Detroit Lakes Pavilion are included on the tour, along with several notable murals, sculptures and other creative pieces in town. Designed to be family-friendly, the self-guided tour features two possible routes — a 1 mile and a 2.2 mile — with either 13 or 24 sites to be seen along the way, depending on which route you choose. The best way to take the tour is with an informational brochure in hand, available in the main entrance area of the Historic Holmes Theatre.



And for the classic car lovers, there's Cruise DL

(Detroit Lakes File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes File Photo)

Drive your cruiser down Detroit Lakes’ West Lake Drive, which runs along the City Beach, for an evening of classic car fun from 4-8:30 p.m., the second Wednesday of every month in June, July, August and September. Don’t have a classic car? That’s okay, just come view the variety on display. More than 200 cars have been known to gather at the beach for these monthly events.



Catch the flea bug: Shop the Shady Hollow Flea Market

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

Located just south of Detroit Lakes on Highway 59, the famous Shady Hollow Flea Market is open on the extended Memorial Day, Labor Day and 4th of July weekends as well as every Saturday and Sunday from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The market typically has more than 100 vendors, plenty of free parking, food and beverages sold on site, and live music. Visit shadyhollowfleamarket.com for more information.



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BREATHE IN THE FRESH AIR: Parks, preserves and outdoor recreation areas around Detroit Lakes

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

North

East

  • Mountain View Recreation Area, less than 5 miles away. Features 3 miles of natural surface trails for biking, hiking and horseback riding.

  • Smoky Hills State Forest in Osage, less than 30 miles away. Features different trails with water and foliage views, plus a 20-mile ATV trail.

South

  • Sucker Creek Preserve, less than 5 miles away. Features an amphitheater and trails to see wildlife such as fish, amphibians and birds.

  • Dunton Locks County Park, less than 5 miles away. Features biking and hiking trails, fishing piers and multiple water views. Remnants of Indian burial grounds are still present throughout the park.

  • Vergas Trails in Vergas and Frazee, less than 15 miles away. Features biking, hiking and motorized vehicle trails to try and see the Hairy Man of Vergas or the other legends that are rumored to be in the trails.

  • Maplewood State Park in Pelican Rapids, less than 30 miles away. Features many different trails for different views of nature and water, plus different water access points.

West

  • Buffalo River State Park in Glyndon, less than 35 miles away. Features trails to see and hear more than 200 species of birds and 40 species of wildlife, such as coyotes, badgers and foxes.

  • Bluestem Prairie Scientific and Natural Area in Glyndon, 35 miles away. Features prairie fields to see wildflowers and wildlife such as deer, birds and bird nests.

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LOCALS LOVE THESE:

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)


Zorbaz. This beloved “Minnezota” bar and restaurant mini-chain with 11 locations across the Northland started right here in Detroit Lakes, in 1969. A unique and casual lakeside pizza joint, Zorbaz also offers Mexican fare and all sorts of drinks, along with occasional live music. The flagship Zorbaz is located along the city’s mile-long beach, just across the street from Detroit Lake.

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

Cox’s Point. Also known as the sandbar or peninsula, this shallow spot between Big and Little Detroit lakes is the place for boaters to be and be seen on summer weekends, especially over the Fourth of July. People congregate here to party, play games, wade in the water and just enjoy some sun. Fun fact: This sandbar is what put the “detroit” in Detroit Lakes (“detroit” is the French word for strait).

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

River Tubing. Tubing trips down the Otter Tail River are always a party, so grab your friends and head to Charlie’s Tubing (218-847-3258) or K & K Tubing (218-847-5734). Both are just seven miles east of Detroit Lakes on Highway 34.

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

Pickleball. An impressive spread of six outdoor pickleball courts, newly opened in 2019 at Peoples Park (behind Zorbaz), gets constant game action by hundreds of local and visiting players from across the United States. The Detroit Lakes Area Pickleball Association meets at the courts most mornings, and also hosts regular tournaments and potluck socials. All are welcome to join in.

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

SuLaine’s Antique Mall. Fans of antiques, refurbished furniture and thrift-style decor and other goods will be in heaven at SuLaine’s, the area’s largest antiques and collectibles dealer. Located right on Highway 10 on the east end of town, the strip mall-style building is a treasure trove of unique finds from multiple regional sellers. Antiques enthusiasts and bargain hunters won’t be disappointed.

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

The Ice Cream Truck. Chase after this ‘sweet’ ride as it cruises around the Detroit Lakes City Park and Beach area on hot summer days, and beat the heat with a frozen treat. The truck makes various stops around town every May through September. Visit The Ice Cream Truck Facebook page to find out where it’s headed next.

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

The Becker County Museum. With a collection of more than 14,000 photographs and 20,000 artifacts, there's never a shortage of things to see at the museum. And as the host of regular speaking events, kids' educational camps and activities, community programs and more, there's never a shortage of things to do there, either. The museum is embarking on a big building project this year, in order to expand its offerings even further in the future.

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. For a quiet, near-pristine wildlife experience in the heart of Becker County, visit Tamarac. Treasured for its hunting, fishing, ricing, maple sugaring and forest resources, it covers 42,724 rolling acres of forests, lakes, marshes, bogs and shrub swamps. It was established in 1938 as a refuge breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife, and visitors can see over 258 species of birds and 50 species of mammals here. The visitor center is located 18 miles northeast of Detroit Lakes, at the junction of County Roads 26 and 29.

(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)
(Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo)

Trowbridge Creek Zoo. Located about 10 miles south of Detroit Lakes on County Highway 17 (toward Vergas), boasts camels and kangaroos plus parrots, elk, deer, wolves, porcupines, alligators and dozens of other local and exotic animals. There’s also a petting zoo area. Camel rides and a playground for kids add to the fun. The zoo is open Memorial Day through Labor Day, and on weekends as weather permits before and after that.





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FIND THE BEST OF EVERYTHING IN DETROIT LAKES: CHECK OUT THE TRIBUNE'S ‘BEST OF THE LAKES AREA’ READER'S CHOICE AWARD WINNERS



Find the entertainment venues, businesses, services and more that Detroit Lakes Tribune readers chose as the “Best of the Lakes Area” in 2020. Winners are listed in the Tribune’s annual Readers’ Choice Awards magazine, found online HERE.

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