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Breathtaking Brainerd

Just a two-hour drive from the Twin Cities, Brainerd exudes lakeside charm in northern Minnesota

By Eliana Kinzer

Sunset fishing on Brainerd’s East Gulf Lake. || Photo by Ferrer Photography, courtesy of Adobe Stock

Nestled in the heart of Minnesota’s northern lake country, Brainerd is a vibrant and picturesque event destination that offers the perfect blend of natural beauty with modern amenities. As the summer season arrives in full swing, the city welcomes groups with its unique charm and plethora of activities, which many meeting planners find appealing.

VIBE: Brainerd radiates a warm and welcoming atmosphere with its friendly locals, relaxed pace of life, and breathtaking surroundings. The town’s rich history and outdoor recreational opportunities make it a haven for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and those looking for a laid-back get-together.

TRANSPORTATION: Getting to Brainerd is a breeze with convenient access via major highways including Interstate 94 and state Route 371, and the nearby Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport, which offers daily flights. Once you’re there, getting around is easy, too, through a well-connected network of roads and trails. For those who prefer a more leisurely pace, renting a bike or taking a scenic drive along the famous Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway are great ways to soak in the beauty of the area.

HOTELS: Brainerd offers a wide range of accommodations to suit every traveler’s needs. From cozy lakeside cabins to upscale resorts and hotels like Grand View Lodge and Madden’s on Gull Lake, there are plenty of options for a comfortable stay. Many of the properties boast stunning lake views, and some offer private beaches and marinas.

MEETING VENUES: Brainerd features excellent meeting venues for corporate events, conferences, and retreats. The town has modern facilities that can accommodate both small and large gatherings, and the serene surroundings provide an ideal setting for productive meetings and team-building activities. Cragun’s Golf Resort offers 47,000 square feet of function space, and Breezy Point Resort boasts several flexible rooms for events of all sizes.

RESTAURANTS: The culinary scene is a delightful mix of local flavors and international cuisines—from cozy cafes like Coco Moon Coffee Bar to fine-dining restaurants like Ernie’s on Gull. Fresh-caught fish, locally sourced produce, and thick steaks are just some of the highlights—and with several craft breweries and wineries in the area, you can enjoy a refreshing drink after a day of meeting sessions.

MUST-SEES AND -DOS: Brainerd is packed with group activities and attractions. One must-see is the Brainerd International Raceway, where attendees can witness heart-pounding action or even try their hand at driving a race car. For outdoor enthusiasts, the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area is a haven for mountain biking and hiking with its scenic trails and crystal-clear lakes. If your group is looking for something a bit more relaxing, take them on a leisurely cruise on beautiful Gull Lake.