Walleye Capital of the World 


If you’ve ever driven through Garrison, you have a most certainly passed by the giant Walleye sculpture sitting in Garrison Concourse Wayside Park. It is located on the southeast edge of town, off the shore of Lake Mille Lacs, waving passersby with a warm “Welcome to Garrison!”

The Minnesota state legislature designated the Walleye as the Official State Fish in 1965. Since Mille Lacs is the largest lake in central Minnesota and the most popular spot to catch a Walleye, Garrison erected the 15-ft. long fiberglass Walleye Pike in 1980 and declared itself “Walleye Capital of the World.” Legend has it this walleye was caught by Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox after three-day struggle. Paul finally wrapped his line around Babe’s horns and Babe pulled the fish out of Lake Mille Lacs and up onto Garrison Beach.

The fiberglass statue, covered in reflective automotive paint, is a product of the F.A.S.T. Corporation and makes for a great photo op.

Fun fact: Garrison shares a name with a town in North Dakota that also has the same fish statue.

Lake Cafe 

Up next is one of the most mom-and-pop places that I’ve ever been to, the Lake Cafe in Big Lake. Owned by Tim and Tammy Cox, Tim’s family purchased the restaurant in 1968. Unfortunately, six months after, his father, Ronald passed away. For the next 34 years, it was run by his mom, Ethel. Tim and Tammy purchased the restaurant when Ethel died in 2002.

I have been coming to the Lake Cafe for as long as I can remember. It was a family favorite, a tradition, and a go-to for “fancy” diner food. It was eggs Benedict, and pancakes for Sunday breakfast and where kids could indulge in burgers for good grades while the adults chatted over coffee cups and homemade chili. Lake Cafe is one of those spots that you can’t help but remember, and reminisce simply by closing your eyes. A place that smelled like your Grandmas’s kitchen – for all the right reasons.

Mazda / The Hotel Landing 

Recently, I got the chance to take the All-New 2017 Mazda CX-5 for a spin. With it’s deeply vivid, Soul Red Crystal Metallic color complementing every curve and angle creating a sense of motion, even at a standstill, I chose to go to “The Gateway to Lake Minnetonka,” Wayzata, Minnesota to see a place that equaled the CX with state-of-the-art technology and all the comfort, style and luxuries a single experience could have, the Hotel Landing. Just 15 minutes from downtown Minneapolis, Wayzata’s first hotel in 53 years opened June 2017. Hotel Landing has 92 rooms, 31 condos, has Ninetwentyfive – a two-story restaurant, and a serene Nordic-inspired spa, Läka Spa, inspired by Minnesota’s Nordic Heritage. It combines elements of modern and classical European architecture for an airy, coastal infusion. Located on Lake Street, this luxurious boutique hotel will be a favorite for wedding ceremonies and receptions. It was the perfect backdrop and accompaniment to Mazda’s CX-5. A big thanks to Mazda for their incredible hospitality!

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Minnesota Zip Lines and Adventures: Brainerd Zip Line Tour

Looking for an outdoor adventure? Not afraid of heights? I have just the thing.

Zipling with the Brainerd Zip Line Tour! And what better place to do it than Mount Ski-Gull, which already offers skiing, snowboarding, and tubing.

As part of the Minnesota Zip Lines and Adventures that also includes the Kerfoot Canopy Tour, you’ll be able to see the area in a whole new way, from above, as you soar over the treetops. Experience the breathtaking views of Gull Lake and the wildlife that inhabit the area as you push off a ledge and rush through the air. I know, right? I panicked a little. And don’t worry, there’s always two professionally trained guides who will add lots of humor and patience to the day.

All in all, it takes about 2 hours. Drive up to Mount Ski Gull, get on the ground training where you learn how to brake and respond to different signals, do each one of the 7 Zip Lines, cross the 65-foot Indiana Jones-esque suspension bridge that will make your knees quake, and finally, freefall from the 50ft “jump” at end. It was a blast!

Still too nervous? Let me just say, when I was there, a 12-year-old boy and his grandmother did it. All seven. If they can do it, you can, too!

Isle Bakery 

Cake donuts are my thing. Sprinkles, even better. These delightful little saccharins are from the Isle Bakery.

Made fresh every single day, Isle has a good assortment of pastries including cupcakes, cookies, donuts, Bismarks, eclairs, and caramel apple fritters. They also offer cake decorating for any occasion. They don’t stop at the sweets either. You can grab homemade breads like flax seed loaf and sourdough when you pass through town. Like any old-fashioned, family owned, affordable, accommodating sweet shop, you can find them by following the unmistakable smell of a sugar and flour in the air.

Owned by Paul and Cori Swenson, both of whom spent their formative years in the area. Cori grew up in Brainerd and actually worked at the bakery for the previous owners.  Paul grew up in the Isle area until his family moved to the Brainerd.  Paul began his love of baking with his stint working at Mr. Donut when he was in high school. Over the course of his career he worked for many bakeries around the country, including the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TN. His former clients have included stars and even presidents. He and Cori chose to move back to Minnesota and in March of 2015, they took over Isle Bakery.

While it seems to be a hidden gem, it has become, for many, a family favorite and a must stop on the way to the cabin – and thankfully open seven days a week.

Garrison Creek Coffee Cabin 

Just off Hwy 169, few dozen feet from Lake Mille Lacs, sits the Garrison Creek Coffee Cabin. A highway coffee shop with a small town feel. Warm and welcoming and open every day, the food and drink options are great, and offer a ton of variety.  With the recommendation from the very friendly, knowledgable owner, I went for the peach smoothie. It was nothing short of amazing. If smoothies aren’t your thing, try the Garrison Blend or Garrison Salty Shores, specialty concoctions you’ll only find here. Beyond the drinks, the pastries are fresh and delicious and the perfect place to take a road trip break or get out of the summer heat. They also have mini-golf! The place is a bit hidden but all you need to do is look behind the two huge, yellow Adirondack chairs.

Bass Fishing on Mille Lacs

This past Saturday, I headed up to Isle to go fishing on Lake Mille Lacs with Governor Mark Dayton, Minnesota Vikings Defensive Tackle Linval Joseph and  Minnesota Fishing Page’s Brett and Amanda McComas. We set off in pursuit of bass as Mille Lacs was recently named the best bass fishing lake in the country by Bassmaster Magazine.  USA TODAY gave the same accolade. Hosted by Greg, Suzy, and Dean Fisher of Fisher’s Resort, a three generation, family-owned resort since 1959 who have a few of their own titles including best launch in Minnesota.

Fishing is a favorite among Minnesota traditions and pastimes. So it’s no surprise that Bloomington native, Seth Feider won last year’s Bassmaster Tournament. The win put the spotlight on the lake’s smallmouth bass fishing. Last month, Governor Dayton celebrated the state bass fishing opener on Mille Lacs with Ron Schara and Feider, the Bassmaster Champion himself. This year, the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship will take place on Mille Lacs in September, with Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Mille Lacs Tourism as hosts. Adding clout to Lake Mille Lacs’ growing reputation as no less than a renowned bass fishing destination.

Despite the buzz of boaters on the lake, Governor Dayton made the expedition a blast with his humor and all-around good guy nature. While we only snagged a Northern, it was a great morning on the lake!

Interested in heading to Mille Lacs? Check out MilleLacs.com for all kinds of ideas. Or snag the new visitor guide. #dothelake #onlyinmn

 

Summerhill Farm 

Up next on the #mnbucketlist is Summerhill Farm, about 7 miles outside Park Rapids on Highway 71. It’s a collection of little shops, village of country cottages, if you will, each with a different theme. Charming and quaint, the different specialty shops with railed walkways that connect each is part of a converted farm. Previously a working dairy farm, and later a turkey farm, Summerhill Farm was established in its present form in 1982 when Jeff and Nancy Stone purchased a farm from Ralph and Margaret Teske. They began to use the Barn, the very first building to become a shop of Summerhill Farm, which now sells greeting cards, wall art, books, furniture, candles, and home accessories. Two years later, in 1984, the Carriage House was opened to the public and is where you will now find toys and games for the adults. The Stable followed shortly after and now houses a shop that features unique country, lake life and ‘up north’ decor, also like candles, home accessories, throws, table linens, fairy gardens and rugs. In 1986, a small cabin was moved from the North Shore of Potato Lake, named the Cottage, it is now filled with chocolate, candies, local jellies and wild rice soups. They also have kitchen gadgets and accessories. Ever evolving and changing over the years, Summerhill continues to charm everyone who visits.  I came when it was raining and they had bright yellow umbrellas at every door.

My favorite, the Sun Porch Restaurant, was added in 1987 from the original farmhouse and expanded in 1991. I especially love the Sun Porch; fresh summer fruit, a fresh roll, and gouda cheese. I’m a fan of Cool Cuke; marble rye topped with a special cream cheese and cucumber slices, and the Potting Shed Sundae with Oreo brownie topped with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and Oreo cookie crumbs. My mom fell for the all-American garden salad that comes complete with strawberries, blueberries, and yogurt dressing and the blueberry pie a la mode.

Fun fact: They also have a boutique, Summerhill on Main, located on the first block of Main in downtown Park Rapids. It is open year-round and has all kinds of fashion, jewelry, and accessories. It’s a great place to go if you are in the area.