Weekend Getaway: Alexandria, Minnesota Lakes Area
Head to the Alexandria, MN Lakes area to more than 300 lakes and more than 1,000 in the county, plus shopping, dining, museums and the state’s largest winery, there’s no shortage of activities to make for a great Minnesota weekend getaway in Alexandria, MN.
- Best Bets
- Things to Do
- Where to Eat
- Where to Stay
- When to Go
- Getting There
Photo Credit: Minnesota Historical Society
Alexandria, MN History
With its abundance of lakes, Alexandria, MN earned a reputation as a summer resort town early. As soon as the train arrived in the 1870s, city dwellers sought out the city’s lakeside resorts for a chance to escape and enjoy nature.
In 1883, “Hotel Alexandria,” a grand hotel along the sandy beaches of Lake Geneva, opened. The Great Northern Train brought visitors from across the Midwest for fishing, dining, swimming and cruising the lake in wooden boats. The oldest summer resort in Minnesota, over the years, it was destroyed by fire, then sold several times before being named the Geneva Beach Resort.
It was only the beginning of Alexandria’s resort history. Within time, others including Hotel Black on Lake Carlos, Lindwood Resort on Lake Osakis, and Maryland Hotel on Lake Mary, drew travelers to the area each summer for relaxation and lakeside fun.
Over the years, as cars took travelers to a wider range of destinations, travelers’ preferences began to change. Resorts remained popular destinations until the 1960s when private cabins became a more desired vacation option. Today, the area remains a prime lakeside destination, offering classic resort stays, private cabins and plenty of lakeside rest and relaxation.
Alexandria, MN Best Bets
- Don’t miss a wine tasting at Carlos Creek Winery. Enjoy an afternoon sipping wine, listening to music and enjoying the crafts at the winery.
- Enjoy the renowned fried chicken at unassuming Chet’s Lakeside Inn or fine dining in a boxcar at Weston Station. Bug-a-Boo Bay is also a local favorite.
- Head downtown to shop for antiques. While you’re there, stop into the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum to see classic wooden boats.
- Beyond downtown, the Alexandria lakes area has more than a dozen antique stores.
Things to Do in Alexandria, MN
With more than 300 lakes in the area, there’s no shortage of water activities in Alexandria. Many of the larger and more popular lakes, including Lake Le Homme Dieu, Carlos, Miltona and Ida are known for Walleye, Northern Pike, Bluegill, and several resorts in the area offer boat, jetski and other rentals to enjoy the lakes. For the adventurous, Alexandria Aviation offers flights over the lakes area for groups of up to three people.
If a day on the course is what you’re looking for, the Alexandria lakes area has a number of courses to offer. The Atikwa Golf Club at Arrowwood Resort offers 18 holes of championship golf on a recently redesigned course designed as a wetland preserve. Alexandria Golf Club opened in 1915 and quickly became popular among summer vacationers. The semi-private club requires three days advance notice for non-members, and offers 18 holes. Open to the public, Geneva Golf Club offers 27 holes designed by Minnesotan Joel Goldstrand that are broken into three nine-hole courses each with a distinct design: The Ponds, Marsh, and Island. An on-site lodge overlooking the course offers stay-and-play packages.
The area also offers one of the best biking destinations in the state, the 55-mile-long Central Lakes Trail. Bike through quaint Central Minnesota towns, lakes and Parks. Rentals are available at local stores Jakes Bikes or the Bike and Fitness Company, or resorts including the Arrowwood Resort.
Wine Tasting in the Country: Carlos Creek Winery
Spend the afternoon sipping wine at Carlos Creek Winery, Minnesota’s largest winery just 15 minutes north of downtown Alexandria. The winery offers daily tours and wine tastings of its nearly two dozen award winning wines. Step up to the large wooden bar – handmade by owner Kim Bredeson – where guests are given poker chips to count samples. For $5, try up to four wines, though some tastings require two chips. Be sure to try the sweet Woebegone White, and reds including Russ Edward Private Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Port.
Visitors can purchase any of the wines on site, as well as unique wine racks made by Kim from staves of old wine barrels, plus glassware and gifts. In addition to tastings, visitors can enjoy live music Saturdays year round, and Fridays through Sundays during the summer months. A “Craft Aisle” – a converted stable with booths for local craft vendors – offers handmade goods ranging from jewelry and purses to glassware and handmade soaps, among many other unique items.
Historic Downtown Alexandria: An Afternoon of Shopping
From antiques and collectables, to clothing and handbags, to sporting goods, Alexandria’s Historic Downtown shopping district offers an afternoon of treasure hunting and deal shopping. Highlights include:
- Antiques: Yesterday’s Antiques, with two floors of furniture, collectables and housewares, and Now & Then Antiques on Broadway
- Women’s Clothing: Garden Gallery specializes in unique jackets and sweaters, hand-painted apparel and scarves. The store also features unique furniture and gifts, hand painted ornaments and cabin décor.
- Men’s Clothing: Randy’s Mens Wear offers both dress and casual wear, including suits, polo shirts, sweaters and dress pants, as well as Nunn Bush shoes.
- Gifts & Household: Creative Touch Gallery offers gifts, clothing and home décor, including Alexandria Lake County clothing, dishes and glassware, and cabin décor; Scandinavian Gift Shop offers lighthearted items like Uffda mugs, and formal housewares like Ekelund linens and the classic Hearts & Pines dinnerware by Grete Ronning. The store also offers krumkake irons, aebleskiver plans, rosette irons and other traditional Scandinavian cookware.
For more antiques, head east on Hwy 27 about 20 minutes away to the town of Osakis. Its downtown has several antique shops, like Antiques Osakis, Crooked Willow, and Grandpa’s Attic. Stop for a true Minnesota treat, lefse, at Jacob’s Lefse Bakeri & Gifts. The area is also nearby several Amish stores. Just continue on Hwy 27 east to Cty 11 north. Along 200th Street you’ll find quilts by Vern Zook (20519 200th Street), Hilltop Furniture (20727 200th Street) and Maple Lake Furniture (200th St and 181st Ave). Further north along Cty 10, visit The Craft Shop (21449 Cty Rd 10) and N&S Baskets (16806 Cty Rd 10), which makes handmade reed baskets.
Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum
Many of the fondest Minnesota memories take place at the lake, and the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum in downtown Alexandria highlights our boating history. The museum features restored classic wooden boats, including Chris Craft, Larson, Gar Wood Boats, and Alexandria Boat Works. The museum is open daily May through October. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $3 for students, or $15 for families. Admission includes a discount to the Runestone Museum.
Theatre L’Homme Dieu: Night at the Theatre
For ten weeks during the summer months, on the north side of Lake L’Homme Dieu, the Theatre L’Homme Dieu offers a season of plays and musicals such as classics like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and new favorites like Defending the Caveman. Past productions have included Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Little Shop of Horrors, The Sound of Music, and The Diary of Anne Frank. The theatre recently partnered with regional theatres, allowing it to bring a range of plays and musicals to the area. Nightly tickets, season and flex passes are available.
Winter Fun: Andes Tower Hills Downhill Skiing
In the winter, plan a trip to Andes Tower Hills just 30 minutes west of Alexandria offers 15 downhill runs of varying difficulty, including 7 black diamond runs. The resort also offers cross country ski and snowshoe trails, ranging from easy to difficult, with some lighted trails for evening treks. Hourly tubing tickets are also available, and the ski shop offers a full range of downhill, cross country, snow shoe and tubing rentals. Look for ski packages and discounts at local resorts, including Arrowwood, Brophy Lake Resort and others.
“Past Productions.” Theatre L’Homme Dieu. http://www.tlhd.org/history/pastproductionsl. Accessed Sept. 6, 2010.
and chops set in an actual restored rail dining car.
MN offers a wine bar and extensive menu.
Where to Eat in Alexandria, MN
For an evening out, Alexandria has a range of restaurants to offer, from fried chicken to woodfire grilled ribs to breaded walleye. Choose casual fare or a high-end evening out.
- Chet’s Lakeside Inn: You can’t ask for a restaurant recommendation in Alexandria without hearing about Chet’s Lakeside Inn, a seasonal favorite made famous by a recent mention in GQ magazine (but we know it must have been famous well before that). The golden fried chicken is served with a choice of potato and unlimited trips to the salad bar. Don’t be turned off by the atmosphere, because this chicken shack takes shabby chic to a new level. Chet’s is located about 15 miles north of Alexandria along Hwy 29 on Lake Irene. Look for the neon lights and Grain Belt Beer sign.
- Weston Station: For a fine dining experience, Weston Station offers steaks, fresh sea food, pasta and chops, set in an actual rail dining car. In the main kitchen, guests can see food being prepared, or sit in the dining car featuring white linens and authentic décor. The restaurant claims to offer one of the most extensive wine lists in the area, and hosts events throughout the year including the five-course wine dinner. Weston Station is located three miles east of downtown Alexandria on Hwy 27.
- Dolittle’s Woodfire Grill: Though it’s a chain, Dolittle’s offers a strong menu of steaks, fish, pasta and ribs, as well as sandwiches, salads and hamburgers. The wine list includes local favorites from Carlos Creek Winery. Dolittle’s is located on Hwy 29, just off of Hwy 94.
- Bella’s on Broadway: Located in the Historic Downtown district, Bella’s offers a wine bar and extensive menu featuring pastas, steaks, fish and chicken, as well as burgers and salads. Stop in for dinner, or to sample one of a variety of wines offered. Bella’s is located on Broadway near 5th Avenue.
- Bug-A-Boo Bay: On the shores of Lake Le Homme Dieu, Bug-A-Boo Bay’s casual Caribbean atmosphere, 8,000 square foot outdoor bar and two sand volleyball courts draw a crowd for fun and relaxation. A favorite of locals and vacationers, the diverse menu ranges from crab legs and coconut shrimp to steaks, chops, pastas and burgers. Bug-A-Boo Bay is just three miles north of downtown Alexandria, or arrive by boat from Lake Le Homme Dieu.
- Depot Express: Set in a 1907 train depot along Lake Agnes, the Depot Express offers casual dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Look for outdoor seating overlooking the lake when the weather’s nice. Menu items include brick oven pizzas with a range of unique toppings. Depot Express is located at the end of Broadway, just around the corner from the Kensington Runestone Museum and the Big Ole statue.
- D Michael B’s: With its Northwoods lodge-style décor, D Michael B’s offers a relaxing family environment and a place to catch a sports game. Menu offerings range from ribs and fish to hamburgers. D Michael B’s is located along Hwy 29 just south of downtown Alexandria.
Where to Stay in Alexandria, MN
Start your weekend getaway by checking in to the Cedar Rose Inn Bed and Breakfast. Located just three blocks west of Broadway Street, Alexandria’s main street in the historic downtown shopping district, Cedar Rose Inn (422 7th Ave. West) offers historic charm and easy access to local activities. Choose to stay in one of four unique suites in this 1903 home that was built by one of Alexandria’s most successful businessmen. The Inn offers country-style breakfast each morning, and a range of packages including wine tours, dinner at local restaurants and bottles of champagne. Look for special discounts for girlfriend getaways.
For a family getaway, visit the Arrowwood Resort on nearly 950-acre Lake Darling. The resort is open year-round, and offers a waterpark, 18-hole mini golf, a marina with boat, pontoon and personal watercraft rentals, horseback riding, as well as several dining options. For adults, the Darling Reflections spa is open daily, and the Atikwa Golf Club offers 18 holes of championship golf. Relax at the Rafter’s Lounge, offering cocktails and a range of hors d’oeuvres.
Every evening in the summer, the resort hosts campfires with marshmallow roasting, as well as evening cruises of Lake Darling. Those visiting in the winter can enjoy snowmobiling, sledding, skating and cross country skiing. Arrowwood’s Snow Center offers winter rentals including snowmobiles, ice and hockey skates, skis, snowmobiles (ages 11 and older) and mini-Z snowmobiles (ages 6-11). Four person ice houses are also available for rental.
When to Go to Alexandria, MN
With 300 lakes, the Alexandria, MN area has nearly endless opportunity for summer activities by the lake, from fishing and boating to swimming. In the summer, visit in June for the Chain of Lakes classic boat show at Arrowwood Resort.
Visit in the fall during Carlos Creek Winery’s annual Grape Stomp, attended by more than 14,000 people. The event features more than 150 artisans, food, live demonstrations, music, and of course, grape stomping.
If you love a rib fest, the Awake the Lakes Festival takes place each year on Memorial Day weekend, and in August the Boats, Blues and BBQ festival is hosted by the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum.
Alexandria is just off of Hwy 94 and Hwys 27 and 29, a little more than an hour north of St. Cloud.
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