Need a Vacation Close to Home? Visit This Hidden Gem!

Note: Please keep in mind that the typical guest experience at most hotels looks a bit different than “normal” due to Covid, but many still have opportunities for fun! Please make sure to contact the hotel directly before booking to ask questions about their current amenities.

It’s another cold Friday in the frigid north. Your work day is almost done and you’re daydreaming of a relaxing weekend. Flashback to 2020, which brought us many long days and weekends at home with the kids. Fast forward now to 2021, where the world is starting to open up opportunities for small travels close to home. But where do we go for a weekend trip from Fargo? 

Next Stop: The Happiest Place on Earth (or at Least MN)

This is where I would like to tell you about a hidden Minnesota-style Disneyland. It may not have Mickey Mouse or roller coasters, but it has endless activities for the whole family.
The faux-Disney is located in Brainerd, MN and goes by the name of Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake.

A few year’s ago over Easter, my party of five and my brother’s family of five packed our Griswold family trucksters and headed to our neighboring state to the east. No matter what season it is this, this place knows how to host family fun to make lasting memories. Here is my experience! (Note, keep in mind my initial visit was pre-COVID, but there are still lots of fun activities happening at the resort without having to leave the property!)

Up Next: Entertainment

Upon arrival on our first night, we were treated to a welcome reception dinner that included karaoke and bingo. A win-win for the kids and adults!

Within the resort there is a large gym, referred to as the Sports Center, with basketball hoops, volleyball nets and tennis courts. Our kids spent hours releasing energy in this area. I have never seen my son’s hair that drenched from so much sweat! The Sports Center was also set up one evening for a magician.

When it was time to cool off, the kids moved on to the pool. The indoor pool has a great atmosphere with lots of seating available. And it has full cocktail service. Yes, I repeat, full cocktail service to get you in vacation-mode. You can also order food from the Cabana Café along with slushies which were a big hit with the kids.

So Many Activities

On Easter, besides the amazing buffet, they had an Easter egg hunt in the pool area. The eggs were filled with candy and knickknacks. I am not sure how many eggs they filled but I would almost guarantee they had nightmares of filling plastic eggs. The eggs were hidden throughout the resort, along with a few golden eggs with gift cards in them. My daughter and nephew were two of the lucky ones to find a golden egg. Our kids participated in every activity and had a blast!

Even if you aren’t visiting during a holiday, there are plenty activities to participate in. From trivia, Bingo, and scavenger hunts to crafts and obstacle courses, you’ll find something the whole family can enjoy without feeling you need to bring toys and games for the hotel room. 

I personally am not a cold weather enthusiast but if you are, there are ample outdoor activities. During the winter months, they have dog sled rides, ice bowling, curling, bonfires, ice fishing, Family Feud, and more! During the summer, you can enjoy their swimming beach, bike rentals, beach volleyball, tennis, and more outdoor sports. 

Vacation Tips

This place offers a great array of activities for all ages and interests. And the price is comparable to that of a hotel stay that does not provide all the activities for family fun.

If you are traveling with little ones, you may want to ask to be closer to the pool or sports center, whatever is of most interest to you.  It can be quite a long walk when having to transport all of the extras items that come along with a toddler and/or multiple little people.

Please make sure to contact the resort regarding the activities that are scheduled, as things most likely still look different now due to COVID. Some of the activities are included in your package and others may have a small fee.

For more fun vacation options, see our post on Weekend Getaways from Fargo: Water Park Hotels.

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Trudy lives with her husband, Derek, and their three children; Oakley (2006), Jayla (2008) and Tenlee (2012), along with their golden retriever, Jax. She was born and raised in North Dakota, where small-town fun involved kick the can and playing sports. Whether watching her kids and nephews playing sports or watching on it on TV, she accredits her love of sports to her childhood. Her professional career has been providing occupational therapy services to children in the school setting, psychiatric inpatient setting and in an outpatient clinic setting. She loved building relationships with the children and families, celebrating goals and milestones. Recently Trudy had a career change where she is now the Child & Youth Program Coordinator for the North Dakota National Guard soldiers. Being a military family, this career change was close to home. If you are looking for Trudy, you will find her at a sporting event, social get together, playing league volleyball, or at the lake with her family. You will not find her ice skating, rollerblading, spending hours in the kitchen or swimming in the ocean!


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