Top Things to Do in Park Rapids, Minnesota

Visits to Park Rapids (190 miles northwest of the Twin Cities) aren’t complete without a walk across the headwaters of the Mississippi River, but that’s just the start of a weekend adventure here.

Itasca State Park, Park Rapids, Minnesota
Itasca State Park. Photo: Kvidt Creative/Explore Minnesota

Park Rapids is a haven for those seeking a peaceful experience in the heart of Minnesota's lake country. Explore Itasca State Park, where the Mississippi River begins its majestic journey, and also enjoy a pedal along the Heartland State Trail or shopping at downtown boutiques.

What to Do

Aunt Belle's Confectionary

Watch employees stir buttery caramel in copper-bottom pots at Aunt Belle's, and then check out the impressive selection of fudge, turtles, truffles and nut brittles.

Character Challenge Adventure Park

Thrills at Character Challenge include a 370-foot zipline ride, trapeze-style balancing bar and free-fall experience.

Heartland State Trail

One of the country's first rails-to-trails projects runs 49 miles from Park Rapids to Cass Lake. If you didn't bring a bike, rent one at Northern Cycle in Park Rapids. Tiny Dorset is a 6.5-mile ride east; ride another 5.5 miles to reach Lake Belle Taine and Nevis, where you can pose by a giant tiger muskie.

Itasca State Park, Park Rapids, Minnesota
Itasca State Park. Christy Bruggenthies/Capture Minnesota

Itasca State Park

After the ritual walk across the headwaters of the Mississippi River, look for wildlife—even the occasional black bear—at Minnesota's oldest state park, which contains 100 lakes, 250-plus campsites, cabins, bike trails, hiking trails and a swimming beach. At the Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center, learn the meaning of loon calls and let the kids try on forest firefighter gear.


Park in the middle of the street (really!) to stroll through downtown. Beagle and Wolf Books and Bindery sells Minnesota novels and great cabin reads; Amish Oak and Americana Furnishings, downtown's largest store, glows with the warm tones of maple and cherry furniture. Find T-shirts, loon whistles, moccasins and souvenirs at Trading Post.

Minnesoda Fountain
Minnesoda Fountain. John Noltner

Where to Eat and Drink

The Good Life Cafe

Local ingredients star at this Main Street hangout. Try the walleye BLT with homemade tartar sauce.

La Pasta Italian Eatery

In nearby Dorset, the self-proclaimed Restaurant Capital of the World, this eatery serves authentic Italian dishes like chicken Genovese and linguini.

Minnesoda Fountain

A sprinkling of malt powder tops the Dusty Road sundae at this '50s-style favorite downtown. Subs and soups (we love the homemade chicken and dumplings) round out the menu.

Necce's Ristorante

Sip a spiked basil lemonade while you wait for a beautifully browned crock of manicotti or lasagna at Necce's. Homemade spumoni with raspberries makes a sweet finish.

Rapid River Logging Camp

Established in 1955, the seasonal property still serves breakfasts and dinners fit for loggers' appetites.

Brookside Resort, Park Rapids, Minneosta
Brookside Resort. Justin Salem Meyer

Where to Stay

Brookside Resort

The 28-cabin family resort on Two Inlets Lake caters to week-long vacationers. Activities include golf, tennis, pool parties, water-skiing, painting lessons, boat rentals and bingo.

Itasca State Park Lodging

Enjoy easy access to hiking trails from the historic cabins and lodge rooms at Itasca State Park, with some lodging in structures dating to the early 1900s.

Mantrap Lodge

One- to five-bedroom cabins appeal to groups eager to ditch the TV in favor of the beach. The owners of Mantrap Lodge emphasize family fun with activities like marshmallow roasts, minnow races and hayrides.

Royal Starr Resort

Settle into one of 13 cabins with full kitchens at Royal Starr in nearby Nevis. Use kayaks and canoes, rent pontoons, or just enjoy the lake view. Kids love the playground and fishing pier.

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