12 Aug Exploring Our Own Backyard: A Weekend in Otter Tail County
We grew up in the small town of Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, in Otter Tail County. I’ve always had the attitude that exploring your own backyard is important—so many people seem to never try anything new when they are at home. Throughout our childhood, we’ve explored much of our hometown area, but there are still so many places we have yet to see. Because we always have fun being a tourist at home, we partnered with the Otter Tail County tourism board to “Find Our Inner Otter” one weekend this summer.
While we have many favorite adventures that we wanted to revisit, we made a point to add some new activities to our itinerary, as well. So, whether you are a local yourself, or if you are just in town for the weekend, here’s how we spent a long weekend exploring Otter Tail County!
We started out our trip in New York Mills where we picked up the Otter Tail County mascot and the “Otter Mobile”, which was our ride for the weekend.
Our first stop was at the opening party for the Great American Think Off, which is an annual philosophy contest. Writers submit an essay on a given topic and then four finalists are selected to debate the topic in question. Some of the questions in the past have been “Does technology free us or trap us?” or “Is it ever wrong to do the right thing?”, and this year’s question was, “Has the 2016 election changed our perception of truth?” The opening event was held at the Sculpture Park and barn shelter and there was music, food and drinks and even a traveling sauna! We were hoping to go to the debate the next evening, but unfortunately, we ran out of time and couldn’t make it. It sounds like an interesting event and we would love to attend in the future!
After checking out the sculpture park and the festivities, we made our way to East Silent Lake Resort, aka our base for the weekend. The resort is beautiful and located right on the shores of East Silent Lake. Our cabin had one bedroom and bathroom and a large kitchen, living room and dining room.
Plus, we even had a grill and patio table right outside our door. Since we live in the area, we have never spent the night in any nearby resorts or hotels, so I was happy to finally experience this gorgeous lakeside resort.
The onsite café offers a variety of options such as pizza from Ole and Lena’s, salads, sandwiches and breakfast items. We decided to order a chicken alfredo pizza for dinner and we ate outside on the patio with views overlooking the lake. It was a great start to the weekend!
Good coffee is essential for starting the day off right, so we went to The Nest in Perham for breakfast and coffee on Saturday morning. I loved the design of this coffee shop and our breakfast sandwiches and coffee were delicious, too! I couldn’t help browse in the attached shop, as well.
The rest of the morning we spent time relaxing by the lake at the resort—we had to take advantage of the lake as much as possible, right?! Some of the activities offered onsite are kayaking, fishing, torpedo rides, skiing/wakeboard lessons, board games, movies, and a playground.
Grilling is always one of our favorite summer activities, so we fired up the grill and cooked up some brats for lunch. We loved having a little patio to relax on, and the best part was that the lake was just down the hill from our cabin!
After a relaxing morning, we needed to get moving, so we made our way to Glendalough State Park in Battle Lake for a bike ride. We brought our own bikes, but there is also a shop at the park that offers bike rentals if you don’t have your own. There is a 5.4 mile loop trail for biking and if you are feeling adventurous, the trail extends all the way into the town of Battle Lake. We just rode the 5.4 mile trail and enjoyed peddling through tree lined paths, next to the lake, and through the open fields.
We started to get pretty hungry after the bike ride, so we made our way into Battle Lake for a pre-dinner treat. Normally, we would have gone to Granny’s Pantry for ice cream, but we noticed something new on the same block. There was a sign for a cookie dough bar and we just couldn’t resist going in to check it out. Smackin’ Cakes is a coffee shop that offers scoops of delicious cookie dough for dessert! We had to order a scoop or two each—Micah tried the monster cookie dough with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a cup and I ordered the caramel toffee cheesecake dough in a red velvet cone. They were super rich and filling, but oh so delicious!
Although the cookie dough could have been a substitute for dinner, we had plans to eat at the nearby restaurant, Willie T’s Tavern and Grill at Thumper Pond. We have been to the resort a number of times for weddings but have never stopped at the restaurant, so it was fun to check it out. It was a gorgeous evening, so we decided to sit on the patio for the pretty views overlooking the golf course.
To wind down the evening, we had a bonfire back at the resort. It’s not a visit to the lake without a bonfire!
When I was looking for things to do in the area that we haven’t tried before, I came across Nootzie’s on Main. This small café is located in Dent, just down the road from the resort and I heard they had caramel rolls that are to die for. So, my mind was made up and breakfast would be a caramel roll from Nootzie’s! Well, I’m happy to report, the roll was as good as everyone had said—Micah picked one up and brought it back to the cabin for us to share. It won’t be our last time there, that’s for sure!
To work off our caramel rolls, we made our way to Maplewood State Park. Every year, we try to go on one of our favorite hikes in the area, which is hiking to the top of Hallaway Hill. Because East Silent Lake Resort was located nearby, we decided it would be the perfect time for our annual hike! The trail is fairly short at just under a mile roundtrip (0.4 miles each way), but the views from the top are gorgeous, especially in the fall.
My brother’s family was in town for the weekend, so we decided to meet up with them and my parents at Maple Beach for dinner. Maple Beach is a lakeside burger joint that serves delicious burgers—our family has been visiting for years, so it was fun to meet there since we were all in town and it was right down the road from our resort.
After dinner, we decided to get out on the water and go for a paddle in the kayak. It was such a peaceful evening—the water was like glass, loons were swimming around and the sunset was beautiful. If the weather was a bit warmer, we would have jumped in the water for a swim, too!
Even though we weren’t ready to call it a night, we decided we needed to get to bed early as we had a 6 a.m. wake up call on Monday morning. We needed to get back to Minneapolis for a photo job, but we left wishing we had more time at the beautiful resort that we called home for the weekend.
We had such a fun weekend exploring our own backyard and trying a few new activities and restaurants. It’s always great to look at your hometown through a tourist’s eyes—you never know what you will discover!
Have you ever been to Otter Tail County? Or have you played tourist in your hometown?