by Lee Foster
Minnesota’s lake resort country, two hours northwest of Minneapolis, offers a woodsy summertime retreat at several outstanding lodges.
The mystique of Minnesota’s lake country is that it is Up North, in the great North Woods, near Paul Bunyan country, where kids can catch perch off the dock and Dad may hook a trophy walleye or bass.
The ideal lodge offers a pine woods setting, a good swimming beach on a tepid lake, an indoor pool for the fastidious, and plenty of restful deck space where the vacationer can snooze, only to be awakened occasionally by the whine of a waterski outboard.
Through a process of natural selection, the people of Minnesota have chosen Gull Lake, northwest of Brainerd, as a premier site for Minnesota lake-country lodges.
Scattered around Gull Lake are the great lodges, such as Grand View, Maddens, Kavanaugh’s, and Craguns. Any of these lodges would be a good vacation choice, with Grand View representative of the best qualities in each.
The setting at Grand View is idyllic, with the lodge situated at the north end of the lake in a grove of pine, oak, and cottonwood trees. The cedar log lodge, constructed circa 1917-1920, is now on the National Register as an example of early log construction in Minnesota resort lodges.
Surrounding the lodge are about 60 cabins that are sleeping and living spaces. The cabins are where guests experience their private vacations. Cabins are sited so that as many of them as possible look out on the lake.
For breakfast and dinner, guests proceed to the lodge. The diner passes through the cavernous main lobby, filled with stuffed muskellunge fish and pheasants, on the way to the main dining room. The communal dining room offers elegant service, with attentive first-name college-student service, “Hi, I’m Bill from Montana State.” Walleyed pike and roast lamb are memorable evening entrees. Varied fresh fruits, including blueberries, are prized aspects of the morning breakfast buffet. The log-style dining room has its own aura of casual classiness, with a stuffed wolverine and a huge stone fireplace presiding.
The summer season is short for Minnesota lake country lodges, four months at most, June through September. Staff at Grand View zooms from 100 full-time employees in the winter to 600 in the summer. Management faces an annual challenge in bringing staff quickly up-to-speed.
“We look for college students and local kids who have a pleasing personality,” the manager said to me. “I maintain that there are some young people who could pour coffee in your lap, smile cheerfully, and you would forgive them. We’re always looking for those youngsters.”
Friendly service is the manner of Grand View and the other lodges. When you want a canoe at dawn to skim across the mirror lake, it is ready. When you want to doze on your cabin porch, housekeeping does not disturb. When you are ready to waterski, the boat awaits you.
The price at Grand View is all inclusive, meaning lodging, breakfast and dinner meals, tips, and tax are included.
Things to Do
Both activity and inactivity are appropriate at Grand View. For the active there is golf on the 27-hole championship golf course (with seven more courses within 15 minutes driving time), tennis, a good swimming beach, and all manner of boats, including fishing boats. For the inactive, there are plenty of deck chairs in which to curl up with a good book, bathed in the summer sun.
To insure that this is a vacation for everyone, including Mom and Dad, a full day children’s program spirits away participants 3-11 years of age for waterslides, a Camp Lincoln day camp experience, and talent night preparations. Relaxing at Grand View means no beds to make, no meals to cook, and possibly no kids to manage.
The Friday night steak cookout and talent show is strictly local, with child and adult guests performing. The evening ends with a water balloon toss that tests the skill of two-person teams, which try to toss balloons back and forth without breaking them.
About 70 percent of Grand View’s patrons are repeat customers. Another 15 per cent are word-of-mouth referrals. That leaves only 15 percent as new guests in a given year. The resort emphasizes week-long stays, although shorter visits are possible.
Grand View is popular with all ages and with many family groups. One of the lakefront cabin clusters consists of four cabins and a large living room, ideal for family reunions. Another cabin cluster, called Loon Lodge, consists of eight cabin rooms and a huge living room.
One distinguishing mark of Grand View is its vast floral efforts. Fully 16,500 annuals are planted each spring, scattered around the grounds. Possibly no entity in northern Minnesota does more with flowers than Grand View.
If the urge for a woodsy, lakeside vacation appeals to you, the great lodges on Minnesota’s Gull Lake can deliver the experience.
Minnesota’s Lake Country: If You Go
For Grand View Lodge information, see www.grandviewlodge.com.
The overall tourism information contact for Minnesota is Explore Minnesota Tourism, www.exploreminnesota.com.