Travel

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FUN IN OTTER TAIL COUNTY, MINNESOTA

Thank you to Otter Tail County and Explore Minnesota for sponsoring this post and trip, just a week after they wrapped up the Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener in the county.

These days, I’m always looking for ways to travel with my family. I’ll admit, having a 2 year old and a 3 month old makes everything a bit more challenging. But life needs to keep moving forward, especially now more than ever when we’re all yearning for life to be feel “normal” again. During our latest weekend getaway, we visited Otter Tail County in west central Minnesota and we had the best time. So I wanted to do a roundup of all my favorite family-friendly spots we visited in Otter Tail County. I must say, I was so impressed by the local businesses, attractions, and the beautiful lakes in the county. And there’s something so charming about exploring smaller cities and towns. It’s scenic, personable and full of surprises!

I invited my parents to tag along with Harlan, Juniper and me — since Nick was out of town on a trip with his buddies. I definitely needed the help and my parents make excellent travel companions! Before you continue reading this blog post, I highly recommend trying the “Find Your Inner Otter” quiz which will match your personality to the unique experiences Otter Tail County has to offer. There are six types of otters: Outdoorsy Otter, Otter with an Appetite, Otter About Town, Easy Going Otter, Eclectic Otter and Active Otter. Between the three adults on this trip, we are probably a blend of an Otter with an Appetite, Outdoorsy Otter, and Otter About Town. Harlan is definitely an Otter with an Appetite and Juni is just the cutest otter of all. 🙂

In no particular order, here’s a look at our favorite stops!

1. Otter Cove Children’s Museum, Fergus Falls

Otter Cove Children’s Museum is in downtown Fergus Falls and it is a must-see-and-do if you have kiddos. Harlan absolutely loved it. He didn’t want to leave! The whole place is Fergus Falls themed and is full of interactive, hands-on play and exploring. There’s an indoor playground where Harlan slid down the blue slide aka the “falls of Fergus Falls” and went skipping across the wooden block river bank. One of my personal favorites was the little dock where we fished for walleye and pike, then prepared it in the fish cleaning station, and cooked our catch in the campfire. We loved the mini version of downtown with local businesses like the grocery store, animal hospital, and food distribution center. There’s also a lot of room for creative play with art, a huge sandbox and the Change It Up room which makeshifts and rotates through different activities. The colorful wall art is so fun and makes for a great photo opp. I’m told Otter Cove opened just as the pandemic was starting and then had to shut down. I was happy to see their doors were back open! This place is truly a gem for both parents and kids visiting or living in Otter Tail County.

2. Otto the Otter sculpture, Fergus Falls

Otto the Otter is the most famous celebrity in all of Otter Tail County. He’s the star of Adams Park in Fergus Falls and can’t be missed as you head towards downtown. While stopping by to say hi to Otto, we played at the playground and checked out the coolest little bird island on Grotto Lake. Lots of egrets and baby egrets! It’s actually #48 on the list of trail sites on the Pine to Prairie International Birding Trail.

3. Uncle Eddie’s Ice Cream Parlor, Fergus Falls

Who doesn’t love ice cream! Uncle Eddie’s Ice Cream Parlor is perfect for just that. This family own sweet stop opened in 2020, which is pretty amazing. They not only serve ice cream, but also coffee and other sweet treats. Uncle Eddie’s have some a fun, modern, eclectic interior with a TON of space and even a cute back patio area. We particularly loved Blue Moon, Lemon Bar, Bear Creek Caramel, Huckleberry, and Birthday Cake. Take a look at their flavor list here. We definitely want to go back for more! This is actually one of the stops included in Explore Minnesota’s Minnesota Scoop tour! Nearly 100 ice cream shops across Minnesota have crafted their own take on an #OnlyinMN treat and all you need to do is enjoy their cool creation or your favorite flavor, grab a punch card from them and get it stamped, and repeat! Upload an image of your completed punch card at the #MNScoop page to get a sweet t-shirt and a chance to win grand prize travel packages and weekly giveaways.

4. Phelps Mill Park, Underwood

Phelps Mill County Park in Underwood is such picturesque, beautiful park. There’s a playground, a couple of shelters with a fantastic view of Otter Tail River, and of course — the historic Phelps Mill. There’s opportunity to kayak and fish on the river, walk the historic pedestrian bridge, and a modern ADA accessible restroom. There were a couple of folks fishing near the dam when we visited. You can read all about the history of the mill and its significance to Otter Tail County here.

5. Ten Mile Lake Resort, Dalton

Otter Tail County is the land of 1000+ lakes and two of those lakes surround Ten Mile Lake Resort in Dalton just 10 minutes from Fergus Falls. The resort has been in the same family since 1906. The owners Mike and Linda Schultz are kind, welcoming, and knowledgeable about all the places to eat and visit while staying in the area. We loved our “Northern” cabin located right near the water. It was fantastic having the space with a kitchen, dining room, living room, and three bedrooms so that the kids could nap without one of them waking the other up. Plus, there are plenty of water and outdoor recreation opportunities here. If you’re looking to fish, boat, kayak, stand up paddle board, entertain your kids at a playground, hang out at the beach — they’ve got you covered. There are 12 cabins and over 90 seasonal campsites at Ten Mile Lake Resort. Pets are welcome too! They even have ice fishing houses for rent in the winter. We had a fabulous time hanging out by the dock, fishing, and watching the sunset. The restaurant onsite opened at the end of May, so while we missed out on that, it’s open now and a convenient spot to grab some dinner after a day of fishing!

6. ABC Brewery, Battle Lake

We stopped in Battle Lake on our way to our cabin at Ten Miles Lake Resort. We were hungry and wanted to start our trip off on the right foot. So we got some delicious wood fired pizza and craft beer at ABC Brewing Company. If you’re feeling thirsty, get Cashed Out or Autumnal Greetings and if you’re hungry, try the Street Taco Pizza — you can thank me later! I loved the patio area which has plenty of seating, a firepit, and “diggers” aka excavators for kids to play with. If you’re in a rush, you can order online and pick it up on your way to the cabin. We still talk about how satisfying that pizza and beer was after our 3 hour drive!

7. Outstate Brewing Company

A brewery with a view — I’m a fan! We stopped by Outstate Brewing Company after touring downtown Fergus Falls. It has a northwoodsy, cabin, camping, outdoorsy feel and truly brings the elements of the outdoors inside to the taproom and on the patio. There’s a stellar view of the Otter Tail River Reservoir which made for the perfect backdrop while we tried our flight of craft beers paired with the most delicious egg rolls and pork belly at Ruby’s Pinoy Food Truck parked next to the brewery. Check out the pheasant back mushrooms we found by the patio. There’s plenty of room for kids to run around and they even have sugar free Italian soda for the kiddos!

8. Shopping in Fergus Falls

We decided to be Otters About Town and check out some of the shops in downtown Fergus Falls. Otter Tail County is full of cute boutiques and local specialty shops. Creative Handmade Goods has a bunch of artisan goods like jewelry, art, and bath and body products. I went home with some delicious smelling vanilla porter soap. The Bric is a boutique with women’s clothing, shoes, gifts, and home decor. They were redoing the layout of the store with new inventory when we visited. Head on downstairs to check out some of the home decor. I especially loved the Minnesota-themed goods! There are definitely some fun gift options for the whole family, young to old. Harlan managed to find the candy section at Creative Handmade Goods so we bought some gummy stars for the road.

9. Fabled Farmer, Fergus Falls

The Fabled Farmer was by far our favorite restaurant during our trip! They have some of the best breakfast/brunch I’ve ever had! The fresh cold pressed juice, avocado toast, and pancakes are worth writing home about. The staff was so pleasant and kind! Harlan was getting ancy about sitting at the table so the waitress cut up apples for him. That kept him happy and occupied and allowed us to enjoy our coffee and juice. As soon as breakfast arrived, it was basically silent at our table because we were so focused on eating our amazing meal. Harlan scarfed down the pancakes and bacon. Everything is fresh and delicious and the ambience was perfect — cozy and inviting. Juni even got a nice long nap in while we ate. I highly recommend this spot for breakfast or lunch if you’re in town.

10. Blackboard, Vergas

The Blackboard was our last stop before heading home and it was a wonderful way to end our Otter Tail County getaway. We made a reservation a little over a week in advance. I definitely recommend doing that! The restaurant is in a historic schoolhouse surrounded by beautiful rural views. I loved the covered patio which made for a good al fresco compromise in case it rained. It was a little chilly, so the staff offered us a blanket from their blanket basket. Everything was delicious, especially the smoked half chicken. Harlan gobbled it up along with the vegetables. I also highly recommend the wings! Perfectly crisp! We topped it off with ice cream sandwiches around the campfire and then headed home with full stomachs.

As I mentioned, Otter Tail County hosted the Governor’s Fishing Opener this year. I had a bunch of friends who visited the area to fish and explore. If you’re looking for more outdoor-based ideas, like visiting Maplewood State Park or Glendalough State Park, checking out other corners of the county, and eating/drinking at more local establishments, check out some of these bloggers and their articles on Otter Tail County:

Expedition Kristen: 14 Awesome Things to Do in Otter Tail County

Lizanne Lately: Things to Do in Otter Tail County

Lookabout Lindsey: Things to Do in Otter Tail County MN

If you’re looking for other travel ideas, check out some of the local getaways I wrote about here.

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