17 Minnesota Lakes for a Fun and Relaxing Family Vacation this Summer

A young girl sits on the shore of Lake Superior looking out toward the water, one of the best lakes in Minnesota for families.
Photo Courtesy: Antonia Grant

Minnesota and its lakes go together like peanut butter and jelly! In fact, Minnesota boasts over 14,000 lakes. And for many, there is nothing better on a sunny Minnesota summer day than relaxing on one of the many beautiful lakes. Residents and visitors flock to lakes across the state during the summer months for fishing, boating, swimming, and a taste of cabin life. Indeed, families searching for the best lake vacations in Minnesota have a wealth of options to choose from! Those planning Minnesota lake vacations this summer may wonder, what are the best lakes in Minnesota with kids? Well, we have you covered! From Minneapolis to the Canadian border, we’ve created this list to help you find the best lake vacations in Minnesota for families. Wondering where to stay? You’ll also find a few of the best family resorts in Minnesota on this list too!

Fun Lakes in Northern Minnesota for Families

Northern Minnesota is one of the state’s best places to take lake vacations. Not only will you find one of the country’s Great Lakes here, but Northern Minnesota is also home to scenic views, family-friendly activities, unique beaches, and much more! Not to mention, fantastic Minnesota lake resorts for families to unwind and make memories together!

RELATED: 31+ Amazing Places To Visit In Northern Minnesota With Kids

Lake Superior 

From Duluth to Grand Portage

A young girl and her mom sit on a rocky beach along Lake Superior.
Photo Courtesy: Antonia Grant

Lake Superior is the world’s largest freshwater lake by surface! Flanked by Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, this massive lake is home to generations of legends, shipwrecks, and adventures for all ages. Certainly, you’ll find endless fishing, sightseeing, boating, and water sports activities on Lake Superior. Luckily, there are also many places to explore this incredible lake as a family! As one of the best lakes in Minnesota, you’ll find many excellent lodges, shops, and outdoor adventures along the North Shore. This 145-mile stretch of road is a popular area for Minnesota family vacations, running along the lake from Duluth to Grand Portage

While you make your way from Duluth up the North Shore, there are plenty of fun beaches to stop at. Start at Park Point in Duluth. Then, the pink rock beach of Iona’s Beach Scientific and Natural Area is a great roadside stop, as is Minnesota’s Black Beach. Finally, families love the rocky harbor of Grand Marais. Kids can stick their toes in the water, throw rocks, and soak up the sun. Though, you may find the water too cold to swim (even in the summer!). Take a sightseeing boat cruise with Vista Fleet in Duluth to get on the water. Or, you can sail along the waves in the Hjørdis, a traditional schooner in Grand Marais.

Off the water, there are plenty of activities too! In Duluth, kids will love exploring the William A. Irvin ship. Then, find fantastic lake views and history at Split Rock Lighthouse (located near Two Harbors). Finally, there are eight Minnesota State Parks on the North Shore, including Gooseberry Falls State Park, Cascade River State Park, and Grand Portage State Park. Each offers fantastic hiking trails, some featuring waterfalls, lake views, and other scenic attractions.

Where to Stay on Lake Superior for Families

Along Lake Superior, families can stay in all types of accommodation options, including campgrounds, beachside bungalows, rustic cabins, modern hotels, and more. In Duluth, families love options on Lake Superior, like Canal Park Lodge, Beacon Pointe on Lake Superior, and The Inn on Lake Superior. Each one offers a lakefront location, pool, and more. Families with young kids also appreciate Edgewater Hotel and Waterpark’s on-site waterpark, on-site dining, and more kid-friendly amenities. 

Further up the shore, one of the most highly-rated resorts on Lake Superior is Lutsen Resort, combining country chic and rustic elegance to create an unforgettable family vacation. It’s popular amongst families for its top-notch pool complex, naturalist programs, and nearby outdoor activities (including lake access!). Then, Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior offers traditional rooms or condo options for larger families. They also have a private beach area with fire pits and mountain and road bike rentals. Due to the sheer number of things to do and places to stay on Lake Superior, it ranks highly amongst our top picks for the best vacation lakes in Minnesota! Need more options? Read about our other top picks for summer resorts in Northern Minnesota for families.

Choose a home rental on Lake Superior through Vrbo here!

RELATED: Best US Lakes For Families to Visit During Summer

Rainy Lake 

Koochiching County, MN (near International Falls)

A family enjoys a tour around Rainy Lake on a houseboat on one of the best lakes in Minnesota for families.
Photo Courtesy: Explore Minnesota

If you’re looking for a memorable Minnesota family vacation, pack your bags and head to Rainy Lake! Nestled along the Canadian border, Rainy Lake is one of Minnesota’s northernmost lakes. Kids will love learning that the lake’s area is divided between the two countries, and most of the lake resides in Canada. Rainy Lake also resides within Minnesota’s only national park – Voyageurs National Park. Beloved by outdoor enthusiasts, Rainy Lake is undoubtedly one of the best vacation lakes in Minnesota.

Rainy Lake has 930 miles of shoreline and about 1,600 islands waiting to be explored. Fishing enthusiasts can start their week with a guided fishing experience with knowledgeable local guides. And, while most people flock to Rainy Lake for boating, fishing, or exploring the water by houseboat, there are plenty of other things to do here too. Kayakers and canoers will also find plenty of waterways to explore and enjoy. 

Then, Voyageurs National Park has a visitors center, waterfalls, hiking trails, wildlife spotting, and other family-friendly options. Visitors also love Rainy Lake for its unparalleled sunsets and starry skies. If you’re seeking a Minnesota destination for your next family vacation or fishing trip, you can’t do much better than Rainy Lake!

Where to Stay on Rainy Lake for Families

Rainy Lake is home to some of Minnesota’s best lakeside cabins and lake resorts. Not to mention, unique houseboats and camping opportunities. Families interested in a houseboat experience can find great options with Rainy Lake Houseboats, Northernaire Houseboats On Rainy Lake, and Voyagaire Lodge & Houseboats. For e a more traditional resort stay, consider Sandy Point Lodge & Resort, offering a sandy beach and on-site dining. Alternatively, Thunderbird Lodge includes scenic lake views, on-site dining, a marina, and more. They also have cabins that sleep up to 9, making Thunderbird Lodge one of the best Minnesota cabin rentals for large groups! Finally, home rental websites like Vrbo and Airbnb offer plenty of great cabins!

Reserve this 3-BR Private Luxurious Log Cabin on Rainy Lake through Vrbo!

Burntside Lake 

Ely, MN

A canoe moves across smooth waters while exploring Burntside Lake.
Photo Courtesy: Explore Minnesota

Undoubtedly one of the best lakes in Minnesota for families, Burntside Lake is located in Ely. It is also one of Minnesota’s only lakes without any motor restrictions (making it very popular among water sports enthusiasts). As one of the best Minnesota lake vacations with kids, warm summer days on Burntside Lake are made for boating, water skiing, and wakeboarding. 

Even with the high boat traffic, Burntside Lake remains remarkably clear (with some areas having more than 20 feet of visibility). Young swimmers won’t be disappointed; there are many sandy beaches to spend lazy days in the sun. Then, outdoor adventure families will be pleased to learn that the western boundary of the lake connects to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (via Tamarack Creek). 

From fishing and kayaking to swimming, the lake is central to a vacation here, but it’s not the only source of fun! Nearby, families can also enjoy thrilling activities like hiking, biking, ATVing, and more. Certainly, families love hiking Kawishiwi Falls Trail, a 1.5-mile trail with stunning waterfall views! Finally, the International Wolf Center is just a short drive away. Kids will love learning about these magnificent creatures and “meetingthe wolves here.

Where to Stay on Burntside Lake for Families

When vacationing on Burntside Lake, renting a lake home or cabin is a popular option for families. If you want more traditional lakeside accommodation, consider Tamarack Resort, providing everything from 1- to 4-bedroom cabins. Pontoon, canoe, and boat rentals are also available at the resort. Then, Burntside Lodge is the oldest remaining guest lodge in Ely (welcoming guests to the area since 1913!). Boating, swimming, naturalist programs, and dining are all available on-site. For a more rustic experience, Camp Van Vac has several cabin options along the shore of Burntside Lake. Finally, there are many campground options in the area too! 

Rent this highly rated 4 BR Cabin on Burntside Lake through Vrbo here!

Lake Vermilion 

Tower, MN

A speedboat zooms across Lake Vermilion, one of the best lakes in Minnesota for families.
Photo Courtesy: Explore Minnesota

Families seeking Minnesota lake vacations in northern Minnesota will adore Lake Vermilion. Located in Tower, Minnesota, Lake Vermilion is one of the most popular lakes in Minnesota for water sports, fishing, and summer vacations due to its large size. In fact, there are more than 340 minutes of shoreline, making it the longest shoreline in Minnesota!

Visitors often head to the lake to check out Ely Island, nestled in the lake’s center. This island offers a fun mix of scenic rocky shores and beautiful, untouched wilderness. As one of the best lakes in Minnesota for families, you can explore the lake by canoe, kayak, or boat. For a truly unique experience, snag a campsite at Hinsdale Island. These boat-in campsites right on the water will surely be a hit with kids of all ages. Indeed, Lake Vermilion is one of the best spots in Minnesota to get off-grid and immerse your family in some of the best natural beauty in the state.

There is plenty of fun off the water too. Hiking and biking options abound near the lake. Vermilion Falls Trail and Mesabi Trail are popular options. Thrill-seeking families will also find an OHV Park near Lake Vermilion. Plus, plenty of trails are also open to ATVs. Finally, bring your golf clubs, too – there are several great courses near Lake Vermilion!

Where to Stay on Lake Vermilion for Families

In addition to fun things to do on and off the lake, the area around Lake Vermilion features several laid-back resorts, cabins, and campgrounds for families. Each provides a lovely respite from normally busy schedules. Firstly, many families love Ludlow’s Island Resort. Located on a private island in the middle of Lake Vermilion, this resort offers everything from 1- to 3-bedroom cabins, many offering fully-stocked kitchenettes. The resort also has beach and lake access, so families have plenty of options for swimming, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, hydro biking, and canoeing. Kids also love the water slides, zip lining, and Summer Kids’ Program.

Then, White Eagle Resort is a popular boutique family resort for fun summer vacations on the lake. Each cabin has a full kitchen, and guests can access boat rentals, guided fishing, beach yoga, a sauna, and more family-friendly activities. Alternatively, Pehrson Lodge Resort on Lake Vermilion is another excellent option for families due to its waterfront cabins, expansive sandy beach, water trampoline, and more. Finally, those looking to truly center their Minnesota summer vacation on the lake can stay on one of the Lake Vermilion Houseboats.

Vrbo has many family home rentals on Lake Vermillion! Take a look now!

Lake of the Woods

Lake of the Woods County, MN (near Warroad)

A young girl runs along the shores of Lake of the Woods.
Photo Courtesy: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

One of the best lake vacations in Minnesota has to be Lake of the Woods. Widely regarded as the Walleye Capital of the World, Lake of the Woods is a popular place to reel big fish. This lake is also located in the US, as well as Canada, and is loved by both countries for a good reason! Firstly, because it is one of the state’s most remote lakes, Lake of the Woods is a beautiful destination for family vacations!

While fishing and outdoorsy living reign king on Lake of the Woods, the lake is also beloved by water skiers, jet skiers, wakeboarders, canoers, and kayakers. There are also many beaches around the lake, ideal for swimming and summer days in the sun. Head to Zippel Bay State Park for white sand beaches and great lake views. Alternatively, families can also check out Northwest Angle (locally known as “The Angle”). While wholly cut off from the rest of the state, The Angle is actually the northernmost part of the contiguous United States. Talk about a bucket list experience!

When you need a break from the lake, other outdoor adventures are ready to welcome you and your kids! In Baudette, make sure you meet Willie Walleye at Willie Walleye Park. This behemoth walleye will surely be a hit with young kids, plus the green area is a perfect place to run around. For a bit of hiking, check out Franz Jevne State Park. Many short (and longer) trails crisscross around the park. Big Bog State Recreation Area is another fun option to explore. As the largest peat bog in the lower 48, kids will delight in racing across the boardwalk and searching for everything from carnivorous plants to rare birds.

Where to Stay on Lake of the Woods for Families

In addition to fishing and unique outdoor adventures, there are also more than 50 resorts and hotels on and around Lake of the Woods. When looking for one of the best lake resorts in Minnesota near Lake of the Woods for families, consider Bayview Lodge, Zippel Bay Resort, or Adrian’s Resort. Alternatively, many families search for cabins or home rentals near Lake of the Woods on Vrbo.

Fun Lakes in North-Central Minnesota for Families

Still, looking for more ideas for lake vacations in Minnesota with kids? There are several exciting lakes in north-central Minnesota for a family trip. Centered around Bemidji, families love these lakes for their swimming, boating, and fishing opportunities. Plus, you will find some of the top Minnesota cabin rentals for large groups in this area!

READ NEXT: 13 Best Summer Resorts In Minnesota For Families

Leech Lake 

Cass County, MN (near Bemidji)

A sail boat moves across Leech Lake on a sunny day on one of the best lakes in Minnesota for families.
Photo Courtesy: Explore Minnesota

When visiting Leech Lake, you can experience one of the best Minnesota lake vacations for families. Located near Bemidji, it is just over 3 hours from Minneapolis. The third-largest lake in Minnesota, Leech Lake has an impressive reputation throughout the Midwest for catching walleye and muskie! So, be sure to include time for fishing when you visit. 

Along with fishing, watersports of all kinds are popular on Leech Lake. If you need a boat rental while on vacation, you can find what you need in Walker. Here, you can rent boats of all kinds, including jet skis, pontoons, and ski boats. Sailing is one of the unique water activities families can do in the area. Shores of Leech Lake offers rentals, as well as lessons. In addition to these family-friendly water activities, there are several beautiful places to hike nearby, including Chippewa National Forest, Paul Bunyan State Forest, and Itasca State Park (where the headwaters to the Mississippi River are found!). Need more things to do? There are excellent golfing, dining, and shopping options in the area too.

Where to Stay on Leech Lake for Families

Another thing to consider is the many lodging options located directly on Leech Lake. Firstly, Trappers Landing Lodge offers cozy cabins and luxury family suites. When you’re ready to have some fun, there is a beach, a heated outdoor pool, and plenty of family activities. It’s also a great option for families seeking Minnesota cabin rentals for large groups, as the property has multiple 2- and 3-bedroom cabin options.

Then, with beach house and cabin options, Bluewater Lodge is another great option. Summer visitors love the cozy beach, playground, and outdoor fire pits. Alternatively, Hiawatha Beach Resort has various family accommodation options, including camping, cabins, and a houseboat! Designed with kids in mind, families can play on the water trampoline, swim, or participate in one of the many family activities. Families also like the laid-back rooms and sandy beach at the Shores of Leech Lake. Finally, Chase on the Lake offers a slightly more upscale experience, as well as gorgeous lake views, a full-service spa, on-site dining, an indoor pool, and more!

Look to rent your family stay at Leech Lake with Vrbo!

RELATED: Best Lakes In The Midwest For Families

Lake Bemidji 

Bemidji, MN

Sever people fish from a dock on Lake Bemidji.
Photo Courtesy: Explore Minnesota

Your tour of northern Minnesota isn’t complete without visiting Lake Bemidji. Located in Bemidji, Minnesota, it’s one of three of the best lakes in Minnesota in this area. While smaller than other lakes on this list, this glacially-formed lake still packs a punch! Plus, its quick access to city amenities, untouched natural lands, and nearby state parks make it an easy choice for many families seeking a Minnesota summer getaway with kids.

On the lake, families love activities like fishing, boating, water sports, and swimming. Plus, there are plenty of options for kayaking and canoeing. Then, you can find Lake Bemidji swimming beaches at Cameron Park (on the west shore) and Diamond Point Park (at Bemidji State University on the west shore). Plus, inside Bemidji State Park, take the Rocky Point Loop, about 2 miles, to the sandy beach for an afternoon of splashing and swimming. Finally, naturalist-led pontoon tours of Lake Bemidji are also available in the summer season months.

Ready to explore more? Head into Bemidji to meander through the city’s impressive Sculpture Walk. Then, don’t miss a family photo opp with the massive Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox at the beginning of downtown. There is also a nearby playground with lake views that families with little kids will love! When you’re done exploring the many shop and restaurants in town, head back to Bemidji State Park for exciting hiking options. The easy boardwalk Bog Walk is less than 2 miles and offers many opportunities to spot birds and enjoy lake views. There are also mountain biking and paved biking trails within the state park. Need an indoor activity? Headwaters Science Center is an excellent option for families with young children. Finally, Paul Bunyan’s Animal Land is another fun stop with kids.

Where to Stay on Lake Bemidji for Families

Wondering where to stay near Lake Bemidji with your kids? Due to its location, there are plenty of options! Those interested in a traditional hotel stay can consider Hampton Inn & Suites Bemidji, DoubleTree by Hilton Bemidji, or Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Bemidji, MN.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for some of the best lake resorts in Minnesota near Lake Bemidji for families, consider Ruttger’s Birchmont Lodge. Families love its lakeside dining, boat rentals, indoor pool, and other family-friendly amenities. Then, Kohl’s Resort features 3-bedroom, family, and reunion cabins, making it one of the best Minnesota cabin rentals for large groups! Plus, kids can participate in many kid-friendly activities throughout the week, including a Kids’ Treasure Hunt, sandcastle-building contests, Bingo, minnow races, and much more! Families also love the on-site playground, indoor swimming pool, game room, hiking trails, and firepits.

Reserve your homestay on Lake Bemidji through Vrbo here!

Lake Itasca 

Clearwater County, MN (near Bemidji)

A large dock extends into Lake Itasca, where several people are fishing or taking in the views on one of the best lakes in Minnesota for families.
Photo Courtesy: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Located in Lake Itasca State Park, Lake Itasca offers a wonderful backdrop to summer family vacations in Minnesota. Not only is Lake Itasca State Park the oldest state park in Minnesota, but it is also home to the headwaters of the Mississippi River. In fact, there are more miles of the Mississippi River in Minnesota than in any other state! Lake Itasca State Park is undoubtedly one of the most popular Minnesota vacation spots for kids. 

Start your visit at the swimming beach with a nearby playground. When you’re ready to enjoy more lake views, book a guided boat tour. Afterward, visit the Mary Gibbs Visitor Center, where you’ll learn how the Mississippi River impacts local and national economics and culture. A nearby trail also leads families to the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Then, be sure to pop into the Brower Visitor’s Center. Their interactive exhibits focus on the area’s abundant wildlife. Then, adventurous families can climb up the Aiton Heights Observation Tower. It’s 110 feet tall! Kids will also enjoy the Itasca Wilderness Sanctuary, where they can spot birds and other wildlife. When kids need a break from hiking and swimming, load them into the car to enjoy the 10-mile scenic drive on Wildnerness Drive. This route encircles the park and offers a new look at the natural beauty here.

Since Lake Itasca is located only a short distance from the city of Bemidji, Lake Bemidji, and Leech Lake, you can access the same fun things to do and amenities throughout the area.

Where to Stay on Lake Itasca for Families

Families interested in staying within Lake Itasca State Park can book one of the campsites or one of the rooms or suites at the on-site lodge. Alternatively, look for options in Bemidji (see accommodation options above under Leech Lake) or cabin and home rental options on Vrbo.

Fun Lakes in Central Minnesota for Families

One of the most popular regions for lake life and a Minnesota family vacation is the aptly named Central Lakes Region (or Brainerd Lakes Area)! Nestled around Brainerd, Nisswa, and Pequot Lakes, no one does cabin life quite like this part of Minnesota. Here you will undoubtedly find some of the best lake vacations in Minnesota. Additionally, there are a variety of kid-friendly Minnesota lake resorts providing top-notch opportunities to enjoy time on the water as a family.

Gull Lake 

East Gull Lake, MN

Several people enjoy a speedboat ride across Gull Lake.
Photo Courtesy: Explore Minnesota

One of the largest lakes in Minnesota, Gull Lake is the epitome of a Minnesota summer, with cabins, resorts, and rental homes dotting its beautiful shores. Just over two hours from Minneapolis, it’s a popular destination for families looking to escape the Twin Cities. As one of the best lakes in Minnesota with kids, you’ll also find plenty of water activities on Gull Lake! 

Locals and tourists adore Gull Lake for its pristine waters and nearly 40 miles of postcard-perfect shoreline. From some of the best fishing in the state to water-skiing, kayaking, jet-skiing, and swimming, you’ll quickly see why Gull Lake offers perfect Minnesota lake vacations for families. You can even embark on Gull Lake Cruises for a truly unforgettable experience.

Off the water, many parks, biking and hiking trails, and golf courses are nearby. In fact, Crow Wing State Park is an excellent option for hiking, paddling, and learning about local history. In the area, families also enjoy adding Paul Bunyan Land, Safari North Wildlife Park, and Northland Kart Kountry to their itinerary. From water to land, if you’re looking for family entertainment in the great outdoors, you’ll find it here!

Where to Stay on Gull Lake for Families

If you’re looking for top Minnesota lake resorts for families on Gull Lake, you have several excellent options! Firstly, Grand View Lodge Spa & Golf Resort is a particular favorite amongst families. With several accommodation options, from boutique rooms to cabins, Grand View Lodge is ideal for large families and multigenerational groups. Kids will love the indoor water park (with a 110-foot indoor water slide!), swimming pools, and three fountains! While parents golf or book a spa appointment, kids can meet new friends at the on-site kids’ club. At the end of the day, there are plenty of dining options too.

Then, Madden’s On Gull Lake is beloved for its kids’ activities, golf course, spa, on-site restaurants, and more. Madden’s On Gull Lake also offers over two miles of shoreline, including beach access. You can also consider Quarterdeck Resort. Here, families love boating, fishing, swimming, and more during the summer months. Additionally, due to its multiple accommodation options, it’s perfect for large families. Finally, Lost Lake Lodge is also a great option for families due to its lakeside cabins, complimentary paddleboards and kayaks, and private beach. Find more information about these lakeside resorts and more family Minnesota resorts by reading our article about the Best Summer Resorts In Minnesota For Families.

Look here for home stays on Gull Lake through Vrbo!

Mille Lacs Lake

Mille Lacs County, MN (near Brainerd)

A family enjoys a fishing charter experience on Mille Lacs Lake, one of the best lakes in Minnesota for families.
Photo Courtesy: Explore Minnesota

Summers aren’t complete without a family weekend away in the Brainerd Lakes region of Minnesota (about 90 minutes north of the Twin Cities). Here, families will discover why Mille Lacs Lake is an ideal option for a Minnesota family vacation! Not only is it Minnesota’s second-largest lake, but it’s often considered the best fishing lake in the state. Plus, from swimming and boating to several options for a day at the beach, Lake Mille Lacs offers various family-friendly activities on the water and land. 

On the water, don’t miss seeing Mille Lacs National Wildlife Refuge. Made up of two small islands, this popular breeding area for local birds is best observed by boat (visitors are expected to stay at least 100 yards off-shore). Then, head to the king-sized beach located at Father Hennepin State Park. Along with many water-focused activities here, plan time to hike (or bike) the Mille Lacs Soo Line Hiking and Biking trail. There are 11 miles of wide, family-friendly trails to explore. For even more hiking excursions, check out the nearby Kathio State Park. You can climb the observation tower, hike, camp, and more here. Finally, there are also several golf courses in the area. When seeking Minnesota lake vacations, Lake Mille Lacs truly has it all!

Where to Stay on Mille Lacs Lake for Families

Looking for a place to stay near Mille Lacs Lake with kids? There are plenty of amazing Minnesota lake resorts in the area! Nestled along Mille Lacs Lake, Izatys Resort offers a variety of accommodation options, including a golf course, on-site dining, and a marina. Then, Appeldoorn’s Sunset Bay Resort – Lake Mille Lacs Lodging, offers cabins and lake-view rooms, as well as golfing, pontoon rentals, kayaks, immediate lake access, and more.

Nearby, Ruttger’s Bay Lake Resort is a family tradition! Just north of Mille Lacs Lake, families love this option for its private beach, golf course, variety of accommodation options, and summer activities schedule. Finally, on a smaller nearby lake, try Woodland Beach Resort. A family favorite for its modern cabins, lakeside views, and kid-friendly amenities like a private beach, lake trampoline, and outdoor pool. Vrbo and Airbnb also feature a variety of options for home rentals and cabins in the area.

Search for a home rental at Lake Mille Lacs now using Vrbo!

Clamshell Lake (part of the Whitefish Chain of Lakes)

Crow Wing County, MN (near Pequot Lakes)

An aerial view of Clamshell Beach Resort nestled along Clamshell Lake.
Photo Courtesy: Clamshell Beach Resort

Located in central Minnesota, Clamshell Lake has to be one of the best lake vacations in Minnesota! Indeed, the sparkling waters, lakeside cabin leisure, and sandy beaches of Clamshell Lake call to families every summer! This area has tons of exciting family adventures on and off the lake.

As one of the best Minnesota vacation spots with kids, Clamshell Lake is filled with tons of family-friendly fun for a summer getaway. Here, families can enjoy paddle boats, kayaking, boating, canoeing, or exploring the many islands on the lakes part of this waterway chain. Avid anglers will also appreciate the fantastic variety of fish here, including crappie, walleye, and smallmouth bass.

Then, Paul Bunyan State Trail is a popular place for hiking and biking. Those looking for a truly epic summer lake vacation will love knowing that this trail extends all the way from nearby Crow Wing State Park to Lake Bemidji State Park (the location of another one of the best lakes in Minnesota for families on this list!). In fact, it is the longest of Minnesota’s state trails (not to mention, the longest continuously paved rail trail in the country!).

Where to Stay on Clamshell Lake for Families

Families seeking fun lake resorts in Minnesota with kids appreciate Clamshell Beach – Cottages on Whitefish for its sandy beach, outdoor pools, multiple playgrounds, and more. With 3- and 4-bedroom cottages, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy the lake for large families and multigenerational groups.

Cross Lake (part of the Whitefish Chain of Lakes)

Crow Wing County, MN (near Pequot Lakes)

A person walks along a dock at sunrise on Cross Lake, one of the best lakes in Minnesota for families.
Photo Courtesy: Explore Minnesota

Locals and visitors alike seeking the chance to experience the land of 10,000 lakes will love making Cross Lake their next summer family vacation. Known for its fishing and boating opportunities, Cross Lake is one of the most popular lakes within the Brainerd Lakes Area. It also serves as the gateway to the Whitefish Chain of lakes.

In addition to fishing and boating, this charming lake offers two swimming beaches, picnicking areas, a lakeside playground, and more. Families can also enjoy time on the lake by kayaking, paddleboarding, and canoeing. Most of the on-lake action can be found at the Cross Lake Recreation Area. With Cross Lake as a home base, families can also explore Whitefish Lake, Rush Lake, and many other smaller lakes.

When you’re ready to get off the water, visit the Crosslake Historical Society and Historic Log Village. Here, you can take a step back in time to learn about the area’s rich history. The Northern Mn Railroad Heritage Association also makes for a fun stop for train enthusiasts. Thrill-seeking families can also climb the nearby Paul M. Thiede Fire Tower Park. After taking in the view, head back down to enjoy one of the many hiking trails here too. Due to its location, families making Cross Lake their summer vacation can also explore Pequot Lakes, Brainerd, and Nisswa.

Where to Stay on Cross Lake for Families

Looking for places to stay on or near Cross Lake with kids? Consider Whitefish Lodge & Suites, which includes a complimentary breakfast and a pool. Located on the nearby Lower Whitefish Lake, families also like Black Pine Beach Resort for its cozy cabins, fishing dock, playground, private beach, and more family-friendly amenities that make for one incredible vacation!

Fun Lakes in Western Minnesota for Families

Western Minnesota also offers some of the best lakes in the state for families. Whether you are traveling from the Twin Cities or Fargo, North Dakota, these two lakes are easy to reach for a weekend away and offer plenty of fun in the sun and on the water with kids!

Pelican Lake

Otter Tail County, MN (near Pelican Rapids)

Four kids jump from a dock into Pelican Lake on a sunny day.
Photo Courtesy: Kvidt Creative

Families seeking Minnesota lake vacations on the state’s western side should look at Pelican Lake! Located in Otter Tail County (just north of Pelican Rapids), this lake is less than an hour from Fargo, North Dakota, and about 3 hours from Minneapolis.

Fishing enthusiasts will be in heaven on Pelican Lake, where they can catch everything from black crappie and bluegill to largemouth bass, muskie, and northern pike! In addition to fishing, families can go boating and swimming on the lake too. If you’re not staying directly on the lake, there are two public water access points for launching a boat onto Pelican Lake; one on the east shore and one on the southwest shore.

Those planning a Minnesota family vacation to Pelican Lake have plenty of off-lake adventures to enjoy too! Maplewood State Park is a great place to start, offering hiking, bird watching, fishing, horseback trails, and more. There is also a sandy swimming beach and ample canoeing opportunities here. Then, the Heart of the Lakes Trail is another great option for hiking with kids. Canoes and kayaks can be rented from Pelican Paddle Company (located in Pelican Rapids).

Plus, don’t miss the chance to stay hi to Pelican Pete, the world’s largest pelican, situated along the Pelican River in town. If your kids get a kick out of Pelican Pete, you can also find the “Friends of Pete” (more pelican statues) around town! Pelican Rapids also offers a diverse selection of dining opportunities, which families will appreciate. Finally, there are several summer festivals (think turtle racing and minnow racing!) in this area that are a huge draw for families.

Note: Pelican Pete is under restoration with the new dam project and hopes to fly back to his home in Pelican Rapids in Fall 2023. Then, there is also a Pelican Lake in the Central Lakes Region of Minnesota near Pequot Lakes and Brainerd. You can find more about that lake here.

Where to Stay on Pelican Lake for Families

Wondering where to stay on or near Pelican Lake with kids? There are a few fun Minnesota lake resorts here! Located on Pelican Lake, Fair Hills Resort makes for an ideal summer vacation with kids due to its Summer Activity Schedule and 1- to 4-bedroom cabins. They also offer special Family Weeks with complimentary activities, sports lessons, and more! Alternatively, many families seek cabin or lakehouse rentals through Vrbo in the area.

Families can also find traditional hotel stays in nearby Detroit Lakes at Holiday Inn Detroit Lakes – Lakefront, an IHG Hotel, AmericInn by Wyndham Detroit Lakes, or the Best Western Premier The Lodge On Lake Detroit.

Otter Tail Lake

Otter Tail County, MN

Two kids on tubes being pulled behind a boat on Otter Tail Lake.
Photo Courtesy: Otter Tail County

One of the ultimate Minnesota vacation spots is Otter Tail Lake. Just 75 minutes from Fargo and under 3 hours from Minneapolis, Otter Tail Lake offers the best of Minnesota’s lake life culture. In fact, Otter Tail County has more lakes than any other county in the United States, with 1,048 lakes within its borders!

On the lake, families are spoiled when it comes to activities like fishing, boating, and swimming. When fishing, the lake’s shallow depth is ideal for catching smallmouth and largemouth bass. Plus, bring (or rent) a jet ski, motorboat, or pontoon boat to traverse the lake. Then, Otter Tail River is ideal for non-motorized sports like tubing down the river and kayaking. You’ll be amazed by the beautiful scenery and diverse birds and wildlife here. Don’t miss Pine to Prairie International Birding Trail, which runs through this area. 

Off the lake, Maplewood State Park and Glendalough State Park are fantastic options for families looking to hike, bike, bird watch, or spend time in nature. Nearby, families can still find Pelican Pete and his friends in Pelican Rapids, along with two other monstrous animals; Otto the Otter in Fergus Falls and the world’s largest loon (located on Long Lake in Vergas). To learn a little bit about local history, stop by the Otter Tail County Historical Society and Museum. Finally, the area has many charming towns to explore – filled with cute shops and dining – including Fergus Falls, Pelican Rapids, Battle Lake, Perham, and Ottertail City. With so much to offer, it is no wonder that Otter Tail Lake ranks highly amongst the top lakes in Minnesota for families with kids.

*Note: Pelican Pete is under restoration with the new dam project and hopes to return to his home in Pelican Rapids in Fall 2023.

Where to Stay on Otter Tail Lake for Families

Firstly, Otter Tail Beach Resort has cozy, cottage-style cabins, as well as a beach, boat rental, and more kid-friendly amenities. Plus, their largest cabins can sleep up to 8-10 people, making it one of the best lake resorts in Minnesota for large families. Then, just minutes from the lake, families love Thumper Pond Resort for its on-site dining, indoor water park, and 18-hole golf course. Finally, Vacationland Resort, Holly’s Resort, and Barky’s Resort are also worth considering.

Consider a homestay on Otter Tail Lake here with Vrbo!

Fun Lakes in Minnesota Near Minneapolis for Families

You won’t be disappointed if you’re looking for a Minnesota lake vacation with kids near the Twin Cities! The Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area is home to its own list of stunning lakes. Families looking for a day at the lake, a lakeside staycation, or who want urban amenities during their family vacation to Minnesota will love these options – all within 90 minutes of Minneapolis.

RELATED: 45+ Exciting Places To Visit Within 3 Hours Of The Twin Cities With Kids

Lake of the Isles

Minneapolis, MN

Four people paddle colorful kayaks around Lake of the Isles Park, with the Minneapolis skyline in the distance.
Photo Courtesy: Lane Pelovski via Meet Minneapolis

Thanks to Lake of the Isles, families don’t need to venture far from urban Minneapolis for one of the best lakes in Minnesota! The lake is part of the city’s Chain of Lakes, just three miles south of downtown. Undoubtedly, this city lake offers endless fun in the sun. In the summer, there’s plenty of space to run around and explore. Plus, calm waters are perfect for a leisurely swim or paddle around in a canoe or kayak.

​​If you’re feeling more adventurous, biking and hiking trails wind through Lake of the Isles Park. Kids will also love feeding the ducks in the pond! There are also picnic areas and playgrounds for children to enjoy. Playing here also means your family can access all the family-friendly activities and attractions in Minneapolis, including Walker Art Center, The Bakken Museum, Mill City Museum, and more of the 45+ Exciting Places To Visit Within 3 Hours Of The Twin Cities With Kids. Need a sweet treat? Head to Sebastian Joe’s Ice Cream Cafe for locally-inspired ice cream.

Where to Stay on Lake of the Isles for Families

Near Lake of the Isles, several great lake houses for family vacationers put you within ten minutes of the city. Check Vrbo and Airbnb for great options. While there are plenty of hotel options in downtown Minneapolis for families, Moxy Minneapolis Uptown is the closest hotel to Lake of the Isles.

Lake Minnetonka 

Hennepin and Carver Counties, MN (Wayzata, Excelsior)

A lovely dinner cruise moves across Lake Minnetonka, one of the best lakes in Minnesota for families.
Photo Courtesy: Explore Minnesota

Families seeking Minnesota lake vacations near Minneapolis will love Lake Minnetonka. A quick 40-minute drive from the city, families can find access to Lake Minnetonka in Wayzata or Excelsior, to name only two of the many towns. Often viewed as one of the best vacation lakes in Minnesota due to its size, upscale lakeside restaurants, and dinner cruises, Lake Minnetonka is a fantastic option for families seeking charming towns, top-notch fishing, and boating activities.

Lake Minnetonka is actually a chain of interconnected lakes with more than 20 scenic bays, not to mention a plethora of islands and at least a dozen waterfront towns. It’s also the largest lake in the Twin Cities metro area. Due to its popularity, this lake will have heavy boat traffic and busy marinas during peak seasons. On the water, families will love boating, watersports, and fishing opportunities. In the city of Excelsior, Excelsior Commons has everything you need for a great day at the lake, including a lakeside playground, a public beach, and many boutique shops and restaurants within walking distance. Lake Minnetonka Regional Park is another excellent spot with a beach, fishing pier, and playground. Those looking to swim with a lifeguard on duty can go to nearby Shady Oak Beach. Try Wayzata Bay Charter Cruises on Lake Minnetonka for a dinner cruise on the lake.

Family adventures off the list include the ​​Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Paisley Park, and Big Stone Mini Golf. For a bit of hiking, check out Carver Park Reserve. In Excelsior, don’t forget to dine at Maynards, one of the best restaurants on the lake (offering indoor and outdoor seating in the summer!). Alternatively, Vann Restaurant, COV Wayzata, and Lord Fletcher’s Old Lake Lodge are great lakeside dining options. For a sweet treat, grab a custard at Adele’s Frozen Custard. Of course, choosing Lake Minnetonka for your next Minnesota summer getaway also means you’ll have easy access to the urban amenities and attractions of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Where to Stay on Lake Minnetonka for Families

Ready to make Lake Minnetonka your next lake getaway with kids? Then you’ll need to decide where to stay! For a traditional hotel stay, consider The Hotel Landing. This sleek hotel includes lake views, a spa, and on-site dining. Just off the lake, near Paisley Park and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Holiday Inn Express & Suites Chanhassen, an IHG Hotel, offers an indoor pool and complimentary breakfast. Finally, there are plenty of Lake Minnetonka vacation rentals through websites like Vrbo, including waterfront homes and rentals with pools! 

Of course, you could always stay closer to Minneapolis at one of the many family-friendly hotels throughout the city, like Four Seasons Hotel Minneapolis, Loews Minneapolis Hotel, The Westin Minneapolis, or Hilton Minneapolis

Lake Pepin

Lake City, MN

	Lake Pepin on the Mississippi River, looking out from the pier at Lake City, Minnesota.
Photo Courtesy: Jonathunder via Wikimedia

Take your next Minnesota family vacation to Lake Pepin! One of the state’s most intriguing lakes, Lake Pepin, is a naturally occurring lake on the Mississippi River (about 75 minutes southeast of Minneapolis). It also serves as part of the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Dotted with sailboats in the summer, Lake Pepin is an excellent option for families looking to explore two states on their summer trip!

As one of the best lakes in Minnesota, there is plenty of family fun at Lake Pepin! Families interested in swimming can check out Ohuta Beach in Lake City. Here, you’ll find a lovely beach, a playground for little kids, and a Riverwalk trail. Those interested in sailing can get on the water with Sail Pepin or Lake City Sailing. Then, Lake Pepin Paddle Boat, Inc offers sightseeing and sunset tours. Boaters will be impressed too! Given the lake’s shape, there is ample opportunity to cruise and enjoy the beautiful waters.

There are thrills off the lake too! Families exploring Lake Pepin can also take in all the attractions, restaurants, and amenities offered in Lake City, Red Wing, Reads Landing, and Wabasha. Firstly, families love hiking in Frontenac State Park. Outdoor adventures families will adore the opportunity to spot birds, take in epic views of the lake, and identify wildflowers. In Wabasha, Broken Paddle Guiding Co. provides family-friendly on-the-water tours, including a Raptor Tour and Stand-Up Paddle Board Tour. Then, on the Wisconsin side, literary families can visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum to learn about her life and the area’s rich history. While on the Wisconsin side, be sure to take in the views from Maiden Rock Bluff State Natural Area. End your trip with a sweet treat from The Chocolate Escape (in Wabasha, MN).

Where to Stay on Lake Pepin for Families

There are plenty of places to stay to enjoy Lake Pepin with kids. In Lake City, consider Willows on the River. Here, you’ll have your own condo and access to an indoor pool, gym, and docks. Plenty of lakeside and other rental homes are available for a weekend getaway on Lake Pepin through Vrbo.

Alternatively, those interested in making Red Wing their home base (just north of the lake) can select from the St. James Hotel, Holiday Inn Express & Suites Red Wing, an IHG Hotel, and the Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Red Wing, MN, among others.

Happy Travels!

Now that you know the best lakes in Minnesota with kids, we hope you found the perfect spot for your next Minnesota lake vacation! Whether you’re looking for Minnesota cabin rentals for large groups, luxury resorts in Minnesota, or a quiet place to splash in the water with your kids, we know this list covers many fantastic destinations for you to make memories together. Have a great time at the lake this summer!

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision. 

*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.


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The Families Love Travel Team has a zest for life and an even bigger passion for globetrotting! Comprised of real-life travel professionals, we work hard behind the scenes to provide dynamic solutions for adventuring with children. Our enthusiastic team understands the challenges that often accompany traveling with kids and is committed to making Families Love Travel an inclusive space to convey these experiences.