Willmar Lakes Area Top Attractions in 2021
The Willmar Lakes Area is a land full of diverse culture, outdoor adventures, family fun, history, boutique shopping, unique restaurants and so much more. So how do you know what to all see while you’re here for a visit? Well, that’s what we’re here for! At the Willmar Lakes Area Convention & Visitors Bureau we’re happy to answer any of your questions regarding Kandiyohi County and we’d love to help make your visit a memorable one. So for starters, let’s go over the top must-see attractions in our area!
One of Minnesota’s top 20 attractions, Sibley State Park is the perfect place for experiencing “Nature at its Best.” Pack a lunch and take a hike through the many beautiful trails and make your way to the top of Mount Tom to enjoy the spectacular view of the forest, farmland, prairie knolls and lakes below. Don’t forget your swimsuit so you can enjoy the beautifully renovated swimming beach along Lake Andrew. If you’d rather stay dry while enjoying the lake, rent a row boat, canoe or kayak and enjoy the calm waters and the sounds of nature. Bring the whole family (including the in-laws) and enjoy some friendly games of volleyball, horseshoes or your own family fishing tournament all while enjoying the campgrounds, a modern group center, horseback camps, picnic area, and interpretive programs.
Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center
Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center (PWELC) is a regional center for environmental education, outdoor recreation and team building for people of all ages. Everyone can enjoy 500 acres full of self-guided trails through prairie, woods and wetlands as well as 4.5 miles of mountain bike trails. Enjoy an afternoon or a whole day of kayaking or fat tire biking by reserving equipment 24 hours in advance. Plan a group outing to PWELC and schedule a ride on the 34-foot Voyager canoe, learn how pioneers live during the Time Travel programs, or for the more adventurous, schedule a day for your group to fully enjoy the outdoor Challenge Course! With its 40-foot tall three-sided outdoor climbing tower, a two-tiered high circuit course, two giant ladders, and two flying squirrels, you’re sure to have a high-flying adventure!
No one can visit the Willmar Lakes Area without stopping at the most delicious chocolate store in West Central Minnesota! The story of Dwight Barnes and how he started Mr. B’s Chocolates at the age of 56 is a unique and interesting tale that involves him apprenticing with the world-renowned chocolatier Hans Burie in Belgium. The new Mr. B’s Chocolates continues Barnes’ legacy and technique of creating the most delicious chocolates by importing raw chocolate from Belgium, importing cocoa butter from France, using dairy cream and butter from Minnesota, and making homemade marzipan. In addition to all your nostalgic favorites – truffles, caramels, fruit creams, and the like – Mr. B’s chocolatiers hand paint few-of-a-kind masterpieces that go from small farm animals, dinosaurs, and roses all the way to the intercut champagne bottles, Thanksgiving turkeys and three-dimensional Christmas trees! And of course, no chocolate shopping experience is complete without a free sample of the chocolate!
Willmar Destination Playground
The Willmar Destination Playground is truly a playground for all! As one of the nation’s largest fully accessible playgrounds, it is a one-of-a-kind, 19,000 square foot, community built playground. Nestled into the grassy oak hills of Robbins Island Regional Park, the Willmar Destination Playground is packed with swings, merry-go-rounds, draw bridges, climbing ropes, a tree house, a castle and lots of slides all on a soft rubbery flooring. The fully-enclosed and accessible playground offers a safe and fun place for children of all ages and abilities to play and interact. Elements of the playground were custom-designed with input from area children to depict the culture, history, and area of Kandiyohi County. While enjoying your time at the playground, make sure to take in the surrounding 55 acres of Robbins Island. This recreational area is surrounded by Willmar Lake and Foot Lake so bring along your boat for some fishing or enjoy swimming on the beautiful beach. Be sure to take a walk through the trails or around the lake to take in all of the beauty and recreation that Robbins Island has to offer!
Make sure to include a Friday night during your next visit so that you can enjoy the Little Crow Water Ski Team as they show off their water skiing talent that you can’t easily find anywhere else in the world. They have been performing and competing at Neer Park in New London for more than 40 years, and it shows as they show off their 4-tier pyramid made up of nearly 40 people! It’s not just pyramids that fans come to see. They also come for the most inventive bare footing acts, including backwards bare-footing, and the crowd-pleasing Bare Foot Pyramids. The Little Crow Ski Team also boasts the finest ski jumping team in the region, and routinely pulls 5 ski jumpers at a time over the jump (which is center stage for their fans) landing helicopter spins, flips, and a variety of other challenging feats. Round it all off with a variety of other ski acts, as well as comedy, and you have a fun and entertaining show the whole family is sure to enjoy!
One of the most popular biking trails is the Glacial Lakes State Trail. It is located on a former Burlington Northern railroad grade, and is generally level and wheelchair accessible. The trail is paved for 22 miles between Willmar, Spicer, New London, Hawick, and the Kandiyohi/Stearns County line. The many beautiful lakes and the abundance of whitetail deer, small mammals, birds, reptiles and butterflies that can be found along the trail make this a popular tourist attraction. The towns along the trail provide access points, rest stops, and a variety of delicious restaurants to trail users. Horseback riders will also enjoy the ten mile stretch of parallel grass tread way from Willmar to New London and the grass shoulders from New London to the Kandiyohi/Stearns County line. Whether you’re in the mood for a leisurely stroll along the trail to enjoy the sights and sounds or if you’re more in the mood for a 5K or 10K run, you’re sure to love this trail!
Breweries & Wineries in the Area
The Willmar Lakes Area is home to a wide variety of handcrafted beverage makers including Foxhole Brewhouse, Goat Ridge Brewing Co., and Hinterland Vineyards. Foxhole Brewhouse, located in Downtown Willmar, is a great place to get fresh, small batch, flavorful and aromatic handcrafted beer. With so many amazing varieties of beer, Foxhole is sure to have taste that will satisfy everyone.Goat Ridge Brewing Co. is located in Downtown New London along the beautiful Crow River. Outside you can sit and enjoy the riverside beer garden, outdoor stage, and toasty fire pit. Inside you’ll find nine unfiltered craft beers on tap, as well as cold-press coffee and house-made sodas. They’ve even added an artisan pizza kitchen to pair perfectly with their beverages. And just outside of Kandiyohi County you’ll find a unique vineyard hidden in a patchwork of farmland. Hinterland Vineyards offers award winning Minnesota wines, grown, produced and bottled by Hinterland. Along with their perfectly balanced variety of wines, wine cocktails, and cider, they serve up a delicious full food menu that changes throughout the year. Make sure one of these (or all of them) are on your itinerary the next time you’re in the Willmar Lakes Area!
The Willmar Stingers are part of the Northwoods Baseball League and play their home games at Bill Taunton Stadium in Willmar. Enjoy great stadium food and drinks while watching some exciting baseball action during the summer. Fans also look forward to being greeted by a seven-foot bear named Barry as they enter Bill Taunton Stadium each and every summer. This infamous mascot keeps the coaches and players on high alert all season long as he loves to play pranks and stunts on them in between innings. He also loves to bust a move and has a history of making an entrance via his infamous motorcycle with training wheels. Whether you’re from the area, new to town or just visiting…we encourage you to share in the enthusiasm of the Willmar Stingers!
Travelling with kids while in the area? Then make sure The Village Children’s Museum is on your list of places to visit! This indoor play space is dedicated to bringing play and learning to the cultural diversity of West Central Minnesota. Children will enjoy the wide variety of exhibits that’ll keep them engaged for hours all while learning and growing. The museum will bolster their natural curiosity with hands-on exploration and encourage brain development as they play with kids of different ages and cultures. Parents and grandparents alike will enjoy watching and playing alongside the kids during their visit. The Village is geared towards children birth-12 years.
Need to cool off? Then head over to the Dorothy Olson Aquatic Center (DOAC) for an afternoon splish-splashing fun! The DOAC offers guests of all ages a number of entertainment options including two raging waterslides, a six lane recreation pool, a poolside climbing wall, two diving boards and a mini slide surrounded by a zero depth entry play pool. When it’s time for a break, swimmers have a choice between getting some sun in the chaise lounges, cooling off in the shade under the 20 foot umbrellas or getting a snack/light meal at the full-service concession stand. Both season and day passes are available to accommodate your pool time needs!
Nestled near Green Lake in the heart of Spicer, Big Kahuna Fun Park offers two go-kart tracks, Wet & Wild bumper boats with squirt guns (bring your swimsuit and towel), a large 18-hole premier mini-golf course, a Power Wheels course and Dune Racers for the younger ones. Inside you’ll find the Big K Mini-Arcade with redemption prizes. There’s something for everyone from fun-loving preschoolers to those who like the extreme! Bring the whole family and join in on the fun between Memorial Day and Labor Day!
Kandiyohi County Historical Society & Museum
History lovers will enjoy the unique history of Kandiyohi County! The museum complex consists of six buildings: the main museum and research library, District #18 Schoolhouse, Engine #2523, Sperry House, Grandpa’s Shed and an agriculture building all with their own piece of history to tell. The Kandiyohi County Historical Society also has a log cabin, the Guri Endreson Cabin, off site near Solomon Lake, north of Willmar. It is architecturally and historically significant as one of our area’s oldest extant buildings on its original site, a rare survivor of the “pre-Uprising” (Dakota Conflict of 1862) period. One of the few buildings still standing that has strong historical links to the events of the U.S. Dakota War of 1862. Call to schedule your guided tour of the Sperry House and/or the Guri Endreson Cabin.
Now we know there’s probably no way you can enjoy these amazing attractions in one visit, let alone a weekend. So plan a week long stay or multiple visits to make sure you’re able to explore these must-see attractions in the Willmar Lakes Area. By the way, we’ve only listed the most popular attractions in the area. Make sure to check out all of the Things to Do in Kandiyohi County by exploring our website further.
Fish our lakes
The possibilities are endless on our 30 recreational lakes…boating, swimming, fishing, water skiing, tubing, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boating, hydro biking, paddle boarding and so much more!
Explore our Trails
Surrounded by beautiful lakes and scenery…who wouldn’t take a hike or a leisurely bike ride to enjoy the view? With miles of trials to choose from, you can always find new places to explore.
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