Revisit the Past
tour the rich HIstory
Learn about the history of the area by visiting historical landmarks and museums.
Start your historic adventure in the Willmar Lakes Area by gathering at LuLu Bean’s Coffee House or The Goodness Coffee House for a delicious lunch paired with the perfect beverage to energize your afternoon.
Next stop is the Kandiyohi County Historical Society & Museum featuring exhibits devoted to early transportation, military, Indian artifacts, a horse-drawn fire engine and other exhibits that relate to Kandiyohi County history. The museum complex consists of six buildings across from Foot Lake in Willmar, MN: the main museum and research library, District #18 Schoolhouse, Engine #2523, Sperry House, Grandpa’s Shed and an agriculture building. While visiting the Historical Society pick up a historic sites guide and get in your car and let it take you back in time. The historic sites in Kandiyohi County have been marked since 1905. The guide includes a map and detailed information on each historic marker and complete directions on where the marker is located. This guide is sold at the Kandiyohi County Historical Society in Willmar. There are a total of 51 markers in the Willmar Lakes Area that cover many different topics. Check out our blog about a Historical Road Trip for more details on what you’ll see when touring the historical sites of the county.
Time to check into your hotel! The Willmar Lakes Area is lucky that it is home to a wide variety of hotels located in Willmar and Spicer. So if you’re looking for more of a resort feel, book a stay at Hampton Inn in Spicer for amenities such as a heated indoor pool, fully equipped fitness center, an outdoor fire pit and patio, and bicycle and pontoon rentals. If you’re a golfer at heart, then book a stay at GrandStay Hotel & Suites in Spicer as it is located on a 27-hole championship golf course with driving range, clubhouse, and full-service bar and restaurant (seasonal hours Nov – May). You can find other great hotel options by clicking here.
After spending an afternoon exploring the buildings and exhibits at the Kandiyohi County Historical Society and visiting a few of the historic sites throughout the county, you’re sure to have worked up an appetite. Time to search out the perfect restaurant to satisfy your craving. For a relaxing meal with a great view of a golf course, check out Max’s on the Green or The Oaks at Eagle Creek. If you’re looking for dinner with a lake view stop at O’Neil’s or Zorbaz on Green Lake. Otherwise grab a delicious pizza and your favorite craft beer at Goat Ridge Brewery in New London. For more dinner options, click here.
Make sure that when you call to make your hotel reservation you also call the Atwater Historical Society and Museum to make an appointment to visit the museum. The exhibits here are centered around rural community life. Through items like old baseball uniforms, antique record players, and black and white photographs the museum shows guests what life was like for a rural Minnesotan in the 19th and 20th century. The Atwater Historical Society and Museum also boasts a unique military uniform collection, representing the Minnesotans who served their country in years past. (Museum is only open by appointment)
Next stop, the Raptor Ridge Museum of Spicer. Barb and Larry Levin have spent years collecting natural history items for visitors to see. They feature collections of butterflies, seashells, rocks, minerals, Native American artifacts, and dinosaur bones. Visitors can even touch some of the items to get a hands-on experience with history. Admission is free, but the museum is only open by appointment. When planning your trip, call 320-354-8820 to make sure the Raptor Ridge Museum is on your next historical adventure.
Time to regroup and give yourself time to take-in all that you’ve seen so far. There’s no better way to do that than over a delicious meal! There are so many lunch options in the Willmar Lakes Area that it can be hard to choose sometimes. It really depends on what you’re in the mood for. For amazing authentic Mexican food, we would suggest heading to downtown Willmar to enjoy your favorite dish at Azteca, Rosita’s Grill or Spurs Bar & Grill. For delicious pizza head to Jake’s Pizza, Giovanni’s Pizza or Zeppole’s Pizza and Pasta. For a meal that makes you think you’re at Grandma’s house, stop by Frieda’s, Middle Fork Cafe in New London or Willmar, and McMillan’s Family Restaurant.
And whether you decide to get lunch before or after, a stop at Mr. B’s Chocolates is a must on any visit to the Willmar Lakes Area. You’ll get to sample some of the best Belgian chocolates in Minnesota while enjoying the story of how Mr. B’s Chocolates came to be. But they are only open until 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays so make sure you plan accordingly.
Now that you’re refreshed and refueled, time to check out the Schwanke’s Car, Tractor, and Truck Museum. A favorite for people of all ages, this museum is privately owned and focuses on the mechanical side of the Willmar Lakes Area. With 100 antique cars, 200 tractors, 15 trucks, 70 gas engines, 18 gas pumps and so much more, Schwanke’s homage to history in Kandiyohi County is a perfect place to stop for anyone interested in vehicles and the history of transportation. The museum is open May through September, Monday through Saturday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. It can also be booked by appointment for groups of over 20 people.
I’m guessing you still have a few historic sites to visit from the list you received on Day One. So enjoy the rest of your afternoon learning more about Kandiyohi County by driving through the countryside in search of those historic sites and plaques. Want to learn more? Make sure to ask for more historical stories and places to visit when talking to the historians at the Kandiyohi County Historical Society & Museum!
Missing the beach but don’t want to travel far? Willmar Lakes Area has got plenty of beaches and lakeshore for you to enjoy this summer.
Places to stay
Whether you revel in the outdoors or are looking for all the comforts of home, we’ve got plenty of campgrounds, hotels, and resorts to fit your needs and budget.
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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