Your dance card can fill up pretty quickly when you’re looking for summertime fun in the Willmar Lakes area. Part of the appeal is balancing everything you want to do, from outdoor fresh-air activities to charming destinations for a bite and a beverage. Good times are abundant for families as well as couples in Willmar, not to mention out-of-towners looking for the best of this diverse, vibrant, and up-and-coming community. There’s a lot to do here, and you’ll love exploring it.
Minnesotans know how to make the most of the winter, and during the precious weeks of summer we kick our enjoyment of the outdoors into overdrive. Willmar Lakes boasts some of the best, most beautiful, and most accessible bicycling options in the state, with favorites including Glacial Lakes State Trail, Eagle Lake Trail, Robbins Island Trail, and the gorgeous route encircling Green Lake. (Did we mention that there are more than 100 lakes in the area?) Load up your bike to make the most of the fresh air, sunshine, and the rush of exercise amid native trees and grassy vistas—but if you don’t have your own, take advantage of the newly launched bike share called BikeWillmar to get you out on the trails quickly and easily.
The area is perfect both for families and for the eternally youthful at heart. A longtime fave is the Little Crow Ski Team. The aquatic daredevils celebrate their 40th anniversary this year and perform most Friday nights at Neer Park in nearby New London. The brain-teaser puzzle room Escape Willmar offers an interactive game for groups of four to eight that’s intuitive and challenging, but not intimidating. Spicer’s Big Kahuna Fun Park offers up go-karts, bumper boats, mini golf, and an arcade to burn off energy for the younger set, and the Robbins Island Destination Playground is one of the largest in the country, built by community volunteers and safe and accessible. And for a memorable summer night of baseball under the lights, the Northwoods Stingers of the Northwoods League take on regional foes—and reportedly more than 50 former Stinger players have gone on to wear big-league uniforms.
Summer is also a time for festivals in the Willmar Lakes area. The annual Willmar Fests is always wholesome fun, centered in downtown Willmar with games, parades, run-walk races, and other events from June 19-23. Spicer has its own community get-together from June 29 to July 7, and the Rockin Robbins fest in Willmar runs four Tuesdays in July and August with free concerts, food vendors, a beer and wine tent, artisan market, and events tailored just for kids.
For those looking for an adult beverage and to cool down from the (glorious) summer heat, stop at Willmar’s Foxhole Brewhouse, New London’s Goat Ridge Brewing Company, or Spicer’s Glacial Ridge Winery for Minnesota-crafted vino tastings. For dining, the area boasts a number of cozy American eateries as well as restaurants with international cuisine reflecting Willmar’s diverse and dynamic population. You won’t be able to see everything in one day, but you’re in luck—there are many great places to stay, from hotels to bed and breakfasts, and a handy central site for events. And if that dance card gets too full this summer, you can always start planning ahead for 2020—those 100-plus lakes will be waiting.