This article is from DESTINATIONS magazine, your source for inspiration and resources about travel in Central and Northern Lakes Area Minnesota! Read on for more links and information about some of Alexandria's most noteworthy sites and events, or click here to return to mndestinations.com, where you can browse travel articles about other communities throughout the region.
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The Alexandria area is brimming with 375 glacier-formed pristine lakes, making it the perfect playground for swimmers, boaters, anglers, golfers, bicyclists, hikers, bird watchers, ice skaters, skiers, snowmobilers and anyone who enjoys the great outdoors.
If you don’t consider yourself an outdoors person, there are still plenty of things to enjoy while on vacation here. You can:
Browse for antiques.
Take in an arts production.
Shop historic downtown Alexandria or visit the Viking Plaza.
Explore the area’s fascinating — and controversial — history.
See a movie — there’s a nine-screen movie theater near the mall.
Get a workout at the Alexandria Area YMCA.
Tour a winery or brewery — the award-winning Carlos Creek Winery is just three miles north of Alexandria and it added a brewery a couple of years ago, 22 Northmen. Another brewery, Copper Trail, is on North Broadway near the Big Ole statue and the Central Lakes Trail.
Catch an entertaining baseball game or college-level hockey game.
In addition, Alexandria lists several golf courses on its website, an amusement park, go-kart racing, horseback riding, three museums, public swimming beaches, an indoor water park, a winter ski hill, three marinas and more.
There is also a trail of antique, curio and specialty shops (many of them downtown) that collectors, browsers and shoppers love to follow, and Alexandria has a very active downtown restaurant and shopping area.
FUN FACT ABOUT ALEXANDRIA
- It was named ‘Best Minnesota Town’ by Minnesota Monthly in 2019!!
LOCALS LOVE THESE: Big Ole and Lake Brophy
Big Ole Webcam: Locals and visitors alike can stop by Big Ole and take a selfie using the Big Ole webcam that is found on the ALP Utilities website. It’s a fun way to get a group shot with the 28-foot fiberglass statue located in Big Ole Central Park. Once you open the website on your cell phone, just take a screenshot to capture you, your group and the famous Viking statue. You must use Firefox, Safari or Edge browsers. Chrome currently does not work with the ALP camera, which is mounted on the pole in front of Big Ole.
Lake Brophy County Park: This park has it all – huge playground, great beach, fishing pier, a place to launch your kayak or canoe, picnic spots, mountain biking, walking and hiking trails with the best view of Alexandria and surrounding areas. The top of the hills are 140 feet above Lake Brophy. In the winter, there is ice skating and sledding. It’s a great place to take your family, friends or to just go on a nature walk by yourself.
NOTEWORTHY THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Park yourself: Unwind at one of dozens of green spaces
New improvements at parks in Alexandria and around Douglas County are turning the great outdoors into a year-round playground for children and adults.
The latest buzz is about all the work that’s been going on at Lake Brophy County Park along Brophy Landing, off County Road 82 northwest of Alexandria. Walking and bike trails were added, a big playground was installed, sand was brought in to form a beautiful beach area, and a bathhouse was constructed. There are also sledding hills, picnic areas, a children’s zip line, ice skating, lots of green space, fire rings, easy access to the Central Lakes Trail and more.
You can also relax, picnic, walk or play in one of the dozens of Alexandria parks. The three main parks with shelters are City Park, Noonan Park and Dean Melton Fillmore Park. During the winter months, the pond at Noonan Park transforms into an ice skating rink, complemented by a warming house. Fillmore-Dean Melton Park has a brand new shelter and restrooms, great for family gatherings. It houses a kid-friendly play area, baseball field and large open area.
Located near the Big Ole Viking statue at the north end of Broadway, the Runestone Museum is home to the controversial, world famous Kensington Runestone. It tells of early explorers to this area from Norway, whom some believe discovered America long before Christopher Columbus. Inside the museum, you will also find exhibits on Native Americans, homesteading, Minnesota wildlife, Scandinavian immigrants, a children’s area and more. The outdoor campus, which is open April through October, has nine historical buildings, a large agricultural building and a large replica of a Viking ship.
Dine al fresco at one of Alexandria's many outdoor dining spots
A beautiful summer day in the Alexandria lakes area is hard to beat. Especially when there are so many options to dine outside or sip on your favorite beverage under a bright blue sky. Angelina’s Restaurant joined the dining “al fresco” trend last summer, offering a rooftop dining experience at its popular establishment along Highway 29 North. Other outdoor patio seating choices abound – Alexandria Golf Club, Boulder Tap House, D. Michael B’s, Deck Bar and Grill, Fat Daddy’s Bar and Grill, Geneva Golf Club, La Ferme, Lake Cafe, Lure Lakebar, Mi Mexico, Pike and Pint, Depot Express, Willy T’s and Zorbaz, just to mention a few.
Reel in some fishing fun on local lakes: Here's a few tips
Angling for some fun on the water? Alexandria Echo Press outdoors column writer Mike Frisch shares these fishing tips:
July and August can be challenging times for walleye and panfish anglers, as the good shallow bites of early season for these species have passed. The heat of summer, however, is often prime time for largemouth bass fishing, particularly those roaming lush, deep weedlines. Midwest anglers would be hard pressed to find an area with more lakes with better deep weedlines, and with more bass than the Alexandria area has.
The famed “Alex Chain” is a prime example, but there are a variety of other lakes, both big and small, in the area that host excellent largemouth bass populations, as well.
A simple way to fish these lakes is to hold the boat just out from the deep weedline and cast mid-to-deep-diving crankbaits ahead and along the weedlines and reel them back to the boat. The Pro Model crankbaits come in a variety of sizes for effectively targeting weedlines in various water depths. Plus, these baits come in baitfish-imitating patterns like bluegill, sunfish, and perch patterns that mimic the baitfish that Alexandria area bass feed on.
Located just 15 miles west of Alexandria, Andes Tower Hills has 15 downhill ski runs ranging from beginner to expert, as well as facilities for tubing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Ski and snowboard lessons, a racing program, lodging, a restaurant, equipment rentals and a pro shop are available. For more information, call 1-877-542-6337 or visit the website.
Do some sleddin': Snowmobile trails abound around here
Douglas County offers scenic views on 368 miles of trails connecting every community in the area. Snowmobile trails also link to the 55-mile Central Lakes Trail, a four-season recreational trail that spans the county. A free trail map and additional trail information are available at the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, at 206 Broadway.
Learn your lakes history at Legacy of the Lakes Museum
The Legacy of the Lakes Museum offers visitors a chance to experience the history of boating and resorts in the Alexandria area and beyond. The museum, located on Third Avenue West, houses an extensive classic boat collection as well as resorting, fishing, hunting and other maritime memorabilia. An exciting addition to the museum is the Maritime Gardens. It features a grand design of gazebos, park benches, lush flower gardens, ornamental grasses, streams and waterfalls and an event stage with seating. The museum also provides educational programs in the summer, such as sailing lessons, water safety and youth boat operation. The museum opens for the year in mid-May. It also participates in a classic boat show on July 9-10 at Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center on Lake Darling.
Alexandria is home to the Andria Theatre, a premier live theatre and performing arts center and home to the nonprofit Alexandria Area Arts Association. Its mission is to build community by igniting interest and participation in and through the performing arts. The mission is accomplished by providing community-based theatre and education-oriented programming that exceeds expectations, led by a staff of seasoned professionals.
Cheers to this: Grains and Grapes
Whether you’re into sipping award-winning wines or prefer a cold glass of craft beer, the Alexandria area offers two breweries and at least four wineries. Copper Trail is in downtown Alexandria on North Broadway, near the famous Big Ole Viking statue. Copper Trail’s industrial style taproom has a relaxing atmosphere, with seating along the bar top, on custom-made tables made from refurbished wood or on the outside patio. Ask for a tour of the brewery system and see exactly how your craft beer was made, 20 feet from where it was poured. The brewery also has a wide selection of games, from cribbage to checkers, and Jenga to Scrabble. Stop in, have a brew from the frequently changing tap list, and grab a Growler or Crowler to go.
22 Northmen Brewing Company opened two summers ago on the same property as Carlos Creek Winery. Inspired by Viking architecture from around the 12th Century, 22 Northmen is a place to not only enjoy great beer, but to also experience a fun Viking vibe – and grab a Growler to take home. The brewery also houses a wood fired pizzeria, called Valkyrie’s, and has live music performances both inside and outside, depending on the season.
Wineries in the area include the aforementioned Carlos Creek Winery, which will be hosting its 21st annual “Grape Stomp” this September. Others include Burr Vineyards in Brandon, and L’Etoile du Nord Vineyard and 68 and Vine Veterans Winery, both near Miltona.
Burr Vineyards is a small, boutique, family winery that specializes in hand-crafted wines derived from the cold-hardy grapes grown adjacent to the winery. The winery, which overlooks Burr Lake, offers several varieties of wine and is open in the summer for tastings.
L’Etoile du Nord Vineyard is located on the west side of Lake Irene. Their estate wines are handcrafted in small batches from grapes grown in their vineyard. They also offer Mead, which is made from local honey and cider, which are made from local fruits.
The newest winery is 68 and Vine Veterans Winery, which is located just north of Alexandria. The vineyard offers wine made from 100% Minnesota grapes, grown right on the 40-acre farm. 68 and Vine vineyard and winery is owned by two military veterans.
Bop, jam and dance: Concerts on the Courthouse Lawn
The Red Willow Arts Coalition, formed in 2009 to promote the arts and provide entertainment events for the lakes area, hosts a series of music events in the summer called Concerts on the Courthouse Lawn. The 2021 season, which opened May 27, features 16 concerts from a variety of musical genres, including country, rock and roll, oldies, Christian and more. All the concerts, except for a special patriotic concert on Sunday, July 4, take place on Thursdays at 7 p.m. on the lawn of the Douglas County Courthouse, 305 8th Ave. W. in Alexandria. Concertgoers are asked to bring their own lawn chairs or blankets to sit on.
Sound the chimes at the all-new musical playground
This one’s for the kids. The Alexandria Rotary Club constructed the all-new Alexandria Community Musical Playground at Big Ole Central Park along 2nd Avenue and North Broadway in the summer of 2020. The new playground consists of six different musical instruments.
One of the instruments is an imbarimba, which is a pentatonic instrument that delivers resonating sounds. The inspiration for this instrument combines two African classics, the marimba, a resonated xylophone, and a kalimba, which is a thumb piano. Another instrument is the serenade, which allows users to play songs using the color-coded chimes and attached songbook. This instrument has 15 chimes that are diatonic and provide a pleasant, sweet sound. All the instruments can withstand the elements and be used year-round.
Explore golfing options, from beginner to expert
Want to brush up your golf game? Douglas County has a wide variety of golf courses to entertain and challenge golfers of any skill level, from first-time beginners to league experts. You can play a quick nine holes or take on a 27-hole championship course. Many courses feature scenic views of lakes, woods and rolling hills. Each summer, the Alexandria Golf Club plays host to the popular Resorters Golf Tournament. This summer will be the 100th annual and it will take place Aug. 1-7. It’s a match-play competition that draws top-notch amateur golfers from throughout the Midwest.
Star Storm lights up the sky: A 4th of July show to remember
This Fourth of July – watch for a storm! Although there are several fireworks displays around the area on the Fourth, one of the most spectacular is Star Storm. Those who go to Lake Darling near Alexandria will enjoy a spectacular 20-minute fireworks display set to music. The annual display, which is designed to be enjoyed either from land or the lake, is organized by Arrowwood Resort. Folks can watch the show from the front lawn of Arrowwood, which overlooks the lake, or they can boat over to see the display. Watchers are encouraged to tune into KIKV-FM 100.7 for the show.