Population: Brainerd: 13,500 (2012); Baxter 7,800 (2012)
Location: You can’t talk about Brainerd without Baxter. Approximately 126 miles north of the Twin Cities, Highway 371 splits—if you go right, you’re in downtown Brainerd and if you stay left on the bypass, you’re in Baxter. “The towns just blend together,” says Richard Polipnick, executive director of Visit Brainerd.
Transportation: “We have one of the nicest regional airports I’ve ever seen,” says Polipnick. Delta flies into the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. The Lakes Express and Executive Express are daily shuttles between the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport and Brainerd.
Must-Sees: Paul Bunyan Land features a 26-foot animated talking Paul Bunyan. “We have fourth-generation visits to that. It’s a tradition for many people,” says Polipnick. The Brainerd International Raceway is the largest speedway in the Midwest. Two new attractions include the Destiny Cruises on Gull Lake and Safari North Wildlife Park, which features animals from five continents.
Conference Centers: While there’s not a designated conference center, there are venues for larger meetings. Arrowwood Lodge’s ballroom fits up to 300 and there are smaller breakout meeting rooms. NP Event Space, which was built in an old railroad property, features an 8,000-square-foot meeting space and additional breakout rooms.
Restaurants: Prairie Bay Grill in Baxter is a local favorite and features locally grown food and a changing menu. “When you’re in Brainerd/Baxter, you’ve got about 420 lakes within 20 minutes … and multiple restaurants on the water,” says Polipnick, such as Ivan’s on the Bay, Ernie’s on Gull and Bar Harbor Super Club.
Hotels: The total room count through Visit Brainerd is 599. The Comfort Suites, Holiday Inn Express and Arrowwood Lodge all feature indoor waterparks.
How the CVB Helps: The CVB has a good relationship with all the different attractions and amenities, so its employees know what to recommend to fit your specific needs. “We stay in the hotels. We eat at the restaurants. We call it our touch, taste and feel campaign,” says Polipnick. After all, Visit Brainerd wouldn’t have been voted MNM+E’s Best Convention & Visitors Bureau (in a town/area less than 25,000 in population) two years in a row on accident.
For Your Calendar:
Winter Wonderland (through Dec.)
Ice Fishing Extravaganza (Jan.24)
Frozen Fore (Feb. 27-Mar. 1)
Get Connected: VISIT BRAINERD | Key Contact: Richard Polipnick | Phone Number: 218.825.0410