Sponsored by Ruttger's Bay Lake Lodge
When you’re looking for a theme for a retreat or meeting, don’t look to Pinterest or into an old manila folder labeled “Event Themes.” Instead, look north, as in “Up North.” Below are a handful of ideas to turn an ordinary business meeting into an unforgettable, pine-scented, log-cabin-on-a-lake, s’mores-by-the-bonfire traditional, Up North getaway. Your group will love it, don’t ya know.
Idea 1: Walleye Shore Lunch
It’s the most Minnesotan of all meals, and for good reason. Fresh walleye fried on the shores of a crystal-clear lake is as tasty as it gets. Add in a cold beverage, a group of good people to share the experience with, and a loon singing in the background and you have near perfection. For the complete experience, include a guided fishing launch, or plan your own private fishing tournament. Bring in your catch, filet and fry them up. Don’t want to do all that work? No problem. Any resort or meeting space, including Ruttger’s, can fry up walleye for you, with all the fixings. We strongly recommend finishing off the day with some ooey, gooey s’mores and some campfire music.
Idea 2: A Great Meeting is the “Pits”
One of Up North Minnesota’s hidden gems are the Mine Pits in Cuyuna State Recreation Area. These former open-pit iron ore mines were flooded in the 1970s and developed into a haven for outdoor adventure seekers. Miles of red-dirt mountain bike trails and hiking paths, plus thousands of acres of pristine, clear, spring-fed lakes are spectacularly beautiful and peaceful. Head off on your own, or use an outfitter like Wild Sun Adventures to take you on a guided adventure of your choosing. Options are mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding and more. Whatever you do, bring your camera. There are many resorts and meetings spaces, including Ruttger’s, within easy drive of the Mine Pits. This is a great option for groups looking for a little adventure.
Idea 3: Oktoberfest
“Up North” is home to a very large and proud German population who know how to eat, drink and have a great time. There is no better example of this than Oktoberfest – an annual celebration centered on drinking beer, playing games, eating great food, singing and dancing. You can go as authentic as you want by dressing in traditional dirndl and lederhosen, but every celebration must include good Oktoberfest beer, plates of sausages, red cabbage, schnitzel, spätzle and potatoes, and, of course, dancing and singing to traditional German party songs. We also highly recommend hamerschlagen. It’s a hilariously fun game involving a slab of wood, some nails, a hammer and, of, course beer. At your next event, raise your steins and say yes to a whole lot of German fun.
Idea 4: Maple Tapping
Trekking into the woods, tapping and collecting the sap from maple trees, and producing sweet and delicious maple syrup is a beloved “Up North” spring tradition for many. If you are planning a retreat between mid-March and mid-April, a maple tapping theme is a tasty option. There are many small, artisan maple syrup producers who give tours of the production process, as well as informational seminars. Some will even allow you to participate in the entire tapping and collecting process, if the timing is right. Ask at your resort or chosen venue for a producer near you. Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge partners with Clay Hill Farms. Besides being fascinating and fun, it’s also a culinary home run. If you’ve never had fresh maple syrup warm from the processor, you’re in for a treat. I strongly recommend trying the maple caramels. And, of course, a hearty pancake breakfast is sure to be a highlight.
Idea 5: Get a Little “Loon”y
The call of the loon is the soundtrack of the “Up North” summer. It’s a truly magical song. Planning a meeting or retreat themed on these beautiful and interesting birds is a great option for those with a love of nature. Bring in an ornithologist for a quick discussion about the habits, habitats and life cycle of loons, and then hit the water on pontoons to observe these spectacular birds in action. All “Up North” lakes have at least one pair of loons (Bay Lake had 19 pairs last summer), so you’ll be sure to get an up-close look. Bringing a camera is an absolute must, and telephoto lenses are encouraged. It’s a fun idea to have a photo contest and print out the winners to decorate your office. Other ideas are: loon trivia, loon-calling contests, art and wine loon painting/crafts.
Sponsored by Ruttger's Bay Lake Lodge
Located in the quiet side of the Brainerd Lakes area, our group vacation accommodations give your party access to the best that Minnesota has to offer. Brainerd Lakes area is not only beautiful, but at Ruttger’s, our group vacation packages include everything you need to make your trip or event unforgettable.