Minnesota family resorts: Lake vacations with old-fashioned fun

Hydro-biking at Northern Lights Resort
It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but we haven’t had the chance to enjoy a true lakeside resort before–not the neighborly family-run variety where kids roam freely, movie rentals are on  the honor system, potlucks are spontaneous, and the resort dog shows up when she gets the first whiff of pancakes.
Flexible schedule saves money
Northern Lights Resort near Voyageurs National Park.

Most family-run smaller resorts require weeklong commitments during peak summer weeks. That can be beyond many budgets or more than you can spare from work or kids’ activities. Some resorts are so popular, families book the same cabin and the same week each summer, making it tough for newcomers to get reservations. If you fit into any of those categories, consider the first two weeks of June or last two weeks of August when planning for 2011. You’ll find more flexibility for shorter stays plus better rates if you’re willing to risk the more unpredictable and chillier temps. 

Our gamble paid off with gorgeous weather and a relaxing three-night stay at Northern Lights Resort. Yes, the lake was cold, but we toughed it out and got used to it. Needless to say, the kids had a blast. With paddleboats, hydro-bikes, canoes and kayaks, fishing galore, an ice cream social and pontoon rides, there really was something for everyone. 
Look for resorts with the best water toys
Launching into Lake Kabetogama
Many of the best resorts have wonderful lake toys: trampolines, inflated log rolls, slides and swim rafts. We were lucky enough to have a Rave Aqua Tower at Northern Lights. You climb to the top and slide down or you jump down to “the blob” and wait for someone to jump on the other end and launch you. That was hands-down the best entertainment possible. Really. We couldn’t decide what was better–seeing them go for height records or distance. Even a great sunset can’t compare to the thrill of seeing a 11-year-old fly flailing into the air. Good stuff.