A June 2005 trip
to Minneapolis by SFPhotocraft
Quote: Lake Mille Lacs is the second-largest lake in Minnesota. It's an excellent fishing lake and what I consider the start of Northern Minnesota. Our family comes here each year to try our luck.
These waters are filled with perch, walleye, northern pike and even muskie. Years ago this was home to the Ojibwe Indian tribe and was considered some of the best fishing in the area. Today record fish are still pulled from these waters. Mille Lacs is a year round lake and in the winter the lake is dotted with ice house villages, it's a sight to see. Many little tar paper shacks that look like little boom towns on the ice.
This is one of the few lakes in Minnesota that can handle launch fishing. These are the fishing launches that have guides and you don't have to do any of the work. They will bait your hook, untangle your lines and remove the freshly caught fish from your hook. This to me is the only way to fish! Sip a beer and just let your line dangle in the icy blue waters in hopes of catching the big one!
In most folks minds this is the start of Northern Minnesota. Below this area Minnesota is mostly farm land, but above it your find the birch forests and lakes galore to fish. I have to admit Mille Lacs in not the prettiest of the Minnesota lakes, it's rather flat and uninteresting. It's so large that you can't see the opposite shoreline.
When you are not fishing there is plenty to do in the area. The small towns around the lake are full of popular bars for fishermen. It's seems the popular past time up here is to sit on a bar stool and swap fish stories will sipping a beer. But there are some good restaurants and some very nice resorts in the area. You can even visit Paul Bunyan at Paul Bunyan Land or learn about the Ojibwe at one of the best Indian museums in the state. There is even an Indian casino on the lake if your care to lose some of your money.
Mille Lacs is a perfect family get-away and should not be missed.
You can rent a boat and try your luck yourself.
However the best way to go is launch fishing. A guide will take you out and find the best mud flats where the walleye live. This also is lazy man's fishing as they will bait your hook, untangle your line and take off your fish for you!
The best deal on the lake is the Dining Room at Ruttger's Lodge. When you catch your fish have them cleaned at any of the bait shops in the area and bring them to the chef at the lodge. He will cook them in the lodge's special batter and serve them with fries and slaw - all this for just .00 a person. The lodge is a 1929 masterpiece on the lake and in my view this is one of the best deals to be had anywhere! (See my review in this section.)
Most of the area lakes have boat houses and your can rent anything from speed boats, to pontoon boats to paddle boats. The best way to see the area is on the water!
Ruttger’s sits on Bay Lake about 125 miles north of the Twin Cities. It's in the little of town of Deerwood. Deerwood can barely be found on a map, as it's a very small town, but you can find it between large Lake Mille Lacs and the town of Brainard. Bay is one of my all-time favorite lakes. It has wonderful little bays and inlets, and is fun to explore by boat.
Ruttger’s has a lot of options, from cabins, to hotel rooms, to townhouses. We were disappointed this year, as the family cabins were all sold out. We did find that the resort fills for the weekends in summer, but oddly, was very empty during the week. We asked for rooms together and on the ground floor, as we had a lot of luggage and one elderly person. (There are no elevators at Ruttger’s). We had reconfirmed out rooms that morning.
When we arrived, we found that none of us had rooms together and were all on the top floor. I don't think the clerks at the front desk handled the situation very well and seemed very unsympathetic to our needs. This was the only drawback to our stay all week.
We did lug our bags up the stairs and were pleased with our room. We had a great screened-in porch overlooking the lake, and it was a wonderful place to sit and watch the world go by. Our room was a nice size and had every room amenity you would expect from a major hotel. Our room had a double bed and a fold-out couch. The room, thankfully, did not have a TV in it - they prefer that you watch the loons on the lake.
Rutterg's has a bar, a wonderful restaurant, a coffee house, two pools, a boathouse to rent boats, and a great beach. Ruttger’s even has a great golf course. You can't ask for a better set up. Ruttger’s keeps itself perfectly maintained. The grounds roll around the lake, and it's a great place for kids to hang and play. Our kids met other kids, and everyone had a blast fishing off the dock together - and they actually caught fish! They also loved swimming in the lake and renting kayaks. It's the kind of place you can let your kids go and not worry.
Ruttger’s is the perfect Northwoods lodge. I was happy with our stay here (except for the reservation problems). The food is good and the setting is all Minnesota!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 15, 2005
Ruttger's Bay Lake Lodge
P.O. Box 400
Minneapolis, Minnesota 56444
The views are outstanding you are right on Bay Lake and the lake is a dramatic backdrop to your meal.
The dining room does offer menu service or a buffet. I peeked at both, and the food looked great. However, the night we ate here, we had our own treat. We had been fishing for two days and had a nice catch of perch and Minnesota walleye. We had the fish cleaned at a local fish shop and brought the fish to the kitchen at Ruby's. The chef prepared our fish is a wonderful lodge coating and served our fish with dining room cole slaw and fries. This is the great part - all this for just $3 a person! In my mind, it was the deal of the century.
Our meal was great--we ate fish we had caught with our own hands, and our platter was quickly empty. The fries that came with our fish weren't greasy or overcooked, but perfect, and the cole slaw was a welcome side dish. This was a perfect Minnesota meal!
Our waiter was pleasant and took great care of us. He was friendly and chatted a bit without being overbearing. We learned he was a college student up in Minnesota to work at the lodge for the summer. He did not miss the Texas summer humidity! We were informal and had a impromptu award ceremony. However, the service was as good as a top restaurant's.
I can't think of a more perfect meal. Several generations of family gathered for good stories and fishing tales and to eat the fish we caught. The backdrop of one of Minnesota's most scenic lakes was an impressive backdrop to the meal, as was the dining room's local flavor.
After dinner, my sister-in-law's elderly mother played the piano in the dining room. It was a night I won't forget. I was surprised, as this was a Sunday in the middle of season and only about half of the tables were filled.
Even if you are staying at the lodge, or even if you didn't bring your own fish, Ruby's Dining Room is well worth the trip. This is the quintessential Minnesota dining experience!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 19, 2005
Ruby's Dining Room
Brainerd Lakes Area (at Ruttger's Resort)
Minneapolis, Minnesota 56444
We noted that they had a smart admission policy. Kids are $11.95 and adults are $9.95. It makes sense that the kids who ride the rides pay more than those of us who watch the kids spin around!
There is nothing high-tech about Paul Bunyan Land. It's the same kind of carnival rides we all grew up with, and they have all the old favorites, like bumper cars, the tilt-a-whirl, and a Ferris wheel.
Paul Bunyan Land has been in Brainerd since I was a wee lad, and these are all the same rides and the same Paul, but they have now moved out of town.
In the move, they have kept almost everything. You have the talking Paul, the lumberjack's bunkhouse, and even live chickens that play games for a quarter. I was amazed at these chickens that, when a quarter is dropped in, go into action for a piece of corn. My favorite is the chicken who plays baseball. When the light goes on, he grabs his bat and hits the ball that is pitched to him. I was amazed at this at 10 and still am at 50.
Minnesota weather is always unpredictable in the summer. When we came into the park, the sun was shining and it looked like a glorious summer day. In no time, the sky took on an ominous tone and quickly became black. Tornado warnings were out in the area, and we could see the storm rolling in over the prairie. Then the sky just opened up and we were caught in a downpour. We all ran, and most of us ended up in the gift shop by the front gate. We spent time trying on silly Viking hats. Finally, we made a mad dash for our car.
Being here in Paul Bunyan Land brought back a ton of good childhood memories for me. What was special is to see that my kids had the love that I had for this place so many years ago.
Paul Bunyan Land
17553 State Hwy. 18
Minneapolis, Minnesota 56401
Attraction | "Indian Trading Post"
One of the positive features of Indian gaming in Minnesota is that a lot of the revenue is pumped back into preserving the Native-American culture in Minnesota. The reservation this culture icon sits on belongs to the Ojibwe. The old filling station and Trading Post have been lovingly restored by the tribe. A filling station from 1930 may not seem like a piece of history, but it is, and my kids were struck at how simple and plain the gas stations of yesteryear were.
Inside, little has changed. The first room you enter is a small museum of the Trading Post with photos and stories. The next room is the long store - the trading post! The Indian Trading Post sells the wide range of products. They have all the novelty items like plastic bow and arrows, tomahawks, and cheesy headdresses for the kids. The quality moves up from there to dream catchers and crafts made out of birch bark to the real thing. They have lovely museum-quality handiwork of beads, porcupine quills, and deerskin. Even if you can't afford these treasures, they are interesting to look at. The folks working at the desk, all members of the tribe, are eager and happy to show you and discuss the items. They can give you details of the artist and the heritage behind each item.
Besides the handwork, the post sells a wide range of books on the Indian culture. They also sell wild rice and Minnetonka moccasins. The wild rice here in Minnesota is harvested by the Ojibwe and sold all over the world. The Trading Post has some of the best prices in Minnesota. Our family loves moccasins, and Minnetonka is the best commercial brand. The Indian Trading Post has the largest selection in Minnesota, and again, the staff is more than happy to help you find the right pair.
This is a bit of Minnesota's past that lives on. My kids had just as much fun shopping the treasures in here as I did when I was a child. This is one stop you can't miss. It's a piece of living history.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 25, 2005
Mille Lacs Indian Museum & Trading Post
43411 Oodena Drive
Onamia, MN 56359
Attraction | "Mille Lacs Indian Museum"
The museum is located directly across from the casino. Again, you can debate what Indian gaming has done to the state, but on a positive note, it gave this poor tribe the revenue to build a world-class museum to preserve their heritage. When I grew up in Minnesota, the Ojbwe were dirt poor, and their main source of income was harvesting wild rice. However, with the boom of Indian gaming, the tribe can actually do things like build a first-class museum on their reservation.
This was truly a world-class museum. The building is a low-rise of local wood and glass that seems to become part of the environment around the building.
The admission was $7, and we soon realized that we were the only guests in the museum. The kids quickly became interested in an elder who was stringing beads and a woman next to him cutting out buckskin moccasins. The man making the beads invited the kids to join him and taught them how to string and make patterns with beads. The kids become engaged in the activity, and they could have spent all day beading. However, being on a time crunch, I had to be the bad guy and move them along.
The exhibits were all well-done. The museum is very high-tech and was full of interactive computers to tell the story of these people and culture. We finally had come to the end of the museum, describing the present day, when a young man approached us. He asked us if we were ready to see the Four Season's room. He explained that this is a room that you are only allowed to enter with a tribal guide. We accepted his offer and followed him to the room.
It was a circular room in the middle of the museum. The guide opened the room with his key, and it was magical inside. Four Ojbwe camps are set up for each season. The camps show the life in an Ojbwe camp and how the camps moved for each season. Our guide was great. His grandfather had been a chief, and he told us many interesting facts about the way of life on Lake Mille Lacs.
I wish we could have spent more time here. The thunderstorm had passed, and it was time to hit the road to Minneapolis. This is a museum worth giving some serious time. The displays are top-notch, and we all left feeling we knew a lot more about the Indians who had lived here for centuries.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 24, 2005