Gateway to Itasca

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(Park Rapids Enterprise File Photo)
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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 Park Rapids' most noteworthy sites and events, or click here to return to , where you can browse travel articles about other communities throughout the region.

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Park Rapids is the ultimate tourist destination, with endless recreational opportunities, lakes and friendly people.

Known as the “Gateway to Itasca State Park,” the population swells in the summertime as visitors return to the area for its unique and beautiful natural surroundings, particularly the more than 500 clean, clear lakes that surround the area and invite all types of water sports — from fishing to water skiing.

The Park Rapids area also boasts more than 3.5 million forest acres to explore year-round. In the fall, visitors enjoy hiking, hunting, canoeing, fishing, biking and colorful autumn leaves. Ample snowfall attracts snowmobilers every winter. Ice fishing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, skijoring and many other wintertime activities abound.

In-between the outdoor fun, check out the many shops, restaurants and entertainment options, as well.




(Park Rapids Enterprise File Photo)

PARK RAPIDS’ SIGNATURE EVENT, INDEPENDENCE DAY: The Fourth of July has become Park Rapids’ signature event. The celebration includes a large parade through town, the Firecracker 5K Foot Race in Heartland Park, lake flotillas, patriotic music by the community band and a famous fireworks display over the beautiful Fishhook River. The fireworks display has grown into one of the largest and most spectacular shows in the state.

2ND STREET STAGE, A SUMMER MUSIC SERIES: Join the great community get-together for the summer music series, 2nd Street Stage, held Thursday nights, June 17 through August 19. Each week brings a new band, social hour, beer garden, cornhole tournaments, kids’ activities and more.


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(Park Rapids Enterprise File Photo)


Outdoor recreation opportunities in Park Rapids: Beautiful and bountiful

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(Park Rapids Enterprise File Photo)

Hubbard County’s beautiful natural resources provide the scenery, while numerous trails offer outdoor enthusiasts the opportunity to explore year-round. Many of Hubbard County’s 313 lakes have public accesses for swimming, fishing and canoeing. Park Rapids has numerous public parks, such as the Red Bridge Park and Heartland Park , both located on the Fish Hook River.

HEARTLAND STATE TRAIL: The Heartland Trail was one of the first rail-to-trail projects in the country. During the spring, fall and summer, the 49-mile, multiple-use trail is open to non-motorized use such as bicycling, hiking, walking and inline skating. In the winter, it is part of a huge network of groomed snowmobile trails. The Heartland Trail rests on an old railroad bed that starts in Park Rapids and travels through Dorset, Nevis, Akeley, Walker and Cass Lake. The Park Rapids to Walker segment also has a second grassy trail for horseback riding and mountain biking. The Heartland State Trail connects with the Paul Bunyan State Trail system and other regional trail Systems.

PAUL BUNYAN STATE TRAIL: At 115 miles long, this is the longest of Minnesota’s state trails, and the longest continuously paved rail-trail in the country. Extending all the way from Crow Wing State Park to Lake Bemidji State Park, it is an ideal bike and snowmobile trail.

SOARING EAGLE TRAIL: The Itascatur Outdoor Activity Club welcomes beginning or experienced cross-country skiers to their 10 kilometers of marked and groomed trails through snow-laden balsam, pines and spruce. Soaring Eagle Cross-Country Ski Trails are located at 25467 U.S. Highway 71, eight miles north of Park Rapids and across from the Eagle View Golf Course. Visitors may bring their own skis or check out Itascatur’s ski equipment at no cost. They have both adult- and children-sized skis, boots and poles. They also have experienced skiers to help beginners get started in the sport — and serve cups of hot cocoa to warm up. Open houses take place every Sunday through January and February, weather and snow conditions permitting.


Let Park Rapids entertain you: Theatres and bands

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(Park Rapids Enterprise File Photo)


Explore downtown Park Rapids: A Main Street like no other

(Park Rapids Enterprise File Photo)

Park Rapids’ old-fashioned Main Street, with center parking, offers a variety of unique stores, restaurants and shops filled with fun items. Downtown visitors are welcomed with blooming flowers and several quaint characteristics, like customized, granite inlays on street corners depicting local lakes, decorative light poles, and unique benches, trash cans and bicycle racks.


  • Crazy Days, July 22-23, makes finding bargains fun. Businesses go all out with sidewalk sales, staff in crazy costumes, and live music and kids’ entertainment, too.

  • The extra-wide Main Street is the perfect place for the Run to the Rapids classic car show, Aug. 6-7 this year. Car buffs will see beautifully restored classic cars and trucks and can meet with their proud owners.

  • On Halloween, hundreds of princesses, ninja turtles, goblins and other cute costumed characters come downtown for Trick or Treat Park Rapids.

  • Downtown businesses herald the holiday season the Friday after Thanksgiving by hosting a Yuletide Sampler with hot cider, hot chocolate and treats in their stores. The Yuletide Sampler is a prelude to the annual CHI St. Joseph’s Hospice Tree-Lighting Ceremony, with a Christmas carol singalong, Santa’s arrival, fire pits for roasting marshmallows and the countdown to lighting the beautifully decorated tree on Main Street. The annual event is best described as “a Norman Rockwell moment.”



Broncs and Bulls: The largest pro rodeo in Minnesota

(Park Rapids Enterprise File Photo)

The road to Las Vegas and National Finals Rodeo features a major stop at Minnesota’s largest pro rodeo event, held in Park Rapids over the Fourth of July weekend.

Jokela ProWest has been granted special approval from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) sanctioning body for an exciting rodeo format. The three-day event, July 2-4, will feature Xtreme broncs and bulls each day, with the PRCA’s top contestants riding the nation's toughest bucking stock for eight seconds. This format will showcase elite contestants setting a new bar for athletic ability and professionalism.

The show is the largest professional rodeo event in Minnesota, and one of northern Minnesota’s premiere summer attractions. Nightly popular features include women's professional barrel racing, an exciting aerial show by Freestyle Moto X cycles from the X Games competition and nightly rodeo dances under the log pavilion, plus kids’ sheep-riding and more.

Hubbard County Fair: A summer classic

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(Park Rapids Enterprise File Photo)

The Hubbard County Fair includes a variety of entertainment at the grandstand arena and in the band shell, 4-H exhibits in the animal barns and a midway filled with games and rides. The 2021 fair will be held Wednesday to Sunday, July 14-18 in Park Rapids. Midway carnival rides will be open from Wednesday evening through Saturday. Other events planned for the fair include motocross, a talent show, a truck and tractor pull, Baja racing and a demolition derby. And don’t forget the fair food! Stop in for cheese curds, corn dogs, fresh french fries, pork burgers, ice cream and other mouth-watering goodies.

Celebrate Park Rapids' lumberjack heritage

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(Park Rapids Enterprise File Photo)

Legends and Logging Days celebrates the area’s history of logging and lumberjacking. The definitive summer festival in Park Rapids, festivities start with Water Wars at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5 on Main Avenue downtown, followed by live music on 2nd Street Stage.

On Saturday, Aug. 6, events continue at the East 40 Park Rapids Antique Tractor Grounds, at 1008 Eighth Street East, a few blocks south of State Highway 34. Lumberjacks will demonstrate sawing, log rolling and other feats reminiscent of the days when pioneers came to the north woods to make a living. Master chainsaw artists will carve their masterpieces, and spectators can watch as logs take shape into works of art before their eyes.

Leap into the arts

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(Park Rapids Enterprise File Photo)

Marvel at the fall colors during Art Leap, a driving tour of artists’ studios and other cultural destinations throughout the area, and meet artists and artisans in their studios and workshops. Enjoy live performances of music. Maps are available at the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center and the event is free to the public. Going on Sept. 25-26.

Party with the pumpkins

(Park Rapids Enterprise File Photo)

Carter’s Red Wagon Farm annually holds pumpkin parties on a grand scale in October. Activities include journeys through an “amazing” maze, setting sail in giant pumpkin boats, wagon rides and performances by illusionists and the rockin’, squawkin’ scarecrow band. A new, 6.5-acre maze, incorporating a historical theme, is created every year. The farm is located southwest of Park Rapids.

Catch this: Minnesota's second-largest ice fishing tourney

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(Park Rapids Enterprise File Photo)

The Park Rapids American Legion Ice Fishing Contest is held the first Saturday of February each year. Well over 2,000 eager anglers are attracted to Fishhook Lake for the second-largest fishing tournament in the state, after Brainerd. Unlike other fishing contests, each ticket at the Park Rapids event provides a chance to win both fishing awards and raffle prizes. Last year, more than $125,000 in prizes were given away, including a $30,000 gift certificate to a local truck dealership and a fish house.

Honor Veterans

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(Park Rapids Enterprise File Photo)

The All-Veterans Memorial Park and interpretive center is located on U.S. Highway 71 south, adjacent to the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce. The memorial is devoted to the memory of all veterans of all wars and branches of service. Visitors will find granite monoliths commemorating past wars and a stone walkway and benches commemorating individual veterans. The lighted area is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


2021 Calendar of Events

Note: Events are subject to change. Always check with the organizer before making plans. All events listed are in Park Rapids unless otherwise noted.

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(Park Rapids Enterprise File Photo)


1: Hubbard County Historical Museum opens

1: Nemeth Art Center opens


17: 2nd Street Stage

24: 2nd Street Stage


1: 2nd Street Stage

2-4: Headwaters PRCA Xtreme Bull Ride and Pro Rodeo

4: Firecracker Footrace, Heartland Park

4: Fourth of July parade

4: Park Rapids Area Community Band pre-fireworks concert

4: Park Rapids Rotary Fourth of July fireworks

8: 2nd Street Stage

14-18: Hubbard County Fair , Shell Prairie Agricultural Association

15: 2nd Street Stage

22: 2nd Street Stage

22-23: Crazy Days

29: 2nd Street Stage

30-Aug. 8: “Pippin,” Northern Light Opera Company


5: 2nd Street Stage

6-7: Run to the Rapids classic car show

12: 2nd Street Stage

14: Legends and Logging Days, Park Rapids Antique Tractor & Engine Club’s East 40 Grounds

19: 2nd Street Stage

21-22: Art Fair at the Winery , Forestedge Winery, Laporte

28: Veterans Tribute Program, Howard Maninga's home, Ponsford


25-26: Art Leap 2021


1-31: Shoptoberfest, downtown

31: Trick or Treat Downtown Park Rapids


26: Community Tree Lighting Ceremony and Yuletide Sample r


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