My family and I spent a week at the Spirit of the North resort along the shores of Leech Lake, MN. My buddy and his family wanted to do something with us and so the winter before we started looking for places to stay and tried to narrow down spots that had openings within our price range and held all of us in the same cabin. My brother and sister-in-law (who happens to be the sister of my buddy) also decided to come with so we needed a cabin that fit 12. After a long search, we decided on the Whitetail cabin at the Spirit of the North Lodge. As a note, if you know you want to rent a cabin in Minnesota, it’s best to know at least a year ahead of time so you can have a better range of cabins to pick from, especially if there is a large group of you, the big family cabins go really fast.
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The Leech Lake Area
Let me start off by saying I would definitely like to stay somewhere around the Leech Lake area again. As you get closer to the lake, the road would wind around smaller lakes and tall trees would would line up right along side the road at times. It made for a nice drive down and it kept the kids relatively entertained as well which was a nice start to the vacation. Leech Lake is the third largest lake in Minnesota boasting 195 miles of shoreline and over 112,000 acres of lake to explore. At it’s deepest, Leech Lake is 153 feet deep at Walker Bay. I have heard the fishing can be great as Walleye and Muskie are the prime fish to catch in the lake however I personally have been skunked so far. With that said, I typically suck at fishing so that’s not really a surprise. My brother however, managed to pull in a 42 inch Northern Pike from shore.
Along one of the many bays, in the southwest corner of the lake, sits the town of Walker. This is a cool town to people watch as the sidewalks are filled with people going in and out of little shops. Yes guys, I said little shops. You know the ones with the little knick-knacks and full of crap we can’t find anywhere else and there is probably a good reason for it. The ones some ladies can spend hours looking through. Luckily for the guys, there is a couple of areas with outdoor seating to sit and have a drink or go and have some old fashioned ice cream. If you want to do some manly shopping of your own, Reeds Family Outdoor Outfitters will have what you are looking for to land the big one out on the lake.
Want to stay at a lodge rather than a cabin? Try Walker’s Chase on the Lake. It overlooks the lake and has some great outdoor seating to have some drinks by the lake, and watch the sunset. Staying somewhere else but have a boat? Drive the boat to Walker, tie it up and have a drink at Chase!
If you like to gamble, a few minutes east of Walker is Northern Lights Casino. I went there and it’s your typical, small reservation casino with poker, blackjack, and plenty of slot machines to drive you crazy. I tried my hand at blackjack and I’ve never seen a dealer get 21 or blackjack as many times as she did. Within 15 minutes I was done playing. I walked away and a buddy said after I left she got 21 or blackjack 3 times in a row. I think it’s rigged.
Across the street from the casino was a happening outdoor bar with plenty of seating and music playing called Charlie’s Up North. We never went there because obviously we had the kids with, but it looked like it would be fun as it was busy many nights. If you are looking for a good place to eat I would recommend Lucky Moose Bar and Grill. With a deck that overlooks, the lake, the inside has a lodge look throughout most of the inside and a separate room for parties. The food was very good and the service was great.
Family run, the people were friendly and willing to answer your questions. They definitely attempt to cater to families as they have different activities geared towards kids each day. Our kids loved the turtle races. They each picked a turtle, put their turtle in the middle of the circle and would let go at the same time. Their turtle won if it reached the outer circle first. There was probably two other families at the resort so our children were able to play multiple times with their turtle.
Another activity they did was each week they would hide a medallion somewhere on the property and then each day they would leave another clue on the window of the office. Our kids really got into this and always went to look for the next clue as soon as they knew it was up. They would then try to find the medallion. If you found it, you would get your picture taken and you would decide where to hide the medallion next. The kids also got a ton of candy. The people running the resort were really nice and knew that our kids were the only ones looking for this darn thing all week so that last full day we were there they made sure our kids would find it.
As I stated before, there were maybe two other small families there and even they didn’t seem to be around much so that meant we rarely had to share what the resort had to offer. Out at the swimming area they anchored one of those inflatable, trampoline things for kids to jump on and jump off of. It was a little tough for the kids to climb up out of the water and onto the trampoline so we started using the water bikes (which we had free run on) and would transport kids to and from the trampoline. It made it a lot easier for them to manage. The kids would occasionally jump off, us adults would come around on the water bike, pick them up and get them back up on the trampoline. Of course they also had life vests which I believe they required us to have on if we used their bikes, kayaks, or went out to the trampoline.
Yes, they had kayaks which were neat. I flipped over only a couple of times but it made it all the more fun. The adults would occasionally paddle along the shore and check out nearby resorts down the way. It was very peaceful to be able to do this and sort of get away from the kids, if only for a little while. Again, because of the lack of people at the time of year, we were able to use all this water equipment pretty much whenever we wanted.
They also had boats we could rent for the day so we took out a pontoon for the group. We went for a little cruise to start, then we took the kids out water tubing which the resort also let us use. It was windy this day so it was touch to navigate a pontoon and not jerk the tube too much with the littler kids on them. Towards the end of the day we took it out along the shores and spotted other resorts in the area. The boat was OK and had some rips in the seats and was nothing overly fancy which is typical for pontoon rentals I’ve found. It had a depth finder, radio, and a bimini cover so we were able to enjoy it.
Driving a boat was a memory I always remember with my dad so this was something I definitely wanted to do for my kids. I love the following pictures and I hope when they get older they will look at them with fond memories.
Other things on the resort were tennis courts but they were not kept up too well at all. They also had sand volleyball but it was a little cool and rainy so the sand was cool. They also had this train they built (I believe) out of plastic oil drums and pulled it with a 4-wheeler. The pictures below describe them better than I can. They gave the kids quite a long ride and there were 6 “cars” to sit in, perfect for our number.
The indoor pool was a definite Godsend. If our kids weren’t out in the lake, they were in the pool, especially during the many times of which it rained while we were there. Even as we were trying to get dinner ready they would go over for a quick dip in the pool before it was time to eat. It was nice to have something to do when it would decide to rain, which I think it rained at least a little bit each day except the day we were on the boat.
Our first full day there it rained all day. Luckily the kids knew from a field trip there was a Science Center in Bemidji, a good hours drive but we were glad we did it. It is not a big place by any means but we did manage to spend the afternoon there and the kids all had fun. It turned out to be a great afternoon even with the rain.
The last night we decided to take part in the group camp fire the resort lit down by the light house. It was a beautiful night the sunset was perfect. It was a great way to cap off the week that really went by extremely fast.
Ok, so I spent a lot of time writing about other aspects, mostly because you really spend more time outside then you do in the cabin, but I will make this section relatively short. We stayed in the Whitetail Cabin and it was large enough to hold all 12 of us. It suited our needs for the amount of time we were in there. Very much set up like a large, log cabin, with a big wooden staircase and handrails that look like a small tree was just smoothed off and glazed over for a shine and a wooden sculpture of an owl at the base. There is a large wooden table with big wooden chairs and benches to sit on. The cabinets have a more more modern look to them with granite counter tops. There is a wooden ottoman in the living room that was a little difficult to pull out into a bed. It had a separate room that reminds me of a 4-seasons porch in a way but didn’t have as many windows as you normally would see in that type of porch. That room had some booths to sit in. We never used that room other than to store stuff because the foundation was severely sinking in at that end and it felt weird walking in there.
There were 3 bedrooms upstairs and 2 downstairs. Heather and I drew the short straw and stayed upstairs with the kids. One room had one bed, the other two had two beds and so two kids in each of those rooms had to share a bed. There was a large bathroom upstairs, a smaller bathroom with a shower downstairs, and another large bathroom downstairs with a whirlpool tub. The kids actually filled up the tub one night but we didn’t dare turn on the jets as these things can be quite disgusting if they are not kept up properly and it looked like this one was not.
Amenity wise it had a big screen TV that got just enough channels to keep our kids entertained at night or when it was raining early in the morning. They had toasters, and ovens, and large refridgerator dishwasher. They provided pots, pans, silverware, plates, cups, and some other necessities like can openers. They provided the sheets for your bed but you had to have your own towels with. No Wifi in the cabin but there was at the office I believe. Cell service was possible but seemed spotty at times.
There is a charcoal grill available but would HIGHLY recommend not using it as it was very run down and looked like it had food from 1999 on it. Our backyard was maybe the highlight of the cabin area itself. Very secluded from the rest of the resort and it made us feel like we were at our own private cabin. You’ll notice shortly after sunset that the bats come out and will swoop over the area for an hour or two. They never got too close to us and it was amazing at how much they help keep the mosquitoes down. We were pleasantly surprised that we could just sit in the back and not worry about getting bit up.
Overall, the cabin is what you would expect of most cabins in Minnesota. If you are looking for something that is a real treat to stay in then this is not your place. The carpet was wore and none of the bathrooms were finished off properly. The curtains were shabby and while you did have a big screen TV it was still the large, oversized TV that takes 10 men to carry. The kitchen was probably the best part of it as it seemed the most updated. The bathrooms were good for sleeping at that was it. The beds were small and uncomfortable. Not surprisingly, my brother felt a spider crawl across his face while in bed one night, but I guess at least we didn’t see any mice.
The bad thing is I only took one weird picture of the inside and a couple outside but there are some 360 degree views available on the Spirit of the North website.
The cabin was rundown as were many other aspects of the resort. You can tell it has been around a while. It has potential with an indoor pool, sand volleyball, tennis courts that were very worn down, and plenty of lake toys to use like kayaks, water bikes, and a water trampoline not to mention boat rentals. The operators also tried their best to keep the kids entertained with games, rides, and bonfires. For what we needed, it got the job done and we had fun. The week went extremely fast! While we certainly wouldn’t mind staying here again, we did agree that next time we might look for something that had a newer feel to it and not so run down.