by Rebecca Spartz | July 24, 2009 • Like many Minnesotans, especially those of us that keep thinking we are bound to live elsewhere and do for months or years just to come back again, I have a relationship with this place filled with disdain and love in equal measure. The love always prevails as love often does, and my identity stands firm. I am not a Californian, a Michiganite, a Londoner or even an Illinoisan although I have tried to be all of them. I am a Minnesotan. That will not stop me from attempting, sooner or later, to be a New Yorker, a faux-Canadian, a Southerner and perhaps even a New Zealander, but I am and always will be, at heart, a Minnesotan.
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I am currently 6 months back from my last move. I was abroad for a few years, and being re-introduced to Minneapolis and Minnesota, I find myself in a love inspired honeymoon phase. Love, love and more love a love for Minneapolis and Minnesota. I have no money but must travel, so I find myself searching for creative ways to feel like I am collecting experiences in new places. I do this both locally and in out-state regions. Most recently, I have rediscovered Park Rapids. http://.parkrapids.com/visitors.htm
It’s about 195 miles away from Minneapolis and takes around 3 hours by car. You could bike it, but it would take a biker like me a good 4 days to make it that far north. Of course, if what you have is time and ambition and what you don’t have is money, bike away. It’s a lake oriented summer town with a regular population of approximately 3,600. Like many lake towns, during the warmer months it feels bigger given what’s on offer, including a July-time music festival in near by Walker and many small scale outdoor and community events.
It’s the summer holiday destination of middle-class families with kids to entertain but it works just as well for a gaggle of girls or guys of any age who want a weekend away. The singles scene isn’t throbbing, but the town has a few bars and restaurants where it’s possible to meet someone nice. There are two candy stores on the main strip, a movie theatre and clothing shops where there are some decent bargains to be had. T-shirts and moccasins can be bought at reasonable prices, hand made beaded jewelry is plentiful and if you miss certain clothing items that you just can’t find in Minneapolis, like a good old fashioned crew neck sweatshirt with no hood attached, Park Rapids is your town! Park Rapids has a cute breezy coffee shop called Bella Cafe with free wi-fi, the post office is right across a parking lot from the local independent book store called Beagle Books, there is a local grocery store and of course the horror of small town horrors, a Super-Wal-Mart where you can get a bikini for $15.00 should you be as ditzy as me and leave yours at home.
There are several lakes in the nearby area for recreating and loads of places to stay from camping to semi-luxury prefab cabins. You can spend big-money cash or very little, depending on your style and your budget. Park Rapids lacks the pretension of Cross Lake and it’s not as overly populated as Detroit Lakes during Minnesota summertime. (Disclaimer: I like Cross Lake and don’t begrudge it a bit of pretension and I really don’t mind the masses of Detroit Lakes either. That said, there is a distinction to be made) Park Rapids is a down-to-earth place that has maintained that small town feel despite growing to twice its local size during the summer months.
There are a few cute little towns within 20 miles of Park Rapids touting some good tourist fare. Dorset is not even a real town but they love to pretend. There you can enter the mayoral race no matter where in the world you reside. You will find one starting point of the Heartland bike trail and it’s my personal favorite little town to grab some standard tex-mex and a killer margarita at Companeros, http://www.companerosofdorset.com/.
12 miles East of Park Rapids on highway 34 is a tiny real town called Nevis. They have one café on the main drag and it’s a decent spot for lunch. They have at least two dodgy looking, small window bars that probably provide much in the form of people watching and drunken debauchery if that’s your kind of thing.
If you want to stay out of the bars but are in the mood for a little car time and you’re up for a bit of a laugh why not take an hour and enjoy a pretty and leisurely drive to Nimrod. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nimrod,_Minnesota. Take your picture by the town sign and send it to all your friends. Or maybe not.