This month, we’re focusing on helping you get outside more. I took this as a chance to see what my town had to offer in terms of outdoor activities. I also wanted to make this as inexpensive as possible, so I limited my exposure to the long list of parks in the Brainerd area. We started in Baxter and moved east. After 14 different parks, we decided what we liked best about them and what most people would get a kick out of. Brained/Baxter has a pretty robust parks system, so every park we went to was enjoyable, well maintained, and clean. But, we narrowed them down to the top 10, plus a bonus park (in no order of preference).
1) Gregory Park –
Gregory Park is probably the most well-known park in the area. It is nestled in a nice neighborhood to the north of downtown Brainerd. It has historically been a staple in the town, hosting seasonal events such as “Arts in the Park,” car shows, and get-togethers. Consisting of four square blocks, Brainerd organizations and residents make us of its large green space. With fundraising already happening for a splash pad to be installed in the park, Gregory will continue to be a favorite.
Best Reason to Visit – Historical Connection
Gregory Park is steeped in history. It has been the focal point of north Brainerd for over a hundred years. The things that stand out for Gregory Park are the little remnants from the past. The Parker Bandstand is a mainstay. The arches at the north and south entrances to the park are entrenched in locals memories. If you want to connect with Brained on a historical level, Gregory Park is the place for you.
2) Oscar Kristofferson Park –
OK Park is probably the most well-known park in Baxter. Tucked right behind Baxter Elementary, it boasts a huge selection of amenities for everyone. This park has been the de facto meeting place for baseball and softball teams for years. Only recently (ten years ago), Baxter chose to improve the fields and the surrounding area. Two words: It’s beautiful. A new dining pavilion was renovated last year. Large walking trails surround the fields and volleyball net with a large tennis court centrally located in the park. This park has just about everything.
Best Reason to Visit – Safety
The ball fields, tennis courts, and walking trail are fantastic, but the best reason I can think of to visit OK Park is a simple fact that the playground is fenced. When my wife and I wanted to let our (many) little ones run around, we didn’t want to worry about them running off into traffic or other places of the park. They could use the climbing wall, play tag on the equipment, or eat the sand all while playing safely.
3) Whipple Beach –
Another recently renovated park, Whipple Beach is most well-known for its large sandy beach. Newly added picnic tables and a children’s playground equipment make Whipple more than just a park. It’s a destination for the summer. Sitting directly on the lake, the beach is clean and the water boasts a swimming area free from many weeds (the worst part of swimming in lakes, in my opinion.) Just down the beach front is a boat launch for those that want to stay above the water.
Best Reason to Visit – Swimming
In an area renowned for drawing people to its lakes, Brainerd (Baxter) has a jewel right in the neighborhood. Featuring clean bathrooms, changing rooms, and even an outdoor shower, Whipple has the amenities any swimmer would hope for.
4) Southdale Park/Soccer Fields
This is a park I am unfamiliar with. My wife told me about Southdale Park when we were taking pictures for this post. The thing that stood out for me were the miles of green area available for the little ones to run around in. If they tire of beautifully maintained green fields, there is a new(ish) playground to climb.
Best Reason to Visit – Soccer Fields
Almost every other park in the area supports America’s pastime. However, Southdale Park has the audacity to support the World’s passion. For something pretty unique in the area, stop by to try your hand (or foot) at goaltending or juggling.
5) Loren Thompson Park –
LT Park is another smaller park that seems to have everything you’d want in an excursion. In it, you’ll find bathrooms, bike trails that run through it, even an ice skating area with warming house (in winter, of course).
Best Reason to Visit – Blue Tennis Courts
There are tennis courts in many of the neighborhood’s parks, but only LT Park showcases freshly painted BLUE tennis courts. Definitely unique.
6) Lum Park –
Lum Park is located in East Brainerd, just off Hwy 210 towards Cuyuna. Featuring a neat disc golf course, tons of green space to run, and a full beach, Lum Park has a lot to give. The only negative I would give to Lum Park is that all of the playground equipment is spread out across the over half mile distance, definitely not how parks are made nowadays. However, this is a trifle. Lum Park is one of my favorite parks in the area. A boat launching area and a dynamite fishing pier top off this park sundae.
Best Reason to Visit – Camping Area
Lum Park is the only park in the area that features a campground. You can spend a night for only $50 on weekdays and $60 on weekends. Just another way to spend more time outside!
7) Triangle Park –
This is kind of a joke park, but if you try to say that it’s not a real park, every person that grew up in Brainerd will come to its defense. Hiding out on Bluff Ave, the northernmost street in the beautiful northern Brainerd neighborhood, on under half and acre, you will find Triangle Park. Earning its name due to its dimensions, you will only find a small playground and a few upright grills.
Best Reason to Visit – It’s Cute!
Triangle Park is the smallest of Brainerd’s parks, but it has a charm that hard to define. If you have a desire to get a selfie with you and the rest of the entire park, this is the park for you.
8) Jaycees Park –
Jaycees Park is a little difficult to find compared to the other parks in the area. Hidden off of 13th Ave S, this used to boast the only skateboard park in the area. I was surprised to find it removed when I checked it out on Thursday. I’m curious why it was removed, so I did a little digging. Apparently, having a skateboard park was considered a liability. So, instead of a unique feature that the neighborhood could hold above other parks, Jaycees Park boasts two baseball fields and a few unique pieces of equipment for the kids to play on.
Best Reason to Visit – Privacy
Seriously, this park is tucked out of the way and unless you have a map or a friend showing you the way, you’ll have difficulty finding it. That means when you do finally get to it, you’ll only be surrounded by locals.
9) Bane Park –
Bane Park features several baseball fields, a state bike trail running through it, and a hockey rink complete with a warming house. But, the true reason to come to Bane Park is the adaptive baseball field titled “Miracle Field”. Opened in 2014, Miracle Field is a baseball field made of entirely of a material that accommodates all players, even wheelchair users. It’s really cool.
Best Reason to Visit – Miracle Field
I think it’s outstanding that the city of Brainerd and other community organizations put together this field that will make ballers of all abilities able to play. It’s inspiring.
10) Buffalo Hills Park –
For a park that offers baseball fields, picnic tables, and tons of playground equipment, this park boasts a real treat. The Buffalo Hills Bike Trail starts right here and not only does it connect four parks mentioned on this list, it joins up with the Paul Bunyan State Trail. So, conceivably, you could hop on the trail in southern Brainerd and decide to pedal all the way to Crow Wing State Park at the most southern point or all the way up to Bemidji at the northern most point, all without touching a road. That’s cool!
Shade is all over Buffalo Hills Park
Best Reason to Visit – Shady Trees
If you’re looking to actually hang out at a park in Brainerd, but don’t want to worry too much about the sun, Buffalo Hills Park is a good choice. The playground, grills, and picnic are all under old oak trees. It’s pretty.
11) Kiwanis Park –
Kiwanis Park is probably the most complete park in all of Brainerd. Picnic pavilions, BBQ grills, unique playground equipment, running/biking trails, fishing pier, AND a dog park are all available. Every day, I will drive by this small park and it will be packed. The secret’s out. Everyone know’s that this is the place to be on a beautiful sunny afternoon.
Best Reason to Visit – Buster Park (Dog Park)
Since June 2013, thousands of dogs have been able to run, bark, sniff, pee, and chase each other around in this wonderful addition. Split into two separate enclosures (one for shy dogs and the other for the rest), Buster Park houses benches for owners, a gazebo for shade, and no fewer than three fire hydrants painted red are here.