Editor's note: A version of this story originally appeared in our 2021 Summerscape magazine, a joint publication of the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus newspapers. Read the magazine in full online HERE, or pick up a free copy today from a local newsstand.
1. DINE AND DANCE (OR JUST GRAB LUNCH): TRUCKS & TUNES AND FOOD TRUCK FRIDAYS, AT THE DETROIT LAKES CITY PARK
Nosh some food truck fare and get your jam on at the Detroit Lakes City Park on Thursday evenings, during Trucks and Tunes, then head back to the park on Fridays for casual outdoor lunches at Food Truck Fridays.
Trucks and Tunes brings multiple local food trucks together with live musicians at the park bandshell for fun outdoor gatherings from 5-8 p.m. on select Thursdays throughout the summer: June 17; July 1, 22 and 29; and August 12 and 26.
Food Truck Fridays serve up casual outdoor lunches courtesy of food trucks parked near the pavilion, and may or may not include a little live music, too. Food Truck Fridays take place every Friday from May 21 to September 3, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
All events are free (except for the cost of food) and open to everyone. Sponsored by the Detroit Lakes Noon Rotary. Events may be canceled or relocated in the case of inclement weather; check local media ahead of the event for the more up-to-date info.
2. HIT UP A COUNTY FAIR
The rides, the games, the entertainment, the animals, the displays -- and let’s not forget about the food! What’s not to love about a good county fair? Detroit Lakes and Perham are each home to one, with the Becker County Fair held at the Detroit Lakes Fairgrounds (at the junction of Rossman Avenue and West Lake Drive) and the East Otter Tail County Fair held at the fairgrounds in Perham (at the end of 4th Street SE). This year’s East Otter Tail County Fair is happening July 22-25, and the Becker County Fair is going on July 28-31. For more info, visit beckercountyfair.com or eotcountyfair.org.
3. TRY AND GET AN EAGLE
No, not the sharp-beaked kind -- we don’t recommend that -- rather, the golf kind. There are plenty of greens to swing a club on around here, with more than 10 golf courses in the Detroit Lakes and Perham areas. Detroit Lakes is home to the Detroit Country Club, Lakeview Golf Course, Wildflower, and Forest Hills, to name a few. In Perham, there’s the Lakeside Golf Club, while Balmoral and Thumper Pond are just short drives south. Tee ‘em up!
4. VISIT THE ZOO
The family-friendly Trowbridge Creek Zoo, located northwest of Vergas on County Highway 17, boasts a zebra, camels and kangaroos as well as parrots, elk, deer, wolves, porcupines, alligators and many more local and exotic animals. A playground area for kids adds to the fun. The zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day of the week from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends as weather permits before and after that. For more information, visit the zoo’s Facebook page.
5. GET ARTSY
The Phelps Mill Festival, at Phelps Mill County Park in Underwood, is the area's largest art and craft event of the summer. With more than 100 artist booths, a craft beer and wine tasting, live music and other entertainment, this two-day festival is fun and family-friendly. It's going on Saturday and Sunday, July 10 and 11, from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Click HERE for more information.
6. GO OLD-SCHOOL WITH CLASSIC CAR CRUISES
Calling all classic car lovers: Detroit Lakes has the summer event for you! On the second Wednesday of every month in June, July, August and September, you can drive your favorite classic cruiser to Detroit Lakes’ West Lake Drive for an evening on the City Beach from 4-8:30 p.m. Don’t have a classic car? That’s okay, just come see the variety on display. More than 200 vehicles have been known to gather along the city’s mile-long beach for these fun monthly events.
7. WHOOP IT UP AT WE FEST
Detroit Lakes is home to one of the biggest country music concert and camping festivals in the upper United States, WE Fest. Thousands of country fans descend upon the community every summer to get rocked by some of the genre’s biggest stars. Headliners in 2021 are Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley and Florida Georgia Line, but there are many others. WE Fest is happening August 5-7.
8. ENJOY A CONCERT AL FRESCO
Bring your lawn chair or a comfy blanket to sit on and nestle next to the Detroit Lakes City Park Bandshell for the Tuesdays in the Park summer concert series. These weekly outdoor concerts feature family-friendly performances by some of the area’s best musicians, playing every Tuesday in June through August. All concerts are free, with free will donations accepted. The music starts at 7 p.m. under the bandshell. Click HERE for a schedule of performers.
9. SHOP ‘THE FLEA’
Located five miles south of Detroit Lakes on Highway 59, the Shady Hollow Flea Market is open every weekend from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The market has more than 100 vendors, plenty of free parking, and food and beverages sold on site. Call 602-809-6661 or visit shadyhollowfleamarket.com for more information.
10.) GET OFF THE BEATEN PATH: TINY-TOWN EVENTS ALONG ROADS LESS TRAVELED
Sometimes big fun comes in really small packages. We think these four events, all in towns of fewer than 1,400 people and all within an easy driving distance of Detroit Lakes and Perham, are well worth your time.
Frazee Turkey Days: Four fun-filled days of community dances, a demo derby, games, food and more, July 22-25 in Frazee.
Vergas Looney Days: A street fair, wiener dog races, food and more fun, August 12-15 in Vergas.
Ottertail OtterFest: A pancake feed, parade and games, August 14 in Ottertail.
Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion: A gathering of hundreds of classic steam engine demonstrations and exhibits spread over 210 rolling acres in the tiny town of Rollag. This one’s much bigger than you’d expect, with play areas for kids and plenty of food booths: The show attracts thousands of spectators and volunteers every Labor Day weekend. Visit rollag.com for more info.