Cragun’s Resort – A Familiar Favorite
By E. Nolan
You can’t hide from summer in Minnesota. It’s too darn perfect. You can’t stay away from the lakes. They’re too darn beckoning. You can’t stay locked inside, can’t contain your excitement, can’t avoid being happy, active and interactive. You can try, but why would you want to? Besides, you will NOT be successful. THESE are the months we each wait for all year!
General Manager Eric Peterson gets the “welcome to summer” conversation started. “Let’s do this! Let’s go!” His bright, beaming smile (that greets literally thousands of guests every year) is anything but forced. He’ll shake your hand (under normal circumstances of course), high-five you, hug you… whatever greeting you’ve telepathically agreed to. He’ll say, “Welcome!” and bend over backwards to help you, whether he’s known you a few years or a few seconds.
“What’s new?” I ask. “Everything,” he replies, enthusiastically. “Every day is a new day!” He’s right, of course, and his enthusiasm is positively contagious. I can’t help but smile. Never one to dwell on the negative, I don’t bother to ask how challenging the past few months have been. I know they weren’t “off months” for him. He and his team were busy getting ready, focused on the future, and how to adapt it to best accommodate YOU.
“Lemonade from lemons,” Eric says, “we’ve learned a lot of ways (these past few months) to make the future guest’s experience simpler and seamless. Yes, we are following all of the governor’s and distancing guidelines with our maintenance, restaurants and activities, but we don’t really see them as restrictions – more like flexible improvisations. Cleanliness and safety have always been priorities here, but we’ve stepped up both across the board. We’re eliminating as many touch points as we can, with express check-in for lodging and golf, room service for ALL meals available throughout the resort, and on-course (golf) modifications that the entire state is making to allow for essentially unobstructed play.”
“So not TOO different, then?” He smiles. “But it FEELS different doesn’t it? Doesn’t the sun feel warmer? Doesn’t the grass look greener? Don’t you appreciate everything just a little bit more?” “I do. But then I’ve never really taken summers for granted here, and certainly never taken my visits to the Brainerd Lakes as anything other than extraordinary blessings.”
For those who’ve never been, Cragun’s Resort is as much a Minnesota staple as the loon and the mosquito. The massive property clings to the stunning Gull Lake, with cabins, villas, Reunion Houses, a main lodge, restaurants and the six NEW (for 2020) Homes at the Legacy, then extends off to the golf courses, to the reversible, 9-hole Legacy Par 3 Course (that doubles as FootGolf terrain), the sensational Chris Foley Golf Schools (#1 Golf Instructor in Minnesota according to GolfDigest) and another 37 holes of Robert Trent Jones, Jr. golf at the Dutch and Bobby’s Legacy Courses.
LODGING: This year more than any other, it’s important to know how many different lodging options Cragun’s offers for your “getaway,” so I’ll spend a bit more time on them. ALL of the Lodge rooms and suites overlook Gull Lake or the pool, connected through hallways to the lobby, dining room, bar, activity center and that aforementioned pool. The cabins are categorized by their primary descriptor – Lakeview, Hillside, Beach and Hilltop – all with great views, up to six bedrooms, decks, full kitchens and everything you need for a bit more seclusion than the lodge. The Bayview Villas are in the “Reunion House” category – modern and even more luxurious accommodations set up on the hill overlooking the south beach area. Three-levels with 7 bedrooms and 6.5 bathrooms they have 12 beds and can sleep up to 24 people with plenty of space to spread out (no wonder they’ve been so popular this year). The other “Reunion Houses” include Cabin 115 (sleeps 22), The Oaks (with six different sleeping areas), Cabin 690 (6 beds, 6 baths) and the 4 to 5 bedroom Hillside Cabins. SIGNIFICANT FACT: Ultimately, you can safely practice social distancing with any number of friends or family here.
DINING: Cragun’s offers five venues for Food & Beverage, each operating in a unique capacity at this time. Ultimately, food that you (all ages) will enjoy can be easily picked up or delivered to you from one or more of the venues, and you’ll find out at check in what your best options are. The award-winning Irma’s Kitchen (Restaurant, Lounge and Market) serves “fresh to table” using many of Irma’s popular recipes. The spacious Lakeside Dining Room overlooking Steamboat Bay, The Cabana Café at the pool and the Bear Trap Lounge all offer different social settings and menu options. And, then there’s the Legacy Bar & Grille in the golf clubhouse serving the golfers and as a pick-up spot for great carryout meals.
ACTIVITIES: Every day you can find a plethora of new ways to self-entertain. With more social options acceptable every day, any of these (and many more) could be your perfect pleasure this season: Gull Lake Cruises, Playgrounds, Beaches and Beach Volleyball, Biking, Bonfires, Fishing, Games, the Sports Centre, Fitness Center, Tennis, Swimming Pool, Boat Rentals and (of course) golf.
GOLF: This is worth stating twice. No other resort in Minnesota has ever had a higher “star-rated” pair of golf courses (according to GolfDigest). The Legacy Courses at Cragun’s consist of two Robert Trent Jones, Jr. designs that (combined) received 9.5 Stars (out of a possible 10) from GolfDigest. The Dutch Legacy course was rated 5.0 Stars (remarkable) and I actually like Bobby’s Legacy better. It never bothers Eric to read that in my stories because he knows that the only way you short-change yourself at Cragun’s is by not playing both. “It leads to good discussion,” Eric says. “Everyone can make up their own mind.”
Golf groups LOVE booking their events at Cragun’s because the set-up is so perfect for a full, 36-hole golf day (or more). “We’ve all seen the golf numbers in Minnesota are at record highs this year, and we’ve never seen our courses in better shape. Ultimately, our golf and group bookings are up and every one of those bookings is going to get rewarded with (what we consider) an exceptional experience from tee 1 to green 55.”
Sunny disposition meets lake heaven daily at Cragun’s Resort this summer. It’s always been a special, beautiful place, but this year I appreciate it more than ever. Isn’t it time you come to appreciate it more, too?