Brainerd is at the center of a vast resort area that spreads out around the city. I confess I have mixed feelings about Brainerd, and not just because this was the place where I dropped my smartphone into the toilet. While the city has an interesting history, civic leaders have sacrificed the historic streetscape and architecture for the worst kind of car-oriented development: strip mall after strip mall filled with chain stores line Washington Street, the main east-west thoroughfare through town. You could be anywhere in the US driving by the same stores in the same looking storefronts. Besides that, it is very difficult to get near the Mississippi River in town, except for a few bridge crossings and a couple of small parks. A new park on the east edge of town will create more access, but in Brainerd proper, you’ll have an easier time finding locally-owned retail than getting to the river. Nevertheless, I don’t mean to sound too negative. Don’t just zip through town on your way to a lake cabin, like so many others do. There are a few treats in Brainerd, plus it’s home to some very nice people, so you should stop and visit for a day or two.