While the Twin Ports has an endless amount of fun to offer families by the way of eateries, shopping, events, and outdoor trails, sometimes it’s nice to step out of our comfort zones and see what else the North Shore has to offer. Pack up the minivan with Goldfish crackers, sippy cups, a few diapers, and hit the open road for a day or weekend trip. Hug the shore and make a few stops along the way to check out some hidden gems. We’ve done the hard work of uncovering the North Shore’s best places to visit. Did we forget your favorite? Let us know in the comments!
Two Harbors Area
On your way up the North Shore, stop by B E Nelson Silversmith and browse for a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry. There are silver designs in Scandinavian tradition from Viking to modern. You can also ooh and ahh over the Sami tin trad inspired designs, steam punk, Lake Superior basalt, and agate beads for sale.
Bring your family to Tom’s Logging Camp. While you visit, stroll through the camp and be prepared to be transported to a bygone era. Tom’s Logging Camp offers an authentic duplicate of a typical Northern Minnesota Logging Camp, with all the building and articles, original tools and equipment from that by-gone era.
Get some delicious smoked salmon and more at Russ Kendall’s Smokehouse located in Knife River. Smoked ciscoes, trout, whitefish, herring, king salmon & homemade beef jerky, brown sugar trout & salmon are just a few of their specialities. All are expertly cured and smoked in their own smoke houses the old-fashioned way.
Satisfy your sweet tooth at Great Lakes Candy Kitchen. They are a 3rd generation candy-making family and use recipes with over 100 years of tradition!
Gooseberry Falls is a tourist favorite. No matter how many times you have been there, the place is truly a site to behold. From the gorgeous visitor center, to the majestic falls, picnic areas, and camping grounds, you will be happy you stopped by. A little tip from a local: weekends are VERY busy, so try and plan your trip to Gooseberry on a weekday.
Split Rock Lighthouse This historic gem, nestled right along the sparkling Lake Superior, is sure to become family favorite. The lighthouse was erected in 1910 to safely guide ships through the perilous waters. It’s one of the most visited places in Minnesota.
Beaver Bay Area
Does all that sight seeing have you hungry for a snack? Stop for some ice cream the at The Big Dipper ice cream shop in Beaver Bay.
Are you always on the look for vintage or antique pieces for your home or cabin? You aren’t going to want to drive by Second Hand Rose Thrift and Consignment Store! I’m pretty sure they have the largest assortment of glassware for sale in Northern Minnesota. You can uncover a treasury of unique pieces if you take the time to dig through their generously sized displays and collections for sale!
Silver Bay Area
As the name implies, Black Beach is unique from different all the other beaches in the Northland. There is soft, black colored sand along the shoreline, areas to swim, and rock formations to beclimbed. Tettagouchee State Park Known for their spectacular overlook of Shovel Point and year round camping options, this is a great mini getaway from Duluth. Just a short, 58-mile drive from the city, the park’s hiking trails, waterfalls, rock-climbing, and wildlife abound.
Looking for breathtaking views atop rugged cliffs? Palisade Head is truly a must see for artists, rock climbers, and sightseers alike. Look for the “Palisade Head Historical Marker” sign on the right just off Highway 61 after you pass through the town of Silver Bay. A note of caution: the road to the top is windy, narrow, and not for the faint of heart. Also, use caution when bringing small children up to this area; there are no guard rails so you won’t want to let them out of your sight!
Looking to get away from the crowds? Take a day trip and go swimming with your kids in Caribou River. This hidden wayside rest area is just off highway 61 outside Little Marais. When you’ve finished swimming, hike the falls and take in the scenic views. This place is not as well known to tourists, so it is often less populated and one of the quieter places to visit up the shore!
Nestled along the shores of Lake Superior, Sugarloaf Nature Center is a little slice of heaven. Visit the Nature Center and talk with the staff to learn even more fun facts about the area, grab a trail guide and hike their trails down to the cobblestone beach. Soak in breath taking views of this hidden cove and learn all about the history with the signs posted throughout your walk.
Temperance River This park is known for its thunderous waterfalls with easy access from the highway and beautiful trails. It’s a a perfect spot for a picnic at the public beach–or stay a few nights in the beautiful campgrounds.
Father Baraga’s Cross is a perfect spot to stop and have a picnic, skip rocks, or take in the views of Lake Superior. The iconic cross was erected in memory of Father Frederick Baraga who arrived in the area via boat during a terrible storm. He was the first bishop of Upper Michigan, and also spent his free time writing an Ojibwe dictionary.
Sawtooth Outfitters Looking for a outdoor adventure but don’t have any equipment or the know how? Rent a kayak, canoe, bike, sign up for a guided tour, or get fitted for a hiking adventure.
Not yet tired of hiking? Oberg Mountain is home to some of our favorite sections of the Superior Hiking trail. Oberg rises a thousand feet above Lake Superior and has gorgeous scenic overlooks at several spots along the way. There are easy and difficult paths to chose from but, as always, keep children close as there are some ledges that and rock cliffs that are not safe for them to explore on their own.
Lutsen Mountains Take a leisurely ride on the chairlift to the up the Eagle Mountain and then take a one of a kind thrill ride down the Alpine Slides. Hop on the Summer Express Gondola to soak in the breath taking views of Sawtooth Mountain and Lake Superior. While you are up at the top, enjoy lunch or a treat from the Summer Chalet.
Want to enjoy the whole outdoor experience in a historic setting? Check out Lusten Resort, which was voted as the Best North Shore Resort by the Star Tribune. The original building was built in the 1880s and the main lodge was built in 1940. As a guest of the resort, you can chose from daily excursions that include fly fishing, paddle boarding, sea kayaking, yoga on the shore, hiking, and nightly campfires on the beach to name a few. Sign up EARLY in the spring because spots tend to fill up fast!
The Cascade River hike will lead you down a gorgeous trail leading to cascading waterfalls with unforgettable backdrops of moss and black volcanic rocks. This scenic hike connects to the Lake Superior Hiking trail and North Shore Trail and, like most places along the North Shore, will not disappoint in its beauty!
Grand Marais Area
Voted as USA Today’s 2017 Best Midwestern Small Town, Budget Travel’s 2015 Coolest Small Town in America, and Lake Superior Magazine’s 2015 Best Weekend Destination, the city of Grand Marais is sure to become your families favorite North Shore destination. Grab a coffee from the Java Moose and soak in the views of the lake while skipping rocks along the shore.
Visit World’s Best Donuts and get a treat or two for your shopping excursion around town. Grand Marais is home to many quaint shops and great places to eat, but a few noteworthy destinations include Lake Superior Trading Post, Joynes Ben Franklin, UpState MN, Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply, Drury Lane Books, Sivertson Gallery, The Crooked Spoon, Dockside Fish Market, the famous Sven and Ole’s Pizza, and the Angry Trout.
After all that sugar you’re going to need to walk! Take a small hike out to Artist Point and walk out to the old lighthouse. Then take a tour of the Cooke County Musuem, and learn all about the history of this small, but mighty community.
Ever want to learn how to do a traditional, northern craft? Depending on the length of your stay, you can take a class or browse through the store at North House Folk School.
Pincushion Mountain Trail Want a panoramic view of Grand Marais? Take the Gunflint trail up north of Grand Marais and follow the signs to the pincushion overlook for a beautiful view of the city, or hop on the trail for a hike!
Housed in the historic Chik-Wauk Lodge on beautiful Saganaga Lake, Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center presents the area’s cultural and natural history through interpretive and interactive exhibits. Learn about the Gunflint Trail’s prehistoric beginnings and people who helped shape today’s unique, rural community, including native people, voyageurs, miners, loggers, resort owners, and the current residents.
Just a short, 20-minute drive from Grand Marais off of Highway 61, Devil’s Kettle in Judge Magney State Park is a must see! This waterfall mystifies visitors; water in the left fork of the waterfall appears to vanish after spilling into a large hole in a rock. The hike off the freeway is a gradual climb with breathtaking views along the way to both the low and high falls areas. If you’re taking young children, prepare to carry them part way–there are a LOT of stairs!
You are definitely going to want to put the Nanibojou Lodge on your list of places to visit up the shore. Built in 1920, this gorgeous piece of history was once a private club boasting of exclusive members like Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey and Ring Lardner. Dine in the gorgeous, historically preserved space or stop in for afternoon tea. You’ll find that the space offers not only a beautiful setting, but delicious food in a quaint, one of a kind atmosphere. Trust us, you will not be disappointed you stopped!
Up the Gunflint Trail
Stop in at Visitor Center and pick up maps and important information for your adventure. There is no cell service, so you want to make sure to be prepared as you head out of Grand Marais.
Laurentian Divide Scenic Overlook Here is where the waters on the north side of the divide flow north to Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean; waters on the south side flow southeast to Lake Superior, then on the Atlantic Ocean. Make sure you bring your compass and see what it does near the magnetic rock.
Get a eagle’s eye view on the Towering Pines Canopy Zipline. Spend over two hours gliding high amidst old-growth white pines and spectacular wilderness vistas. Soak in views of Lonely Lake and Gunflint Lake; ridges, basins and sky-scraping cliffs; and the wilds across the Canadian border. Certified Sky Guides lead you through this high adventure and share fascinating tidbits on the natural and cultural history of the North in the process.
Want to use a watercraft while you are visiting? The Golden Eagle Lodge has pontoons, canoes, or boats available to rent.
Hike Honeymoon Bluff and watch the sunset, or soak in the amazing views of Hungry Jack Lake.
Grand Portage Area
Keep traveling North and visit the highest falls in MN. Falls-Pigeon Falls is located just outside the Canadian border and has some of the most beautiful trails and falls in Minnesota. (If you miss the entrance to the park, make sure you have your passports out because you will find yourself at the Canadian/Minnesota checkpoint)!
For more ideas of things to do in the Northland this summer, check out our Ultimate Guide to Summer!