Sometimes, the only way to combat winter doldrums is to escape the humdrum of everyday life. While there’s no shortage of sunny small towns to warm up in, allow us to suggest a novel idea: a getaway to an even more wintry locale. You could criss-cross the country in search of pretty snow-covered destinations, or you could book a trip to our favorite winter getaway right now: Grand Marais, Minnesota.
Along the frozen waters of Minnesota’s North Shore, this Lake Superior arts colony—population: 1,335—is admittedly already a popular summer destination. But, come colder months, it also offers wintry woods to explore, cozy respites from the chill, and plenty of ways to bolster your creative side. First established as a summer village for the region’s native Ojibwe, who dubbed it Gitchi-Ba-Too-Biig, which translates to “double bay,” the town was renamed in the 1700s by fur-trading French-Canadian voyageurs. (Grand Marais means “Great Marsh” in French.) Situated 38 miles from the Canadian border, the town takes up less than three square miles of the coastline, but it’s packed with plenty of things to do. Whether you want to spend your days cross-country skiing while on the lookout for wild animals or learning the particulars of woodcarving and other traditional crafts, Grand Marais has options to suit your calling. (Just want to relax? There’s plenty of cozy cabins to hole up in, but you don’t want to miss the town’s traditional dry sauna experience, either.)
Ready to start planning your trip? Read on for the best things to do in Grand Marais, Minnesota on a winter getaway, including local shops to explore, can’t-miss restaurants, and plenty of natural wonders.
No matter what time your morning begins, oversize omelets await at breakfast-all-day eatery Blue Water Cafe. Go for the three-meat Viking or a hollandaise-topped Wild Country. Two additional must-trys: maple lattes at Java Moose and, depending on the season, donut kabobs (really!) at World's Best Donuts.
Celebrate the Season
Cheer on dogsled derbies during March's annual Dog Days of Winter festival, which caps off with s'mores and hot cocoa at Trail Center Lodge (pictured). Or, set off from the lodge for leisurely session of cross-country skiing (and moose spotting!) along Superior National Forest's 57-mile Gunflint Trail.
Explore the Stores
First Avenue is dotted with charming locally owned shops. Pop into Gunflint Mercantile (pictured) for made-in-store maple bacon fudge and other sweet treats, then head next door for balsam fir-scented candles, broomcorn veggie scrubbers, and more great giftables at The Big Lake. One building over, Kristofer Bowman’s “Northwoods Modern” mercantile Upstate MN brings a fresh perspective to lakeside decor staples with Minnesota-made Sanborn Canoe paddles.
Try Your Hand
At North House Folk School, artisans such as Charlie Mayo (pictured) offer hands-on courses on everything from birch bark basket weaving to boatbuilding from a compound of repurposed waterside forest service buildings. In operation since 1947, nearby Grand Marais Art Colony focuses on the fine arts (painting, sculpture), and also offers self-guided residencies for more serious practitioners.
Hygge Your Heart Out
Blogger Melissa Coleman kitted out her cedar-clad cabin rental, The Minne Stuga, with a bunk room, woodburning fireplace, and loads of board games. In town, The Mayhew Inn is home to six unique suites (five are dog-friendly!) and rooftop decks perfect for stargazing. Visitors also adore Poplar Haus for its cozy cabinettes and restaurant.
Find Your Bliss
Whether you’re after a bit of antiquing, looking to stock up on art supplies, or wish to peruse the wares of 120 independent makers, the 4,000-square-foot Joy & Company, housed in a 1920s Chevrolet Garage, provides plenty of ways to pass an afternoon.
Blow Off Steam
Come sunset, flock to the ragged rocks of Artist’s Point, a barrier island formed from lava that splits the Grand Marais Harbor and Lake Superior’s East Bay, to view the changing colors of the sky.
Wine and Dine
The majestic dining room at Naniboujou Lodge & Restaurant is adorned in bold Cree tribal designs and features a 20-foot stone fireplace. Surroundings may be more modest at fishing-shanty-turned-restaurant Angry Trout Cafe, but one spoonful of the creamy, dill-flecked chowder is sure to warm your soul.
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