It was a beautiful, spring-like weekend, and I was already up north for a visit, so I took a “grown-ups only” trip up to Ely, Minnesota just for a few hours this past Saturday. No kids for this getaway but after visiting, I can’t wait to bring them sometime soon!
There is SO much to do!!!!!
I hadn’t been to Ely since I was a kid, even though I grew up in Duluth. But I was up north for a visit and decided to hit Ely just to check it out!
Where is Ely?
Ely is located about 2 hours (100 miles) north of Duluth, and 1 hour north of Virginia, Minnesota. It’s part of the Vermilion Range, which is one of three Iron Ranges of northern Minnesota. (The other two are the Mesabi and Cuyuna Ranges.)
Ely is located right by the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, so many people stop or stay here as part of their outdoor vacation to explore some of the most beautiful, unspoiled land here in Minnesota.
But you don’t have to even be an outdoor enthusiast to enjoy the area.
There are many attractions in the area including:
- International Wolf Center
- North American Bear Center
- Bois Forte Heritage Center and Cultural Museum
- Dorothy Molter Museum
- Soudan Underground Mine
- Ely Arts and Heritage Center
The Ely Arts and Heritage Center manages Ely’s historic Pioneer Mine buildings which are located by Miners Lake and across from the Grand Ely Lodge.
The Pioneer Mine Shaft House is open for tours in the summer, but there were many out snowmobiling and ice fishing on Miners Lake, so we took a walk on the lake!
Miners Lake is actually just one of many lakes in the area (Minnesota is the land of 10,000+ lakes!) but just a few minutes away is downtown Ely.
Downtown Ely is a tourist paradise – with gift shops, restaurants, coffee shops, candy shops and even a toy store!
Though it’s easily bustling in the summer and fall here, we were here on a Saturday in February, so many businesses were closed (also because of COVID, sadly), but there were plenty open to keep us busy for a few hours.
We went into a candy store, some gift shops, a coffee shop and Legacy Toys, which has locations also here in the Twin Cities including the Mall of America.
Piragis Northwoods Company plans canoe trips, guide services and more – and they have a great gift and supply shop downtown.
You can find everything here – clothing, camping gear and supplies, souvenirs, and gifts galore.
Oh, and a whole floor upstairs with books galore!
We enjoyed other shopping including Mealey’s Gift Shop which had Minnesota-themed gifts, decor and many fun things to check out.
And the people everywhere were so friendly and welcoming!
There’s even a beautiful spa in downtown Ely called Pebble Spa which offers massage, facials and something called “For the Love of Chocolate” which I can’t wait to come back and do! It includes eating chocolates while soaking in a “chocolate milk” bath, then getting a cocoa butter massage – yes, please!!!!!!
We also drove a lot around the area, including on winding roads around lakes like Shagawa Lake. Just exploring and enjoying the quiet beauty of the area was in itself a satisfying winter escape.
Though this visit was brief, I am already planning a return trip for a longer stay with my friend, and one with my kids!
Have you been to Ely, Minnesota? What must-see attractions did I miss in my list above? What are your favorite restaurants and shops? Share your tips in the comments or email me at twincitiesfrugalmom @ gmail.com.
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