It is amazing how much of Minnesota’s resort country can be packed into four days of travel. My wife’s sister Ann, and her husband Ray, from Michigan, have been around the world twice on National Geographic Tours, but had never seen Duluth or the North Shore. My wife, Ida Mae, and I enjoy viewing the North Shore, so we designed a Mini-Minnesota Tour that included it and Northern Minnesota when they visited us over the Memorial Day weekend. (Ann had worked two summers at Pehrson’s Lodge on Lake Vermilion when she was a college student, so that was another priority on the list of places to visit.)
On Saturday, after a flight from Detroit to Minneapolis and a 100 mile drive, Ray and Ann joined us at Little Falls for the first leg of our journey. We drove to Duluth and Fitger’s Inn, overlooking Lake Superior, where we enjoyed a fine dinner and stayed the night.
The next day, we headed up the North Shore, stopping at Gooseberry Falls State Park, Lutsen Lodge, and Grand Marais. We ended our Sunday tour staying at Naniboujou Lodge, with beach walking, a dinner in front of their famous stone fireplace, and immaculate rooms with a beautiful view of Lake Superior.
The following morning (Memorial Day) we backtracked on Highway 61 to Highway 1 and traveled north to Ely and the historic Burntside Lodge. We congratulated the LaMontagne’s on their resort’s 75 years of family ownership (click here to read my previous blog on this Blue Ribbon Resort).
We then left for Pehrson’s Lodge on beautiful Lake Vermilion, near Cook. We walked a path along the shoreline, while Ann told us how she spent her summers working in the restaurant (which no longer operates).
After traveling southwest on Highways 53 and 169 through the Iron Range and rain, we arrived at Sugar Lake Lodge, near Grand Rapids. There, we enjoyed dinner and a good night’s sleep, followed by a great breakfast of waffles, strawberries, and whipped cream.
On Tuesday, our last day, we drove west and south on Highway 2 and 71 to Itasca State Park’s Douglas Lodge in time for the wild rice hot dish lunch. Of course, we visited the Source of the Mississippi, and traveled along the 1916 route of the Jefferson Highway through the park.
We were running out of time, so we stopped briefly at the Chase on the Lake Hotel on Leech Lake at Walker. Then we returned home in time to enjoy a delicious dinner at the Black and White Restaurant in downtown Little Falls.
On Wednesday we said our goodbyes, and Ray and Ann returned to Michigan.
We of course could not visit all of the great resorts we passed, nor could we stay overnight at all the ones we visited. However, we were impressed by the uniqueness of each one, especially where we had more time, such as our overnight stays at Fitger’s Inn, Naniboujou Lodge, and Sugar Lake Lodge.
Our four day Mini-Minnesota Tour of about 800 miles was a rush, but such a pleasure that we plan to design another for next summer. We plan to add more classic Minnesota hotels, resorts, and parks to our list of favorites.
I hope to follow up with more details on these great resorts under “Classic Blue Ribbon Resorts,” on this website.