While Colorado has the Rockies and Florida has sandy beaches, Minnesota has the north woods. This rocky, lake-strewn region covered with white pines and birch trees is one of the jewels of the North American wilderness.
Naturally, visitors to Ely want to know the best way to experience it. We’d say move up here — and many have done just that — but for those who only have a few days, here’s your quick guide to getting the full experience of the north woods during your visit to Ely.
Find a good home base. The thing about being up north is that you’re probably going to be tired at the end of the day. Hiking, canoeing, paddle boarding, mountain biking ... all that fresh air will make you appreciate a good bed and the creature comforts of home. With gourmet coffee shops to help you wake up and great restaurants and breweries to cap off your day, there’s a reason tens of thousands of visitors make Ely their home away from home. There’s also no shortage of great lodging options; the challenge, however, is making up your mind which to choose.
Canoe. Just like you don’t go to France and not eat cheese, you don’t go up north and not dip a paddle in the water. For those who would rather not strap a canoe on the roof of their car, there are many outfitters who can hook you up with all you need for a day on the water. Some will even drop you off and pick you up!
Get a little messy. All those trees and lakes make up an enormous playground for you to run around in. Plenty of hiking trails can bring you into the heart of the forests, and for those looking for more of an adrenaline rush, the Ely area has become a destination for mountain biking.
Encounter the wildlife. Yes, there are wolves and bears up here, which might sound scary, but they are as much a part of the north woods as pumpkin pie is of Thanksgiving dinner. Ely is home to the North American Bear Center and the International Wolf Center, both of which have large enclosures where visitors can observe wolves and bears up close. You might even see a moose when you're driving - so pay close attention!
Eat right. Many north woods diehards will tell you that the two most important foods you can indulge in up here are fresh-caught fish and blueberries, neither of which are in short supply. However, if you don’t have time to go out fishing, or your kids eat all the blueberries you pick, there are great restaurants in town that serve up a mix of local, modern flavors.
Need more? We can go on and offer up dozens more ways to get your north woods fix. What almost every visitor ends up wanting, though, is more time.