The Great North

Minnesota Adventure Culture Play & Stay

December 8, 2015

Christina|Lake Time Magazine

WALKER 

An institution on the great waters of Leech Lake, Walker provides ample opportunity to feed your taste buds, your shopping itch and your outdoor dreams in one great community.          Driving from the south and over the hill to see the big lake below, you are overcome with a feeling of grandness and the people you'll meet in town do not stray from that sensation. Walker has a small town feel but it does not lose sight of the splendor on their back step. Leech Lake is home to hundreds of resorts, eating establishments, recreation meccas and historical points of interest but Walker stands out as a star.      

   Stay at the historic and charming Chase on the Lake and take a walk on the lakeside boardwalk to take in the beauty of the water and the rocks. There's a peacefulness here that attracts people. Grab a margarita at Café Zona Rosa and enjoy some great Mexican food but save room for the fried ice cream- you won't be sorry! Walker hosts an assortment of stores including the extremely popular Reeds which sells everything you could possibly need for your outdoor adventures, plus much more. Meander through Northern Exposure and take in the art, home décor and up-north necessities. Visit Loide Oils & Vinegars shop for a unique flavor experience or grab an espresso and excellent food at The Village Square Café.       A fine example of a community rich in culture, history and pride, Walker proves to be a great place to live or visit year after year. 

BEMIDJI

The town of mythical giants proves to be a town with giant hearts. There's true up-north passion in the people of Bemidji. A town of entrepreneurs and artists, Bemidji will keep you captivated! 

     A must stop is the towering Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues that sit beside Lake Bemidji and just outside the doors of the Tourist Information Center. Be sure to stop in the center to peruse larger-than-life artifacts from the Bunyan/Ox days, including his giant coffee mug, his giant ax and everything in between (including nail clippings and playing cards). Have a chat with Brian, a man intertwined in the culture and history of the town, his enthusiasm is a great way to start your Bemidji voyage.  

     This is a town with character; a town of eclectic, like-minded bodies working (and playing) in a place they love. From the ladies at Morrel's Chippewa Trading Post to the delightful Emily at 218 Home + Gift to the hip and happenin' North Country Skateshop with a killer mural painted alley-side, Bemidji is a center for tourism, history, culture, arts, beer, science, education and good eats.     

     Known as somewhat of an educational mecca, the Bemidji area is home to several prestigious  and unique schools including Voyageurs Expeditionary School, Schoolcraft Learning Community, Concordia Language Villages and Bemidji State University. The Headwaters Science Center, downtown, is an all-ages interactive attraction for discovery and learning. The Watermark Art Center, with it's creaky floors and homey-feel gives life to wondrous minds who's art lie exposed on the gallery walls. The historic Chief Theater is home to the Paul Bunyan Playhouse which is the longest continuously running summer stock theater company in Minnesota.

     You want tourism- you got it! You want history- you got it! You want music and culture- you got it! You want arts and science- you got it! You want parks and outdoor beauty- Bemidji has approximately 22 parks and 225 acres of parkland or open space within the city; an outdoor enthusiasts dream! 

     Take a trip and experience all that Bemidji has to offer- from the giants to the love of life's important things, Bemidji is truly the stuff of legends. 

PARK RAPIDS

If you love candy stores, eclectic shopping options, one-of-a-kind bookstores, out-of-this-world eateries, outdoor recreation, culture and good people, Park Rapids is guaranteed to be your new favorite place! The downtown is beautifully decorated with an array of hanging flowers and the "Positively Park Rapids" signs hanging on the streetlamps are spot-on to the experience you will have in this destination town. 

     You can't help but notice the giant, intricately carved and painted statue of a majestic moose that dons the landscaped exterior of Moose Creek, a store filled with home décor, art and other goods. There's real culture in Park Rapids. Take a class at the Stony Hills Art Gallery, see a production at Jasper's Jubilee or visit the Nemeth Art Gallery. Even the stores window displays offer up an artistic look on life. 

     In a world of big box giants, the quaint Beagle and Wolf Books and Bindery bookstore seems like something out of the movies but the store's atmosphere and passion of the employees is truly Minnesotan. You can feel the love, personal touch and hand-picked selection on the shelves.  

     Park Rapids not only boasts great shopping but also good eats. From the Royal Bar to the highly-recommended Necce Italiano Restaurante to The Good Life Café- a true flavor experience, you will leave the table satisfied.  

     Park Rapids takes pride in its commerce and it shows in the people you encounter. From shop owners to people on the street, there is a noticeable feeling of support here; an environment that sustains unique businesses and cohesiveness. The downtown experience leaves you feeling like you're a local and full of Minnesota pride.

     With over 400 lakes in the area, Park Rapids has a plethora of parks and outdoor spaces to enjoy like the Red Bridge- a beautifully restored bridge that now sits on the waters edge; a perfect place to watch the ducks or have a picnic.  Surrounding the town are winding roads that dodge lake after lake and the wildness of the terrain leaves a feeling of peacefulness and being one with nature. There are many wild attractions near Park Rapids- just a short drive away is Itasca State Park and the headwaters of the Mississippi River. 

     This truly is a town of many options. Stay for a weekend, a week or a lifetime. Park Rapids will stake claim to a piece of your heart and memories. 

HIBBING 

A true gem of the Iron Range, Hibbing has an incredible amount of experiences to take in! Steeped in history and intriguing stories of mining transformation, Hibbing holds many secrets that remain underappreciated until you experience them for yourself. A true legend in the mining industry, a day in this town will leave you with a higher appreciation for the little things in life. 

     Established in 1893 by Frank Hibbing, the original town location is now referred to as North Hibbing where remnants of building foundations still exist from the early 1900s but today it is primarily the location of the Hull Rust Mahoning Mine View, the world's largest open pit iron ore mine and coined "The Grand Canyon of the North".  When iron ore was discovered in the 1920s, the mining industry paid more than $16 million to relocate the town, built a new City Hall and a magnificent high school for $4 million; both are on the National Register of Historic Places. In the 1920's, $4 million was simply unheard of and the opportunity for good education for immigrant children was a unique opportunity that the community couldn't pass up. The Hibbing High School, with the spot-on nickname of "The Castle in the Woods" is a true sight to see- and not to be missed! Be sure to take a guided tour because there's more than you can imagine within those walls. 

     The mining industry brought immigrants from all over the world and that diverse culture and pride is still evident today. The Sunrise Bakery, which opened in 1913, is a bustling example of immigrant beginnings, longevity and good-taste popularity. Offering specialties rich in tradition such as Potica (po-TEE-tsa), an intricate dough rolled thin with layers of delicious walnut filling, Sunrise doubles as a market with bread, noodles and ravioli made in house as well as a deli. 

     Son of Russian immigrants, Robert Zimmerman, known as Bob Dylan, grew up in Hibbing and his influence is still seen on the streets of this quaint town. Take the "Bob Dylan Walking Tour" for the full Dylan experience. There's a lot of love for Hibbing's musical roots in this town. 

     Hibbing truly has so much to offer, from golf courses to parks to BMX race tracks to fishing and boating, everything to love about northern Minnesota is available here. Hibbing is the home of the Paulucci Space Theatre, northern Minnesota's largest planetarium, the birthplace of the bus industry and home to the Greyhound Bus Museum and the proud home of Hibbing's Curling Club. One of the major towns in Minnesota's Iron Range, Hibbing will satisfy your travel bug and set the scene for the other great Iron Range towns.