Super Fun and Totally Free

On the Mesabi Iron Range there’s plenty of fun to be had, and a lot of it is FREE. Check out these free attractions this summer. Just remember, donations are always appreciated and welcome! 

Hull Rust Mine View

Why We Love it: Once you see it, you’ll know why!

Best Time To Go: Daily, 9-5 starting May 25.  Hull Rust Mine View existed in north Hibbing for many years before it became necessary to relocate to accommodate mining (a familiar story on the Iron Range!). The new location offers a 360-degree view of Hibbing Taconite operations, the City of Hibbing, and the surrounding landscape, about 20 miles out in every direction. In addition to a better view, the site, located on a former mine dump, has more room for mining equipment. We can’t stress enough how much every Minnesotan should visit this spot!

See iron mining and get up close to mining equipment at Hull Rust Mine View in Hibbing

The locomotive is just one of the cool things to see at Locomotive Park in Mountain Iron.

Locomotive Park, Mountain Iron

Why We Love It: It’s an open air museum!

Best Time to Go: Pick a sunny day and head to “old town” in Mountain Iron, north of Hwy 169. You’ll find a very cool 1910 steam locomotive (hence the name), plus mining equipment and excellent signage explaining the mining process. From here, you’ll be overlooking a mine pit and the place Leonidas Merritt first discovered iron ore.

Hibbing Historical Society Museum

Why We Love It: Diorama of pre-move Hibbing & Time Capsule exhibit

A time capsule exhibit is just one of the cool displays at Hibbing Historical Society Museum.

Best Time To Go: This little gem offers another opportunity to learn about and be amazed by our history. A new exhibit this year features town founder Frank Hibbing, including never-before-seen images and artifacts. Located in the Hibbing Memorial Building, this is a great rainy-day adventure available Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by appointment.


Olcott Park and Everything in It

Why We Love it: Something for everyone

Best Time to Go: You may need to make several trips. Bring a picnic, bring your bikes, plan an afternoon at Olcott Park in Virginia. The Virginia Area Historical Society’s Heritage Museum includes the former park superintendent’s house, a Finnish log house, and a 1930s tourist cabin. This is the place to learn about the Mesabi’s logging history, Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m to 4 p.m. this summer. Right next door, pop in to the Botanical Garden Greenhouse and take in the specter of tropical plants, cacti, trees and more. Also in the park: the refurbished and magnificent Olcott Fountain with light show nightly at 9 p.m., the Mesabi Trail, and plenty of playground equipment.

Rock hounds love the geology exhibit at Minnesota Discovery Center.

Minnesota Discovery Center

Why We Love it: A treasure trove of information with outstanding views

Best Time to Go: Every Thursday from 3-8 p.m., museum admission is free. Admission to the Research Center, with one of the largest collections of genealogical and local history materials, is always free. If you haven’t been in awhile, make MDC your must-see this summer. New exhibits and extensive remodeling have dramatically enhanced the experience. Trolley and mini-golf are also available, and affordable! Plus, get in on the family-friendly Bands, Brews and BBQ dinner-and-a-show Thursdays 4-8. It’s time to go back.

Nelimark Homestead Museum

Why We Love It:  Finnish is spoken here

Best Time to Go: Every Thursday, starting at 1:00, learn a little Finnish through stories, banter and history, and enjoy a guided nature walk at 3:00 at this historic homesite. On Fridays, homemade breads are available for purchase at noon (Thursday-Saturday June 1-Sept 30, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), and there’s always coffee on.

The view from Finn Town Overlook in Virginia is stunning.

Virginia Bridge/Finn Town Overlook

Why We Love It: Perspective, perspective, perspective

Best Time To Go: When you feel like walkin! Finn Town Overlook is at the end of North First Ave. West and Third St. North, where a cantilevered platform looks out over the water-filled Rouchleau pit, which is thee miles long and 450 feet deep. About three blocks south, head east on Chestnut Street to the Mesabi Trail head and walk out onto the Tom Rukavnia Memorial Bridge.

Skibo Vista

Why We Love It: It’s a history lesson with a view

Best time To Go: On your short cut to the North Shore. If you’ve never been here, or it’s been awhile, it’s time to head up to Skibo Vista not far east of Hoyt Lakes on the Superior National Forest Scenic Byway (Forest Hwy 11). A partnership with the City of Hoyt Lakes, the US Forest Service, IRRRB and the Iron Range Historical Society has created a stunning viewpoint with historical interpretation. Worth the drive no matter where you live, and the Byway makes a great route to the North Shore. Bonus: stop at Toimi School along the way and learn more about the region’s Finnish history.

Our Trails

The trails at Carey Lake in Hibbing are scenic, mildly challenging, and close to town!

Why We Love Them: What is not to love?

Best Time to Go: Anytime! From hiking trails with great views of the the Superior National Forest at Giants Ridge, to the woodsy routes at Laurentian Divide and the towering trees at Big Aspen trails, and many, many more, there are no shortage of trails that make for great afternoon hikes, for free! If you’re looking for folks to hike,  bike or paddle with, check out Mesabi Outdoor Adventures on Facebook, or look for their free recreation meet-ups on

For the motorized crowd: Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area

Why We Love It: It’s the Midwest’s premier OHV park, it’s free, and it’s open all year. Bring Jeeps, dirt bikes, side-by-sides and more to this motorized playground where it’s okay to get muddy and dirty – then use the wash bay onsite. It’s amazing how many locals have never been here, even though there’s 36 miles of trails to explore and, that’s right, free access with a properly licensed machine.

And finally, don’t forget all the great free events, including music, water show and more!

Please note: hours listed may refer to summertime only. Please call ahead, or visit for more information.

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Music on the Mesabi

When summer evenings beckon, there’s no shortage of free outdoor music events on the Mesabi to entertain the entire family.

Get updates on performers and follow Chisholm’s Pocket Park here.

Start your week off right with live local music in Chisholm’s Pocket Park. Expect piano, button box, banjo and more.

On select Wednesdays, stop into Virginia’s Olcott Park for the beautiful, newly restored fountain, and open mic night.

Every other Thursday, head to Biwabik for Music in the Park, 6:30-8:00 p.m.  This summer’s line-up includes Pat Surface on June 27, Hobo Revival on July 11, Bottomline on July 25, Blue Teardrops August 8, and 4-Warning August 22.

You can fill in those “gap Thursdays” with Virginia City Band performances in Olcott Park.

And the Hibbing City Band performs at Bennet Park at 7 p.m. on June 19 and 26, July 10, 17 and 24, and August 6 for National Nite Out. The band will also present a concert August 7 at Hibbing City Hall for the town’s birthday celebration. Hibbing will also welcome musicians for Mines and Pines Revisited July 20-21.

Even before that, there’s this: It’s a free Christian music event in Virginia.

And we can’t forget the Northern Lights Music Festival, offering several free concerts, as well as the opera La Traviata and numerous performances.

As usual, there’s some great music coming your way during the regional Fourth of July events and Hibbing’s Jubilee, as well as at dining venues like BoomTown’s Acoustic Brunch, Minnesota Discovery Center’s Bands, Brews and BBQs, and more.

Make these free, family-friendly music venues part of your Mesabi summer, and find even more fun things to do right here.













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Spotlight on our Cities: Virginia

The “Queen City” of Virginia is a hoppin’ place this summer. Some around here say that summer doesn’t start until the Land of Loon Festival, a mid-June arts and crafts show with food, music and more in Olcott Park, but this year the season starts a little early, with the dedication of the Olcott Park Fountain.

Cover image from Virginia’s Facebook page.

Like countless communities around the country, many city parks in the region were once home to elaborate fountains/wading pools, zoos, greenhouses and more. In Olcott Park, the fountain has been restored to its former glory, and will be celebrated with a light show and more on June 13. Amazingly, the city Botanical Center is still there, too!

Now THIS is how you spend a summer evening !

These aren’t the only great things happening. The owner of Smith’s Infusion, a handmade arts and crafts boutique, has organized Art Crawls throughout the summer and fall.

Grab a map and visit businesses in historic downtown Virginia.

And the City’s Parks and Recreation Department is hosting an open mic night at Olcott Park.

Free entertainment!

The Community Band will be there, too!

Thursdays are summer concert night!

There’s an exhibit at the Lyric Center for the Arts that you should check out (their gift store is great, too)

Visit the historic Lyric building this summer.

The Bridge City Music Festival, a free concert featuring Christian bands, is right around the corner, and there’s a weekly bike ride led by Mesabi Outdoor Adventures in Virginia, too. And oh, by the way, there’s a farmers market you should check out!  And this is only June! You can learn a little more about the Queen City/Bridge City here, and find events for the whole region here.

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Guest Blog: Shop, Make, Take & More!

This guest blog is one in a series featuring unique experiences on the Mesabi Iron Range. Jenni Smith, owner of Smith’s Infusion in Virginia, and is an ardent crafter, creator and mom. Her boutique is full of handmade local art and craft intermingled with antiques and collectibles. Her classes are open to all.

Next time you’re on the Range be sure to stop into Smith’s Infusion, located downtown Virginia at 417 Chestnut Street. Open Tuesday-Saturday we have a unique selection of handcrafted gifts, vintage finds, furniture and a lot of DIY!

Join us Tuesdays during the summer anytime between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. to create the make-n-take of the day, which you can totally scope out ahead of time on our website. We also offer a different make-n-take every Saturday any time between 10 a.m. and noon. Register for our make-n-takes online, and if they don’t fit your schedule on the day we have them, we’ll hold them for you until a day of your choice works out! Just let us know when you’re coming in!

Do you have a kiddo going into grades 1-9? Then we have summer craft camps for two days each month for grades 1-6, and four, half days for grades 7-9. We’ll share different skills they can utilize the rest of their life! Or maybe you are in town on a different day. Just stop in to see what’s new, check out the kit wall and maybe find something else of interest which you can create in-house in our classroom, or take home!

We make everything from little benches and seasonal items such as 4th of July Clothespin Wreath, to learning screen-printing and weaving. There is always something for everyone of every age!

We are handicap accessible with both parking in the front on the street as well as the back. So if you happen to come to Virginia and there is something going on where you can’t park in front of the store, no worries: we have immediate parking in the back or in free two-hour parking also in the back.

Smith’s Infusion also hosts birthday parties for all ages. You pick an item to create! We have different packages available depending on the length of the party and your choice of food to be brought in. For these parties we love to support our neighbors, including Snicker’s on the same block for pizza and Pep’s down the street for birthday cake or cupcakes!

Next time you’re in the area check us out online at or check us out on Facebook! -Jenni Smith, owner


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Guest Blog: A Vistor’s Guide to the Sax-Zim Bog

Located an easy 50-minute drive northwest of Duluth, Minnesota or equally as nice 40-minute drive south of Virginia, the Sax-Zim Bog is a nationally and internationally known birdwatching location. Knowing this, the “Bog” is relatively unknown to locals and those that frequent northern Minnesota through the seasons. So what actually is the Sax-Zim Bog?

Read more

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Top Five FREE Things to Do on the Mesabi

Free yourself and your whole family with these fun – and totally free – things to do this spring and summer.


1. Museums and Historic Sites: That’s right, free admission to the interesting and educational – and that’s just the wonderful staff! The exhibits are great, too. Best of the best: Hibbing Area Historical Society Museum, Virginia Heritage Museum, Olcott Park Greenhouse, Nelimark Homestead Museum.

2. Trails:  These trails are perfect for an afternoon hike. Pack a lunch, maybe even a fishing pole, and get out into nature on these family-friendly trails. Our faves: Cary Lake Trail, the trails of Giants Ridge, and the Laurentian Divide trails.

3. Viewpoints: From Skibo Vista’s views of the Superior National Forest and beyond, to Leonidas’ panoramic of communities, minelands and forests, to Finntown Overlook, where you’ll see a vast mine lake, these views are not to be missed!

4. Photo Ops: Take your pic with an iron man, a moose or a giant hockey stick at these made-for-selfies stops across the region. Take time for seriousness, too, when you visit two veterans memorials along the way.5. Get in the Groove: Stop by Biwabik on a Thursday evening and you might catch some free music in the park. Check out all the great events happening around the region this summer!


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minnesota iron range mountain biking. Scenic landscape Mesabi Trail

Your Next Summer Biking Itinerary on the Mesabi

biking over bridge on mesabi trail iron range minnesota

Biking & Hiking in Minnesota’s Iron Range

An unforgettable ride along the scenic and historic Mesabi Trail
By Holly McCaughan


A few years ago, my husband, Chris, and I finally invested in a couple of top-quality bikes, and we’d done quite a bit of cycling on trails near our home. We were hungry for new areas to explore, so when some fellow cycling buddies sang the praises of the Minnesota Iron Range’s Mesabi Trail™, we immediately booked a trip.


This premier bike trail winds 120 miles through some of the most scenic areas of northeastern Minnesota. And the region’s extensive mining history intrigued us both. So one Friday afternoon, we loaded up our bikes and headed north.


We stopped to pick up a few groceries before arriving in Biwabik to check in to the Villas at Giants Ridge. Stepping inside our cozy suite, we were immediately enveloped in its “up north” cabin style, admiring the spacious living room, full kitchen and dining area, plus the lovely river stone fireplace. Chris and I stepped out onto our private balcony to take in sparkling panoramas of Wynne Lake and the surrounding woods, alight with natural beauty.

Iron Range Minnesota scenery open mine pit lakeHitting the trail

After a relaxing evening, we arose early the next morning, excited to start our exploration of the Mesabi Trail. We’d arranged for the convenient shuttle service to carry us and our bikes to the town of Hibbing to begin our ride.


Our shuttle driver mentioned that the Hull Rust Mahoning Mine View is on the way to the trailhead, but it is temporarily closed for relocation. He recommended we come back in the summer of 2018 when it is scheduled to reopen. Known as the Grand Canyon of the North, the mine is more than eight miles long, 3.5 miles wide and 850 feet deep, making it one of the world’s largest open-pit mines. We knew it would be a must-see on our next trip.


We began our ride, traveling east along the asphalt-paved Mesabi Trail. It carried us over hills, around curves and through wooded areas that opened onto grassy meadows. We rolled past surprising manmade landscapes, too, such as an abandoned steam shovel surrounded by clumps of wildflowers and mountains of slag, lush with regrowth forest.


At one point, the trail rolled us right into the Minnesota Discovery Center parking lot. The massive museum complex is filled with artifacts and exhibits that tell the fascinating story of the Iron Range and its people.


We paused at the crown of a steep hill overlooking Chisholm, letting the soothing, late-spring breezes cool us. A bit beyond Buhl, we rode through a corridor of trees before passing a beautiful mine-pit lake. The surrounding red cliffs reflected off its turquoise waters like stripes of fire agate. We continued through Mountain Iron, home of Mesabi’s first mining operation in the late 19th century. By the time we arrived in The Queen City of Virginia (our final destination for the day), the hunger pangs had set in.


Savory smells wafting from the kitchen of The Shop Coffeehouse & 218 Taphouse made our stomachs growl even louder. After finding sustenance in the form of craft beers and a perfectly singed wood-fired pizza, we roamed the town’s eclectic mix of shops before taking the shuttle back to Giants Ridge for the night.

Virginia bridge overlook for pedestrians and bicyclers Rolling onward and upward

The next day, we took the shuttle back to Virginia to continue our ride, picking up the trail where we’d left off the previous day. The path led us along Highway 53 over Virginia Bridge, the tallest bridge in Minnesota. We stood 200 feet above Rocheleau Pit’s aquamarine waters, the 1,100-foot-long bridge affording us breathtaking views. My falcon-eyed husband pointed out a majestic peregrine falcon perched atop a red cliff in the distance.


In Gilbert, we took a southwest trail spur to Eveleth and Fayal Pond. The route spilled over with natural wonders as we passed crystal-clear Lake Ore-Be-Gone and wound among shimmering poplars and fragrant pine. Circling back, we rode on, finally returning to Giants Ridge.


We were exhilarated from our ride and not yet ready for our outdoor adventures to end. So, after a quick lunch, we decided to do some hiking. Giants Ridge offers four hiking trails that run through alpine landscapes and the untouched beauty of Superior National Forest. We chose the Northface trail, which brought us to the rocky crest of the Laurentian Divide. We soaked up stunning mountaintop vistas overlooking glittering Wynne and Sabin lakes. We descended via the Sleeping Giant Trail, which led us directly to the Burnt Onion Kitchen & Brews.

scenic outdoor dining on the minnesota iron rangeDinner is served

Diners may sit inside the restaurant’s charming chalet setting or outside on the deck. We opted for the latter, so we could enjoy more of the gorgeous alpine scenery. Chris and I sipped glasses of Cabernet while looking over the menu, and when we saw the first item listed under “Starters,” our eyes met in unspoken agreement. We love Brie! Served with crostini, it came topped with raspberry preserves and toasted almonds.


For dinner, I chose a salad made with grilled pear, caramelized pecans and blue cheese, drizzled with honey white balsamic vinaigrette. Chris ordered the signature Burnt Onion Soup, topped with caramelized onions and melted Swiss and provolone cheeses, followed by a Cuban panini stuffed with pulled pork, smoked ham, Swiss and spicy pickles.


As we relaxed over coffee after dinner, Chris flashed a very satisfied smile at me from across the table. I knew exactly what he was thinking. Even with the build-up from our friends, this trip had been beyond our expectations. Cycling and hiking through the Iron Range’s gorgeous scenery had been fantastic, but the added element of an up-close look at the region’s mining heritage had really pushed the whole experience over the top, creating a truly memorable, one-of-a-kind vacation.


Plan an unforgettable trip to Minnesota’s Iron Range.

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10 Ways to Make Winter Wonderful

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Most magical Mesabi beaches

The Mesabi has great lakes, tons of campgrounds, and some pretty awesome beaches, you just have to know where to look. Which one is your fav?

Stubler Beach

Stubler Beach in Buhl

Stubler Beach: This spring-fed mine lake* is a beauty! Right on the Mesabi Trail, it’s the perfect swimming hole for cooling off. Located in Buhl, this beach is clean, sandy and comes with changing rooms, a pavilion and a great view.


Birch Cove Beach: On scenic Colby Lake in Hoyt Lakes, this beach is equipped with a picnic area, boat launch, playgrounds and a lifeguard on duty daily, mid-June through mid-August.


Carey Lake: Beach with changing house, pavilion, picnic areas, fishing pier and awesome trails. Find this little gem in Hibbing just a few miles off Highway 169.


Vermilion Trail Campground Beach: The lifeguard is on duty at this lovely beach on Embarrass Lake in Biwabik. Rent canoes and kayaks from the campground hosts to experience even more of this charming lake visible on Hwy 135 near the entrance to Giants Ridge.


West Two Rivers: Mountain Iron is home to this reservoir that once was a water source for Minntac but has been reclaimed as a recreation area with campgrounds, playgrounds, pavilion, boat launch, beach, ball field and disc golf course.


Lake Ore-Be-Gone: Take a dip in the clear mine lake waters of Lake-Ore-Be-Gone in Gilbert. Enjoy the beach, boat launch, and bicycle trails, all onsite along with Sherwood Forest Campground. These waters are so clear, the lake is popular with scuba divers.


Veteran’s Park and Campground: On Ely Lake, just off Highway 53 in Eveleth, find this scenic lake with beach, picnic area, campsites, playground and pavilion.


Get more info on camping and things to do at! 



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Top Ten End-of-Summer Mesabi Events

Long year sunset - distant 15 (1280x853)

Soak up all the sun and fun you can this summer with the top 10 most magical Mesabi events in August:


#10. Movies in the Park On August 26, Veteran’s Park in Eveleth hosts movie night under the stars. You can’t do this in January! Bring a chair for a showing of “Minions” Concessions for sale one site.


#9. Rampage at the Ridge Best extreme 5K obstacle course in the state, for the best cause. Help area veterans programs when you get down, get dirty, and work together at this fun event August 20. Pre-party August 19.


#8. The Dirty Ores Roller derby mayhem and madness at its finest, in the majestic Hippodrome arena in Eveleth August 13.


#7. Merritt Days Mountain Iron is full of fun and music during this four-day event August 10-13 commemorating the founding of the town and the first Mesabi mine by none other than The Merritt Brothers.


#6. Fuzzy Dice Cruise and Car Show Downtown Virginia turns into a car lot for the classiest of machines during this Dream Machines Car Club car show and swap meet August 20.


#5. Doc “Moonlight” Graham Days August 10-14 the city of Chisholm is abuzz with activities including a fishing contest, live music all over the place, and a parade in honor of Field of Dreams character and native son, Doc Graham.


#4. Music in the Park Not to be confused with the Minions at #10. This is toe-tappin music by the Singing Slovenes in Biwabik’s City Park August 11.


#3. Iron Pour That’s right: make a mold, watch molten iron be poured into it, then break it open the next day. Very cool. And hot. At Minnesota Museum of Mining August 27.


#2. Great River Energy Mesabi Trail Tour Don’t worry! Hard core cycling skills not necessary! Totally family-friendly, lots of volunteers, food, drink, music and fun, all on the state’s best bicycle trail August 6.


#1. The County Fairs That’s right, on the Mesabi, we have three. Count ’em, THREE. The biggie is “the” St. Louis County Fair in Chisholm August 10-14, then there’s the homestyle Central St. Louis County Fair in Meadowlands August 19-21, and the ever-so-quirky-and-not-exactly-a-county-fair-but-still-awesome Embarrass Region Fair up in the woods, people, August 26-28. Fair food, animals, mud runs, horse shows, fair food, music, rides, contests, fair food. And more.  HIT THEM ALL. I say again, hit them all. Come February, you won’t regret it!


Still want more Awesome August events. Click right here.


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