Biking Minnesota’s Mesabi Range

When my husband, Jeff, retired from the Army at age 54, I knew the road ahead would be challenging. What I didn’t know was that literal roads would end up making our relationship stronger than ever.


When Jeff left his Army career, he was determined to keep busy in the garage and workshop of our Minneapolis, Minnesota home. Working on classic cars, building furniture, tinkering. This didn’t last.


He took up fishing. He gave up fishing.


He golfed, but that only works six months of the year.


Meanwhile, I was still working full time as a nurse, and he was driving me crazy.


Then one evening he came home from the Maple Grove VFW and said he had bought a bike.


I thought, “That’s odd, but good for him. It will be good exercise.”


Then he started talking about the trips we’d take (he had his eye on some routes “up north”) and the places we’d go.


I protested “Whoa, whoa. It’s fine if you want to bike around the state, but I’m not sure I’m ready to give up my weekends to pedal across Minnesota!”


He laughed.


Turned out my loving husband had just purchased a Harley Davidson Road King.


Our lives were about to change.


Becoming a Biker Mama

Jeff immediately started motorcycle safety classes. He bought leathers. He bought bike accessories. He spent a small fortune, but he was smiling and excited for the first time in a long time.Clip #74 13311913


He started taking small road trips, and even though I worried about him on the busy freeways, I knew he was happy with his new hobby.


Then he invited me to go along.


And while I can’t say I loved it, I didn’t hate it. I was neutral, until he came up with a plan to ride for the weekend.


Magical Mesabi Makes Me Love Motorcycling

When my husband came to me with his idea to visit the Mesabi Iron Range for a long weekend on the motorcycle, I was skeptical. But when I found out how much planning he had done, requesting maps from the Iron Range Tourism Bureau  and checking out lodging specials in that beautiful area of northern Minnesota, I was hooked on the idea.


It didn’t hurt that the weather was turning cooler, and I knew we’d be in for some spectacular fall colors along the way.


The Road Trip: Day 1

We left on a Friday morning and took our time getting there, taking I-35 to Hwy 53 on the Mesabi Iron Range. It was only a 3.5-hour ride, and with a couple stops along the way, I was comfortable as could be.


A big Bob Dylan fan, Jeff wanted to make Hibbing our first stop. Dylan grew up there, and Jeff wanted to drive by the musician’s childhood home, Our second stop was Hibbing High School, where Bob Dylan was kicked off the stage by the principal during a talent contest. Our tour guide  did an amazing job leading us through the school, an incredible building that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and boasts crystal chandeliers, imported marble floors, and valuable murals throughout.  Fans of architecture (and Bob Dylan!) will love this stop.

Hull Rust 2012

While in Hibbing, we made our way to Hull Rust Mine View, and incredible overlook of Hibbing Taconite, an active iron mine that has been producing ore for more than 125 years.


I must admit, this wouldn’t have been my top pick of places to visit, at least not until I had been there. The amazing landscape was impressive on many levels, and the friendly volunteers at the visitor center were full of information and stories.


By now, we’d eaten up most of the afternoon, and it was time to grab a bite. We stopped at Valentini’s Supper Club, an Italian place just five miles from Hibbing, where the rigatoni with meatballs was delish! From there, we headed to the Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Mountain Iron, where we could park our motorcycle under a covered awning, and they even provided a kickstand puck for free!


The Road King (and Queen): Day 2

The next day we hit the road early (I’ll tell you, a good long soak in the hotel hot tub the night before felt great!), and followed the Skibo Vista with Motorcyclerecommendation of the Mesabi Ride Guide for a 155-mile loop around the region. From Virginia we headed west on Hwy 135, passing through the small towns of Gilbert, Biwabik, Aurora and Hoyt Lakes, before joining Forest Highway 11/the Superior National Forest Scenic Byway. Not far outside of Hoyt Lakes, we stopped at Skibo Vista, a former fire tower lookout with an amazing view of the forest and fall colors galore.


From there, we continued on the byway until it met Highway 2, which leads deep into the Superior National Forest (no place to stop and get gas here!), reaching the curvy and fun-to-ride  Hwy 1 outside of Ely well before noon. We made sure to visit the International Wolf Center, a fantastic museum where we saw exhibits and live wolves, before breaking for lunch at a restaurant on Ely’s busy main street.


We followed Hwy 169 east out of Ely, and stopped at Soudan Underground Mine State Park for a 90-minute tour ¼-mile underground. Jeff was fascinated by this tour, led by a wonderful guide who seemed to know everything there is to know about the state’s last underground mine, now open weekends after Labor Day into October.


Just outside of Soudan, we hopped on Hwy 135 in Tower, taking this gently winding, pine tree-lined route back Aurora and Eveleth, which we heard was the birthplace of Minnesota hockey. As a Minnesota Wild fan, Jeff wanted to see the US Hockey Hall of Fame Museum, open Friday-Sunday after Labor Day. Even though I don’t follow hockey, this museum, a mecca of all things hockey, impressed me!


Jeff back to the hotel to freshen up, and we headed back to Eveleth for dinner and drinks at BoomTown Woodfire Grill. I recommend the prime rib!


The Adventure Continues: Day 3

On Sunday, we took the Ride Guide’s “Mines and Pines” tour up Hwy 5 through McCarthy Beach State Park and the Sturgeon River State Forest. Lunch was in Virginia at a great restaurant and market run by a local farming family called Kunnari’s Kitchen (order the soup!). From there we followed the Superior National Forest Scenic Byway again, this time all the way to Lake Superior.


STAY(640x427)The awesome view of the lake was thrilling. We stopped at Split Rock Lighthouse in Two Harbors for a tour, and then found our way back to Biwabik and Giants Ridge Recreation Area where we stayed onsite at the resort Villas where we could relax in a condo-style lodging with a  kitchen, fireplace and hot tub. The lakeside view was wonderful, and the Caribbean-style restaurant, The Whistling Bird in nearby Gilbert, was amazing!


A glass of wine in the hot tub on the deck of our Villa, under the stars, was a romantic way to end the day. The hour or so we took the following morning to walk the paved Mesabi Trail across the Embarrass River was a great way to counteract all that “seat time” from the past two days!


With two great golf courses  on site, plus bicycles and kayaks to rent, and trails to hike, we could have easily stayed another day, but it was time to head for home.


We departed early in the afternoon, one of us extremely proud of himself and his new found trip-planning abilities, and the other one a converted fan of motorcycle travel!


Ready for some adventure? Get more information on magical Mesabi motorcycle rides, or call 800-777-8497.


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12 ways to make Mesabi magic this fall

This September, consider some ways you can celebrate the spirit of the Mesabi Iron Range. We all love our summertime fun, but fall brings some pretty amazing opportunities to explore, connect, and remember what makes Mesabi magic.


Mesabi Trail Bridge with canoe Paul Pluskwik

12. Rent a kayak or canoe at Vermilion Trail Campground in Biwabik, or bring your own, and put in on Embarrass Lake, or nearby Wynne and Sabin lakes at Giants Ridge. There is no destination: just paddle around and watch the waterfowl, the changing colors of the leaves, and the sun on the water.






11. Have a traditional Christmas treat early this year. Pick up a locally made potica (shame on you if you’ve never had one!), and enjoy!



10. Hockey fans, and non-hockey fans: get to the US Hockey Hall of Fame Museum now. You won’t be disappointed by this shrine to the sport. Open Friday-Sunday after Labor Day.



a2whitepinenorthern29. Do some stargazing. Seriously. Our skies are amazing. Look up!











8. The Wirtanen Farm Fall Festival is September 10. Carriage rides, music, artisans, crafters and food at an historic, lovingly restored farm. Can’t get enough of the pioneer spirit? Visit the Nelimark Homestead Museum in Embarrass, open Thursday-Saturday til September 24.




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7. Load up your machine and head to the Iron Range OHV Park in Gilbert. 36 miles of trails, plus areas where you can play like  you’ve never played before (legally). Hill climb for Jeepers and more. Open daily thru October.









6. Camp with the kids at an abandoned mine “location”! It’s all part of Night at the Museum at Minnesota Discovery Center Sept 23. Super cool. Super fun. Awesome awesome awesome.



5. Have you tried the best local, homemade ethnic sausage ever? Stop by Koshar’s Sausage Kitchen in Gilbert and pick some up!



4. See some mining at Hull Rust Mine View in Hibbing. Hibbing Taconite’s operations are *right* next to the viewing area. Say hey to the super volunteers and climb on the equipment daily through September.



Giants Ridge Fall Hike3. Hike the mountain at Giants Ridge. Download a map and get over there! Great views of fall color in the Superior National Forest.











2. Take a fall trolley ride. Again with the fall colors: beautiful, amazing, not-to-be-missed-again-this-year-because-you’re-“too busy.” You’re not! Get to Minnesota Discovery Center Thursdays or Saturdays by October 1.




  1. For the best fall color on the entire Iron Range, go to Skibo Vista just outside of Hoyt Lakes. From here, you’ll see 30 IRTB FALL DRONE of the Superior National Forest, faraway towns, minelands and more. It’s very cool, trust us. Makes a great stop when you’re getting in the last motorcycle rides of the year, or taking a jaunt to the North Shore.

Get more info on things to do on the Iron Range by calling 800-777-8497 or visiting 

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Ride the Range on two wheels or four

In a couple days, hundreds of Harleys will hit the streets of Iron Range communities as the Harley Owners Group Rally kicks off in Eveleth. Welcome, HOG riders!

Clip #74 13311913

A they cruise around using ride maps created by the local HOG members and Iron Range Tourism, they’ll be stopping to enjoy views like Hull Rust Mine, and Glen View from the trolley at  Minnesota Discovery Center.

Hull Rust 6.9.16

Hull Rust Mine View, Hibbing

They’ll be eating at local faves BoomTown, Kunnari’s, The Whistling Bird,  The Thirsty Moose, and The Sawmill.  Steak, anyone?

BoomTown Ribeye

BoomTown Ribeye ain’t for sissies

Yep, rain or shine, our bikers will be riding along Highways 169, 53, 37, and a bunch of county roads as they explore the region.

Minntac and Mountain Iron drone

Highway 169 passing Mountain Iron

Maybe some could even enjoy our local events, like the 100th Anniversary of the White bus that led the way for Greyhound – see the bus, some trains, and bunch of other stuff, plus sample some homemade pie – at the Minnesota Museum of Mining Saturday, June 25.


Wheels of a different kind @ MN Museum of Mining



HOG Rally guests at the Holiday Inn get a special welcome gift!

At the end of the day, HOG Rally riders will relax at places like the award-winning Super 8, the newly remodeled AmericInn Lodge and Suites, Pine View Motel, or the Holiday Inn Express and Suites.

It’s shaping up to be a great week, weather-wise. Here’s to our new friends on the Range, and safe riding for everyone!


Get maps and info to plan your Ride the Range vacation today. Questions? Call Beth 218-749-8161.


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My Magic Minnesota Vacation

Explore the Iron Range, Minnesota for an unforgettable getaway

By Elizabeth Welden,nature-loving blogger

History in the Making

Call me a nerd, but when I travel I like to learn along the way. Great scenery, food and recreation are important, of course, but I’m fascinated by the stories of a place.

Who are the people that live here? What is the history of this land? Why is this area special? I especially like to learn about a destination’s role in American history.

I was intrigued by northern Minnesota’s woods and water, but learning that this region has been mining iron ore for more than 100 years gave me pause. How does mining fit in with deep forests and even deeper lakes? I was about to find out on two wheels.

The Range on Two Wheels

I’m a cyclist—not hard core, just a regular active gal who likes to do some biking—and I BlueBikeSquare (500x500)wanted to incorporate some paved trail riding into my trip. A few clicks on my keyboard led me to the Mesabi Trail. It’s 75 miles of paved trail that wind right through the heart of Minnesota mining country known as the Mesabi Iron Range.

I quickly found that bikes can be rented in the small town of Biwabik, home to an acclaimed golf and ski resort, Giants Ridge. A shuttle service based at the resort would drop me off/pick me up wherever and whenever I want. The service’s kind owner Chris Johnson even recommended itineraries complete with places to eat and stay. With this kind of help, this trip was going to be a walk—or a ride—in the park!

Mesabi is Magic

As I explored the Mesabi Trail website (a three-day Wheel Pass is only $5), I learned where BIKE-LAKE-PINES Brand© (2) (640x426)this rather odd word, “Mesabi” comes from. It has to do with a Native American legend about a giant, named Mesabi, who ruled the northern lands, gathering and hiding its treasures, and not allowing any human to enter. At the end of his days, he laid upon the earth, covering his collection of valuables, and became part of the land. Since then, the people of the region have enjoyed Mesabi’s wealth: lakes, forests, wildlife and even the iron ore that has been mined in this area for more than 100 years. With that magical story on my mind, I planned my route.

I began my journey with a relaxing stay at a B&B on the west end of the Mesabi, in the HibbingMineViewregion’s largest small town, Hibbing. Pam, the owner of the Mitchell-Tappan House, a cheerful five-bedroom historic home, served coffee, fruit and raspberry-caramel muffins from the iconic Sunrise Bakery just down the street, and got me in the mood to move.

I pedaled two miles to the Hull Rust Mahoning Mine View, a sweeping overlook of the canyon-like mine where two-story trucks tool around like giant Tonka toys. The mines of this area provided the raw material for the steel used to win both the world wars, and build 80% of the bridges and buildings in this country during the first half of the 1900s. Whoa.

After more than 100 years in operation, this mine presents an incredible sight—one that had me worried the landscape is more industrial than serene. I shouldn’t have been concerned. After a stroll through the nearby Greyhound Bus Origin Museum, housing a virtual treasure trove of artifacts chronicling the life of the world’s best-known bus company, I hit the trail and was quickly surrounded by trees as I wound my way eastward.

Into and Out of the Woods

Aspen, birch and a variety of evergreen trees line the seven miles of Mesabi Trail between Hibbing and my next destination, Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm.

I spotted whitetail deer bounding into the woods near a creek crossing. Shortly after, I was compelled to pull over and enjoy the view of a secluded lake. Pam informed me before I left that this is actually a “mine lake,” former minelands now filled with glacial springwater and surrounded by trees.

Museum EntranceContinuing on my ride, I soon arrived at Minnesota Discovery Center, “The Museum of the Iron Range.” I explored exhibits dedicated to Native American heritage, as well as to the immigrant story of those who came to the region in the early 1900s. I was delighted to take a ride on a vintage electric trolley to a former mining community and explore the historic buildings and mining equipment there.

Around lunchtime, I rode into Chisholm with a growling tummy. Good thing Valentini’s Supper Club was waiting with homemade pasta and sugo. Along with a refreshing iced tea, it was just what I needed.

The next leg of my trip was about 20 miles, and took me through the small towns of Buhl and Kinney, right to the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Mountain Iron, where my car was waiting. Chris (of the shuttle service) would pick up the rental bike and I’d take some time to relax.

Queen City of the North

I headed into the nearby city of Virginia and stopped at the Heritage Museum, where the admission was free, but I felt the exhibits were worth a donation on my part.

Artifacts and images combined to illuminate the town’s storied past, particularly in logging, heritage museumwhile a new exhibit highlighted “The Women of the Iron Range.” The knowledgeable docent and I spent a pleasant hour chatting and indulging in our shared love of history. Just a few blocks away, I peeked into Irma’s Finland House, a Scandinavian gift store inspired by the region’s Finnish heritage. From there, it was a short drive to Natural Harvest Food Co-op on the edge of the small Silver Lake, where I made a note to stop back for picnic items tomorrow.

On the recommendations of everyone from the shuttle service provider to the hotel front desk, I stopped into Canelake’s Candies, an old-fashioned candy store on Virginia’s main street, where I sampled “hot air,” a dark chocolate-covered confection that’s crispy, light and sweet on the inside. I followed that up with coffee at the friendly and funky Shop Coffee House. Next, I was off to the US Hockey Hall of Fame Museum.

Hockeytown, USA

Eveleth, Minnesota, embraces hockey and the sport’s rich tradition in this region with the Hockey Hall of Fame Museum. You can explore professional exhibits, listen to game recordings, track the speed of your slapshot, and view the names of inductees. On Eveleth’s main drag, I snapped a selfie by the nation’s largest hockey stick.

After I’d had my fill of hockey, I hopped over to the unassuming Wandering Pines restaurant, where I was told I could find a local specialty, porketta sandwich, made of pork shredded from a highly seasoned roast. Think fennel and oregano with plenty of other spices thrown in. The sandwich, served with sweet potato fries and coleslaw, was delicious.

More to Explore

My Mesabi vacation was far from over. Day two started with a fresh pastry and coffee from Kunnari’s Kitchen and Farm Market in Virginia, then on to Giants Ridge, a golf and ski resort with kayak rentals and multiple scenic lakes. I would pack a picnic lunch and climb the hiking trails on the back side of the ski mountain to a scenic peak, and finish my day with a massage at the Laurentian Spa onsite, before heading to Green Gate Guest Houses forCottage my overnight in the luxury “barn home,” one of three gorgeous buildings lovingly refurbished by owner Shawn Callahan. A glass of wine by the outdoor fire pit was a treat before I dropped off to sleep in a cozy room under the stars of Magical Mesabi.

With easy access to the north shore of Lake Superior via the Superior National Forest Scenic Byway, or Duluth via Hwy 53, and just three hours north of Minneapolis, the Mesabi Iron Range offered a great combination of history, mystery and classic outdoor recreation. With no shortage of trails, great places to eat, and interesting places to stay, “Mesabi Magic” will be with me for a while!

To plan your own trip, visit or call 800-777-8497 for great ideas on where to stay and what to do!

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Iron Range Food Tour

PicMonkey Food Collage (1024x256)

Venture north to Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range and you’ll find 75 miles of paved cycling trails, 60 miles of hiking trails, many small, friendly lakes, and one-of-a-kind attractions that explore the region’s history and mystery. The must-see list is long, but wherever the trails take you – into the woods, onto the course, or into the water – you’ll need to refuel! Try these regional specialties that hearken back to the early 1900s when many nationalities came to the region to work in the burgeoning iron ore mines. One serving of these comfort foods will make you feel strong like a miner, and give you a taste of some Mesabi magic.


They are (in no particular order):


1. Porketta – If you eat meat, you’ll be ordering these delicious roasts online for the rest of your life, or making a special trip north to buy them in our grocery stores. A rolled Italian pork roast covered with fennel, oregano, garlic and other spices, this slow-cooked nom-nom perfect for hard roll sammies. The drippings are great for dipping or gravy-making, but the porketta’s most common iteration is shredded on a bun and served at just about any family gathering, any time of year. Try a porketta sandwich at The Wandering Pines restaurant in Gilbert, or buy one from Sunrise Deli or Fraboni’s in Hibbing, or just about any grocery on the Range. The also-popular “turketta” (take a guess) can also be found in stores.


2. Sarma – These delightful little Serbian “pigs in a blanket” can be made a variety of ways, but I’ll describe the way I know. The filling is a large handful of seasoned ground pork and beef (ground ham or even veal is not-entirely-uncommon), mixed with rice. Wrapped in a leaf of sour head cabbage (basically, cabbage that’s been frozen, at least that’s the technique I learned), they’re cooked in a casserole dish or even stacked in a roasting pan and covered with sauerkraut and lightly seasoned tomato juice/sauce. Some make this without tomato – maybe purists or something – but I like the saucier version. So yummy. Serve with crusty bread. Buy these from the Hibbing Tourist Center Seniors (218-262-4166) or Sunrise Deli, also in Hibbing (218-263-5713).


3. Potica – Pronounced Po-teet-suh. Also pronounced delicious by, like, everyone. This pastry hails from eastern Europe – Slovenians, Slovakians, Croatians et al serve some equally yummy version of this. My favorite has paper thin bread layers, a process that involves stretching the sweet dough to the size of a large dining room table. Others like a thicker dough layer. Either way, the filling of finely chopped walnuts (or pecans, sometimes with apples or even raisins) mixed with a sweetener – sugar or honey – and cinnamon, among other things, is spread onto the dough and rolled, cut and baked into a cherished holiday treat the size of a loaf of bread. Some like it served warm with butter, but honestly, the nut filling is rich enough that potica is fab cold, too. Purchase at Italian Bakery in Virginia, Andres European Pastry in Chisholm, and Sunrise Bakery in Hibbing.


4. Pasty. Pronounced past-ee, this meat pie carries its heat and shape, and thus made it a lunchtime staple among the working men of the mines back in the day. Many still adore this dish today, and pasties are monthly money-making, mass-production projects for a solid number of church groups across the Range. Basically, root veg like potatoes, carrots and rutabaga (this last ingredient is controversial. I’m going to go pro-“root-a-baggy”), and onions, and seasoned with S&P and mixed with ground beef and/or pork. The crust MUST BE made using lard. Roll the dough, put the filling in, and fold the dough, crimping the edge. Bake and voila: your pasty. Serve with butter, gravy, ketchup or all three. These hearty little guys are a meal of their own. Can be purchased frozen at Sunrise Bakery in Hibbing. Groups get a kick out of the “pasty in a pail” miners’ lunch experience at Minnesota Discovery Center.


There you have it, four of our favorites. Find them during your next visit to the Mesabi. Questions? 218-749-8161.

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Spring a ding-ding: events & activities to get you back outside #MesabiIsMagic

Longer days are here, and spring is right around the corner on the Mesabi Iron Range. If you’ve been hibernating, it’s time to get out and move!

Head onto the ice for crappies on our smaller, and easy-to-get-to lakes, or go on up to Giants Ridge fice fishior the best spring skiing in the Midwest!

It’s not too late to take a guided snowshoe hike at Minnesota Discovery Center. Stop by Thursdays (free admission, you only pay for snowshoe rental), Tuesdays, or Saturdays.

There are plenty of hiking trails to explore on your own, plus a variety of fat bike routes you’ll dig – find a few of each at Giants Ridge, or look for wooded trails in Hibbing, Hoyt Lakes, and in virtually every community the Mesabi Trail passes through.  Fat bike pix

If the wilderness ain’t your thing, these March events will help you get through the transition from winter to summer in the company of others:

Artisan Market: Crafts to Crops at  Minnesota Discovery Center Saturday, March 12.

Green Envy at the Olcott Greenhouse in Virginia, 3-7 p.m. March 19. Celebrate the spring equinox surrounded by food, wine and exotic plants.

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Giants Ridge Spring Carnival and Slush Cup, March 19. Dress for the beach and get ready to party. Food, drink, music and fun.

Mighty Mutts Beer and Wing Tasting, March 30, 5-7:30 @ Hibbing Armory. Sample them all and vote for your favorite. Proceeds benefit area animal shelters.

Iron Range Home, Sport & Travel Show at Miners Memorial Building, Virginia March 31-April 3. Free admission!

Got an event or activity to share? Email!

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5 Tips for Making the Most of Giants Ridge

Giants Ridge is a winter hot spot near Biwabik on the magical Minnesota Mesabi Iron Range,  with alpine and nordic skiing, fat bike trails, snowmobile trails, an ice bar, onsite and offsite lodging and a bunch of other cool stuff. Here’s what you need to know to enjoy whatever it is you want to do, and then some #MesabiIsMagic:

  1. Check the Calendar: You might love seeing 20 high school nordic teams compete in between your downhill runs. Then again, you might not. Giants  Ridge hosts tons of events, so check the calendar so you know what to expect.
  2. Don’t freak if onsite lodging is full. There are lots of hotels at all price points just a few minutes from the slopes. Book early, though, because many of our properties fill up with hockey teams this time of year!
  3. Check on lesson availability. Maybe you can stroll in (or send the kids in) for a ski or snowboard lesson at the last minute. Don’t count on it though. The instructors are fabulous and in demand!
  4. The Rental Shop staff knows some stuff. If you want to try fat biking, for example, but you’re not sure where to go, talk to the staff.  They can give you tips on how to take a short-and-easy route, or send you on a thigh-burning ride. If you’re into that. The Rental Shop will get you on the right path with the right gear.
  5. Think beyond the mountain. There’s a whole lot of stuff going on at the mountain, but there’s plenty to do offsite, too. Skate on an outdoor rink, visit a super cool museum, hear a local band, even sample some homemade candy. If you have a car, you have a whole lotta choices.

Wanna know more? Ask questions: #GiantFun

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February’s full of fun events

February is chock full of events on the Mesabi Range, from an ATV ride and the Sax-Zim Bog Birding Festival (Feb 12-14), to dinner and an interactive murder mystery at the Minnesota Discovery Center (Feb 20). There are events for everyone during this magic Mesabi month!


10 - 2 smiling girls (1280x812)See the Wolak and Donnelly Duo bring a clarinet and piano to their fabulous stage performance at Virginia High School Auditorium on February 1. On the 6-7, kids of all ages converge on the Loon Lake Town Hall for Laskianen, a Finnish sliding festival celebrated with food, drink, music and a great big slippery hill. In the evening, catch the Great Northern Radio Show at the nearby Aurora High School auditorium. Tickets are $10

Events indoors and out!

On Feb 13, visit Minnesota Discovery Center for a fun Family Discovery Day with fossils! Learn about the fossils recently uncovered at Hill Annex Mine near Coleraine and take part in polar-bear-ride-2016crafts and other activities. For a “motorized” adventure the same day, join Northern Traxx ATV club for their Polar Bear Ride on the new ATV trail north of Chisholm. Meet at Tom and Jerry’s at 10 a.m.

February 20, help solve a murder mystery when the game of Clue! comes to life at Minnesota Discovery Center. It’s a Clueseum event with full audience participation (plus dinner and drinks). Don’t miss this adult evening out.

Events to celebrate trails, wildlife and arts

snowmobileWinterVidAlso on the 20th, make a point to get out and ride your snowmobile! Celebrate 30 years of the mighty Taconite Trail, with specials at restaurants along the trail and a 10 a.m. ribbon cutting at various locations, complete with cocoa and cookies.

On the 21st, stop by the Sax-Zim Bog welcome center for a special program “Animal Adaptations,” and stick around for the northern owl program, including a caravan into the bog to search for owls!

Photo by Jason Mandich

Photo by Jason Mandich

February 27, take in (and maybe buy) the work of local artists at a Range of the Arts, held at Virginia’s Memorial Building.

See Scott Kirby: Main Street Souvenirs, a piano performance at the historic Hibbing High School auditorium on Feb 28.

Events that last the whole month long

All month, catch live music at 218 Taphouse and the Shop CoffeeHouse in Virginia. Great menu, plenty of craft beers and local musicians on stage.

SnowshoeingAnd every Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon, take a guided snowshoe hike at Minnesota Discovery Center. Admission is always always free Thursdays after 5, so you just pay for the snowshoe rental – or bring your own!


Call 800-777-8497.


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Taconite Trail Turns Thirty

Thirty years after its official completion, the Taconite Trail (connecting Grand Rapids to the Iron Range, to Ely) is still a favorite Minnesota trail among snowmobilers. Spanning 165 miles, the trail was one of the first of its kind, designed as a major artery in a system of smaller, spur-like trails. The Taconite helped jumpstart the popularity of snowmobile touring, and brought a new kind of tourist to the region.

Many Reasons to Love the Taconite

With scenery that ranges from rock outcroppings and varied elevations to towering pines and diverse forests, the Taconite Trail takes visitors into the heart of northern Minnesota landscapes. It even winds through parts of two state forests, Bear Head Lake and McCarthy Beach. Another plus: the Taconite Trail links to another artery trail, the Arrowhead, as well as to Iron Range towns including Hibbing, Chisholm, Virginia, Mountain Iron, Eveleth and Biwabik, where lodging and dining await.

A Trail for All Seasons?

Much beloved as a  snowmobile trail, and built for that purpose, the Taconite Trail is open to summer use by hikers and horseback riders. Some portions of the trail cross swamps, however, and anyone who uses the trail when the ground is not frozen should check with the DNR regarding trail conditions. Get trail maps here, and trail conditions here.



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Low snow? Go birding in The Bog!

Birding? It’s one of our favorite winter pastimes. Of course, the Mesabi Iron Range is known for thousands of miles of  immaculate snowmobile trails, excellent Nordic skiing and  great family alpine skiing at Giants Ridge. But when winter won’t produce snow for our trails, we know we can still make for the woods. Snowshoeing, fat biking and plain old hiking are great ways to experience nature in the winter, but what do you know about birding? It’s possible to scout out some of North America’s favorite winter birds by car, in one of the best birding bogs around.

Birding is the best!

Sax-Zim Bog in the Meadowlands, Cotton and  Toivola area, is world renown as a birding destination. The unique ecosystem, along with friendly feeders, attracts a variety of bird life, from northern hawk owls, great grey owls, snowy owls and spruce grouse, to boreal chickadees and grey jays. In fact, winter – December through March – is the BEST time to go birding (no mosquitoes, for one thing!).

A warm welcome awaits

A new welcome center is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, with sightings of all manner of birds and even wilder creatures! Warm up, speak with knowledgeable volunteers, or just take in the beautiful scenery. If you’re up for it, join a birding nature hike or educational program, happening throughout the season. See more events in the bog here, or  View or download a map of the bog here. You’ll find out where the feeders are and how to explore the bog from the warmth of your car. Reach the bog from Highway 53 by heading west on Arkola Road in Cotton. Call or email the Iron Range Tourism for trip ideas: 800-777-8497 or

Photo by Jason Mandich

Photo by Jason Mandich


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