Your family vacation is one of the best parts of summer. You get a chance to bond with your kids and experience travel through their eyes. If your family is like mine, you’re on a budget and appreciate the free and fun stops along the journey. Here are a few that I’ve found while traveling northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. I know you’ll love a Minnesota family vacation!

family-vacation-mineview-in-the-skyMineview in the Sky

We always feel that we’ve arrived on the Range when we drive by the big dump truck up on the hill at the south entrance to Virginia. But Mineview in the Sky is much more than a welcome sign; it’s a beautiful overlook, a clean rest stop, and a place to let the kids play after a long car ride. You get all this for free. Mineview was built as a place where mine foreman could observe mining operations. Today you get a great view of city, mines, and forest, along with the wind turbines on the other side of ridge.

The top of the overlook has an information center with nice restrooms and a gift shop. Outside there’s a picnic area, playground, and King of the Lode. That’s right – the big truck has a name. The massive truck is the perfect place for a family photo, but you’ll probably just get one tire in the frame.

Lake Leander

Looking for an afternoon on the lake without a paying for a boat or a cabin? Head to Lake Leander in the Superior National Forest. Lake Leander is a short drive from Virginia and has just what you need to enjoy time in the North Woods. Wind swept red pines, scattered through the picnic grounds and surrounding the lakefront, fill the air with their fresh scent.

The kids love the sandy beach with designated swim area and adjacent playground. If you’d like a little more seclusion choose a picnic table off the beach and in the pines. You can imagine you’re at your own lake place as you walk down to the water. Amenities include grills, a picnic shelter with changing rooms and rustic (but clean) toilets. Camping isn’t allowed.

Independence Day Celebrations

Another fun and free way to experience the Iron Range is to take in an Independence Day celebration. Depending on what town you’re in, the festivities start July 2 and run through the 4th. Expect parades with candy and other freebies for the kids, school carnival style kid games, and of course fireworks. Bring a blanket and bug spray as you enjoy one of life’s pleasures with your family.

If you are interested in attending Iron Range Fourth of July activities or any other summer events, please visit our Event Calendar.