Explore the Iron Range Quad Cities!
Taking their designation from mining history, these four Range cities (Virginia, Eveleth, Gilbert, and Mountain Iron) were all founded in the 1890s and early 1900s.
The Mesabi Range mining industry shaped and spurred the growth of these four cities. You can explore these areas today and experience the history, as well as the natural beauty, of our area!
The Queen City of Virginia sits at the intersection of Highways 53 and 169; a retail and entertainment hub, with a variety of shopping and dining options, great outdoor recreation trails, and a great municipal golf course. Learn about this city’s logging and lumbering history at the Heritage Museum near historic Olcott Park and the Olcott Park Greenhouse. Virginia’s main drag is home to the Lyric Center for the Arts, a former opera house being lovingly restored to showcase area art and artists of all stripes. Queen City is home to the state’s tallest bridge that spans Rouchleau Mine Pit near the town’s entrance, and the world’s largest floating loon, on Silver Lake!
Virginia is a hoppin’ place in the summer. Some say 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. Virginia regularly hosts musical performances in the park, such as the The Bridge City Music Festival, a free concert featuring Christian bands. Mesabi Outdoors Adventures has hosted regular weekly bike rides. Check out Virginia Square Market for home grown and home made food and products. Veteran’s Park is the location of a stunning sculpture dedicated to all who served our nation.
Eveleth is the home of hockey, home to the country’s largest hockey stick right in the middle of downtown, and home to the US Hockey Hall of Fame Museum along Hwy 53. This mecca to the sport is a must-see for all visitors, hockey fans or not! Also not-to-be-missed is Eveleth’s legendary Fourth of July celebration, the tallest man made point in the area, Leonidas Overlook, and, for campers, Veteran’s Park Campground with swimming beach, fishing areas and wooded slots. The Mesabi Trail connects the city with the campground.
Check out the Thunder Over Eveleth Fourth of July celebration, long championed by local businesses. View the mural celebrating “A Proud Past, A Brighter Future,” The Eveleth Elks host an annual car show and corn feed that packs the town. Eveleth Police Chief Tim Koivunen helped lead an effort to make the town ATV-friendly, including a stellar sign project that shows ATVs how to navigate the city, and promotes businesses and points of interest at the same time. Make a plan to visit the restored Eveleth Auditorium. With full-on city support, the circa 1912 building underwent a transformation, starting in 2012, and is now a wonderful community gathering place. The Eveleth Heritage Society is a driving force in curating and celebrating Eveleth history.
Site of a scuba hot-spot in the clear-watered Lake Ore-Be-Gone, the city of Gilbert has another claim to fame at the edge-of-town Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area (AKA The OHV Park). This is a riders’ paradise for ATVs, Jeeps and OHMs, with scramble areas, mud pits, and trails of all difficulty levels. The Mesabi Trail runs alongside the reclaimed mine lake and the popular Sherwood Forest Campground, headquarters for the annual ScubaPalooza and Ride for a Cure Jeep event. A number of great restaurants and bars line the main drag of Gilbert, including the famous Whistling Bird. Don’t miss the huge July 4th parade, one of the best on the Range.
Mountain Iron is the birthplace of the Mesabi Iron Range iron ore industry, thanks to the Merritt family, who discovered and developed the Mesabi Iron range in the 1890s. Today, Mountain Iron flourishes with retail and new housing. West Two Rivers Campground is a municipal site with a beach, fishing docks, playground, pavilion and disc golf course. Celebrate this city’s achievements at the annual Merritt Days celebration, held every August, with fun, games and music for everyone.
Mountain Iron also hosts an annual Pasty Festival planned for October 3, 2020. The Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability partners with local farmers to bake nearly 1,000 pasties out of entirely locally-grown ingredients, from the potatoes to the beef to the lard in the crust. A simple coleslaw made with locally-grown cabbage, carrots and red onions finishes the meal. The pasty has its origins in England, where Cornish tin miners brought folded pockets of meat and vegetables to the underground mines for their lunch. In the 1800s, the pasty tradition jumped the Atlantic Ocean and landed in the copper mines of Upper Michigan, and from there to the iron ore mines of northern Minnesota, where they remain a common and comforting ethnic delicacy. At the Pasty Festival, festival-goers visit the souvenir photo booth to pose with antique miners’ helmets, lunch pails, and pickaxes.