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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ironrange.org.
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 www.ironrange.org for more information.