Grand Marais, Minnesota

Grand Marais Harbor with a hint of the northern lights on the right.
Grand Marais Harbor with a hint of the northern lights on the right.

Grand Marais, Minnesota ended up being the town where we spent the most time while we were in Minnesota, so I can’t leave Minnesota without telling you about it and showing you some pictures.

Lighthouse at Grand Marais
Lighthouse at Grand Marais

Grand Marais is the county seat of Cook County and is the largest town and sole municipality in this very large county.  Cook County School is the only public school in Cook County and the school buildings are in Grand Marais, which means that most of the kids ride the bus for at least two hours every day.  Parents joke that, once the kids get in school, they don’t have to worry about child care anymore.  Despite being the only school, a graduating class for Cook County is less than 50 students.

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Banner proclaiming “Coolest small town”

Although it only has 1,400 year-round residents, Grand Marais is a lively town, especially in the summer. Budget Travel Magazine chose Grand Marais as the “Coolest Small Town in America” in 2015 and there is a banner over downtown proudly proclaiming this fact.  Lake Superior Magazine also chose Grand Marais as the “Best Weekend Destination” in 2015.

There is always plenty going on in Grand Marais.  I wrote about the Fisherman’s Picnic which is the biggest annual event.  There is a Performing Arts Center which seats about 300.  We went there for two concerts (tomorrow’s post) and both of them were full.  There are lots of little shops:  most of them typical of a tourist town in the summer, but also several art galleries, a wonderful yarn shop, a grocery co-op (the only place in town to get good produce), and quirky craft shops of different kinds.

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Giant fish coming out of the facade of the store

You can find pretty much anything you need in Grand Marais, as long as you aren’t too picky.  There is an appliance shop, a hardware store that has one of everything, two small grocery stores, a Ben Franklin, and an auto parts shop.  Dairy Queen and Subway are the only “chain” restaurants but there are plenty of good places to eat with their own specialties and decor.  We had donuts at World’s Best Donuts, ate at Java Moose and My Sister’s Place.  Other people recommended The Angry Trout Cafe and the Dockside Fish Market.  Johnny’s favorite place was Hughie’s Taco House and he ate there as often as possible.

random 039One of the big draws in Grand Marais is the North House Folk School.  North House was established in 1997 to provide opportunities for lifelong learning in an non-competitive environment.  During the summer they offer hundreds of classes that combine the cultural history of the people of northern Minnesota with mediums for creative experiences.  There were classes on bread-making (always full), blacksmithing, basketry, boatbuilding, fiber arts, and ecology.  The classes continue through the year, giving locals a chance to get out and learn something new and giving tourists another reason to visit the North Shore out of season.

About half of the full-time rangers at Grand Portage live in Grand Marais, even though it is 36 miles from Grand Portage.  The Grand Portage Tribal Council arranges for a bus during the week, allowing people to commute.  With all there is to do year-round in Grand Marais, I understand why the rangers choose to live in Grand Marais.  It is a wonderful place to live and to visit.

You can see part of the town here
The harbor on a foggy day
Variety of food
Our pharmacy
Inside the pharmacy – unique decorations
North House Folk School Bookstore
A couple of classes
Dockside fish market
The schooner Hjordis
Other boats in the marina
Picturesque buildings of the folk school
The hardware store
Harbor House Grille
Parked on the side of the road