Free things to do on the North Shore
If you're looking for an afternoon or a whole week filled with fun on a budget, you'll want to be sure to check out our list of Free Things To Do on the North Shore below: Here are a few things we recommend doing:
1. Look for Agates. Search the shores of Lake Superior (or gravel roads – but that doesn't sound as magical, does it?) for agates. Agates are banded ornamental stones typically associated with volcanic rock. Lake Superior Agates, unlike other types of agates, have unique red bands that were formed from the oxidation of iron.
2. Hike the Superior Hiking Trail. The trail is rated as one of the best hiking trails in the United States and one of the top 10 in the world. In Minnesota, 224 miles of the trail cover rugged and scenic terrain, so no matter where you stay, you’re sure to find a section of the trail nearby.
3. Visit a new waterfall. Waterfalls line the North Shore, so opportunities to view a new waterfall are nearly endless. Visiting falls is best in April and May when phantom falls are created by water falling from the cliffs along Highway 61 and when major waterfalls are more powerful than ever. Find a checklist of North Shore waterfalls here.
4. Attend a naturalist program. Sugar Loaf Cove Nature Center and other area centers and organizations offer free programs and activities on a regular basis. Programs vary in topic and location but usually appeal to people of all ages. Past subjects have included nature journaling, outdoor photography, bird banding, and local geology. Find an event calendar to the Sugar Loaf Cove Nature Center here.
5. Swim at a nearby lake or river pool. Although Lake Superior is too chilly for many to swim, it’s easy to find an inland lake or river to splash around in on a hot summer day.
6. Watch the sun set or rise: Watch the sunrise, sunset, or both!
7. Listen to live music: Many restaurants have live music on a daily basis. Some hot spots include Castle Danger Brewery (Two Harbors), Bluefin Grille (Tofte), Papa Charlie’s Saloon & Grill (Lutsen), Cascade Restaurant & Pub (Lutsen), Voyager Brewing (Grand Marais), Wunderbar (Grand Marias), The Gunflint Tavern (Grand Marais).
8. Gaze at the stars: With little to no light pollution in northeast Minnesota, it’s easy to spot a few constellations. Make an event of it by grabbing a blanket, a book of constellations from your local library (optional), and head to a clearing.
9. Birdwatching/wildlife viewing: Since Lake Superior is such a large lake and many birds will not fly over it, the North Shore becomes a funnel for many rare birds. Find a variety of birds in marshes, forested areas, near cliffs and along the shore of Lake Superior.
10. Visit a library: Find a local library to read a book or enjoy a program (music, weekly story time, etc). This makes a great rainy day activity for people of all ages.
11. Go for a walk. Put on some comfy shoes and walk (or skip, or do cartwheels) along the Gitchi-Gami State Trail (or along any other public trail nearby). This paved trail runs along much of the Lake Superior shore and takes hikers (and bikers) to some beautiful vistas.
12. Visit a local farm or craft market. During the summer months, various markets can be found in many North Shore communities including Grand Marias (Municipal Parking Lot, 10 N. Broadway Ave), Two Harbors (Thomas Owens Park) and Duluth (1324 East Third Street).