When you think of Minnesota most people have no clue where it is, Fargo might pop in your mind, Canada, or insane winters? When I meet someone from a different country visiting or living I always ask them why? Because I am from here, what’s so great about Minnesota besides there is no tax on clothes?!? My year back I learned what was so great about Minnesota and I found it up North.
Growing up I’d spend one weekend a month up in Duluth and during the summer more weekends and weeks up there. Because that’s where my mom’s from, where my mumu lived. Anyway, what’s so great about Up North; well, it should be the place you travel to, either if you’re from Minnesota, a different state, or across the ocean.
Last year was my first time driving past Duluth. Behind the iron country, factories, shipping yards, and railroad cars there is a wide space of waterfalls, fresh air, and friendly neighborhood faces. On our way up to Grand Maria, we stopped in a local grandma style pie shop. You knew we were out of place, not only in how we looked and dressed but even in the way we talked; but they sat us down, and the waitress was super friendly, striking up a conversation, asking where we were from, welcoming us and seeing us off with a slice of pie!
Minnesota is called Minnesota nice, and it really is us being passive aggressive. Yet, we are still super friendly to strangers and people around us, especially when you go outside the city. You wouldn’t expect this in a rural area, but yard signs were saying happy Ramadan to our neighbors as we drove by. Up north may be in the middle of nowhere, and just got access to the internet a few years ago, with no Target or Starbucks in miles. However, it’s thriving in everything this world needs.
When I went up here last year I found my little escape, Lake Superior, easily mistaken for an ocean because of its vastness and waves crashing in walls. It’s the body of blue that I need, sitting on rocks, staring off, and being on an adventure, it’s everything needed to bring you back to yourself. Up north you are surrounded by a variety of state parks, with campsites if you’re into camping. I personally like indoor bathrooms and sleeping on a bed. But there is always something to see, to go off the path and find yourself under a bridge and watch the water rush into Lake Superior.
The top state parks I enjoy are:
Tettegouche State Park; it can be popular since it is a huge campsite and rest stop, but it has some amazing waterfalls and a great beach.
Cascade River State Park; you park right off the road and do an easy walk to the waterfall, you can even sit right near the waterfall, don’t look down if you’re not a fan of heights though!
Temperance River State Park; off the road, it’s a little area you can climb to more waterfalls or go down and sit on a little rocky beach. Most people come here to swim because the water is warm BUT be careful there is a risk!
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park; like lighthouses? Come here for some history, a walk along the lake, and take in the view of the lighthouse right on the cliff.
Gooseberry Falls Concourse; popular for families because it’s like an outdoor pool you can walk through. It’s a fun little spot, right before you leave and head back to Duluth.
Besides being able to be one with nature, you get to see how others live without the whole department store. Grand Maria is a small town, but it’s thriving, especially during tourist season. It’s close to Canada; it has the world’s best donuts, a shop that sells everything. It’s like a smaller target, local shops with local arts, and a small little market with local organizations and a local guy who is playing on stage who’s actually good! Everyone is smiling at you even if they do not know you. If you want the city aspect don’t worry Duluth is an hour and a half away. A perfect stop for your way in or out!
It is kind of hard to see what Duluth has to offer with its shipping yards and ghost streets, but as you come over the hill with the vast view of Duluth, the lake, and Wisconsin, heading down you get a wonderful rush like you’re on a rollercoaster into Duluth. Duluth and its surrounding areas put friendly in Minnesota. And its rustic industrial feel shows a rich history. Plus I heard stories that my grandma and mom told me, and I can picture men out there, what stories they have, think about my grandfather and what life was like for him. But the stories, the history it’s vibrant, and it made this city. It’s one to experience and learn more about.
The most popular spot to visit in Duluth is of course along the water, near the lift bridge, but take it up the hill and sit in a small little coffee shop, there are even a few breweries. I will say the best time to come to Minnesota is in the summer; we spend 7 months of the year inside because it’s too damn cold to go outside, so in the summer we thrive and take advantage of the warmth.
Bucket list worthy
Up North is a place you wouldn’t expect in Minnesota. You wouldn’t think the views you find looking out onto the water, the edge of Minnesota, and the waterfalls would be found here. Like every place, there is an ugly past and an ugly present, but I think it’s something you should never ignore. You should never go to a place you visit and ignore its problems but see how a place is trying to overcome them and how even in the ugly there is a beauty.
I know California is hot, Florida has Disney, New York is New York, the south is always warm, Chicago has Opera, Paris you have to see, London you can never go wrong traveling to London, and going to Asia is worth the long trip, and it’s on my list, but add Minnesota Up North to your list. Its friendly places, unbelievable views, hidden spots to discover and explore, and you can see the Northan lights if you’re lucky.