10 Best Things to Do in Ely, Minnesota

Best things to do in ely, minnesota

Visit Ely, Minnesota in Any Season

Ely is a quaint, small town deep in the Northwoods of Minnesota. It’s the gateway to the Boundary Water Canoe Area and about a 90-minute drive to Silver Bay and Lake Superior. With miles of snowmobiling trails in the winter, hiking trails, and glistening lakes in the summer, it’s a place that can be enjoyed year-round. Read on for the 10 very best things to do in Ely, Minnesota, and download a free checklist here!

Best things to do in ely, minnesota
Best things to do in ely, minnesota
Best things to do in ely, minnesota
Best things to do in ely, minnesota
Best things to do in ely, minnesota

1. Stay at Ely Cabin Collective

I’ve been to Ely twice and both times I stayed at the Ely Cabin Collective’s cabins. They have a rustic off-grid solar-powered cabin and a more modern newly built house with a sauna. They are along the same road, less than a mile from each other, and on dozens of acres. They’re also a short 15 minute drive from downtown Ely.  And both are dog-friendly as well!

Best things to do in ely, minnesota
Best things to do in ely, minnesota
Best things to do in ely, minnesota
Best things to do in ely, minnesota

2. Get Into Nature

Ely has many incredible parks, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and endless pines. There are a lot of great places to hike and explore. Here are a few of the more popular spots to check out:

  • Bass Lake Trail is a 6.3-mile loop popular for backpacking, hiking, and snowshoeing. You’ll find beautiful overlooks, small waterfalls, and a variety of terrain.
  • Bear Head Lake State Park has over 4,000 acres of hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and running trails, along with pristine water for kayaking and paddle boarding.
  • Kawishiwi Falls is great for a quick and easy 1-mile loop that leads to a beautiful waterfall. In the warmer months, this is a popular and heavily trafficked trail.
  • Lake Vermillion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park, there are plenty of places to hike and paddleboard at this newer (2014) state park, or for something different, take a tour of the underground iron mines.
  • Trezona Trail Head (Miners Lake) is a 3.9-mile paved loop that circles Miners Lake on the edge of downtown Ely. This is a nice spot for an easy and flat walk.
Things to do in Ely, Minnesota
Things to do in Ely, Minnesota

3. Visit the Museums

Ely offers a lot of great culture and museums. Be sure to check museum hours ahead of time as some are closed or have limited hours during the off-season. At the Dorothy Molter Museum, you’ll learn about Dorothy and her incredible story of making the best root beer, which she sold to canoeists in the BWCA. After you finish your tour, sip a delicious glass of root beer. And at the Ely Folk School, you’ll find classes, workshops, and events about cooking, foraging, and ceramics. There are options for all ages.

Best things to do in ely, minnesota

4. Check Out the Animal Centers

The International Wolf Center is a research and education center that teaches us about wolves and their relationship to the land. You’ll not only learn about these beautiful and fierce creatures, you’ll also get to see them up close. The North American Bear Center will provide you with a great opportunity to watch bears forage for hazelnuts and berries and learn interesting and informative facts about these giant animals.

Things to do in Ely, Minnesota
Things to do in Ely, Minnesota
Things to do in Ely, Minnesota
Things to do in Ely, Minnesota

5. Unwind at the Spa

A visit to Pebble Spa is a really special way to treat yourself. I highly recommend a hot stone massage and blueberry foot scrub from Melissa. She is highly skilled and really made the experience so relaxing for me. After my massage, Melissa brought me tea and chocolate to continue the relaxation experience. Pebble Spa also has a gift shop with essential oils, jewelry, and clothing. Their newly opened sister business, Camp Pebble, sells a variety of spa products like bath bombs, candles, and journals, so you can unwind at home.

Things to do in Ely, Minnesota
Things to do in Ely, Minnesota
Things to do in Ely, Minnesota
Things to do in Ely, Minnesota

6. Shop the Local Boutiques

Ely has several cute shops in the downtown area with clothing, shoes, jewelry, mugs, and more. A few you will definitely want to visit are:

  • Elywear, for gifts, t-shirts and souvenirs
  • Piragis, for mugs, jewelry, clothing and outdoor gear
  • Mealy’s Gift Shop, for soap, mugs, cards and jewelry
  • Pebble Spa Gift Shop, for clothing, candles, books, jewelry and artwork
  • Wintergreen Northern Wear, for quality coats, hats, socks, water bottles and other outdoor gear
Things to do in Ely, Minnesota
Things to do in Ely, Minnesota
Things to do in Ely, Minnesota
Things to do in Ely, Minnesota

7. Enjoy the Food Scene

There are a handful of great restaurants in Ely, each offering something delicious! Depending on what you are craving, you’ll want to check out:

  • Boat House, for burgers, salads, and of course their famous blueberry beer!
  • Chocolate Moose, for delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner options (only open in the summer).
  • Front Porch Coffee & Tea Co., a cute and tiny space to grab sandwiches, smoothies, coffee, or tea. Bring it with you on a hike, or sit and relax on their large wraparound porch.
  • Insula, for great breakfast options, as well as burgers, sandwiches, fish, and vegetarian options.
  • Log Cabin Coffee Drive-Thru, for grab-and-go coffee or tea at the drive-thru to either take with you on a hike or enjoy in the outdoor seating area under the trees.
  • Northern Expressions, for ice cream and summertime treats.
  • Northern Grounds, for coffee in the morning, and wine at night.
Best things to do in ely, minnesota
Best things to do in ely, minnesota

8. Experience Dog Sledding

One of the things that makes Ely so unique is the experience you can have dog sledding. The owners of Cast Outdoors are so friendly and know intimate details about each of their 40+ dogs’ personalities, preferences, and dislikes. Like which dogs are pals and want to run side-by-side and who wants to be leading in the front or in the very back. This is a unique and special experience that should not be missed.

Best things to do in ely, minnesota

9. Don’t Sleep on Zup’s

Zup’s is the local grocery store in town, but it’s really so much more than that. You’ll find fun sweatshirts, coupons for free beef sticks, and Ely-themed gifts like magnets, mugs, and postcards. And it’s where all the locals go. We ran into a handful of people my friend, who was born and raised in Ely, knew including her mom and sister’s friend!

What to know about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
What to know about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

10. Get Outfitted for the BWCA

A huge part of the Ely culture is embracing the outdoors. There are several great outfitters in town who can help you get set up for your trip into the Boundary Water Canoe Area. Many of them offer a variety of packages at different price points depending on what equipment you need and if you are purchasing food from the outfitter, or bringing your own. A few great options are Ely Outfitting Company, Voyageur North Canoe Outfitters, Canoe Country Outfitters, Spirit of the Wilderness, Piragis Northwoods Company, Boundary Water Outfitters and Canadian Waters Inc. 

Things to do in Ely, Minnesota

Visit Ely and Enjoy the Charm of a Small Town

Ely is a beautiful place in any season. Whether you want to enjoy the cute town or get deep into the quiet woods, this is a beautiful place with friendly people. Looking for more up north ideas? Check out my blog posts on 20 must-see stops along Lake Superior’s North Shore, 10 Reasons to Visit Cook County, Best Things to Do in Grand Marais, and 9 Epic State Parks along Minnesota’s North Shore.

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