Free things to do on the North Shore
Visiting the North Shore on a budget? Worry not, there’s lots to do in our beautiful neck of the woods that won’t cost you more than a little bit of gas in your car. Here’s a list of our favorite free North Shore activities:
- Look for Agates. Agates are banded ornamental stones that also happen to be the Minnesota state rock. Look for them near water of any sort (Lake Superior, inland lakes, rivers, streams, etc.). There are many agate “hot spots” on the North Shore. Check out our Agates article for some ideas.
- Hike the Superior Hiking Trail. 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. The Superior Hiking Trail runs parallel to Lake Superior's shore approximately 1-2 miles inland from Chateau LeVeaux. It is rated as one of the best hiking trails in the United States and one of the top 10 in the world.
- Visit a waterfall. Waterfalls line the North Shore, so opportunities to view a new waterfall are nearly endless. In April and May waterfalls are created all along Highway 61 when snow melt runs down toward Lake Superior and flows off the cliffs along the highway on their way. There are also many that can be viewed right from the highway or with a short, easy hike. View our list of North Shore Waterfalls to learn more about some of our favorites.
- Attend a naturalist program. Sugar Loaf Cove Nature Center and other area centers and organizations offer free programs and activities on a regular basis. Chateau LeVeaux often hosts programs like these in the summer months, as well. Programs vary in topic and location, and may take some effort to search out, but are usually worth it. Past subjects have included nature journaling, outdoor photography, bird banding, and local geology. Find an event calendar for the Sugar Loaf Cove Nature Center here.
- 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. Use caution when swimming after heavy rainfalls!
- Watch the sun set or rise. The area is situated on the North Shore of the Lake, which means you’ll be able to catch the sun rise in the east and the sun set in the west most of the year! Take advantage of your location at Chateau LeVeaux to view the sun rise over Lake Superior or visit a nearby location for an alternative view.
- Listen to live music. The North Shore is a mecca for artists and musicians and there’s no shortage of places to go to catch a free show. 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) and The Gunflint Tavern (Grand Marais).
- 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 a local shop (optional), and head to a clearing. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights! Check out the Aurora Forecast to see if they will be visible during your stay.
- 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. Check out the Cascade River State Park bird checklist to see a list of birds that have been spotted in that area in recent years. The North Shore has also become home to a handful of nesting American Bald Eagles that have made their home between Lake Superior and Highway 61.
- Visit a library. The Grand Marais Public Library offers free programs for all ages, but especially children, throughout the year. You can find music classes, story time, and author presentations. This makes a great rainy day activity for people of all ages. Check out the library’s website for a schedule of events.
- Go for a walk. Put on some comfy shoes and walk (or skip, or do cartwheels) along the Gitchi-Gami State Trail. This paved trail runs along much of the Lake Superior shore and takes hikers (and bikers) to some beautiful vistas. The trail runs along Highway 61 right behind Chateau LeVeaux, so you won’t even need to hop in your car to start moving. There are also hundreds of miles of public hiking trails throughout the area.
- Visit a craft or farmer’s 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 on Saturday mornings and at the Community Center at 317 5th St on Thursday evenings).