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13 Fun & Best Things to Do in Ely, Minnesota

In the charming town of Ely in Minnesota, adventure awaits! There are tons of fun things to do in Ely. This small town may not be on your radar, but it’s one of the best small towns in Minnesota.

Minnesota is known for its stunning natural beauty and is home to numerous spectacular landmarks and natural wonders. If you’re a fan of kayaking and canoeing, Ely is a great spot for you to visit.

The town of Ely offers not only exciting outdoor activities but spectacular natural scenery to bask in during your stay. The best things to do in Ely and the attractions you need to see on your trip to Minnesota are listed below.

Best Things to do in Ely, Minnesota

1. Dorothy Molter Museum

Dorothy Molter Museum
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 2002 E Sheridan St, Ely, MN 55731, United States

In Ely, you can take a walk through the woods and visit the magnificent Dorothy Molter Museum. It is an incredible museum that serves as a tribute to the fabled last non-indigenous inhabitant of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (or BWCAW).

The museum resides on the site of three former cottages from the Isle of Pines, among them, the previous residence of Dorothy Molter. Local paddlers and tourist Canoeists frequently stop at Dorothy’s island home to enjoy the hospitality, especially the outstanding homemade root beer, from which she earned the moniker “Root Beer Lady”.

The cabins are a part of the displays that cover topics such as living in the woods, root beer production, journeying to the Isle of Pines, and the history of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. 

The museum is built to encourage the next generation of Northwoods stewards. It also provides informational and educational exhibits about Dorothy’s legacy and the cultural and ecological heritage of the Northwoods. 

See Related: Best Hotels in Duluth, Minnesota

2. International Wolf Center

Father and Child Wolf

Address: 1396 MN-169, Ely, MN 55731, United States

One of the top things to do in Ely, Minnesota, is to visit the International Wolf Center. It is an animal protection group that conducts research and develops projects to conserve wildlife, particularly wolves.

It is set in the heart of the Superior National Forest, where visitors can observe and interact with the center’s display and wolves while they play, eat, rest, and tussle.

The center features an interactive and exciting exhibit titled “Discover Wolves.” While visiting the International Wolf Center, you will learn about the importance of wolves to numerous cultures throughout history, and how vital wolves are for the health of the ecosystem.

Apart from displaying the history and significance of wolves, visitors can also learn about radio telemetry by sitting in a mock airplane cockpit, pressing a button, and taking off on a simulated pack-tracking flight over a frozen lake.

Additionally, the center is near some of Ely’s most prominent attractions, such as the Hidden Valley Recreation Area, a great spot to explore before or after visiting the wolf center.

See Related: Simple Ways to Sustainable Travel

3. North American Bear Center

Wet Black Bear at North American Bear Center, Ely, Minnesota

Address: 1926 MN-169, Ely, MN 55731, United States

Haven’t got your fill of beasts yet? Then take part in an out-in-the-wild adventure by visiting the North American Bear Center. The North American Bear Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of bears in North America. In addition to being the only wildlife and black bear educational facility of its kind, the park and center also serve as a wildlife sanctuary. 

The facility is dedicated to dispelling old stereotypes regarding bears and educating visitors about bear behavior, ecology, and their interactions with humans by allowing them to learn directly from the bears themselves. It’s a great day out for people of all ages, especially kids.

In addition to providing visitors with opportunities to see live black bears in their natural environment, the park includes several indoor enclosures, a pond, a hands-on children’s play area, and a beautiful waterfall. The 2.5-acre enclosure houses four famous resident bears; Ted, Tasha Lucky, and Holly, all of whom love having their pictures taken.

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4. Grand Ely Lodge Resort & Conference Center

Grand Ely Lodge on the Lake, Minnesota

Address: 400 N Pioneer Rd, Ely, MN 55731, United States

If you plan a trip to Ely, Minnesota, don’t miss a visit to the Grand Ely Lodge Resort & Conference Center. This seasonal rural resort is between Shagawa and Miners Lakes and is only 0.8 miles from downtown Ely’s quaint shops and eateries.

The resort is surrounded by miles of magnificent views. Grand Ely Lodge provides the ideal combination of excitement, leisure, and luxury, making it an excellent starting point for an unforgettable outdoor journey. Hiking and kayaking are among the popular activities for outdoor enthusiasts in Grand Ely and fishing.

At the same time, those who prefer a more leisurely pace can stroll around the property admiring the lake and looking for various species of wildlife and birds. Watercraft, fishing gear, and bicycles are available for rent at Grand Ely, and it also has indoor pools and a game area.

It is also conveniently located in a neighborhood adjacent to other tourist attractions in Ely, Minnesota, like the Superior National Forest, the International Wolf Center, and the Secret Blackstone Trailhead, among others.

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5. Piragis Northwoods Company


Address: 105 N Central Ave, Ely, MN 55731, United States

To enjoy an excellent outdoor adventure in Ely, Minnesota, you must be well-outfitted – it might help you out in a pinch! High-quality outdoor clothing and kit are the necessary items you need on your Ely adventure.

Consider the following scenario: you enjoy participating in outdoor activities in the Boundary Waters and Quetico Parks, but you require equipment to do so. If this is the case, Piragis Northwoods Company Outfitters will be able to provide you with the items you need.

Located in Ely, the Piragis Northwoods Company Outfitters is among the most famous outdoor service companies in the Midwest, offering a full range of canoe and kayak outfitting services for the Boundary Waters and Quetico Park, as well as camping supplies, survival tools, and hardy clothing.

It is possible to rent canoes and kayaks, as well as other outdoor recreation equipment for a day or for as long as you require during your unique outdoor leisure experience.

See Related: Best Parks in St. Paul, Minnesota

6. Cliff Wold’s Outfitting Co.

Canoeing on a Cliff Wold's Canoe at Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Address: 1731 E Sheridan St, Ely, MN 55731, United States

Do you want to kayak across the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Ely, Minnesota? How about a day of thrilling adventure in Quetico Provincial Park? There’s no need to worry about finding the right gear since Cliff Wold’s Outfitting Co. is one of the best canoe and kayak rental providers in Ely.

The store has provided services at the locations mentioned above for many years and can assist you with every element of your canoe journey.

In addition to providing a comprehensive canoe outfitting package, Cliff Wold’s Outfitting Co. also provides all of the quality camping and canoeing kit you’ll need for a waterborne vacation.

Aside from the necessary equipment, the rental agency also offers a delectable selection of packed meals that turn you into a campfire gourmet!

This terrific canoe and kayak service firm can assist both first-time and experienced canoeists in gaining access to the canoe trails and having a successful and enjoyable canoe adventure.

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7. Insula Restaurant

Front of Insula Restaurant in Ely, MN
Source: TripAdvisor

Address: 145 E Sheridan St, Ely, MN 55731, United States

As you embark on your beautiful vacation in Ely, don’t forget to savor local specialties and visit some of the town’s eateries! The Insula Restaurant is one of the best places to eat in the city, and it is worth a visit.

It is a traditional American restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day of the week. The food provided in the restaurant is traditional European American and Minnesotan fare with a twist, and it is delectable. The restaurant’s cool decor, which includes industrial accents and a well-stocked bar, creates an exclusive feel to your dining experience.

It opened on June 8, 2015, in the building that was previously occupied by Vertin’s restaurant chain. The restaurant piqued local diners’ interest in Ely, Minnesota, and invigorated their palate with its innovative cuisine.

See Related: Best & Fun Things to Do in Minneapolis, MN

8. Kawishiwi Falls Trail

Kawishiwi Falls Trail
Management/ TripAdvisor

Address: 444 Fernberg Rd, Ely, MN 55731, United States

Hiking Kawishiwi Falls Trail near Ely is among the grandest hikes in Minnesota. The Ely area offers a variety of chances for individuals looking to go wilderness trekking in Minnesota, and the trail is considered to be one of the best in the state.

The Bass Lake Trail, Angleworm Trail, Secret and Blackstone Trail, Trezona Trail, Hidden Valley, Snowbank Lake Trail, and Kawishiwi Falls Trail are just a few of the stunning paths to take advantage of during an Ely hiking excursion.

As you begin your journey through this gorgeous hiking region, you will be introduced to the wonders of the boreal forest produced by glaciers that receded 10,000 years ago.

Hiking the Kawishiwi Falls Trail begins at the parking lot and winds its way through a woodland trail with minimal elevation rise until it reaches Kawishiwi Falls. The track is relatively easy to navigate and can be conquered by individuals of all ages and skill levels.

Because this beautiful trail is also part of the portage between Garden and Fall Lakes, you might run into folks hauling canoes, kayaks, and their kit.

See Related: Best Lakes in Minnesota

9. Ely Steak House


Address: 216 E Sheridan St, Ely, MN 55731, United States

Ely, Minnesota, is abundant in attractions and scenery, and visiting any of these sites will leave you hungry for a good meal. The good news is, that Ely has no shortage of great restaurants and the Ely Steak House is one of the top eateries in town!

In this steakhouse and family restaurant, customers can enjoy delectable steaks, cooked to perfection, and excellent refreshing local beers, while relaxing in comfortable surroundings. Thanks to its unique interior and servings, the Ely Steak House is a cool refuge in the heat of summer and a warm retreat in the winter.

The steak house, located at the top of Sheridan St in Ely, was established in 1997 and has served great meals ever since. Aside from delicious food, (their specialty being steak and burgers), the restaurant has a number of other choice items on the menu. The beverage scene is incredibly generous, with over 50 different bottled and canned beers available, and eight draft craft brews to taste.

If you’re one of those looking for a quick bite to eat before or after seeing the city take a minute to enjoy one of the restaurant’s quick sandwiches.

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10. Ely Outfitting Company

Ely Outfitting Company
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 529 E Sheridan St, Ely, MN 55731, United States

Aside from the natural beauty and tourist attractions, Ely is also home to several canoe and kayak rental businesses. The Ely Outfitting Company is one of the best to work with when planning a canoe excursion in Minnesota.

The store has been providing service on Ely’s waterways for years and can assist you with every aspect of your canoeing adventure. In addition to canoe and kayak equipment, Ely Outfitting Company provides services such as trip planning, creating trip routing forms, and providing guided canoe excursions.

The Outfitting Company provides kayaking and canoeing adventures in the picturesque Boundary Waters and Quetico Canoe Outdoor Attractions in Ely and the surrounding areas.

The company’s wilderness guides are all skilled outdoor educators, clever fishers, and great fun to hang out with. Each one of them has a host of stories about the area that can bring this wild part of Minnesota to life.

Being able to hire knowledgeable people to have around on your kayak and canoe trip is what distinguishes it as one of the best places to go for canoe equipment and paddle services.

See Related: Best Restaurants in Duluth, Minnesota

11. Voyageur North Canoe Outfitters

Voyageur North Outfitters
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 1829 E Sheridan St, Ely, MN 55731, United States

Looking for assistance and the most outstanding services in canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness? Need aid with your canoe journey in Quetico Provincial Park?

Voyageur North Outfitters is one of the most reliable kayak and canoe services available to assist you. It is a campy-style outfitter that specializes in offering support with canoe outings.

Among the areas in which Voyageur North Outfitters provides services is the BWCA and Quetico Park. They provide equipment, canoes, kayaks, and other useful kits you’ll need. There’s also a service for finding your way around on a map and more.

The company provides both expert and beginner canoers with quality canoeing equipment and assistance to access the canoe routes, so you can have a successful, safe, and fun canoe journey.

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12. Bass Lake Trail

A view from Bass Lake Trail
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 1548 Echo Trail, Ely, MN 55731, United States

Hiking is one of the most enjoyable things to do in Ely, and the Bass Lake Trail is the perfect place to go if you want to enjoy an incredible, scenic hike.

It is a hiking area with numerous loop routes, the longest of which is around 6 miles long; however, traveling all of the loops will make your hike significantly longer.

The beautiful panoramas, little waterfalls in Minnesota, and diverse topography are among the best features that await you on a walk along the trail.

The Bass Lake Trail is a challenging trip that requires suitable hiking equipment. If you intend to camp along the way, you should carry camping supplies to make your journey more convenient and stress-free.

Make sure you wear sturdy shoes and keep an eye on your children if you’re going to hike with the family as some of the terrains can be rugged and steep in places.

There are three backcountry campsites at the trailhead that are suitable for camping if you want to take in the natural beauty of the Ely and enjoy the trip for a longer walk. The new trail design is broader, has a smoother slope, is mostly devoid of tripping hazards, and is on firmer ground than before.

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13. Northern Expressions

Northern Expression Ice Cream Parlor
Northern Expression Ice Cream Parlor / Facebook

Address: 48 E Sheridan St, Ely, MN 55731, United States

Among the best thing to do in Ely, is to check out the Northern Expressions. It is a charming gift shop, and ice cream parlor that serves mouth-watering cold treats to its customers. It is an excellent location for sampling delectable locally-made ice cream and purchasing souvenirs for yourself, your friends, or your family.

When you order a “single” serving of ice cream from Northern Expressions, you’ll get three generous scoops of any flavor that you want to try. Aside from the generous single servings, the shop also offers a HUGE large serving and a variety of toppings.

Those who are allergic to dairy can still enjoy the ice cream from the shop. Northern Expressions offer a unique non-dairy ice cream option on their menu that is just as yummy! The homemade waffle cones are just amazing too!

Chocolate, Coconut Almond Chocolate Chip, blueberry cheesecake, vanilla, and other flavors of ice cream are among the plethora of flavors available for sampling at this spectacular ice cream parlor.

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