Grand Marais (French for Great Marsh) (map), on the North Shore of Lake Superior, has the benefit of being primarily a tourist town (the “coolest” small town in America, apparently). It’s nominal population of over 13oo belies its importance as a regional hub in the summer for tens of thousands of vacationing Minnesotans. The core of the town is only a few blocks, but it abuts Lake Superior, and so most of the downtown is within two blocks of the waterfront. There is a co-op grocery, a handful of restaurants, another handful of bars, two pharmacies (that collude on their operating hours and are incapable of actually filling prescriptions — you have been forewarned), some gas stations, as well as hotels and apartments. At the confluence of the Highway 61 running along Lake Superior and the Gunflint Trail (which connects circuitously to Seagull Lake), it is the most active place along Highway 61 between Two Harbors and Thunder Bay (and arguably, more active than the latter). It is also the County Seat of Cook County, Minnesota.
There are lots of people out and about on a Saturday afternoon. The core of downtown is south of Highway 61, and is quite walkable, with preference for pedestrian, but not much traffic between the Highway and the Lake except for people parking and unparking their cars. Sven and Ole’s local pizza (Minnesota-style, in case you were concerned about too much spice) is mobbed.
Of note: Grand Marais is also the only incorporated municipality in Cook County.
Grand Marias (and North House Folk School) is one of my favorite places.
They’re working on making it more pedestrian friendly and softening hi way 61: http://aflandarc.com/otb/gm-61cip/
The Gitchi-Gami state trail, a protected bikeway that will extend from Duluth to Grand Marais along the lake is slowly getting filled in. http://www.ggta.org/map.php
Camping in GM for two weeks– last weekend was the WTIP Radio Waves outdoor music festival– 30 acts– all but one from Northern MN or WI. Great music– all for $40 per person. Next weekend is North House’s Unplugged series– three nights of great concerts in a tent next to the harbor Much more expensive– $40 per concert . We expect great music.
Also, Grand Marias is an official “Bike Friendly City” (League of American Cyclists)
“… two pharmacies (that collude on their operating hours and are incapable of actually filling prescriptions — you have been forewarned) …”
A propos… Everyone should take the Strong Towns “name that speed” quiz: http://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2011/8/30/name-that-speed.html?rq=grand%20marais
Answers here: http://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2011/9/1/looking-outside-the-lines.html?rq=grand%20marais
“… two pharmacies (that collude on their operating hours and are incapable of actually filling prescriptions — you have been forewarned) …” I only rarely get to Grand Marais, details please!
1. Pharmacy A is open Saturday morning, not Saturday afternoon. Pharmacy B is open Saturday afternoon, not Saturday morning. Both are closed late Saturday and Sunday.
2. Pharmacy B could fill a prescription for basic antibiotics on the weekend, because [insert excuse here] “the computers were down”. We didn’t realize drugs were made out of computers.
No mention of the Charles Babcock memorial? https://gettingaroundmpls.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/traveling-in-moderation-grand-marais/
Are there any other memorials to Charles Babcock in Minnesota (besides the legislatively-hobbled highway system of course)?
I may be wrong, but it looks like it will survive the 61 streetscaping Walker links to above. Which is nice, because the Gunflint trail gate is a delightful hunk of kitsch.
As long as I’m self-promoting, streets.mn has spotlighted Grand Marais before:
That World’s Best Donuts claim is not exaggeration.