North Shore History Attractions – Top 9 Picks

Top 9 North Shore History Attractions

North Shore history comes in many faces and topics. From ancient Native American settlements, to the Voyageurs and the fur trade, Norwegian and Scandinavian settlers, mineral exploration, natural resources, and tourism, the North Shore has some stories to tell.

These North Shore history attractions offer incredible ways to hear the stories, see the artifacts, take a tour, and become enriched. History may seem boring to some, but trust me, these attractions offer an experience that is better than you expect!

This list follows a mile-by-mile order from Duluth to Canada

Tom’s Logging Camp, Museum, and Trading Post

Visit an early 1900’s Northern Minnesota logging camp! The self guided tour includes eight museum buildings with original tools and equipment from the era. See the gravity house and explore the nature trail. There are even rainbow trout and tame animals to feed. The Old Northwest Company Trading Post offers gifts and a selection of quality Men’s, Women’s and Children moccasins, jewelry, incense, cribbage boards and more.

Location, Hours, Fees

  • Located at mile marker 14.9 on the North Shore Scenic Highway.
  • Open May 1 through the 3rd weekend of October.
  • 9 – 5 daily (July and August 9 – 7.
  • Adults $5, Children $4, under 5 free
  • Tom’s Logging Camp website

Lake County Historical Society

The Lake County Historical Society keeps North Shore history alive and well in downtown Two Harbors. Tour the Lighthouse Museum, Depot Museum, 3M Museum, and stay the night at the Lighthouse B&B.

Lighthouse Museum

The Lighthouse Museum is home to the longest, continuously running Lighthouse on the North Shore. The self-guided tour includes a walk to the top, and exhibits in the Cleaning and Wicking Room, and Watch Room. There are cool views from the portholes in the Watch Room. Walk around the grounds and explore the gift shop which is housed in the original fog signal building.

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Two Harbors Lighthouse Museum and B&B

Tour the historic Two Harbors Lighthouse Museum

Lighthouse Museum, Two Harbors, MN

Porthole view from Lighthouse Museum

Lighthouse B&B

A unique way to experience North Shore history is to actually stay at the lighthouse! Cozy up in the Keeper’s Room or the Skiff House, or the Harbor or Forest Rooms. Enjoy breakfast amidst the original Fourth-Order Fresnel Lens that’s on display, the main attraction of the Dining Room. Well, besides the food. Scandinavian fruit soup, anyone?

Enjoy breakfast at the Lighthouse B&B

Enjoy breakfast at the Lighthouse B&B

The Depot Museum

The historical building was formerly the 1907 headquarters of the Duluth & Iron Range Railroad. Today the museum features exhibits highlighting the three industries that built Two Harbors, and Lake County, Minnesota: iron mining and the supporting railroad, commercial fishing, and logging.

3M Museum

You don’t normally associate 3M with Two Harbors, Minnesota, but here is where it all began in 1902! The quaint 3M Museum in Two Harbors is located in the original building that housed the law office of John Dwan, one of the original owners. The small building is chock-full of interpretative exhibits and artifacts logging the early days on up.

Location, Hours, Fees

  • From Hwy 61 in Two Harbors, go south on 6th Street (near Blackwoods).
  • In 7 blocks, turn left on South Avenue.
  • The Depot Museum is where you can purchase admission.
  • There is a $5 per-site fee for museum admission, or you can get a $10 multi-pass which is good for 2 days. Annual Memberships start at $20.
  • Museums are open daily Memorial Day – Mid-October.  Depot Museum is open Saturdays during the off-season. The Lighthouse B&B is open year-round.
  • Lake County Historical Society website
  • Read more about Two Harbors’ Hidden Gems

Gooseberry Falls State Park

Gooseberry Falls is one of the many parks that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930’s. These young men built roads, trails, fences, and over 80 structures in order to open the park to visitors. Many of the buildings including the Castle in the Park, Lady Slipper Lodge, and Falls View Shelter can be seen along the “CCC Legacy Self Guided Tour.” Pick up the map when you visit the park.

Location, Hours, Fees

Gooseberry Falls

Gooseberry Falls

Split Rock Lighthouse

Do not miss this North Shore history attraction! Split Rock Lighthouse is one of America’s most picturesque lighthouses and arguably the North Shore’s most famous icon. Sitting atop a 130-foot sheer cliff at the water’s edge, Split Rock welcomes visitors to experience the stories of her heritage. The Minnesota Historical Society operates this historic site which includes the Lighthouse, Light Keeper’s House, Oil House, and Fog Signal Building. There is also a museum, visitor center, and museum shop. 

Split Rock Lighthouse, North Shore, MN

Split Rock Lighthouse

Exploring the Lighthouse Grounds

During peak season (summer and fall), the Minnesota Historical Society offers tours with a costumed interpreter. They will show you the Lightkeeper’s House, Oil House, and Fog Signal Building. There is generally a lot going on here during the summer and fall, it’s one of the North Shore’s most popular attractions! 

If you come during the off-season (November – February), the lighthouse grounds are open, as well as the Visitor Center, Museum, and Museum Store. Check out this post about exploring Split Rock Lighthouse during the winter: Split Rock Lighthouse, a Short and Sweet Winter Treat. 

My favorite thing is walking around the site of the lighthouse itself. The view from the Observation Deck atop the 130-foot cliff is amazing! And there is a trail that traverses the cliff edge with informational panels telling interesting stories along the way.

Informational panels on the Split Rock Lighthouse grounds.

Informational panels on the Split Rock Lighthouse grounds.

View of Ellingsen Island from the Observation Deck - Split Rock Lighthouse

View of Ellingsen Island from the Observation Deck

Split Rock Lighthouse Museum

The Visitor Center, Museum, and Museum Store are open year-round. One of the museum highlights is the replica of the hoist engine that was used to hoist supplies and equipment up to the top of the cliff. There’s also some interesting interactive stations and interpretive displays, and you’ll love the model of Split Rock Lighthouse made with 20,000 LEGOs (which was created for the centennial in 2010)! 

The Museum Store has lots of great North Shore and Split Rock apparel, local art and merchandise, books, local guides, and souvenirs.

Split Rock Lighthouse Hoist Replica

Hoist Replica

Model made with 20,000 Legos for the 2010 Centennial.

Model made with 20,000 Legos for the 2010 Centennial.

Location, Hours, Fees

  • Link to Split Rock Lighthouse Hours & Admission
  • Mile Marker 46, approx 7 miles east of Castle Danger
  • The grounds, Visitor Center, and Museum Gift Shop are open year-round.
  • March 1 – October 31: There is a fee of $5 – $10 (depending on time of season and discount eligibility) to enter the grounds and take a tour. The Visitor Center and Museum Shop can be explored at no charge.
  • November 1 – April 30: Tours are NOT available and historic buildings are closed. You may walk around the grounds and explore the Visitor Center and Museum Shop for free. A State Park vehicle pass of $7 per day is required to park.
  • Accessibility Information

 

Finland Minnesota Heritage Site

This 40-acre homestead houses a collection of buildings and artifacts that focuses on the Finnish pioneers that settled in this area. Buildings include the heritage museum, blacksmith shop, sauna, the John Pine homestead, original Park Hill School, and visitor center. Walk through the Marlis Runnberg Memorial Orchard. There is also a hiking trail with interpretive stops.

Locals celebrate Finnish heritage with these events:

  • Pikku Joulu (Little Christmas). Held the first Thursday in December come for a potluck of traditional Finnish foods, live music, live reindeer, and even Jouler Pukki (Finish Santa)
  • St Urho’s Day. Held the Saturday closest to March 16. St. Urho is a fictional Finnish saint who is said to have chased away the grasshoppers to save the grape crop. This is a big celebration in Finland, MN with a beauty pageant, parade, music, face painting, food, snow sculptures, and other festivities.

Location, Hours, Fees

  • At Mile Marker 65.2 turn onto Lake County 6 (Little Marais Rd.). The Heritage Site is 4.6 miles on the right at 5663 Little Marais Rd. Finland, MN.
  • Open May – Mid October, 11am – 4pm, Thursday – Monday.
  • Admission is free and a good will offering is appreciated
  • Finland Minnesota Heritage Site website

Cross River Heritage Center

This is one of my favorite North Shore history attractions! Plan to spend some time learning about life in the early days of the North Shore. The historic Tudor building houses an impressive array of artifacts, exhibits, displays, and local art. There are three floors that tell the stories of natives and pioneers, logging, fishing, shipping & shipwrecks, early tourism, Cross River falls, forgotten towns, and Father Baraga’s Cross (which you can visit nearby). Each year welcomes a new traveling exhibit. There is also a ton of local art available for admiration and for purchase.

Location, Hours, Fees

  • Mile Marker 79 in Schroeder.
  • Open May 25-October 21
  • Tuesday – Saturday 10 – 4:30
  • Sunday 11 – 2
  • Cross River Heritage Center website
Barber chair from the original Stickney store.

Barber chair from the original Stickney store.

Lumberjack saws at the Cross River Heritage Center

Lumberjack saws at the Cross River Heritage Center

North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum

Explore the cultural landscape of North Shore commercial fishermen and their families. Permanent and rotating exhibits tell the stories of the people, the fishing life, surviving the Lake Superior seas, the steamships, the fish, and fishing techniques. Immerse yourself in the maritime way of life with the engaging professional exhibits.

Location, Hours, Fees

  • Mile Marker 83.3 in Tofte.
  • Mid-May – mid-October
    • 9-3 Tuesday – Thursday
    • 9-5 Friday & Saturday
  • Mid-October – mid-May
    • 10-5 Friday & Saturday
  • North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum website
North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum

North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum

Cook County Historical Society

Explore five attractions including the Cook County History Museum, Johnson Heritage Post Art Gallery, Bally Blacksmith Shop, St. Francis Xavier Church, and a 1930’s era replica Fish House and restored Fishing Tug (The Neegee), which was built in Grand Marais in 1935.

The Cook County Historical society presents samples of North Shore traditions such as lefse making, fish cake dinner, and a trout plank dinner. You can also attend a walking history tour of downtown Grand Marais, enjoy “small talks,” gallery openings, and many other activities.

Location, Hours, Fees

  • At Mile Marker 109.6 in Grand Marais, turn at the traffic light and head to the Cook County History Museum on 8 South Broadway
  • Open Tuesday – Saturday, 11-4 during the summer; limited winter hours. Mile Marker 109.6
  • All of the attractions are free and open to the public, donations appreciated.
  • Cook County Historical Society website

Grand Portage National Monument and Heritage Center

This is another one of my favorite North Shore history attractions! Start at the Heritage Center which is a museum dedicated to telling the story of the Grand Portage Ojibwe people, and the history of the area’s fur trade, the Voyageurs, the British North West Company and more. The people of Grand Portage held an elite status in the fur trading industry of the late 1800’s which the film (shown on the hour) thoughtfully explains. See exhibits and artifacts showing how they lived and the tools they used. Three media displays will immerse you in the oral stories of the Ojibwe people. See an enormous birch bark Voyageur canoe, pet the fur pelts, look inside a birch bark tepee, and much more.

Voyaguer at the Grand Portage Heritage Center

Voyaguer at the Grand Portage Heritage Center

Grand Portage Heritage Center

Grand Portage Heritage Center

Grand Portage National Monument

The National Monument is an important North Shore history attraction. It is the actual site of where the fur trading rendezvous took place in the late 1800’s. Walk through the Historic Depot which has reconstructed buildings including the Great Hall, Kitchen, Canoe Warehouse, Ojibwe Village, Voyageur Encampment, and Tree Sisters and Kitchen Historic Heirloom Gardens.  Costumed interpreters show you the artifacts and tell the stories. The Historic Depot Both the Heritage Center and National Monument are run by the National Park Service. 

Rendezvous Days and Pow Wow

The annual Rendezvous Days and Pow Wow is one of the summer’s most popular events, and certainly the most popular event celebrating North Shore history. Join in on a real Native American Pow Wow! Walk through the 1870’s era encampment at the National Monument. Hundreds of living history participants camp there for the weekend and live as they did during the fur trading days. They perform demonstrations showing how things were done and are eager to answer your questions. Don’t miss the annual Rendezvous Days and Pow Wow that takes place the 2nd weekend of August in Grand Portage.

Grand Portage Rendezvous Days and Pow Wow

Grand Portage Rendezvous Days and Pow Wow

Rendezvous Days Pow Wow, Grand Portage, MN

Rendezvous Days Pow Wow.

Location, Hours, Fees

  • At Mile Marker 145 turn into the Grand Portage Lodge and Casino complex.
  • At the stop sign turn left onto Mile Creek Rd.
  • Go .7 of a mile to the Grand Portage Heritage Center and National Monument.
  • Heritage Center is open year-round
  • The Historic Depot is closed during winter
  • Visit the Grand Portage National Monument for seasonal hours

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