Lutsen, MN: Small Town, Big Attractions

Things to Do in Lutsen, Minnesota

Lutsen, Minnesota, population 190, is home to the some of the North Shore’s largest and most iconic attractions! These include the historic lodge at Lutsen Resort, Lutsen Mountains Ski Area, and Superior National Golf Course. Lutsen is a hub of big-time recreation and there are no shortage of things to do.

Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior

Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior

Covered bridge over the Poplar River at Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior

Did you know that Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior is the birthplace of Minnesota tourism? It was the first resort on the North Shore, and also in the entire state of Minnesota. It actually began as a homestead settled by Swedish immigrant, C.A.A. Nelson, in 1885. First it grew into an ever-larger family home. Then it became a stay-over and respite for weary travelers that arrived by boat on Lake Superior (before roads existed on the North Shore). Due to the gracious hospitality it quickly grew to become the first vacation resort of it’s kind in Minnesota. And it’s location in one of the most beautiful and peaceful places anywhere certainly helped its allure.

Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior

Early photo of the lodge at Lutsen Resort

Homestead at Lutsen Resort

Homestead at Lutsen Resort

In fact, Lutsen Resort remains one of Minnesota’s most popular vacation resorts. The historic lodge features lodge rooms, a cozy fire-side lobby, a pub, game room, and a lake side dining room with the largest wine selection on the North Shore. In addition to lodge rooms there many other accommodations including townhomes, condos, and sea villas. Guests return to this iconic resort year after year! They love the classic resort experience, the guest activities, and the beautiful Lake Superior beach at the confluence of the Poplar River.

Lutsen Mountains Ski Area

Skiing at Lutsen Mountains

Skiing at Lutsen Mountains, the largest ski area in the Midwest

In 1948 C.A.A. Nelson’s grandson George Nelson, Jr. returned to Lutsen after serving in WWII’s elite skiing infantry called the 10th Mountain Division. George had a passion for sharing skiing and recreation with visitors of their family resort. As a result he set out to build a ski area on the mountains behind the resort. He and his father cut ski trails by hand and opened the ski area called Lutsen Mountains with two runs and a tow-rope.

Over the last 70+ years Lutsen Mountains has grown into the Midwest’s largest ski area! It boasts 4 mountains, 95 runs, the Midwest’s only gondola. It also has two chalets, a restaurant, and ski-in/ski-out lodging. Because the North Shore has such ideal winter conditions, you can ski at Lutsen Mountains from mid-November through early May!

Lutsen Mountains Alpine Slide and Gondola

Lutsen Mountains Alpine Slide

Alpine Slide – twist and turn down a half-mile of track!

In the summer families love Lutsen Mountians’ Alpine Slide and Summit Express Gondola. The Alpine Slide is a thrilling summer luge run. First you take a chairlift ride to the top of the mountain. Then you walk your sled to the start of the concrete track (with a spectacular Lake Superior view, by they way). Finally you board your sled and take off down the half-mile twisting, turning track! There are two parallel tracks so you can ride next to your friend. It’s amusement park fun for the whole family!

Lutsen Mountains Summit Express Gondola

Take Lutsen Mountains’ Summit Express Gondola to the top of Moose Mountain.

One of the most popular things to do in Lutsen is to ride the Summit Express Gondola (especially during fall colors!). This leisurely and scenic ride is perfect for young and old. On this attraction you ride the aerial gondola car at treetop level to the top of Moose Mountain (one of the North Shore’s tallest peaks).  At the top of Moose Mountain you will experience unbelievable views of Lake Superior and the Superior National Forest! You will also find the Summit Chalet (which has an eatery with indoor and outdoor seating), hiking trails, and scenic overlooks. It is generally open year-round, but hours are usually limited in October – December and March – May.

Side note: Lutsen Resort and Lutsen Mountains were started by the same family of owners (the Nelsons). But today they are owned and operated as separate companies by separate families. Yes, they are still family-owned companies, just like most places on the North Shore.

Superior National Golf Course

Superior National Golf Course

Superior National Golf Course with the Poplar River.

George Nelson, Jr. continued his vision of recreation and hospitality in Lutsen by offering land to build a world-class golf course. As a result, Superior National Golf Course was built in 1991 to accompany the great skiing and lodging on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior. It is situated along the Poplar River between Lutsen Resort and Lutsen Mountains. Today it’s known as one of Minnesota’s Top 10 Golf Courses, and is arguably one of the most beautiful in America!

Superior National offers 27 holes of championship public golf on the newly renovated River & Canyon 18, and the Mountain 9. Play golf along the spectacular Poplar River with stellar views of Lake Superior as the backdrop. It is a public golf course so all are welcome to come and play a round. Whether you are an avid golfer, occasional player, or beginner you must play a round at Superior National!

FootGolf at Superior National

Play FootGolf at Superior National!

Even if you’re not a golfer you can still play on the course! FootGolf is a new addition to the scenic Mountain 9. It’s like golf, but played with a soccer ball. Families and anyone that likes to play outside will love a game of FootGolf. Add it to your list of things to do in Lutsen.

More Things to Do in Lutsen, Minnesota

There are still more things to do in Lutsen, so be sure to explore these options as well!

North Shore Winery, Lutsen, MN

Enjoy the wine bar at the North Shore Winery

hiking on the Oberg Mountain loop, Lutsen, MN

Hiking the Oberg Mountain Loop, a spur trail of the Superior Hiking Trail.

Lodging in Lutsen

While you’re having fun in Lutsen, you’re gonna need a place to stay. Check out these wonderful options:

  • Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior
    • On Lake Superior
    • Many accommodation styles
    • Historic Lodge
    • Lakefront dining room
    • Pub/tavern
    • Guest activities
  • Caribou Highlands Lodge
    • Mountain side/mountain view
    • Walking distance to Lutsen Mountains
    • Many accommodation styles
    • Moguls Grille and Tap Room
    • Whirlpools, swimming pools
    • Guest activities
  • Eagle Ridge Resort
    • Mountain side/mountain view
    • Studios and condos
    • Walking distance to Lutsen Mountains
    • Outdoor heated pool/whirlpool
  • Mountain Inn
    • Mountain side
    • Standard, very clean hotel
    • Massage

More NorthShoreExplorerMN Blog Posts about Lutsen

Candlelight Ski and Snowshoe: Good Times!

Springtime Ski & Hike in Lutsen

Caribou Cream is Shakin’ Up the Sugar Shack

Skinny Ski Paradise – The Sugarbush Trails

Lookout Mountain – Best North Shore Hikes

2 thoughts on “Lutsen, MN: Small Town, Big Attractions

  1. […] You can read more about the history of Lutsen Resort here and here. […]

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