After being snubbed twice in two weeks for lists of best lake- and beach-towns in the country, it's nice to see Minnesota earn some well-deserved recognition!

In a stroke of good fortune, Ely, Minnesota was just recognized at the national level as a place worth visiting in 2021! The Iron Range community (pop. 3,390) just made Smithsonian Magazine's list of 15 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2021. "Perhaps more than ever, now is a time to appreciate America's small towns," reads the Smithsonian article. "As we begin to see the other side of a pandemic that kept so many of us isolated, it is easier to understand the value in those things we've missed." Small towns, writes Smithsonian Mag, are the perfect places to find the sense of community we've all missed during COVID for their "independent shops," "hidden gem parklands," "historic sites and architecture," "unique restaurant finds," and "a slower pace of life and relative affordability."

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"The 15 places we've chosen as the best small towns to visit in 2021 are prime examples of perseverance and preservation, and reminders of all that we love about small towns in the first place." Listed in no particular order, Ely, Minnesota made the list for its outdoor appeal. Some of the local features highlighted by Smithsonian Magazine include:

  • The Boundary Waters (BWCAW)
  • Superior National Forest
  • Dogsledding (Ely is recognized as the "Sled Dog Capital of the World")
  • Steger Mukluk
  • Wintergreen Northern Wears
  • Crapola!
  • Piragis Northwoods Company
  • Brandenburg Gallery
  • International Wolf Center
  • North American Bear Center
  • Stony Ridge Resort & Cafe
  • Boathouse Brewpub & Restaurant
  • Northern Ground Coffee & Wine Bar
  • Evergreen Restaurant

See the full list of 15 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2021 by Smithsonian Mag here.

What's your favorite activity or location to visit in Ely, Minnesota?

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