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Discovering the Local Charms Around Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park, a sprawling expanse of pristine wilderness in northern Minnesota, is famous for its interconnected waterways, lush forests, and the opportunity it presents for an immersive outdoor experience. While the park itself is remote and largely undeveloped to protect its ecological integrity, there are several nearby towns that visitors can explore for accommodations, dining, and a taste of local culture. Below, we journey through the gateway communities around Voyageurs National Park, each offering its unique flavor and amenities.

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Published onDecember 19, 2023
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Discovering the Local Charms Around Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park, a sprawling expanse of pristine wilderness in northern Minnesota, is famous for its interconnected waterways, lush forests, and the opportunity it presents for an immersive outdoor experience. While the park itself is remote and largely undeveloped to protect its ecological integrity, there are several nearby towns that visitors can explore for accommodations, dining, and a taste of local culture. Below, we journey through the gateway communities around Voyageurs National Park, each offering its unique flavor and amenities.

International Falls: The Icebox of the Nation

Just outside the park's western entrance, International Falls serves as the primary gateway to Voyageurs. Known colloquially as the "Icebox of the Nation" due to its frigid winter temperatures, this town has a lot to offer visitors during all seasons. A range of lodging options, from cozy bed and breakfasts to full-service hotels, cater to travelers seeking a comfortable stay. Dining opportunities here are varied, with local eateries providing hearty meals. The Chocolate Moose is an International Falls institution, where the walleye is a must-try. This freshwater fish, commonly found in the park's waters, is often prepared grilled, fried, or blackened, and gives a delicious introduction to local cuisine.

Kabetogama and Ash River: Doorways to the Lake Chain

The neighboring communities of Kabetogama and Ash River are situated along the central and eastern park entrances. They provide convenient access to the park's namesake chain of lakes. These small towns offer various accommodations, including lakeside resorts and cabins that integrate seamlessly with the natural surroundings. Dining here often comes with a view, as many establishments are located on the waterfront.

In Kabetogama and Ash River, local specialties feature fish like Northern Pike and Crappie. One iconic dish visitors should not pass up is the traditional fish fry, where locals gather to cook the day's catch—a fun way to partake in regional traditions.

Orr: A Slice of Small-Town Comfort

A little farther south of the park is the town of Orr, which provides a more removed but no less charming home base for park visitors. The lodging in Orr ranges from family-owned inns to rental cabins nestled in the woods. Dining options in Orr lean towards comfort food, with homemade pies and pasties—savory hand pies brought to the region by Cornish miners and adopted by the local community—as a stand-out.

Crane Lake: The Northwoods Hideaway

Crane Lake is a small, picturesque community situated directly on the water at the southeastern entrance of Voyageurs National Park. As the last outpost before the wilderness, Crane Lake offers visitors the chance to stay in refined lodges and dine in restaurants that blend rustic charm with fine dining. The locale is famous for its wood-fired steaks and locally sourced wild game, making it an ideal spot to savor the true taste of the Northwoods.

Littlefork: A Taste of the Heartland

For those venturing farther afield, Littlefork offers an authentic experience of rural Minnesota. A culinary highlight in Littlefork is the locally harvested wild rice which is used in a variety of dishes from soups to salads and is a staple of the indigenous Ojibwe people who call this land home.

Famous Dishes to Try

When visiting Voyageurs National Park, apart from the freshly caught fish and wild rice, you should also try the unique offerings like:

  • Minnesota Hot Dish: A hearty casserole that features a mix of ground meat, canned or frozen vegetables, and a starch like tater tots.
  • Cheese Curds: Enjoy these deep-fried or battered treats that are a staple at local fairs.

Helpful Websites

For more information on accommodations, dining, and travel tips around Voyageurs National Park, you can visit the following helpful websites:

Each of these towns around Voyageurs National Park offers a slice of the rich cultural and culinary landscape of northern Minnesota. Whether you’re looking for a rustic or upscale experience, local hospitality is plentiful, and the unique dishes are sure to leave a lasting impression.

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