17 Things to Do in Grand Rapids, MN From a Local

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Are you looking for things to do in Grand Rapids, MN? I’m a local and know all of the best activities.

Grand Rapids is my hometown. I was born and raised there, and lived there for 21 years! Now I still visit at least once a month! I’ve done all of the activities at least once if not many more!

It’s the perfect destination to escape the big cities since we still have so much to do year-round but with a much better small-town feel.

I’ve spent so much time exploring my hometown, and am now ready to share with you the best of the best.

Things to Do in Grand Rapids, MN

1. Visit the Forest History Center

Tour a logging camp from 1900, learn about how lumberjacks lived, climb a 100-foot fire tower, and more as you explore Grand Rapids’ Forest History Center.

I must have visited this place 30 times when I was little, since we took field trips there as a class and my parents also brought us kids to run around.

It’s really a great place to bring your kids to explore and learn about the history of logging in Grand Rapids. Plus, there are plenty of walking trails so you can let them run and get their energy out.

Even as an adult, I’ve had fun during my recent visits to the Forest History Center, and it’s a nice way to spend your day!

A white and blue paddle board floating through the water in a lake.

2. Spend the Day on Pokegama Lake

How could you possibly visit Northern Minnesota without spending at least some time on a lake? Whether it be summer or winter?

Pokegama Lake is the main lake in my hometown of Grand Rapids. It covers over 1,000 acres and is where you’ll find most locals on any given day off.

There are public access points to the lake all over to put your boat in and go fishing, swimming, paddleboarding, and more. My personal favorite is the LaPlant Landing because it’s always quieter than other ones.

And in the winter, you’ll find a village of ice houses on the frozen lake with people going ice fishing! There are also often snowmobiles flying across Pokegama!

One of the most popular places to be on Pokegama is Zorbaz, which has sand volleyball, a beach bar, a restaurant, and places to dock your boat.

A wooden plank with a flatbread on it from Unwined Up North.

3. Grab Lunch at Unwined Up North

Of all of the places to eat in Grand Rapids, Unwined Up North is one of my absolute favorites.

From sandwiches named after local lakes to flatbreads after popular Minnesota artists, there’s something for everyone.

My favorite flatbread is the Chris Pratt. I always order that for my meal and a piece of cheesecake to go. They have the best cheesecake and you really can’t pass it up. The blueberry lemon is my go-to!

In the summer, there’s a nice patio to sit outside on and in the past few winters, they’ve also had heated igloos to eat outside!

A person wearing a helmet riding an ATV through a wooded trail.

4. Ride the ATV trails

There are thousands of acres of land available for ATV and OHV riding around the area, and it’s one of the ways to get outdoors in Grand Rapids.

Between federal, state, county, and forest land, as well as designated trails, there are trails literally everywhere. Some of the best are the ones owned by UPM Blandin, like the Rabey Line.

My family used to go four-wheeling every weekend in the summer and we would always search for new trails to experience something different. My favorite part was when it was a little muddy and we would get all dirty.

A mountain bike trail leading along the edge of Tioga Pit in Grand Rapids.

5. Go Mountain Biking at Tioga Recreation Area

If you’ve never tried mountain biking, Tioga Recreation Area is one of the best places to do it, since they have trails for all skill levels.

I’m nowhere near a great rider, but I love getting out at Tioga and trying the trails. My favorite trail is the Minneflowta Downhill line.

They even have a beginner skills loop right at the trailhead so you can get on there and practice going over rocks, on boardwalks, and around curves. I spent a lot of time on this track on my first day!

Tioga is part of the Ride the Range group, which brings together mountain biking around Northern Minnesota.

A view of the very bright blue Tioga Pit from a view above the lake, surrounded by trees.

6. Go Swimming at Tioga Pit

After biking at Tioga Recreation Area, head across the parking lot for a dip in Tioga Pit, one of the local’s favorite spots!

This is a mine pit that is over 200 feet deep. It’s a bright teal color and is very cold because of how deep it is! I think it’s one of the most beautiful places for swimming in the state!

But if you can get past the chill, it’s the perfect place to take a dip on a hot summer day. It can get busy at times, but there have also been days where I’ve had it all to myself. It’s really just a luck of the draw!

There have been many times where I’ve visited and had to clean up other people’s trash, so please for the sake of us locals, clean up after yourself before you leave.

7. Visit the Mesabi Trail

The Mesabi Trail starts right in Grand Rapids before it makes its journey all the way up to Ely. It’s a massive 150-mile paved trail that you can hike, bike, ski, snowshoe, walk, or run on.

In the summer, the trail is a hot spot for runners and bikers. In the winter, you can go snowshoeing or cross country skiing on the trail.

Though the trail isn’t groomed for these activities, it’s still the perfect place to pull on your boots and explore since it meanders right through the forest.

I’ve seen everything from squirrels to deer on this trail, and it’s always so peaceful to get out and explore it. The trailhead is at the Fairgrounds in Grand Rapids.

8. Go Sledding on Murphy Hill

There are quite a few sledding hills around Grand Rapids to check out in the winter months, but Murphy Hill is one of the best.

This is the go-to sledding hill for kids to dig out their sleds and toboggans to have some great winter fun. It’s one of the biggest in town!

When I was learning to snowboard, I actually took my board to Murphy Hill and practiced because it was enough of a slope to learn on!

Murphy Hill can be a little tricky to find, as it’s hidden in a residential area, near Murphy Elementary School. There’s a small alleyway that you turn down and you’ll find a parking lot at the bottom of the hill. If you type is into Google Maps, it’ll bring you there.

The outside of the Reif Center in Grand Rapids, MN.

9. Watch a Show at the Reif Center

If you love watching theater or performances, then you’ll love watching a show at the Reif Center! This is where local artists can showcase their talents!

One of my favorite shows at the Reif Performing Arts is their annual performance of The Nutcracker. I’ve gone every year since I was probably 10 years old. It’s so beautiful!

But throughout the year they put on other shows, and there are also sometimes concerts and events by the Reif’s dance studio. This is a great winter activity in Grand Rapids, MN.

The outside of Brewed Awakenings Coffee House which is decorated with mosaics.

10. Grab a Cup of Hot Coffee at Brewed Awakenings

Brewed Awakenings is an adorable coffee shop, right in Grand Rapids that serves organic food, coffee, gelato, baked goods, and more.

The atmosphere at Brewed is what always draws me in. It’s so cozy, and there are paintings all over the walls from local artists.

There are plenty of tables so you can sit back and do some work if you need, or you can enjoy a coffee date to catch up with a friend.

I’ve gotten a few chai teas from Brewed recently and loved all of them! They’re just a great local coffee shop to support.

A snowmobile sitting on a trail in a field, one of the best things to do in Grand Rapids, MN in winter.

11. Go Snowmobiling

Although it can be hard to find things to do in winter in Grand Rapids, snowmobiling is something that is always on my list of things I can’t wait to do!

In the winter, snowmobiling takes over the trails in the area, as well as Pokegama Lake.

There are many public landings that you can get on the lake at, as well as trails through the forests that you can ride on.

Tyler and I go snowmobiling almost every weekend during the winter months, and we loved exploring all of Grand Rapids’ trails as we grew up.

A white home with large windows in the front where Judy Garland was born and raised.

12. Visit Judy Garland’s Childhood Home

Did you know that the famous actress, Judy Garland, from The Wizard of Oz was born in Grand Rapids? You can actually still visit her childhood home!

You can take a walk through her home which has beautiful vintage wallpaper, mirrors, furniture, and more. It really still feels like you’re walking in the 1920s when she lived here!

My favorite part was always exploring the Wizard of Oz memorabilia collection. They have the largest collection in the world.

You’ll also find the Children’s Discovery Museum on the same property where there are games, toys, exhibits, hands-on activities and more for kids.

I attended a lot of birthday parties here when I was little and can attest to the fact that the children’s and Judy Garland Museum is a lot of fun for kids! I remember it well!

Tyler riding in a blue kayak on a river in Grand Rapids, MN with the nose of my paddleboard at the bottom.

13. Go Kayaking on the Mississippi River

I love getting out on the water during the summer, but the lakes aren’t the only place to go kayaking and paddleboarding!

The Mississippi River runs right through Grand Rapids and there are a few access points for you to get on the water. Watch out for wildlife along the edge, because I almost always spot at least one deer!

Also, remember that this is a flowing river, so it’ll be almost impossible to paddle upstream. Have a plan to park at two different locations and paddle downstream. Or have someone pick you up!

Myself wearing ice skates and skating on a frozen lake.

14. Go Ice Skating on a Local Rink

Once the temperatures drop and it’s cold enough to freeze, another of the best things to do in Grand Rapids, MN is go ice skating!

I grew up figure skating and my brother played hockey, so we were always down at our local ice rink skating together! We still have a tradition of going out every Christmas for a skate.

Outdoor ice rinks with warming shacks can be found at Forest Lake School, Murphy Elementry, and near LaPrairie City Hall.

The IRA Civic Center also occasionally has open ice on their indoor rink and there are a few places around town where you can find cleared spots on the lakes.

People skiing down a snow-covered slope at a Minnesota ski resort.

15. Snow Tube or Ski at Mount Itasca

If you love skiing and snowboarding as much as I do, you’ll be happy to hear that there’s a nice little ski resort just 10 minutes away from Grand Rapids.

Mount Itasca is a small resort with only a few runs and one chairlift, but it’s a nice place to get in a few burner runs if you can’t wait to hit the mountains!

My favorite part is that there aren’t ever any lines so you can get up on the hill again super fast.

If skiing and snowboarding aren’t your things, Mount Itasca also has an awesome tubing hill that’s open on the weekends.

Myself, some friends, and a person dressed as a Wizard of Oz character at a fun festival in Minnesota.

16. Attend the Annual Wizard of Oz Festival

Since Grand Rapids is the birthplace of Judy Garland, it only makes sense that we celebrate her each year around her birthday with a Wizard of Oz Festival!

There are tons of free events happening all weekend long such as face painting, games, a movie on the big screen, and more.

In 2014, at the first annual festival, 1,093 people dressed in Wizard of Oz costumes and set a Guinness World Record. I was there and was dressed up as Glinda the Good With (see me in the picture above!).

Yellow trees in fall surrounding a hiking trail, one of the best things to do in Grand Rapids, MN.

17. Go Hiking at Scenic State Park

If you want to go hiking in the Grand Rapids area, there’s a great state park just about 45 minutes away up the Scenic Byway called Scenic State Park.

It’s located on Sandwick Lake and there are some really nice areas to go hiking around the lake and to enjoy nature.

The Chase Point Trail is my favorite because it stretches out onto a big peninsula between Sandwick and Coon Lakes. I love being so close to the water and it’s a really beautiful hike.

Scenic State Park also has some of the best campgrounds in the area, so if you want to spend even more time outside, this is where to do it!

Conclusion: Grand Rapids, MN Activities

If you’re planning a visit to the town of Grand Rapids, MN, you’ll be happy to know that there are tons of things to do from skiing to hiking, biking, swimming, eating, and more!

As someone who grew up in Grand Rapids, I know that there are so many great things to do in town and it’s a really great place to visit!

Now that you know what to do, check out all of the best resorts around the area so you can finish off planning your visit!