**Updated : January 2023**
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Before You Visit Ely in the Winter
Before you head up to Ely this winter (I know we're pretty convincing) there's a few things you'll want to know and prepare for before this epic winter adventure. First things first, you'll need to decide where to stay during your visit. There are a few hotels in town, however we fully recommend checking out the Ely Cabin Collective - they have two options to choose from. The fully modernized "Aurora" Cabin that comes complete with skylights specifically designed for northern lights viewing and a sauna for guests.
Their second (actually the first cabin that owners Addie and Ben opened) is the Ely Log Cabin - a fully off grid, solar powered cabin that is truly stunning. This is the cabin we chose on our most recent visit to Ely, and we couldn't honestly recommend anywhere else. Located on 40 acres, they have snowshoes, a movie projector, a snowman kit, hot chocolate...the list goes on. The only downside is they tend to book out in advance, so if you're able to find a last minute opening, just consider yourself lucky! ;)
9 Best Things to Do in Ely
1. Kawishiwi Falls
This is probably our favorite thing to do in Ely during the winter. The hike itself is fairly easy at exactly 1 mile and only a 82 foot incline - meaning even in the cold you can handle this hike! The falls are truly stunning in any season, and they're quite big at 70 feet tall. There's a bench at the viewing overlook, and in the winter it truly looks like a winter wonderland as the falls flow into Fall Lake. Deer often use the trail as well, so make sure to keep an eye out for their footprints!
2. Explore Downtown Ely
Ely has an incredible amount of stores and restaurants downtown. Although some of these can close down during the winter season, there's quite a few that stay open too! We've listed our favorites below :
3. The International Wolf Center
Although the Wolf Center was closed on our most recent visit, we visited once before in the summer and this is a great experience for the family! At $18 per person, you can stop by and learn all about the local wolf population, wolf habitats and tendencies, and even observe the wolves onsite! During the winter months, they typically only open on Fridays - Sundays.
4. Try Snowshoeing
Ely gets an average of 63 inches of snow each winter, meaning winter sports like snowshoeing and cross country skiing are a perfect fit if you're looking for something to truly enjoy the outdoors. If you end up staying at the Ely Log Cabin like we did, then you'll have 40 acres to explore on the included snowshoes, with multiple trails and lookout points! If not, then we recommend heading to Bear Head Lake State Park, where you can rent snowshoes at the park office for just $6 a day.
5. Go Ice Fishing
Ely is surrounded by plenty of lakes (I mean it is in the land of 10,000+ lakes) and one of the most popular winter activities in the area is to head out ice fishing! Now if you've never been before, we highly recommend getting a guide or heading out through one of the resorts near Lake Vermillion - it's essential to never head out onto the frozen lake if you don't know the ice thickness! Since Ely is a natural access point to the Boundary Waters, there are many lakes here that well known for lake trout and walleye, however many of these lakes also don't allow any motors or gas augers meaning you'll have to snowshoe or cross country ski your fishing gear onto the lake. Our last tidbit on ice fishing in Minnesota - make sure to get your fishing license before hand! If you're found fishing without one you can be fined upwards of $50-$150.
6. The Dorothy Molter Museum
This unique museum is seasonally open during peak summer months, however during the winter you can still stop by on a scheduled root beer pick up! Since the museum itself isn't open in the summer, let us explain. In 1949 planes were prohibited from flying onto the local lakes, which really made certain supplies highly sought after. Because soda was an item that was "a pleasure and not a necessity" Dorothy Molter began making and bottling her own root beer, which quickly gained popularity. In certain years she was even bottling over 10,000 bottles of root beer each summer! Now a days, you can visit the gift shop in the winter months and pick up a six pack of her special root beer for $10.
7. Search for the Aurora
Because Ely is so far north the probability of experiencing the Northern Lights highly increases. The best times to view the aurora are in the spring and fall months, typically late into the night - however they often show up in the winter nights too! For your best chance to see the aurora you should look north, head outside on a clear night, and look for faint "cloud-like" colors that are moving - these are what will typically turn into the greens and reds you see above if you're lucky! If you're really keeping your fingers crossed for the aurora while you're in Ely - we highly encourage you to stay at the Aurora Cabin - which has specifically made skylights that face north so you can look for the aurora while staying cozy and warm!
8. Relax at Pebble Spa
If the outdoors isn't really your thing, or you just want to incorporate some rest & relaxation during your visit to Ely - then our recommendation is to book a session at the Pebble Spa! They have a wide array of services from massages to sauna sessions, facials to waxing - and you can book directly online at their website!
9. Get Some Work Done
Like we mentioned above, the Northern Grounds coffee house has a co-working space on their second level. Although you probably aren't looking to get work done on your trip, this is a great option in case your stay doesn't have wifi or you have a project that just can't wait. Day passes cost $10 or a 14 day pass costs $100.
Watch our Ely Adventures here!
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