Review Ironwood, Michigan Municipal Campground Curry Park is on the Western edge of Ironwood, located on US Highway 2. It is a city owned campground and is located next to Gogebic County Fairgrounds. Until recently we didn’t realize the campground was as extensive as it is. We had the impression it was primarily a tenting … Read more
Campground Review – Grand Marais, Michigan Municipal Campground Woodland Park is situated on a bluff overlooking Lake Superior. It is one of our favorite RV campgrounds because it is located on one of the most popular rock hound and agate hunting beaches around the Big Lake. The campground is only three blocks from the main … Read more
Black Beach Campground at Silver Bay, Minnesota The city of Silver Bay has recently opened a RV and Tent Campground adjacent to Black Beach Park. There’s a total of 49 campsites suitable for RVs. Some RV sites are 20/30 amp electric-only sites; while others are 20/30/50 amp electric sites with water and sewer hookups. Park … Read more
After the cancellation due to the “dampendic” last year, the annual Rock, Mineral, and Agate Fest resumed in Grand Marais, Michigan the second weekend in September. For years this annual convention of Rock Collectors and Agate Hunters had been hosted at Muskallonge State Park, about 20 miles East of Grand Marais on the shores of … Read more
Visiting Bentleyville Tour of Lights, Duluth’s amazing Holiday & Christmas Theme Park
Every year Duluth volunteers take over Bayfront Park to create a Christmas Village of 5 million lights. Besides displays of Santa, Reindeer, the Nativity, and other icons of Christmas there are loads of light displays depicting Duluth landmarks like the Aerial Lift Bridge, Enger Tower, Canal Park and favorite annual events like the Tall Ships Festival. We first visited Bentleyville in 2010 and had a great time wandering through the displays. We’ve been back a few times since then and always enjoy the holiday fun. Going to Bentleyville never gets “old” because each year the Holiday Lights Village is arranged in a different fashion and new displays keep popping up.
The Bentleyville Christmas Lights Village is open seven nights a week from the weekend before Thanksgiving to a day or two after December 25th.
Here’s two videos from our past trips: The 2017 Duluth Holiday Christmas Display and the 2021 Holiday Lights Tour.
Duluth’s Polar Express Christmas Train
If your visit is on a Friday through Sunday, you can park at Fitgers Brewery Complex and ride the Christmas Express Train (see video below) to and from the Duluth Depot and walk across the bridge to the Bentleyville Tour of Lights.
We were in the Ironwood area at the end of September, about a week early for the best fall color along the National Forest Scenic Byway from Ironwood to Black River Harbor. The best fall color was actually in Ironwood at the Curry Park campground. Even though it wasn’t full color along the Scenic Byway, … Read more
If you are considering doing the Circle Route around Lake Superior in the fall and want to have the best chance of catching good fall color, here’s my recommendations of best scenic fall drives around the Lake.
Western Upper Peninsula Fall Color
The earliest fall color occurs in the Western Upper Peninsula. Peak color occurs around the end of September and early color is about mid-September. So I’d start my trip in Ironwood, Michigan.
If you are coming from Minnesota or through Western Wisconsin on your way to Ironwood you could stop in at Copper Falls State Park, near Mellen. There’s a well-maintained hiking trail around the falls that will also show some nice leaf color. Then take state highway 169 north and east to connect with US Highway 2 going to Ironwood. There will be good color along this route and if you like waterfalls you could also stop by Potato Falls Country Park on your way to Ironwood.
Once in Ironwood, you can take the Black River Scenic Byway (Highway 513) to the Black River Harbor Park where there are several terrific waterfalls and a mature hardwood forest that will offer attractive fall color. Alternately, prior to arriving in Ironwood, you could take Wisconsin 122 towards Saxon Harbor and cross the border into Michigan on Michigan Highway 505. That will run along the lake shore to Little Girls Point and then eventually turn south towards Ironwood. But before you get to Ironwood you’ll intersect with Airport Road which if you take east will join up with the Black River Scenic Byway (Highway 513).
After touring Black River Harbor return south along Highway 513 to US2 which you’ll take east to Wakefield, Michigan. There you’ll go north on Highway 519 to Porcupine Mountains State Park where you could easily spend a day or more exploring waterfalls, scenic lookouts, and hiking and nature trails.
On the return trip take Brockaway Mountain Drive to catch the color from the top of the mountain. See our UP Fall Color Drive Map for illustrations of the above locations and links to pages with more detailed information and photos.
Fall Color Drives Central Upper Peninsula After leaving the Keweenaw, take Michigan Highway 28 to Munising and the Western Edge of Pictured Rocks National Park. Highway H58 runs along the southern border of the park. From H58 you can take side trips into various scenic attractions of the park itself. As you travel eastward on H58 towards Grand Marais you’ll go through some heavily wooded areas that offer good fall color. The first week in October is when peak color generally occurs.
Leaving Grand Marais, you should travel to Newberry, Michigan and then take Highway 123 to Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Expect some good color along this route and in the park itself. The fall color framing the Upper Tahquamenon Falls is outstanding. From Tahquamenon Falls you travel to Paradise, Michigan. A side trip north to Whitefish Point and Lighthouse is an option. Otherwise you go south from Paradise and catch the Whitefish Bay Scenic Byway going east towards Sault Ste. Marie. There will be some attractive color along this route.
Ontario Fall Color Drives
From Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, you take the International Bridge to Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario and then travel north on Ontario Highway 17. You’ll find some good color along this route, especially as you arrive in Lake Superior Provincial Park. If you’ve got the time and inclination, an outstanding fall color excursion is taking the Agawa Canyon Tour Train from Sault Sainte Marie north. The trip up and back is a day long so plan to spend at least one overnight in Sault Sainte Marie. Fall color generally peaks in the first week in October but could last longer.
From Lake Superior park to Wawa there will still be hardwood forests that show a good variety of fall color. But north of Wawa and traveling west along the North Shore of Lake Superior, the forest composition changes to Boreal Forest with the yellows and golds of Aspen and Tamarack trees providing the main color components.
The Boreal Forest predominates until Thunder Bay, Ontario. Between Thunder Bay and the border at Grand Portage, Minnesota you’ll start to see a return to a mix between the Boreal Forest and the Northern Hardwood Forest (maples, oaks, hickories, etc.). While this is further north you’d expect color to have arrived earlier than around Sault Sainte Marie. But color change in Aspen and Tamarack generally occur later than Maples.
Minnesota North Shore Best Fall Color
Along the Minnesota North Shore near the lake itself your primary color will come from Aspen and Birch which generally peak in Mid-October. Lining the Minnesota North Shore are several mountain ranges and peaks that host more Maples, Oaks, and Hickories and have hiking trails leading to them from the lake shore. Along these trails and at the top of the peaks looking inland away from the lake you’ll see lots of color variety from Maples, Oaks, and wooded shrubs and trees. These trees and vegetation will start showing color in late September and into the first week of October. If you are non-hiker, take the Moose Mountain Gondola Ride at Lutsen, perhaps the number one fall color venue along the Minnesota North Shore.
About half way between Grand Marais, MN and Duluth is the Tettegouche State Park visitor center. There’s a decent network of trails along the bluff above the lake and the Baptism River that will offer several good scenic vistas. There’s also a new trail to the top of Shovel Point which will provide outstanding views of the lake, shoreline and looking back inland. Other parks along the North Shore that will offer some decent hiking through hardwood forests are Temperance River and Gooseberry Falls.
Northern Wisconsin Fall Color Scenic Drive From Superior, Wisconsin to Ashland and Bayfield peak color generally occurs around Mid-October.
Take highway 13 off US Highway 2 east of Superior, Wisconsin towards Cornucopia and Bayfield. Here you will see the yellows and golds of Aspen, Birch, and Tamarack with occasional groves of Maples offering oranges and reds. In Bayfield tour the orchards for apples and berries and some decent fall scenery. There are some nice color drives in and around the Ashland area (see our Ashland-Bayfield Fall Color Drive page). If you are in this area earlier than mid-October your best fall color will be south of Ashland, taking highway 13 to Copper Falls State Park near Mellen.
The middle weekend of July is Bayfield’s Annual Festival of the Arts & Gallery Tour. In 2019 this will be the 57th annual celebration (July 20 – 21). The arts and crafts portion of the event is held in the park along Bayfield’s waterfront and includes a variety of traditional artistic media (paintings, sculpture, photography, etc.) as well as unique craft items like pottery, jewelry, wood carvings, and more. In addition there is Gallery Tour where a number of local galleries and artisan studios host open houses, gallery exhibits, special sales and working demonstrations of their crafts.
Below are some pictures from the 2016 Festival of the Arts. (click on images for a larger view)
We stopped first at Black River Harbor Scenic Area and spent an afternoon and the following morning on the beach. Had some modest success. The second day, before we went rock picking, we hiked the trail to park’s highest waterfall – Rainbow Falls and were rewarded with some impressive scenes. (see our video below).
Our next stop was Little Girls Point and again we did an afternoon of hunting followed by a follow-up hunt the next morning. Here we had some good luck in that there was a storm with high winds overnight which brought in lots of fresh rocks on the beach that weren’t there the day before. We found the majority of our agates and other distinctive gem stones on this day.
We also caught an attractive sunrise at Little Girls Point and a sunset across Chequamegon Bay in Ashland, WI.
Thanksgiving Dinner at the Pickwick Restaurant – Restaurant Review
The Pickwick Restaurant & Pub has been a Duluth landmark since 1914 at the same location next door to the historic Fitgers Brewery complex. The Pickwick actually started life in 1888 as the “Old Saloon” within the Fitgers complex itself, but moved to its current location in 1914, bringing some furnishings and artifacts from the original saloon. The aged oak furnishings, woodwork, and wall murals testify to its Old World feel, reminding me somewhat of Chicago’s historic Berghoff restaurant.
Knowing about its 100 plus year history and its proximity to Fitgers Inn, where we stayed, was one reason I chose them for our Thanksgiving Dinner.
Dan and I had the more traditional Turkey Dinner whereas Jo and Donna decided to order one of the special Thanksgiving Features.
The serving of slow-roasted turkey was huge, moist and hot. Absolutely delicious. The large mound of mashed potatoes and gravy was nicely seasoned and the green bean casserole was tasty and the beans still crisp, not overcooked. The special sausage stuffing with yams and other veggies was the best stuffing I’ve ever had with a turkey dinner. Our dinners were preceeded by a generous serving of ceaser salad and dinner roll. One of the best meals out I’ve ever had. And so filling I could not finish all my turkey and I have a record of a “clean plate” guy. Dan was equally impressed with his meal and gobbled it up even quicker than me.
Jo loved her char grilled Atlantic Salmon with a lemon dill compound, fresh garden salad, wild rice, and summer squash. The salmon was flakey, moist, not over-cooked, done just perfectly to the requested medium-well done. And the portion size was huge so there were left-overs to take home. Donna elected the five Jumbo Shrimp, beer battered and grilled with the vegetable of the day and side-salad. Very tasty.
Service was excellent. I measure attentiveness by how often my water glass was refilled and it never got to “empty” before our wait staff came around for a refill. The beer was served in a cool, frosty stein – just the way I like my South Shore Brewery Nut Brown Ale when I have it at the brewery in Ashland. ( Pickwick advertises that it keeps it beer at a cool 34 degrees temperature. No English Pub warm beer which some beer aficionados prefer and which I hate) Dan had the Castle Danger Cream Ale, a north shore brew that has become one of his favorites.
Jo and I have been coming to Duluth for vacations and holidays for over 20 years, but this is the first time we’ve set foot in Pickwicks. Won’t be our last for sure!
Duluth Bentleyville Christmas Lights Village – If you dine at the Pickwick this holiday season be sure to catch the Bentleyville Tour of Lights. You can take the train from right below the Pickwick Restaurant to the Duluth Depot (across the bridge from Bentleyville) and save the hassle of parking.