Where to shop
Grand Marais isn't large, which makes a walking tour of the shops manageable on even the coldest days. Start at Joynes Ben Franklin Department Store, where shelves are crammed with a mind-boggling array of stuff, from camping supplies to Norwegian sweaters (1-218-387-2233). The Lake Superior Trading Post, a cross between REI and a nature-minded gift store, can hook you up with rented snowshoes (1-218-387-2020; www.lstp.com). At the diminutive Drury Lane Books, you can dive into its thoughtful selection from the comfort of a window seat (1-218-387-3370; www.drurylanebooks.com). Sivertson Gallery displays works by more than 60 regional artists and Inuit and Alaskan native art. Its ninth annual Inuit Premiere -- which features carving demonstrations and throat singing -- is coming up the weekend of March 13 (1-888-880-4369; www.sivertson.com).
Venture nearly 30 miles up the Gunflint Trail to cross-country ski at Bearskin Lodge, as I did (1-218-388-2292; www.bearskin.com). Or just drive up the hill overlooking Lake Superior and Grand Marais and enjoy miles of trails for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing at Pincushion Mountain (www.pincushiontrails.org). Downhill ski buffs can head to nearby Lutsen Mountains (1-218-663-7281; www.lutsen.com).
No place in town beats the no-fuss Pie Place for breakfast (1-218-387-1513).
When I walked into the white-tableclothed but entirely unstuffy Chez Jude for dinner in January, a table near the fireplace warmed me up. The pesto shrimp pizza appetizer and braised short rib finished the job, so by dessert I was ready for sage ice cream, a surprisingly delicious alternative to mint (1-218-387-9113; www.chezjude.com). Chef Judi Barsness closed Chez Jude for the season last weekend (reopening on Mother's Day weekend), but you can catch her inventive cooking through the winter at Bearskin Lodge (1-218-388-2292; www.bearskin.com).
At Crooked Spoon Cafe, chef Nathan Hingos serves an appetizer of mussels steamed with white wine, butter, garlic and thyme that comes with French bread. If he skipped the bread, you'd end up drinking the sauce to get every last drop (1-218-387-2779; www. crookedspooncafe.com).
Where to stay
I stayed at East Bay Suites, where flat-screen TVs, leather sofas and stone fireplaces could almost make you forget you were near rugged nature -- if it weren't for the expansive views of Lake Superior out your window (1-800-414-2807; www.eastbaysuites.com).