Virtual trip of the week

Need to plunge into a place far, far away? Explore Australia's Great Barrier Reef with British naturalist David Attenborough. He'll guide you on an interactive underwater tour of a colorful, diverse ecosystem. Dive in at

Kerri Westenberg

National parks, including Voyageurs, begin to reopen

Voyageurs National Park began allowing overnight visitors on May 18 as the National Park Service increased "access and services in a phased approach across all units" of the system. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, under the purview of the U.S. Forest Service, also opened to campers on Monday. The Park Service said decisions at each national park would follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and regional and local health authorities. Bob DeGross, superintendent at Voyageurs, said in a statement that they would "reconsider our operational stance" if they see activities that jeopardize the safety of staff, gateway communities or visitors. Overnight visitors should print camping and houseboat permits at home since the visitor centers remain closed. Park staff members will be available outside the centers on a limited basis, starting with the Rainy Lake Visitor Center, when staff will be available on the grounds on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays beginning May 30. More details at

Kerri Westenberg

Great Lakes cruises sinking

Until the pandemic turned the tourism industry on its head, buzz had been building about Great Lakes cruises. Travel + Leisure magazine dubbed the Great Lakes one of the world's top 50 spots to visit this year, crediting the region's growing cruise offerings. The number of port calls was expected to have grown in 2020, with 11 ships making an estimated 950 stops compared with nine ships and 520 port calls in 2019, according to the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition. "Now, it's all come to a screeching halt," said Stephen Burnett, executive director of the Canada-based coalition. He remains optimistic given Great Lakes cruises' closer-to-home itineraries and relatively fewer passengers.


Spirit Mountain goes dark

Spirit Mountain won't be opening again until it's covered in snow, canceling weddings and other summer activities at the popular recreation area in Duluth. The pandemic-prompted decision was made after the board that oversees the public ski hill decided staying closed was "better not only for the organization but for the city of Duluth too." Duluth City Council will consider the ski hill's budget next week, which presumes that the destination will remain closed to the public until November, according to city documents.

Brooks Johnson