A burgeoning folk school, a newly acquired iconic painting, a green hostel overlooking Lake Superior: These are great reasons to go exploring. In fact, this list of our favorite destinations from across the state (plus one over the Wisconsin border) is enough to inspire a new New Year’s resolution: Travel often — and in the region.
Ely Folk School
Since opening in 2015, this folk school devoted to North Woods crafts and culture has been offering a range of classes, from Finnish sauna and Latvian mitten knitting to glassblowing and birchbark-canoe building. Those headed to the nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness should consider its class on wilderness first aid. Also, check out the occasional folk dance and music events. Where’s a student to sleep? Two stalwarts among Ely’s many choices are Burntside Lodge (burntside.com; 1-218-365-3894) and Camp Van Vac (campvanvac.com; 1-218-365-3782). elyfolkschool.org; 1-218-235-0138
Minnesota Marine Art Museum, Winona
Think of George Washington, and you might conjure an image of the general standing in a boat as it crosses the Delaware River. That never happened, but one of the paintings that popularized the myth — Emanuel Leutze’s “Washington Crossing the Delaware” — now hangs at Winona’s Minnesota Marine Art Museum. (The other, larger version is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.) After a day of viewing art by the likes of Picasso, Turner and Van Gogh, rest at the Carriage House Bed & Breakfast. The main-house guest rooms have recently been renovated (chbb.com; 1-507-452-8256). mmam.org; 1-507-474-6626
Crow Wing River, north-central Minnesota
It’s a big year for Minnesota’s state water trails. A dozen are celebrating 50th anniversaries; after they were designated in 1967, Minnesota had a total of 16 water routes covering collectively more than 2,700 miles — before any other state even had a formal water trail system. Minnesota’s continues to be the nation’s largest. A paddle along the Crow Wing River, with its marshy lowlands and rich forests, seems a fitting way to celebrate that legacy. Other rivers sharing the anniversary are the Cannon, Cloquet, Crow River-North Fork, Des Moines, Kettle, Mississippi, Red Lake, Root, Rum, Snake and St. Louis. dnr.state.mn.us/watertrails/
Breezy Point Cabins on Lake Superior
So classic are these red-log/white-trim gems perched along Lake Superior’s shore that they’ll make you sentimental for the cabin your family never had. Then walk inside, and you’ll be hit again with nostalgia, though there is nothing rumpled and aged here. The interiors are perfectly manicured for an old-cabin vibe amid modern comforts. Wool blankets drape the ends of the beds. Knotty pine paneling covers floors and ceilings. Stainless-steel kitchens are scaled perfectly to the compact spaces. And those views — of Superior, just beyond the glass — complete the picture.breezyonsuperior.com; 1-218-389-4522
Hungry Hippie Hostel, Grand Marais
Kate and Jeremy Keeble have turned the big red barn on their 10-acre farm into an affordable, friendly place to lay your head. Eight miles out of Grand Marais, the year-round Hungry Hippie Hostel offers five private rooms on the main floor, which has two shared baths and a common area. The former hayloft is now a bunkhouse, with its own half-bath. The prices? Only $55 a night for private rooms and $25 for a single bunk. The duo transformed the barn, in a vast open field, using reclaimed wood and other recycled materials; they use only green cleaning products. They clearly embrace nature — and guests.hungryhippiefarm.com; 1-218-387-4827
The Oxbow Hotel, Eau Claire, Wis.
Anyone who doesn’t equate hip urbanism with Eau Claire, Wis., has yet to stay at the Oxbow Hotel, the boutique hotel that opened in downtown Eau Claire last year. There’s the turntable in each of the 30 rooms, with a vinyl record library in the lobby. There’s the artsy sculpted deer head above the fireplace, the local art adorning the walls, and the modern lodge-inspired chartreuse plaid chairs — and the fact that the Lakely, its restaurant, doubles as a music venue. But another reason it rocks? It’s owned in part by Justin Vernon, a native son and the frontman of indie folk band Bon Iver. theoxbowhotel.com; 1-844-692-6932