Books transport us to faraway fantasies and magical lands. They can also serve as travel guides to their settings. Here, 14 spring trips inspired by books, movies, and music.
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Spirits of the Lake
Alake as big as Superior can hold a lot of stories, shifting and changing with the waves. Duluth writer Danielle Sosin offers some compelling tales in The Long-Shining Waters, her breakout novel of 2011, mingling the experiences of Grey Rabbit, an Ojibwe woman living in the 1600s, with those of Berit and Gunnar, anglers from Norway making their living off the lake at the turn of the last century, and Nora, a modern-day bar owner who finds herself embarking on a journey around the entire lake. Their stories mesh as each character, in their own way, struggles to survive. Occasionally the spirit of the lake itself pipes in—such is the power of place.
Where to go
Fuel up at the Anchor Bar in Superior, Wisconsin, the scruffy inspiration for Nora’s bar, the Schooner (413 Tower Ave., anchorbar.freeservers.com). Up the shore is Split Rock Lighthouse and the beach at Father Baraga’s Cross, both of which get shout-outs in the book. Says Sosin: “For the bigger picture, one of my favorite spots is Palisade Head, an enormous cliff outside of Silver Bay, but only if you are not afraid of heights.” She recommends hitting the Superior Hiking Trail and taking time to listen to the lake. “Any rock ledge or stony beach from Duluth to the border will do,” she says. “All you have to do is sit yourself down, and that lake will make its presence known.”
The Long-Shining Waters by Danielle Sosin
The North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum (7136 Hwy. 61, Tofte; commercialfishingmuseum.org). The first settlers along the lake staked fishing claims in the water beyond their cabins, and most of the couple dozen commercial fishermen still plying the lake are relatives of these hardy folk. You may recognize people like Berit and Gunnar in the vintage photographs.
The juicy burgers at the colorful Anchor Bar are legendary. In fact, the bar’s website promises the “No. 1 cheap good burger in Wisconsin” and the “second-best bartender in the Twin Ports.”
Bluefin Bay, a complex of suites, studios, condos, and town homes along an enviable stretch of lakefront (7192 Hwy. 61, Tofte; bluefinbay.com).
BOB DYLAN’S PAST
Until recently, the Iron Range scarcely acknowledged that a teenager named Bob Zimmerman emerged from there to become Bob Dylan. Now even his old family home in Hibbing has its own Trip-Advisor page (despite not being open to the public).
➻ Where to go
Start in Duluth, where Dylan was born, and follow Bob Dylan Way, a 1.8-mile walking tour linking the city’s cultural hotspots (find a map at bobdylanway.com). The annual Duluth Dylan Fest is typically around his birthday, May 24. In Hibbing, the city librarian offers walking tours by appointment (or use the map at hibbing.mn.us), taking in his former home, the café where he hung out with Echo Helstrom (his muse for “Girl of the North Country”), and the stores run by his family, among other sites. Dylan Days, offering music, bus tours, and general Dylan fandom, will be held May 23 to 26 this year, based at Zimmy’s Restaurant.
➻ Where to stay
To really get a feel for the Iron Range, stay at the Mitchell-Tappen House in Hibbing, a B&B that was moved, along with the rest of the town, in 1919, so that ore underneath could be extracted (2125 Fourth Ave. E., mitchell-tappanhouse.com).
THE BEST OF JIM BRANDENBURG
With two favorite regions in Minnesota and decades of images to display, the globetrotting National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenburg maintains two galleries in opposite corners of the state, one in his hometown of Luverne, another in Ely, where he lives now.
➻ Where to go
It’s a seven-hour drive from Ely to Luverne, so make this a two-part adventure. To build his Ely gallery, Brandenburg used the same team behind his incredible home studio, Ravenwood. The blond wood and smooth curves underscore the purity of his photos (11 E. Sheridan St., jimbrandenburg.com). The Luverne gallery has double significance, being both in his hometown and his means of preserving the prairie—all proceeds help the cause (213 E. Luverne St.). See the fruit of his labors 20 minutes north at Touch the Sky Prairie.
➻ Where to stay
Accommodations in Ely range from a cozy B&B (blueheronbnb.com) to remote cabins (bwcawlogcabin.com) to campsites (ely.org). In Luverne, regulars predominate: Comfort Inn, Super 8, a handful of motels (cityofluverne.org).