When the 26-mile railway known as the Lakefront Line opened in 1886, the views were wasted on pieces of fresh-cut timber, which don't have eyes, and hunks of iron ore, which tend to prefer boats. But it wasn't long before the engines began carrying more than the fruits of Minnesota's lumber and mining industries. By 1887, the railway began passenger service, which became an essential component of Duluth and Two Harbors transit before the advent of paved roadways and reliable cars. More than a century later, the North Shore Scenic Railroad runs that same path, offering residents and tourists alike a taste of old-fashioned transportation and unspoiled natural splendor. Riders travel along the tracks in vintage train cars during daily tours held throughout the spring, summer and fall, as well as special excursions such as elegant dinner train trips and the annual fall beer tasting train.
Over the past five-plus decades, Vista Fleet has entertained some six million passengers from all around the world. Today, the family-owned company sets sail on a pair of luxurious vessels: the Vista Star and the Vista Queen. After their early-morning Pilates classes, the two ships carry passengers across Lake Superior during sightseeing tours, dinner parties, and twilight cruises. All the while, Vista Fleet's staff members liven up the journeys with a mix of entertaining facts and games. They also point out iconic landmarks passing by, such as the Aerial Lift Bridge and the historic Canal Park.
The expanse of Lake Superior the surrounding Apostle Islands National Lakeshore have endless pockets of natural splendor. Just ask the guides at Superior Adventures, who have spent years of exploring the area, only to find untapped locales of awe-inspiring landscapes. The team dedicates their time helping others seek out places of serenity by sea kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and hiking.
Whether crossing to an island or exploring a sea cave, the team specializes in private or small group eco tours. These outings might drift along the sands and sandstone cliffs of Madeline Island and Meyer's Beach, navigate the wooded waterways and shallow caves of of Big Bay State Park, or snorkel the underwater shipwreck of the Finn McCool to search for treasure chests filled with advice on how to be cool.
Eco tours often include breaks for swimming or hiking through the last old-growth Boreal Forest in North America. Tour goers are also free to explore on their own by renting a sit-in kayak, sit-on-top kayak, or paddleboard complete with instruction.
Scaling an icy waterfall, kayaking on Lake Superior waves, and driving a horse-drawn sleigh. These are just some of the experiences Positive Energy Outdoors offers their guests. By providing access to these and other outdoor adventures, people are encouraged to explore the natural world in new ways. Co-founders Stephanie Love and Blake Cazier use their backgrounds in outdoor education to provide unique animal-powered excursions such as dog sledding and wagon rides, along with people-powered rock climbing and kayaking tours and instruction.
For Paradise Outfitters founder Deron DoRight, fishing trips aren't just a hobby, they are his livelihood. As a career angler, Deron has the technical knowledge and hands-on experience necessary to helm Paradise Outfitters' weeklong vacations, half- and full-day fishing trips on Rainy Lake, and two-day excursions at a local lake of the patron's choosing. Though the potential trophies change with the seasons⎯from walleye to pike to smallmouth bass, or the elusive swimming snowman⎯Deron’s aim is always the same: to help passengers enjoy the beauty of the lake and the sport of fishing, perched atop a comfortable 20-foot Ranger. When the waves ice over, two-person aluminum fishing houses and portable shelters shield anglers from chilly winds.
The story of Wineries and Grille in St Croix Falls began at a picturesque Wisconsin orchard. Former owners Linda and Mike Welch were busy crafting delicious apple wines from the fall’s harvest when the phone rang. "I’ve got 20 pails of ripe grapes,” the voice on the other end of the line said. “What do I do with them?" Out of the goodness of their hearts, Mike and Linda sprung into action, blending the grapes with their apples to create unique local wines. Their process evolved, as did their humble orchard, which now encompasses Wineries and Grille. Though they have since sold the orchard, they continue to produce apple and grape wines. They also market and sell wines from other local makers who have a talent for making outstanding vintages but struggle with the vagaries of marketing, sales, or convincing customers that some bottles contain genies.
Linda and Mike have a knack for tracking down Wisconsin’s best wines, partnering with producers such as Seven Hawks Vineyards to spread forward-thinking drinks. They sell new wines crafted from cold-weather hardy grapes at the University of Minnesota. They also carry national labels, such as Canyon Road from California, which is specially crafted for dining, and international labels from Spain, South Africa, and elsewhere. But even stronger than Linda and Mike's love for ambrosials is their love for St. Croix Falls and its local produce and game. Their son Greg uses these local ingredients to create hearty entrees with elk, rainbow trout, and hand-cut steaks. They pair smoked pork chops and crisp salads with bricks of homemade fudge and cheesecake, for meals that highlight the subtle flavors in their wines and leave diners yearning for more.