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A Cultural Casserole
Follow the European immigration to the North American heartland. Bask in their triumphs, witness their accomplishments and be amazed at the hardships they overcame as they tamed the wilderness.
Groups from all areas of Europe traveled to the region, and each remains an integral part of the culture and history of the area today. From the iron miners in northern Minnesota towns, representing 40 European nationalities, to the German-speaking Mennonites from Russia who settled in Manitoba, each ethnic group arrived and put roots into their new home. Discover the heritage of the region as you tour Minnesota and Manitoba on this nostalgic route.
(Click Map to Enlarge)
Day 1 - Duluth, MN
Begin your tour on the shore of Lake Superior in Duluth, the largest inland seaport in the world. A morning harbor tour aboard the Vista Fleet provides close-up views of iron ore ships and visiting foreign vessels (2.0 hours). Afterward, explore Canal Park – watch iron ore ships pass under the unique Aerial Lift Bridge, visit the Canal Park Marine Museum (45 minutes), and browse through shops in the Canal Park harbor area. Tour the 610-foot (186-meter) long William A. Irvin, a retired iron ore carrier that was once the flagship of the US Steel Corporation (1.0 hour). Next stop is The Depot, the restored 1892 Union Train Station that houses five museums, including a historic train museum (1.0 hour). Enjoy a harbor sunset over dinner at a fine Duluth restaurant.
Overnight: Duluth, MN
Day 2 - Duluth to Ely to Virginia, MN (156 mi/250 km)
Step into a classic railroad car (charter) for the North Shore Scenic Railroad train ride to Two Harbors (1.5 hours). Board your coach for a drive along the stunning north shore of Lake Superior to Split Rock Lighthouse, a historic landmark and light tower, which guided ships on Lake Superior for more than 70 years (1.0 hour). Travel through the Finland State Forest to Ely, a charming wilderness town, for lunch. Inhale really fresh air, relax with a latte or browse through quaint shops. Ely is a gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, named by National Geographic as one of the 50 “must visit destinations” in the world. About 40 minutes from Ely, on the Iron Range, is the Soudan Underground Mine. On the surface, an interpretive center houses displays of the mines. Adventurous visitors can don hardhats and ride a mine shaft elevator a half-mile underground for a guided tour (2.0 hours).
Overnight: Virginia, MN
Day 3 - Virginia to Chisholm to Grand Rapids, MN (59 mi/95 km)
On the drive to Chisholm, visit the Greyhound Bus Origin Center – birthplace of the Greyhound Bus Lines (1.0 hour). Explore the saga of the Iron Range at Ironworld Discovery Center. Immigrants from more than 40 countries came to work on the Iron Range, which contained one of the world’s largest deposits of iron ore. Learn about the Iron Range through a series of dramatic exhibits (3.0 hours). After an ethnic miner’s lunch, drive 30 minutes south to the Hill Annex Mine for a guided tour of a working open pit mine (1.5 hours). Then it’s on to Grand Rapids, a charming town on the Mississippi River. Pretend you are a lumberjack in the 1900s at the Forest History Center, where costumed interpreters relive daily life in an authentic logging camp. Finish the day with a lumberjack-themed dinner, complete with fiddler!
Overnight: Grand Rapids, MN
Day 4 - Grand Rapids, MN to Winnipeg, MB (243 mi/389 km)
After a morning drive along the great birding trail in northwestern Minnesota, explore the colorful history of Manitoba’s Metis and Francophone settlers in St. Pierre-Jolys at the La Galerie Riviere-aux-Rats Art Gallery, Goulet House and the Museum (2.0 hours). Discover how a people’s spiritual experiences inspired their daily work as you tour the re-creation of an early Manitoba settlement at Steinbach’s Mennonite Heritage Village (2.0 hours). In the capital city of Winnipeg, The Manitoba Museum depicts the story of immigration into Manitoba (2.0 hours) while lively comedic theatre skits at The Forks (1.0 hour) portray how residents of this region moved from a hunter/gatherer to an agricultural society.
Overnight: Winnipeg, MB
Day 5 - Winnipeg to Selkirk to Gimli, MB (48 mi/77 km)
Experience the vibrant French culture at the St. Boniface theatrical walking tour (1.0 hour), the St. Boniface Museum (1.0 hour), and the Riel House National Historic Site (1.0 hour). Or visit the unique Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Center, the largest center of its kind outside of the Ukraine (1.0 hour). Enjoy saucy French cuisine or a hearty Ukrainian meal. Learn about Manitoba’s maritime history of Lake Winnipeg, the 14th largest freshwater lake in the world, at Selkirk’s Marine Museum of Manitoba (1.0 hour). Visit Gimli, known as “home of the Gods” and the capital of an independent colony of Icelanders who settled along the western shores of Lake Winnipeg in 1875. It is the largest Icelandic community outside of Iceland and home to The New Iceland Heritage Museum and the Lake Winnipeg Visitor Centre (2.0 hours).
Overnight: Gimli, MB
Day 6 - Gimli to Dauphin, MB (170 mi/272 km)
Travel through Lake Manitoba Narrows to the community of Dauphin, home of Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival, showcasing the heritage of the Ukrainian settlers. Follow the trail to the rock formation of the Thunderbird Nest, ceremonial site of the Aboriginal’s guardian spirit at Lake Manitoba Narrows (1.0 hour). Travel for about an hour to Dauphin, where you can visit the Fort Dauphin Museum, the Historic Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Resurrection, an outstanding example of early Kievan-style of Eastern Christian church architecture and the Trembowla Cross of Freedom Historic Site and Museum. This is the site of the first Ukrainian Catholic Divine Liturgy in Canada held in 1897. Clap to the music and join festive dancers while sampling the delicious foods of the Ukraine (3.0 hours).
Overnight: Dauphin, MB
Day 7 - Dauphin to Winnipeg, MB (188 mi/301 km)
Riding Mountain National Park is wild and wonderful – a fascinating blend of forests, lakes, cultures and people. Wasagaming or Clear Lake, the resort town site, offers a full range of recreational activities, sight-seeing, shopping and dining (2.0 hours). Driving through this National Park provides plenty of opportunities for great photo stops. Return to Winnipeg on the Yellowhead/Trans-Canada Highway and stop at the Minnedosa Heritage Village and nearby bison compound and suspension bridge (1.5 hours), Neepawa’s Beautiful Plains Museum located in a former railway station (30 minutes), or the Fort la Reine Museum and Pioneer Village in Portage la Prairie. The fort was originally built in 1738 by explorer, La Verendrye, and was an important stopping place during the fur trade era (1.0 hour). European-style foods found throughout the area provide wonderful options for dinner on the final evening of your Cultural Casserole Tour.
Overnight: Winnipeg, MB