Interesting Spring Events around Lake Superior

Some Recommended Events and Festivals around Lake Superior

It has been a cold spring in the upper midwest region and around Lake Superior. Looks like things might start to warm up in a week or so.

We often take a trip up to the Lake Superior region in May to see spring break out and enjoy some of the attractions that later in the summer could be quite busy. Here’s a list of a few things going on we either plan to attend or would if the time allowed.

Milwaukee Road Steam Locomotive #261 near LaCrosse, Wisconsin

National Train Day and Steam Locomotive Railfest – Duluth, MN May 11-12th

The center of activities will be at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum with special programs and train rides celebrating National Train Day. What makes the weekend and the event really neat though is that the Milwaukee Road Steam Locomotive 261 will be arriving from Minneapolis pulling a set of classic railroading train cars. This will be the first excursion of #261 in four years as it has been out of service for a major re-build and maintenance. Some of the 261’s luxury cars will then join and be pulled the North Shore Scenic Railroad’s Steam Locomotive #2719 on a day excursion trip to Two Harbors and back.

Chequamegon Birding Festival & Bayfield in Bloom – Ashland &  Bayfield, WI May 16 – 18th

The Birding and Nature Festival is headquartered at the spacious Great Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland. Several workshops will be held there as well as exhibits on display. Even if you aren’t registered for the Festival you can still enjoy the exhibits. You can also go up to their observation deck to view migrating birds as well as check on the record of sightings. The Visitor Center also has a network of nature and hiking trails, some of which are set up to entertain kids. We never fail to stop in the Visitor Center on our trips around the lake. It is a great facility. While a number of the festival activities take place at the Center, many field trips and nature hikes are held elsewhere in the region. If you enjoy the natural world and/or birding, this is a major event that you’ll want to sample. See the event schedule here.

While you are in the neighborhood you can also catch the Garden Expo event in Bayfield on Friday. Wisconsin Public Radio hosts its “Garden Talk” radio show as the center piece of the Expo. If you can’t make the Chequamegon Festival, Grand Marais, Minnesota also hosts a nature and birding festival – May 30 – June 2nd. Later that month Grand Marais hosts a classic car show – June 15th and still later there is the Wooden Boat Festival June 20 – 22nd. Find out more about these activities at the North House Folk School website.

Grandma’s Marathon Festival – Duluth, MN June 20 – 22nd

Duluth’s Grandmas Race is the premier spring event (actually kicks off the first day of summer) around Lake Superior. The race starts in Two Harbors, Minnesota and runs along the lake shore along Scenic Highway 61 and finishes in Duluth’s Canal Park. There are numerous points along the route where you can set up your lawn chair and watch the race. Of course the biggest crowd is in Canal Park along the last quarter mile of the course. Even though there are lots of others around you can generally get a good view of the racers on the home stretch.

The 26.2 mile marathon is only one of several races going on that weekend. There’s also the half-marathon, 5 and 10K runs, a kids run, to mention a few. There’s music and food tents Friday and Saturday and other events associated with the festival. See more of what is happening at the Grandmas Race Website.


Another reason we like going up to Lake Superior in late spring, in addition to bug-less hiking and camping, is seeing the waterfalls in their springtime glory. Here’s two links on our SuperiorTrails website to waterfalls.

Minnesota North Shore Waterfalls

Western Upper Peninsula Waterfalls

As summer looms closer we’ll return here to write a new entry to give you a list of interesting events and places to visit around Lake Superior. There are many. We also are planning  a 360 degree Lake Superior Circle Tour loop early this summer and hope to do a few daily reports from our tour in the pages.

Happy Trails,