Join the residents of Grand Marais, the artsy hub of Minnesota's Lake Superior shore, as they greet autumn with song.

The cafe has closed, but no one rushes to leave. At one table, singer-songwriter Lindsay Mac celebrates her performance that evening at Unplugged, an annual festival at the North House Folk School. She and a friend burst into an impromptu rendition of Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecilia," and soon, everyone in the restaurant joins her, voices raised in laughing song.

You could blame the wine-or you could credit Grand Marais, a one-stoplight oasis of great food and culture 110 miles northeast of Duluth. The town (population: 1,340) brings out the joie de vivre in anyone, especially in fall. Summer crowds thin, and with them go the insects, replaced by bald eagles, burnished foliage and bracing, pine-scented air. And the season kicks off with Unplugged, a growing event that's still small enough to make you feel like part of the Grand Marais family (Sept. 17-18, 2021).

Scenic Artists’ Point hides behind the red-roofed Coast Guard station. Photo: Jay Wilde.
Scenic Artists' Point hides behind the red-roofed Coast Guard station. Photo: Jay Wilde.

Trip guide

What to do

North House Folk School Classes cover basket making, blacksmithing and more, and the school's schooner sails daily. Unplugged features concerts and workshops. (888) 387-9762;

Artists' Point An almost magical serenity hangs over this rocky spit jutting out into Lake Superior.

Lutsen Mountains ski resort Race down Moose Mountain on the alpine slide (like a sled with no snow) or ride up in a windowed gondola for sweeping views in all directions and pleasant hiking. (218) 663-7281;

State parks Top-notch parks line the entire North Shore. Easy trails lead to waterfalls, rivers and scenic overlooks in parks such as Cascade River, Grand Portage, Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock Lighthouse, Tettegouche and Temperance River. (218) 387-3053;

Grand Portage State Park
A short hike leads to waterfall views in Grand Portage State Park. Photo: Ginger Crichton.

Where to eat

Angry Trout Cafe This sunny favorite is local to the core: Lake Superior fish and artisan-made decor. (218) 387-1265;

Gunflint Tavern Follow the crowds here for a craft beer and tasty appetizers. (218) 387-1563;

Where to stay

East Bay Suites A posh renovation has updated a more than 100-year-old downtown hotel along the Lake Superior shore. (800) 414-2807;

Lutsen Resort A historical lodge anchors this large resort in Lutsen (19 miles southwest of Grand Marais). Activities such as guided sea-kayak trips are complimentary. (800) 258-8736;

For more information: Cook County Visitors Bureau (888) 922-5000;