Grand Marais is a small town nestled along Minnesota’s North Shore. Lately, it has been getting a lot of attention for being a premier vacation area, particularly for outdoor enthusiasts. In 2017, USA Today named Grand Marais one of the “Best Midwestern Small Towns,” and it also was the winner of Lake Superior Magazine’s 2015 “Minnesota’s Best Weekend Destination.”
While Grand Marais is wonderful to visit anytime of the year, you just may want to mark your calendar for February 8-14, as the town will host their third annual Hygge Week, which is seven days devoted to all things cozy. Hygge (pronounced ”hoo-gah”) comes from the Danish word meaning “to give courage, comfort, joy.” The expression encompasses an attitude of savoring everyday simple moments. And that’s just what you’ll find in the events and activities planned for Hygge Week, which include outdoor pursuits like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fat-biking, as well as indoor events like card writing, knitting lessons by the fire, a comfort food cooking demonstration, live music and dancing, plus Scandinavian storytelling.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Linda Jurek is the executive director of Visit Cook County, a collaboration of tourism associations in the northeastern tip of Minnesota. Jurek is a native of the area and says the Arrowhead Region of Minnesota is uniquely different, in part due to the majesty of Lake Superior and the number of rivers that flow into it. Jurek shares, “It’s so beautiful. It’s an experience that everyone should have at least once in a lifetime.”
There are many outdoor adventure options geared toward enjoying the natural beauty of the area, and the information center at Visit Cook County has maps and routes to help you plan your cross-country ski, snowmobile or snowshoe excursions. A special event during Hygge Week is a fat biking tour up the river with the mayor of Grand Marais, Jay Arrowsmith Decoux, an avid cyclist.
The cornerstone of Hygge Week in Grand Marais is visiting the area’s lodges and restaurants that have beautiful fireplaces to gather around and relax. “These are historic fireplaces,” explains Jurek. “Majestic, iconic fireplaces. Very Scandinavian.” Typically, there are about a dozen fireplaces on tour, including Cascade Lodge (built in the 30s,) located along the shoreline of Lake Superior in Lutsen, and the rustic-chic Bearskin Lodge, located on the Gunflint Trail near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
The Gunflint Trail is a national scenic byway in Cook County. The 57-mile stretch of road begins in Grand Marais and travels up through the Superior National Forest to the Canadian border. Numerous side roads off the Gunflint Trail lead to campgrounds, a history museum and nature center, and smaller trails which are ideal for dogsledding, snowmobiling or catching a glimpse of the northern lights.
VOYAGEUR BREWING COMPANY
When planning your Hygge Week itinerary, you’ll want to include a stop at Voyageur Brewing, located between the ancient Sawtooth Mountains on the west and Lake Superior to the east. Known for their adventurous craft beers and perfectly paired foods (Reubens, sliders, flatbreads, wings and cheese curds), the taproom welcomes guests during Hygge Week.
There is also music and fun at Drury Lane Books, a quaint bookstore on the east bay of Grand Marais. Guests will gather around a bonfire for Scandinavian folk tales and music. For a calendar of Hygge Week events in Grand Marais, go to visitcookcounty.com and click on events.
If you are unable to venture north for Hygge Week in Grand Marais, there are numerous ways to add a little hygge to your winter at home. You might start by asking yourself, “What are some simple things that add joy to my life that I can easily do more of this winter?” Here are five ideas to get you started.
1. Board game night with friends. There’s no need to get bundled up for a night out on the town. Instead, invite some friends over, pop a big batch of popcorn and enjoy some lively conversation over a game of Clue or Monopoly.
2. Spend an afternoon cooking or baking an old family recipe. When the weather outside is frightful, I like to stay in and cook up a pot of my grandmother’s chicken dumpling soup and bake her from-scratch biscuits.
3. Add cozy accents to your home decor to create a more comfortable atmosphere. Build a fire, use candles and soft lighting or illuminate an area with twinkly lights. Add fluffy pillows and large knotted blankets to your living area. Create a spa-like bathroom by adding a plush rug, extra-large towels, moisturizing soaps and lotions, and buy yourself a soft, cozy robe to curl up in after a bubble bath.
4. Learn a new hobby, like knitting or crocheting, or start a book group. The hours of a long winter evening can be much more enjoyable when you learn something new.
5. Plan your own outdoor activity such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tubing or ice-skating. Both Quarry Hill Nature Center and Oxbow Park in Byron have cross-country ski trails and snowshoe routes that get you into the woods on a snowy winter’s day.
For more suggestions, Gwen Danfelt, manager of Drury Lane Books, suggests reading, “Hygge & West Home: Design for a Cozy Life,” by Christiana Coop and Aimee Lagos of the design company Hygge & West, and “Hygge: A Celebration of Simple Pleasures,” by Charlotte Abrahams.
Holly Galbus is a Rochester freelance writer who has many Hygge moments planned for this winter.