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Ely named one of 15 best small towns to visit

Smithsonian Magazine noted the charms of the community that serves as gateway to the BWCAW, including winter adventures and a charming mainstreet.

ELY, Minn — Editors note: The video above originally aired in March of 2019. 

A paddler's dream.

That's just one phrase Smithsonian Magazine used when describing Ely, a town of just under 3,400 named by the highly-respected publication as one of 15 Best Small Towns To Visit in 2021.

Along with quaint communities ranging from Muscle Shoals, Alabama to Bath. Maine and Dyersville, Iowa, Ely is described by Smithsonian as a place of value that can help humans emerge from isolation and reconnect as the pandemic eases.

"Whether it's by enjoying an outdoor summer concert with neighbors or by catching up with friends at the local brewpub, a sense of community has been hard to find for many; Zoom and FaceTime made for adequate, virtual stand-ins, but they don't compare to the real thing," reads the piece, written by journalist Laura Kiniry. "It's those in-person interactions with familiar faces that make small towns so alluring. That is, along with the independent shops, hidden gem parklands, historic sites and architecture, unique restaurant finds, and, of course, a slower pace of life and relative affordability that numerous city dwellers are finding more and more appealing."

Credit: Ely Chamber of Commerce
Among other things, Smithsonian Magazine cited the BWCAW as a prime reason to visit the town that many associate with wilderness canoeing.

Among other things, Kiniry mentions the unspoiled beauty of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), wildlife watching, winter adventures like dog sledding and kicksledding, and the colorfully painted buildings along Ely's main street, which "exude endless charm." Small businesses like Steger Mukluk, granola manufacturer Crapola! and the Brandenburg Gallery, which shows and sells the photographic works of legendary photographer and native son Jim Brandenberg also merit a shout-out.

Credit: Les Conrad
Ely wears its love for winter adventures, including dog sledding, on the town's proverbial sleeve.

Looking for some other great Minnesota towns to explore? Check out our latest stops on the That's So Minnesota Road Trip: