Way Up North

Photo courtesy of Superior Public Museums
Photo courtesy of Superior Public Museums

Here’s why you’ll want to add a trip to Superior, Wisconsin, to your bucket list.

For Minnesotans and Wisconsinites alike, there’s really only one important summer plan each year: going up north. Whether you’re fortunate enough to have a family cabin, take in the great outdoors at your favorite campsite, or rent a hotel room or Airbnb, going up north is a must on every northerner’s to-do list.

Whatever “up north” means to you—perhaps a trip to Duluth, Grand Marais, or somewhere just a short drive from home—there’s one place that you’ll want to add to your list: Superior, Wisconsin.

Located right over the river from Duluth, Minnesota, the other “Twin Port,” Superior, offers everything that “up north” should have: a charming small town, easy access to Lake Superior (which, if we’re being honest, is more of a sea), and endless hikes filled with breathtaking views.

Here are some of the (many) reasons to check out Superior, Wisconsin:

Photo courtesy of Bong P-38 Fund, Inc.

The Bong Center

The Bong Center plays a key role in Superior’s tourism industry and veteran communities. As a tourist attraction, The Bong Center provides opportunities and experiences for visitors to learn more about veterans from World War II to the present.

“Our outreach into the community allows us to be a hub for veterans and to give back to veterans through our annual canoe trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) and Thanksgiving meal for veterans,” says Dustin Heckman, executive director.

Though The Bong Center is known for its support of veterans, Heckman admits that they still have work to do to welcome LGBTQ+ folx.

“The Bong Center strives to be welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community, but we definitely have work to do in this area, especially in the inclusion of veteran stories from this community. This is part of our ongoing work to be more diverse and inclusive in our programming,” he says.

But no matter what, if you stop by The Bong Center, you’ll surely leave having learned something new.

“At the Bong Center, you get to learn about veteran experiences from the veterans themselves!  Throughout the Center, visitors will get to hear veterans tell their stories through oral history clips, videos, and their own written words. It isn’t just the Ace of Aces story but stories of veterans from all types of ranks and service periods. And we have two really cool artifacts in our P-38 Lightning airplane and M60 Tank that will catch your eye,” Heckman says. “At the Bong Center, we want to include stories from all veterans across the Northland. However, the stories and experiences of LGBTQ+ veterans are not represented in our collections or exhibits. In order to be more representative of the whole veteran community, these stories are needed. If you are an LGBTQ+ veteran, consider sharing your story and experiences in the military with the Bong Center so that others like you can be represented alongside your fellow service members.”

So when is the best time to visit Superior? According to Heckman, every season in Superior is amazing! 

“Even though summer and fall along the lake are so beautiful, wintertime is a blast up here. Get outside with snowshoes, snowmobiles, and skis to embrace the cold and see Superior in a completely different way,” he says.

Photo courtesy of Superior Public Museums

Fairlawn Mansion

If you’re a frequent visitor of Duluth, I’m sure you’ve been to the Glensheen Mansion. But what about the Fairlawn Mansion over the river in Superior?

“Fairlawn Mansion provides a historic atmosphere to learn about the Pattison family and their significant roles within the early years of the Superior community. The mansion also provides insight into the world of the children that resided here when it operated as a Children’s Home,” says Megan Meyer, executive director. “We are proud to provide a site where people can learn about and from history, share special moments during public and private events, and participate in Yoga and other special programs.”

Grace Pattison, the Matron of Fairlawn Mansion, was an incredibly kind and loving person, Meyer says. It was important to her to always do the right thing, which included treating everyone equally—making the Fairlawn Mansion a welcoming environment for the LGBTQ+ community. She was also a founder of the Children’s Home and Refuge Association, and she deeded Fairlawn to be a Children’s Home when she moved to California in 1920. It served more than 2,000 children and expectant and new parents. 

“We strive to provide the same welcoming environment Grace did to all that visited her home,” Meyer adds.

Fairlawn Mansion has two very distinct periods in its life: private Victorian residence and Children’s Home. “The unique stories and tales make it a true treasure to visit in Superior,” Meyer says.

Like Heckman, Meyer says that Superior is a beautiful vacation destination no matter what season.

“Superior is a great place to visit year round. Generally, our summers are mild and fall is a great time to see all of the foliage. However, the best time to visit Fairlawn is during early winter when we are decorated for the holidays,” she says.

Photo courtesy of The Main Club

MainClub Superior

The Main Club is the original gay bar in the Twin Ports, making it a must for your list. It first opened in 1983 and serves as a community gathering spot, drag show, live music and dance venue. 

“We are located in downtown Superior so our long-term location serves as visibility for the community members that cannot be visible for themselves,” says Shawn Roos, president of Atypical Enterprises Inc.

“We are a gay owned and operated business. We cater to the LGBTQ+ community while trying to involve the community as a whole,” Roos says. “We host events that focus on the community’s interests such as drag shows, trivia, bingo, bands, and DJs.”

With its topnotch bartenders, unique atmosphere, and large selection of liquor and beer, a visit to MainClub is a guaranteed good time—any time of the year.

“The Twin Ports is a year round destination. It has many outdoor activities no matter the weather. The walking and hiking trails for all abilities offer scenic views, coupled with shopping and dining experiences,” Roos says. “The Main Club has events year round that will keep you entertained on the weekend nights when you come to visit.”

Photo courtesy of The Main Club

JMR Financial Group

JMR Financial Group exists to “increase our clients’ net worth,” according to Vice President Robin Rosenbaum. “Our ‘One Firm, One Focus’ approach helps us serve a critical niche in the Superior, Wisconsin, community, and throughout the country, due to our technology-driven operations.” 

As a locally owned and operated company, JMR supports the local economy by providing competitive job opportunities for fourteen individuals and ensuring the people and organizations in the region thrive financially. In addition, as we are always focused on our client’s welfare and the communities we serve, we routinely volunteer in the area as a team as our way of giving back.

“JMR Financial Group, especially our leadership, believes in respecting and celebrating the individuality of members throughout our community—no matter their age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or beliefs,” Rosenbaum says. “It’s important to us that we treat all with kindness and confidentiality. We work hard to provide our team, and our clients, with a safe, welcoming, and open space for everyone to be able to access services without prejudice.”

And, of course, Rosenbaum says that the best season to visit Superior is, well, every season!

“Each season brings new reasons to visit Superior, Wisconsin, and I feel as though the seasonal experiences we have here are some of the best in the United States,” she says. “The beautiful shores of Lake Superior are stunning in summer. Fall is a fantastic time to enjoy our local parks and trails, and view the impressive foliage. Ice skaters and skiers love the local rinks, skiing hills and cross-country skiing trails in winter. And in spring, you can view majestic waterfalls that follow snowmelt and witness the breaking up of Lake Superior’s ice.”

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