There's no shortage of beauty at Minnesota’s North Shore. From the deep red and oranges hues as the leaves change in the fall, to the glimmering Lake Superior under a hot summer sun, to countless snow-topped hills in the winter, you won’t need to look far for gorgeous sights. And when you pair its beauty with endless activities and adventure, the North Shore makes for the perfect escape to kick back, relax, meet and celebrate.
“We have great activities that we offer through our resort, and the North Shore itself offers a vast variety,” says Tracy Blood, director of group sales, Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior. “In the summer, we have kayak tours, paddleboarding and hiking. In the wintertime, there’s cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and then of course downhill skiing on the best ski hill in the Midwest.”
Family-owned and operated Lutsen Resort has been a North Shore marvel for 130 years, thanks to its proximity to the Lutsen Mountains Ski Area (just a shuttle ride away), two indoor pools, a disc golf course as well as a pitch and putt course. And let’s not forget its blend of indoor and outdoor meeting spaces.
“Our ballroom has capacity for 125-plus seated (200 dancing), while our smaller Nelson Suite has a breathtaking view of Lake Superior and can hold up to 50,” says Blood. “For the summertime, we have a beautiful deck and a huge beach with three different bonfire pits, perfect for barbecues.”
The Lutsen Resort isn’t the only beachfront gem you’ll find along the North Shore. Superior Shores Resort and Conference Center and Bluefin Bay Family of Resorts both sit on the shoreline, offering views of Lake Superior you won’t get anywhere else.
“The very best thing about all Bluefin Bay Resorts is the views,” says Lori Schaefer, marketing director, Bluefin Bay Family of Resorts. “You can’t get any closer to Lake Superior at any of these resorts, and you can’t build any closer to the water at our Bluefin Bay Resort.”
If you’re seeking a relaxing retreat, the Bluefin Bay Family of Resorts is your go-to. Bluefin Bay offers homey amenities like hot tubs and pools overlooking the lake, in-room fireplaces, and cozy suites to curl up in after a day of meetings, plus adventurous offerings like outdoor equipment, complimentary shuttles and guided tours.
The family of resorts boasts three different meeting and event spaces, all equipped for any audio-visual need, including the Surfside Lakeside Ballroom that seats up to 90 (or 30 for a meeting), and the Bluefin Grille-Upper room that seats 75 (or 20 for a meeting). Looking to grab a bite? Head over to three on-site restaurants: Coho Café and Bakery, Bluefin Grille and Waves of Superior Café at Surfside for more lakefront views.
Bigger groups in search of an equally rejuvenating stay will relish in the rustic Superior Shores Resort and Conference Center’s expansive 3,600-square-foot meeting space, which can seat 280 banquet-style, or be divided into separate rooms for breakout spaces or separate events which each seat around 25.
“Our location is literally right on the water, and our meeting space has direct outdoor access,” says Jenna Pederson, director of sales and marketing, Superior Shores Resort and Conference Center. “We also have a patio area that we can set up for cocktail hour, as well as a spacious lawn for lawn games. It’s just a short jaunt and you’re on the beach.”
Worried the on-site catering won’t be up to snuff? Not here. Superior Shores Resort’s Executive Chef Kevin Aho has not only been awarded the title of Certified Hereford Beef Distinguished Chef, but he has also served as a private chef for rock bands Mötley Crüe and Ratt. All made to order with the freshest ingredients, his dishes are presented beautifully— sure to have your guests grabbing their phones to share on social media.
Sip and Savor
For a venue that radiates the North Woods vibe, look no further than Black Woods Grill & Bar in Two Harbors. Nestled on Main Street, the timber-built building holds a combined dining and bar space that seats 170.
“When you’re heading up to the shore, you’re really heading into a different zone, and we’re just on the cusp of entering the true North Shore,” says Jax Eisenmann, sales director, Greysolon Ballroom by Black Woods. “It has a nice warm environment, and when you walk in, it’s like Minnesota nice on steroids.”
Known for its kind and accommodating employees, Black Woods restaurant goes above and beyond to meet customers’ needs, whether that means bringing in the local flair and flavor of Minnesota to the events it hosts, or making connections with guests from around the world to craft international favorites. “It’s all about connecting with people,” says Eisenmann. “It’s not cookie-cutter—it’s about designing to one’s needs.”
The craft beer movement has taken over the state of Minnesota, and is a great trend to capitalize on for an event that emits a fun, casual vibe. Castle Danger Brewery, located in downtown Two Harbors, features two event spaces: a party room that seats 40, a main taproom with capacity for 90, or both combined for a maximum of 130 people, plus a patio space that holds 30-50.
“One of the biggest draws [of holding an event at Castle Danger], besides the fact that Minnesota craft breweries are popping up everywhere, is that we are right down by the lake,” says Jamie MacFarlane, chief financial manager and events coordinator, Castle Danger Brewery. “We’re right by the Ore Docks, so you can see the ships coming and going, and enjoy a cold brew in the summer months on our patio space.”
One caveat for larger groups: The entire taproom does not close down for events during normal brewery hours, so if you need both meeting spaces, look into days when the brewery is closed to the public. The brewery also does not have a restaurant on-site, but it does partner with local caterers for any delectable menu your meeting or event desires.
The Odyssey Experience
However you categorize the Odyssey Resorts in the North Shore (small, medium and large; most southern to most northern), you can expect the true North Shore experience at any one of them. Larsmont Cottages sits on the shore of Lake Superior, just 20 minutes north of Duluth. While its traditional meeting room can accommodate 50 guests, the cottages—equipped with full kitchens, living rooms and patios—are popular meeting locations. “[The cottages] provide an ideal out-of-the-box space. It gets you out of that stuffy boardroom that we’re all used to,” says Cara Overland, group sales manager, Odyssey Development and Resorts. Recently, the resort opened its Larsmont Center for Strategy and Team Development, which features a lowropes challenge course that facilitates groups to work towards goals and solve problems. Other team-building activities range from Iron Chef competitions to the Northwoods Olympics, and outings include everything from kayak tours to snowshoeing expeditions. The resort has also been known to put on a Hawaiian pig roast.
Grand Superior Lodge—11 miles north of Two Harbors—is also located on the Lake Superior shoreline and features lakeside lodging in its log cabins; it can accommodate 180-200 guests for meetings. The ski-in, skiout Caribou Highlands Lodge is the farthest north of the three, located on the Sawtooth Mountains in Lutsen, and can host 100 guests for a meeting. While there’s no ropes course at these two resorts, the staff can arrange a shuttle to Larsmont for team-building activities. Odyssey promotes flexibility among its resorts; The Explore! with Odyssey Resorts program lets guests participate in activities between resorts, no matter which one they’re staying with.
Corporate takeovers are an option at all three resorts, depending on availability. “With the size of our resorts, sometimes a company of 100-150 people is a perfect fit that can take our entire lodge. So that when they come, there’s no other guests there,” says Overland, who works with groups to customize their stay to meet their objectives. “We really pride ourselves in what I call the ‘gray area’—nothing is set in stone. We can build anything from crazy menus that are different to fun games,” she says. Food and beverage directors, activities directors—there’s even a director of fun at Larsmont—work with groups as well.
NORTH SHORE BY THE NUMBERS
6,600 People can be housed in the North Shore (number of total pillows at hotels, etc.)
2,301 Feet above sea level in Minnesota's highest point at Eagle Mountain
602 Feet above sea level is Minnesota's lowest point at Lake Superior
3 Counties make up the North Shore: Cook County, Lake County, St. Louis County
No. 1 Largest freshwater lake in the world is Lake Superior