Colorful Travels Close to Home

by Erika Woelfel

I’ll first say this: If you’re a color enthusiast living in the upper Midwest and have not seen Naniboujou, you’re missing out. Never heard of it? Neither had I. Having lived in Minnesota most of my life it would seem unlikely that this hidden gem wasn’t on my radar.

A couple weeks back the family went on a summer road trip up Scenic Highway 61 along the North Shore of Lake Superior. One of our destinations was Grand Marais, a waterfront village about 2 hours north of Duluth. The main street offers a very accessible harbor, friendly locals, boutique shops and cafes, and an artist collective called the North House Folk School. Several shopkeepers recognized us as the tourists were were and asked if we had ever heard of Naniboujou. They all said it was a historic resort and tourist attraction, well worth the extra 15 miles it took to get there. So off we went to find out more.

I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. The main building is surrounded by wide lawns and open view of the lake. It has a sturdy Scandinavian-barn-meets-lodge style look, something that helps it undoubtedly survive brutal Lake Superior winters. All of the outside trim was outlined in a bright, vibrant orange…this should have been an indicator for what lay within.


Upon entering the expansive main dining hall, you are greeted with a riot of psychedelic colors. A breath-taking mural in a Native American/Art Deco fusion motif covers all the walls and arched ceiling overhead. It was NOT what you would expect in a northern Minnesota hotel!


Built in 1928, Naniboujou was originally intended to be a private hunting and fishing retreat for wealthy clients from the east. When the stock market crashed in 1929, the resort fell into obscurity. It passed through several owners , all who maintained the integrity of the original mural design. Naniboujou is now owned and operated by the Ramey family, and summer is considered the busy season. We stayed for coffee, but would love to come back and stay for a day or two, soaking up not only the brilliant color, but the quietude of summer on Lake Superior.


A fireplace made entirely of Lake Superior rocks dominates the far end of the dining hall. It is the largest stone fireplace in Minnesota, weighing in at 200 tons.


Palette inspired by Naniboujou (Note: samples were not color matched to represent actual colors).

Find out more about the colorful character of this lodge and and restaurant here.

Colorfully yours,




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