I had my first experience in the UP this year by visiting Ironwood, Michigan and it was the perfect introduction to a whole new area I want to explore more! I loved how close Ironwood is to the Minneapolis area too – just 4 hours from the metro, the drive is not only quick but beautiful drive too! Cruise through charming small towns and even a national forest.
While Ironwood might be known for its winter season with all the ski hills, we visited during the summer and it was magical! We loved the warm weather but also could imagine how beautiful it is in the fall, winter, and even spring too! Definitely add Ironwood to your next Midwest road trip or adventure weekend. From the food to outdoor adventures it’s great for everyone.
Eat + Drink
Each morning we headed right to downtown Ironwood to fuel up with coffee and crepes from Contrast Coffee. It’s the perfect stop to begin or end your day as they not only have coffee, tea, and other drinks but a nice menu for breakfast or lunch. Highly recommend their Vanilla or Maple latte! Also definitely don’t miss their crepes – we tried the Italian Job and the Garden Gnome and both were so tasty and flavorful.
Joe’s Pasty Shop
Have you really visited the UP without getting a Pastie? A pasty simply put is a hot meat pie. You see them typically with meat, potatoes, and onions, which is the original at Joe’s Pasty Shop. Open since 1946, this small and unassuming shop packs a punch with a variety of options for pasties. At $5 a piece, you can try a few depending on what they have hot and fresh that day! They also sell frozen so you can take some souvenir pasties home too 😉
Cold Iron Brewing
I love to find a good brewery on our weekend trips and Cold Iron Brewing definitely hit the spot! I loved the large open space inside but they also have a great outdoor space as well. We popped in during a brief moment of rain, but grabbed sandwiches to go from Suffolk Street Eatery (SO GOOD!) and cozied up to a table inside. We brought our own games, but they have lots of great offerings in there too. I did see they host a ton of events plus they are dog friendly! All of their beer is small batch brewed and they have fun rotating flavors of shandy too – my favorite!
Up N Smoke BBQ
If you happen to visit in the summer and see this food truck out and about, it’s definitely a must-stop! Pit Master Nate Price brought his love for southern BBQ up to the UP with UP N Smoke BBQ! I had the chance to enjoy a few items off the menu during a perfect summer evening in the park downtown Ironwood, and all I have to say is wow. Don’t miss the smoked meats, collard greens, and cornbread – yum!
Plums & Honey
I’m not one to say no to ice cream, so when I saw Plums & Honey on the main street in downtown Ironwood I knew I had to pop in! I am not joking when I say this is some of the best-tasting ice cream I’ve ever had. Served on a warm freshly made waffle cone, this handmade, small-batch ice cream shop creates both traditional and unique flavors that will be sure to please your palate. They do sell out quickly so make it a point to get there at some point during your trip! You can’t miss their charming storefront too.
Bake Superior Bread
If you’re staying at a cabin or home during your visit, definitely grab freshly baked bread from Bake Superior Bread to take back with you! They are a family-owned artisan bakery & cafe making gourmet goods that are handmade daily. Walk right in to see the beautiful breads displayed on the wall and the bakery case filled to the brim with freshly backed treats. You can also pop in for lunch for a sandwich or daily special.
White Rabbit Tasting Room
One of the newest businesses to open in downtown Ironwood is the White Rabbit Tasting Room. Fall down the Rabbit Hole in this quaint space with nods to Alice in Wonderland around every corner. They offer small bites and have a great rotating selection of wines and spirits. Another great option is their expansive tea list, which you can always purchase to take home. We came here to end our evening one night and enjoyed wine and the charcuterie board.
Start or end your trip with a zip through Copper Cup – another crowd-favorite coffee shop. I’m always a fan of coffee on the go and be warned – you will always see a line here at this drive-thru shop! However, the staff is so friendly and quick, you won’t wait for too long 🙂 It’s right on the main highway so it’s a perfect excuse to grab a latte (try one of their fun signature lattes) on your way to your next adventure!
There are a handful of hotels and motels in the Ironwood area and recently I’ve seen a jump in Airbnb rentals too! If you are looking for a spot in town, I recommend Cedars Motel! We LOVED our stay and were thoroughly impressed. We love the ease of motels to get up and go and this place had everything we needed. It was meticulously clean and had some fun vintage vibes to it as well. A truly quirky but great gem in Ironwood – we loved it!
I have to mention, before visiting I had NO idea that Ironwood has so many natural beauties to it and so many places to explore! I do wish we had more time to explore more of the places but I do feel like we scratched the surface well enough to really round out our trip.
You know you’re in ski country when you can visit the largest artificial ski jump in the world! Copper Peak is a 35-degree, 469-foot, cantilevered inrun that was constructed in 1969. We went for a visit and the views were insane! We happened to go on a cloudier day but even with that, the experience was so neat. You can ride the 18 story elevator up or you can have a true experience and walk all the way up the ski jump. Once at the elevator drop off, you can check out the viewing area, or continue on the steps up until the very top. The day we went it was windy and you could feel the tower even swaying in the wind – I have to say it was both scary and amazing at the same time. You can see for up to 40 miles on a clear day and get great sweeping views of Lake Superior! I highly recommend a visit at least once when you visit Ironwood. Keep your eyes peeled in the new couple of years as they plan to re-establish Copper Peak and make new additions!
Black River Harbor Area
Did you know Ironwood has over 40+ waterfalls in the surrounding area? One of the best places to chase waterfalls has to be in the Black River Harbor Area. I was absolutely stunned by the natural beauty here and really the entire offerings here too! Drive to the main parking area and talk a walk over the swinging bridge that leads you to a beautiful little prairie right in front of the Lake Superior Shoreline. You can keep hiking up along the river, or head back over the bridge and enjoy the little boardwalk below as you watch boats come in and out. If you choose not to hike up the river, hop back in your car and follow along the Black River National Scenic By-way to catch the 5 waterfalls along the way! You’ll see the Great Conglomerate – a 3/4 mile hike brings you to an observation deck with an amazing view. Then you can continue on to Potawatomi, Gorge, Sandstone, and Rainbow falls. Each one has its own mini parking lot + directions to easily and safely navigate there. I would definitely suggest giving yourself enough time to explore this area. It’s a great option to have a picnic here too.
Historic Ironwood Theatre
You can’t miss the beautifully lit historic Ironwood Theatre sign downtown. The arts and cultural scene here is alive and thriving and I was lucky enough to visit during the Emberlight Festival (hosted during the middle to end of summer). Miles Mykkanen, a local ironwood native, started the festival a couple of years ago to highlight the best local talent across musicians, actors, filmmakers, and more. You can expect to see several performances, programs, and events throughout the festival. Check their events calendar when you’re in town to see their latest happenings!
I highly suggest perusing all of downtown Ironwood because you might be surprised around every corner! It houses all the great eateries and shops, but you can catch the Miner’s mural to learn a bit more about the history of the town, or zip a few blocks up and see Hiawatha, World’s largest Indian near Hiawatha Park. Make sure to check out the Historic Depot or the True North Town Square. There really is always something going on here!
Back in 1903, the original Stormy Kromer was carefully handcrafted using quality fabric resulting in a rugged and durable cap inspired by George “Stormy” Kromer. He was a railroad engineer that kept losing his cap on the windy locomotive so he asked his wife to make him a new one that had a pulldown earband to keep in place. Well, long story short, it was a great success and the rest is history! You must visit the shop in Ironwood, and you can even take a free factory too! Make sure to book ahead as tours are limited, but even popping into the shop for an iconic Stormy Kromer is worth it!
If you have extra time during your visit in Ironwood, make your way about an hour west to the Porcupine Mountains. This beautiful State Park has several hiking trails, camping, waterfalls, and some amazing views of the mountains and Lake Superior! We did a scenic drive through the park and went to Lake of the Clouds – a fully accessible overlook with breathtaking views. I highly recommend this! You can park and walk up a short steep hill or take the accessible boardwalk to the top too!
Phew! if you made it this far, thank you so much for reading and I hope you consider Ironwood to your next Midwest Trip! It really is a gem and we were won over by the friendly people and charming town. Thank you so much to Amber and the Ironwood Team for such an amazing visit!