By Joey Bunch | firstname.lastname@example.org | The Denver Post
Fall for the far north
International Falls has two famous residents: Smokey Bear, who has a namesake park and 26-foot statue here, and Bronko Nagurski, the Hall of Fame football player and native son whose museum is in Big Smokey Bear Park, across the street from a massive Boise paper mill on the Canadian border.
South of this fading blue-collar milltown is Voyageurs National Park, a hub for all the best outdoor splendor that northern Minnesota offers, including opportunities to drive down a creaking ice-covered river.
Minnesota is a winter bird-watching wonderland with more than 300 species that can be found here, including the rare-to-the-lower-48 snowy owls, a large raptor with catlike yellow eyes that can turn up as far south as the Twin Cities. Winter also brings Minnesota a parliament of great gray, boreal and hawk owls.
Nearly 160 species nest in the vast forests and largest peat bogs near Voyageurs National Park, including 23 types of wood warblers. Winter visitors also include red or white-winged crossbills, pine and evening grosbeaks and bohemian waxwings.
For fans of mind-blowing questions about human existence, schedule a tour at the NOvA Neutrino Lab along Ash River, 30 miles southeast of International Falls.
There, government physicists have a constructed a 14,000-ton detector to study subatomic particles called neutrinos. Produced by the sun, nuclear decay, cosmic rays and supernovae, neutrinos pass otherwise undetected through the planet and people. Researchers hope the detector will help explain the origins of the universe and why matter, including humans, exists...
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top 10 icebox days events - international falls, mn
A typical January day in International Falls, MN ordinarily goes a little something like this: Upon waking, we see that the current temperature outside reads 32 degrees below zero and we smile, realizing this is four degrees warmer than the previous morning. We continue with our daily morning routines, ensuring we leave at least 20-30 minutes for our vehicles to warm up and 5-10 minutes to scrape the frost, ice, and snow from the windows. Despite the cold weather, our trek through town on our way to work is nothing short of magical. With glistening snow softly falling and the smell of wood burning stoves and coffee roasting in the air, the true beauty of this area emerges like a scene from a fairytale. Of course it may hold true that not everything was built to withstand the effects of extreme subzero temperatures...but here in International Falls, we’re getting pretty good at it.
2. Moonlight Snowshoe Hike
A moonlight snowshoe hike in Voyageurs National Park will be sure to enlighten you of the true beauty this area has to offer. Throw on a few extra layers and meet us at the Rainy Lake Visitors Center at 6:00 PM on Friday, January 19th to take part in a hike guided by local park rangers. Afterwards, cozy up around a campfire with a cup of hot cocoa!
3. Frozen Turkey Bowling
We warned you that we do things a little differently around here. You likely have tried your hand at traditional bowling, but have you tried swapping out the ball with Thanksgiving’s main entree? Join us outside of the Backus Community Center at 1:00 PM on Saturday, January 20th to put your skills to the test.
4. Canoe Races
If you’re looking for another unique event, gather at Loony’s Brew from 1:00 to 3:00 PM for the newly introduced and positively hilarious canoe races! The lake may be frozen, but that doesn’t stop us from boat races! Teams of 2-3 battle against each other amongst snow and ice to see who can avoid tipping the canoe and crossing the finish line.
5. Boot Hockey Tournament
It’s impossible to think of winter in Minnesota without hockey coming to mind. Here in International Falls, we’re okay with leaving the skates behind. Boot hockey is a tried and true winter favorite. Athletes of every skill level will join together at Rainer Rink on Saturday, January 20th at 10:00 AM for the Icebox Boot Hockey Tournament. Gather a team of 10 friends and an entry fee of $75 for a chance to win Chamber Dollars, bragging rights, and a newfound love for the sport.
6. Smoosh Races
If hockey’s not your sport, put your "skiing" skills to the test by participating in the smoosh races! Round up a group of 4 friends at 2:30 PM outside of Viking Bar on Saturday, January 20th to take part in this fun and memorable event where contestants will nail shoes to 2x4's and see who can cross the finish line first. Children’s smoosh races (14 years old and under) begin at 2:00 PM.
7. Freeze Your Gizzard Blizzard Run
Runners from all over the country visit International Falls every January to participate in the Freeze Your Gizzard Blizzard Run. Whatever the weather, contestants brave the cold temperatures and frosty eyelashes and beards to walk, jog, or run across the 5K or 10K finish line.
8. Toilet Seat Toss
Just in case frozen turkey bowling isn’t quite eccentric enough for you, Icebox Days also hosts a toilet seat tossing event. Like we’ve said before, this celebration is unlike any other. Try your hand at toilet seat toss by gathering outside Viking Bar on Saturday, January 20th at 1:00 PM.
9. Frostbite Falls Open
Whether it’s summer or winter, Rainy Lake is one of the most beautiful places on earth...but then again, we could be a little biased. We’ll let you be the judge by attending the Frostbite Falls Open Golf Tournament at Thunderbird Lodge on Saturday, January 20th at 1:00 PM. Gather up a four person team to participate in this nine hole ice golf course. Tennis balls will be supplied, but don't forget your putter of choice! Popular favorites for contestants include hockey sticks, golf clubs, and tennis racquets. The best part? This is a non profit event, with all proceeds going to the local food shelf.
When we said this event had something for everyone, we weren’t kidding. If you’re not the competitive type, don’t worry. While the rest of the family is participating in different games, we encourage you to browse through some of our great downtown shops. Many local businesses participate in Icebox Days by hosting great promotions during this 5-day celebration. This means there’s a chance for everyone to score big, even without participating in any games!
The Icebox Days celebration in International Falls has been broadcasted on networks such as CBS, NBC, ABC and many others. People travel from all around the country to participate in the different events, and local residents look forward to this celebration all year long. Join us for this year’s event beginning Thursday, January 18th to see for yourself what Icebox Days is all about.
Have you participated in this celebration before? Let us know in the comments below what are your favorite events!
Top 10 Rainy Lake Activities for December
We all know that Rainy Lake summers are worth bragging about. The tranquil sunsets, great fishing and gorgeous scenery all make a visit to this area an unforgettable experience. However, what some people don't know is that Rainy Lake winters can be just as wonderful. We know what you're thinking...the title "Icebox of the Nation" doesn't appeal to everyone. We may have the extremists hooked with our record-breaking temperatures, but we know some of you require a little more convincing. That's why we're here to tell you that winter on Rainy Lake has something to offer everyone! Not completely persuaded yet? Let us break it down for you in this list of ten Rainy Lake activities that will make this winter one to remember for years to come.
Rainy Lake is known across the country for it's great fishing. For this reason, we have countless visitors from thousands of miles book a yearly trip to this area. When the ice conditions are good, our frozen lake is speckled with hundreds of ice-fishing shelters. It's hard to beat the feeling of sitting around a warm stove, waiting to hook into a beautiful walleye or Northern pike. If you're looking for something a little different, one of our local favorites is tip-up fishing. Whether you're five or fifty years old, the excitement you feel watching a flag pop up never goes away. Our planning experts can help you plan your trip if you've never experienced fishing quite like this.
Voyageurs National Park is home to excellent cross-country ski trails. This is an incredible way to experience the serene beauty of Rainy Lake. Leading deep into the backcountry of the park, you never know what kind of wildlife you might see. The best part? Free ski rental is available at Voyageurs National Park Rainy Lake Visitors Center! Pack some warm clothes and a thirst for adventure, they will supply the rest!
3. Northern Lights
While the Northern Lights are stunning to observe from Rainy Lake year round, they are witnessed most commonly in the late fall or winter. The dark skies and bright snow create an undeniably exquisite backdrop to the beloved Aurora Borealis. If you haven't experienced Mother Nature's incredible light show, book a trip to Rainy Lake this winter.
If you're looking to cover all areas of Rainy Lake, snowmobiling is the winter activity for you. This well-loved past time is perfect everyone, from thrill-seeking adventurers to laid back explorers. Pack a thermos of hot chocolate and be sure to dress warm, there's endless beauty to observe.
If you're looking for the perfect family adventure, it's time you give snowshoeing a try. Snowshoes allow you to explore areas that even cross-country skis will limit you from. It's no wonder that snowshoes have been around for thousands of years...they offer a great way to explore beautiful hidden territory, even in the deepest of snow. If you don't have your own, stop by Voyageurs National Park Visitors Center to borrow a pair for the day - for free!
The International Falls border crossing is the busiest in Minnesota... and for good reason! After passing through Border Customs into Fort Frances Ontario, make a stop at one of their many fine-dining restaurants or downtown shops. Ontario also has great ice-fishing opportunities to encounter. No passport? No problem, International Falls offers many incredible restaurants and small-town shops!
7. Icebox Days
Mark you calendar, January 17-21 is the legendary Icebox Days Festival! This well-known event has been covered by CBS, NBC, and ABC. It has also been featured on the Travel Channel, The Weather Channel, MSNBC, and dozens of other national and international publications. If you're bold enough to brave the cold, Icebox Days has something for everyone! With moonlight skiing, the infamous "Gizzard" 5k and 10k runs, fireworks (yes, fireworks in the winter) and more, this is an event you don't want to miss!
8. Voyageurs National Park Visitors Center
After a long day of skiing or snowshoeing, head towards the Voyageurs National Park Visitors Center to warm up! Offering an exhibit area, displays, a bookstore, staffed information desk, a children's activity table, and a theater for viewing a video on the park, this is a fun stop for the whole family! Did we mention that they offer free hot chocolate during the winter months? You won't regret this stop during your winter visit to Rainy Lake!
Take advantage of the fantastic free ice skating rinks that International Falls has to offer! This is a proven favorite for both kids and adults alike! Try your hand at a game of hockey, or watch the kids play from the comfort of a warming hut. Lace up your skates and get ready to experience the Rainy Lake area like a true Minnesotan.
10. Wildlife Watching
Last but certainly not least on our list is wildlife watching. From eagles and rabbits to white-tailed deer and wolves, Rainy Lake is home to an immense array of captivating animals. Whether it be on skis, snowshoes, snowmobile or vehicle, watching these creatures in their natural habitat is an incredible sight to see.
We could go on and on listing winter activities that we love...but you have a trip to schedule! Don't miss out on the stunning beauty and great activities that this area has to offer. You have nothing to lose and world to see, Rainy Lake is calling your name.
Did we miss your favorite winter activity? Tell us in the comments below!