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Smithsonian Magazine names Ely one of the 15 best small towns to visit in 2021

Ely made the annual list released by the magazine.

Picturesque Ely, Minnesota, has been named one of the 15 best towns to visit in the U.S. this year. 

The annual list comes from Smithsonian Magazine, which recently unveiled its selections for 2021. 

"Perhaps more than ever, now is a time to appreciate America's small towns," the magazine staff wrote, citing the diminishing (though still bubbling) COVID-19 pandemic, and its impact on travel in 2020.

"Small towns of America: we've missed exploring your streets, perusing your shops and discovering your history. Thanks for sticking with us. We’re ready to return the favor," the piece reads.

Related: Six of the weirdest roadside attractions in Minnesota

The magazine made reference to Ely's location along the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, its enthusiastic embrace of all seasons and the ample paddling opportunities — but also highlighted the town's shops, restaurants and signature destinations. 

Here's a look at the places Smithsonian Magazine specifically shone a spotlight on:

  • Steger Mukluk
  • Wintergreen Northern Wear
  • Crapola!
  • Piragis Northwoods Company
  • Brandenburg Gallery
  • International Wolf Center
  • North American Bear Center
  • Stony Ridge Resort & Cafe
  • Boathouse Brewpub & Restaurant
  • Northern Ground Coffee + Wine Bar
  • Evergreen Restaurant

Did the magazine cover everything that makes Ely great? Of course not — there are many more gems (both hidden and well-known) for visitors to the town of 3,390.

But hey, at least someone is paying attention to the great times Minnesota has to offer.

Related: Minnesota's lone National Park is also one of the least popular in the country

You can see the full 2021 list from Smithsonian Magazine here.

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