Could one of these Minnesota cities win the 'Best Town Ever' crown?

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Duluth won it last year, and now two cities are in the running to keep the crown of "Best Town Ever" in Minnesota.

The deadline for the second round of Outside magazine's "Best Town Ever" contest ends at 10:59 pm. Wednesday – and Ely and Rochester are in the mix.

The contest is designed to find the city or town in the U.S. with great access to outdoor pursuits, trails and public lands, with "thriving restaurants and neighborhoods" and, naturally, a good beer scene.

The previous winners and runners up from the past three years are excluded so Outside can find "hidden gems" and places on the rise, and Ely and Rochester could arguably fit those descriptions respectively.

Ely, in the thick of Superior National Forest and within striking distance of the stunning Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, is in a tight race against Spearfish, South Dakota, but as of 10:45 a.m. was winning by 8,092 votes to 7,660.

Meanwhile Rochester, Minnesota's third largest city after Minneapolis and St. Paul, has been highlighted for its "cultivated green spaces" like Chester Woods Park and Cascade Meadow Wetlands. It is comfortably winning against Yellow Springs, Ohio, at 7,290 votes to 3,164.

Also in the competition is Eau Claire, Wisconsin, which as of Wednesday morning was losing to Rapid City, SD, by a slim margin – 7,062 votes to 7,042.

The Duluth News Tribune reports that the contest features several rounds of head-to-head competition lasting five days each, with a field of 64 communities whittled down to just two.

The final will run between May 29 and June 5, with the winner featured in an upcoming issue of the magazine.

You can cast your vote here.

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