Summer 2021 is shaping up to be a fantastic summer that will see the return of indoor dining and in store shopping at most area businesses. As vaccine numbers continue to increase, many things will start to return to “normal” as the summer progresses. This includes the end of the Minnesota mask mandate no later than July 1.

However, you may notice many changes that have happened along the North Shore as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Things are going to be quite a bit different here for quite some time. While the United States is reopening, the rest of the world is not. As a result, many businesses are struggling to find seasonal staff. This is creating a staffing shortage never seen on the shore before. The staffing shortage will be the reason many businesses are unable to return to “normal” or even the “new normal” in 2021. 

Still Full of Beauty

Things are changing. Many things will be different. But one thing that will stay the same is the beauty of the North Shore. The area boasts nine state parks, several state forests, the Superior Hiking Trail, the Superior National Forest, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. For the most part, access to these places will not change for the summer of 2021, at least as of now. However, we have already seen an increase in BWCA permits purchased ahead of time and popular entry points are no longer available for overnight camping. 

If your plans include visiting the BWCA, we recommend getting your permits ASAP and contacting your preferred outfitter. They will be very busy this year!

Changes in Lodging

Lodging options have most reopened for the summer of 2021 and it’s “business as usual”. Except, seasonal help is hard to come by. As a result, many North Shore lodging businesses have been forced to limit the number of stays. Others are requiring longer stays to compensate for the lack of help. Plan ahead and book a place to stay LONG before coming up as lodging options will be even more limited.

Some resort amenities may remain closed or limited. Pools, hots tubs, saunas, etc. may or may not be open. Check with the resort you are staying at to see which of their services are currently being offered, and which will remain closed.

Visit Cook County is a great resource for knowing what lodging options are available.

Changes in Dining

Recent changes in Minnesota regulations mean that restaurants can go into the summer months at full capacity! You will likely have indoor dining options available at most area restaurants. Outdoor dining is also available at some.

Similar to lodging establishments, restaurants are struggling to find staff. You will likely notice limited hours because of the lack of staff. Some restaurants may continue to function at limited capacity simply because they do not have waitstaff. We have also seen the permanent and temporary closures of several area restaurants, largely due to staffing shortages. Always check the website or Facebook page of the restaurant you want to visit to see what their hours are and if they have any last-minute closures.

Please, be patient and kind to your waitstaff. Many are doing the job of 3-4 servers at once and it’s going to be a very stressful summer for them. We have some amazing staff at our restaurants and we don’t want them to burn out. Be kind, be patient, tip well.

Changes In Retail

Capacity limits will be lifted before the summer of 2021 begins, so stores can reopen as they were pre-2020. However, similar to other businesses, staffing shortages may result in limited hours at some retail stores. Again, check websites and Facebook for current hours and updates.

These things may change at any moment and we will do our best to maintain our list of COVID-19 Business Operations Changes as they come up. Currently, we are only keeping track of all stores in Cook County and grocery stores only in Lake County.


2021 will see the return of most events this summer! Although, most will be operating under some form of COVID-19 limitation as they were planned before mandates and regulations changed.

Grandma’s Marathon, the Le Grand Du Nord, the Lutsen 99er, and the Superior Trail Races will all be back. Live music will also be returning at some point.

Events happening later in the summer, like Bay Days, Voyageur Days, and Fisherman’s Picnic, have not yet announced their plans. Visit Cook County is maintaining its event lists and is your best resource for Cook County events. 

Border Closure

Currently, the US/Canada border is closed to non-essential travel. US citizens cannot travel to Canada and Canadian citizens cannot travel to the US. We do not know when the border will re-open. While many things have re-opened in the US, Canada is experiencing more closures and have not committed to a border re-opening date yet. We do not know if it will be open in the summer of 2021 at all yet.

If your plans include travel to Canada, you may need to change your plans. Keep an eye on the news coming from the border as closures may even be extended longer. 

This will affect entry to Quetico Provincial Park via the BWCA. You cannot access Quetico via the BWCA this summer AT ALL.

When the border does re-open, we are excited to welcome our neighbors to the North back down! We’ve missed you. 

Availability of Medical Care

It is important to realize prior to coming to the North Shore that health care is limited here. There is one hospital in Grand Marais that services Cook County. There is one hospital in Two Harbors that service Lake County. That is it. Both hospitals are limited as to what they are able to accommodate as far as treatment is concerned. Neither is capable of helping a patient in need of an ICU bed. These patients will be transferred to Duluth for care. For this reason, we ask that you still stay home if you are feeling ill or have been contacted for possibly COVID-19 exposure. If you fall ill while visiting contact the local clinics for testing information, although you will likely have more availability of services back home.

Our hospitals are still here, available, and capable of caring for those needing emergency care for injuries, accidents, and other health concerns. Just as they always have been. The staff at our hospitals are wonderful. Our services are just limited due to our size and location. 

General Atmosphere

Most are ready for a return to as much normalcy as we can get this summer, but there are still many who are taking precautions and will continue to this summer. You may find some stores will still require masks even after the mandate ends, for instance. Please be respectful of these policies. We have limited staff and are doing our best to provide you with the best service possible, but things will remain a struggle in 2021. Be kind, please.

We Hope to See You This Summer!

Change is never easy, and there has been a lot of changes lately. We understand many of these changes will be hard to adjust to. But, as stated earlier, many things are still the same. Lake Superior is still her same, beautiful, moody self. The trees stand tall, the snow will fall, and the lakes will continue to be here. As they always have been. Waiting for you to visit. We hope you come. See you soon!