DescriptionAlthough the rapids that gave Grand Rapids its name now hide beneath a paper mill's dam, the city at the navigational headwaters of the Mississippi River remains a big draw when it comes to H2O. Four lakes within the city limits, as well as the more than 1,000 that pepper surrounding Itasca County, provide all sorts of opportunities for water sports, boating and fishing (from a boat or through a hole in the ice, depending on the season).
Easy access to Chippewa National Forest and the Arrowhead Region—the triangle-shaped portion of northeastern Minnesota that encompasses such outdoor recreation destinations as Voyageurs National Park and the Superior Hiking Trail—make Grand Rapids a convenient base for active types interested in hiking, biking, snowmobiling and hunting. The Edge of the Wilderness National Scenic Byway, which begins here and continues 47 miles north along SR 38 to Effie, is lushly green in summer and offers a particular sightseeing treat from mid-September to early October, when fall foliage color is at its peak.
This is the birthplace of American show business legend Judy Garland. Garland, born Frances Ethel Gumm in 1922, spent her early childhood in Grand Rapids before moving to California. “Baby Gumm” gave her first public performance before she was 3 years old, singing “Jingle Bells” at her father's New Grand Theater. The pint-size dynamo—just 4 feet, 11 inches tall at adulthood—signed a movie contract with MGM when she was 13.
Garland appeared in more than 30 films, starred in an almost equal number of TV specials and shows, and was a wildly popular and celebrated nightclub and concert performer in the 1950s and '60s. Her 1961 recording “Judy at Carnegie Hall” won five Grammys, including Album of the Year. She appeared with fellow child star Mickey Rooney in three Andy Hardy movies, made classic MGM musicals like “Meet Me in St. Louis” and “Easter Parade,” and starred in the 1954 version of “A Star is Born,” widely considered to be her best film performance.
But for many her shining moment will always be Dorothy Gale, the Kansas teenager whisked by a tornado to a far-off land of Munchkins, witches (wicked and good) and a yellow brick road leading to an emerald city in “The Wizard of Oz.” And despite personal travails—five marriages, longtime drug dependence and an untimely death at age 47 due to an accidental overdose of prescription medication—she is forever etched in the minds of millions of fans as the radiant redhead who so evocatively sang “Over the Rainbow.” The Judy Garland Museum showcases her life and career.
Visitor InfoVisit Grand Rapids 10 N.W. Fifth St., Suite 212 GRAND RAPIDS, MN 55744. Phone:(218)326-9607 or (800)355-9740
Things to SeeForest History Center