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Voyageurs National Park in north-central Minnesota is a unique and wonderful place to visit. Composed primarily of a long, tree-covered peninsula plus 4 large lakes and their many forested islands, the park offers endless places to explore, from developed trails and day-use spots to areas that are both wild and remote.
Voyageurs is a unique national park and it requires a bit of planning to get the most out of a trip there, so we’ve developed a series of guides to help you do just that. This guide focuses on the best places to stay and eat in International Falls, Minnesota and surrounding areas. “I-Falls”, as it’s known to locals, is the park’s primary gateway city and is a great place to use as a base when visiting the park.
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I-Falls has about 5,800 residents is located 11 miles from the Rainy Lake Visitor Center. The small city has plenty of amenities, with two grocery stores, a movie theater, a home improvement store, a small hospital, several outdoor stores, and some good restaurants and hotels. We’ve compiled a list of the best lodging and dining options to help you get started planning your next trip to Voyageurs National Park.
Best Hotels and Motels in International Falls
1. The area’s best hotel is arguably the Cantilever Hotel in the small lakeside community of Ranier a few miles from International Falls. Located just a few steps from Rainy Lake, the Cantilever is a fun boutique hotel that boasts its own distillery and an excellent restaurant.
2. Brand new in 2022, Cobblestone Hotel & Suites in International Falls features an indoor pool and hot tub, plus microwaves, refrigerators, and Starbucks coffee in the rooms. Free breakfast is included.
3. Also new in 2022 is AmericInn by Wyndham, with an indoor pool and bar. Free breakfast included.
4. Originally built in 1941, the renovated and modernized Hilltop Lodge & Cabins has long been a favorite of area travelers. Clean, comfortable, and pet-friendly.
5. The Falls Motel is an older, family-run camp-style motor lodge that has also been fully renovated. Pet-friendly, caters to hunters and fishermen. Basic, clean, comfortable.
6. The newly-renovated Nomad Motel features contactless check-in and is within walking distance of the downtown area. Rated highly for cleanliness.
7. The Voyageurs Motel is quaint and eclectic. A bit dated but clean and inexpensive, with friendly, helpful staff.
8. Days Inn – 2 star budget chain motel, pet-friendly
9. America’s Best Value Inn – 2 star budget chain motel, pet-friendly
Cabins and vacation rentals near International Falls
There are a variety of vacation rentals available in the International Falls area if that suits your preference, from lakeside homes to cozy cottages to private luxury cabins. Many include a private dock.
Resorts near International Falls
Lakeside resorts are a big thing in Minnesota, and the International Falls area has three. All are on Rainy Lake, within a few miles of the Voyageurs National Park entrance at the Rainy Lake Visitor Center. There are only a few rooms / cabins at each and they fill up quickly in the summer. All three resorts have a bar and grill (or dining room), marina, and boat rentals, and all three are great places to stay.
You must call or email these lodges directly to inquire about rates and to make a reservation.
The Thunderbird Lodge on Rainy Lake is located a mere 1/2 mile from the Voyageurs National Park Visitor Center. The Thunderbird has cabins, 15 lodge rooms, and a house for rent.
Sha Sha Resort (pronounced “shay-shay”) has 9 cabins for rent. It’s located a few minutes from the park visitor center by car, or even closer by boat.
Island View Lodge has 15 cabins and additional second-floor lodge rooms for rent. It’s also just a few minutes from the Voyageurs National Park entrance.
Best Restaurants in International Falls
While it may be small, International Falls does offer some great places to eat. We tend to favor local restaurants that offer good value. If it’s more than $25 per person to eat there, it better be really, really good. With that in mind, here are our picks for the best restaurants in the I-Falls area.
A local favorite, Rainy Lake Grill is actually in Ranier, a couple miles from I-Falls. The food is excellent. The walleye is fantastic. Also recommended are the nachos and pizza. It’s a small space that fills quickly, so reservations are recommended, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.
When you’re finished at the grill, head over to Loony’s for after-dinner drinks and enjoy the sunset over the lake from the back deck. This brewery has an impressive menu of ales, lagers, and barley wines. If you’re feeling brave, try a pint of the Black Bear-e Blackberry Ale. It clocks in at 15.75% ABV (alcohol by volume) – better drink it slow!
The Library in International Falls is our pick for the best restaurant in International Falls proper. The food is very good and reasonably priced, and they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The atmosphere is cozy and relaxed, with an eclectic library decorative scheme. Try the homemade flatbread for breakfast or the banana bread french toast for breakfast. We thought both were very good.
Another local favorite since its inception, Coffee Landing features a variety of breakfasts, sandwiches, and baked goods, as well as a full-service espresso bar. Try the homemade hummus and pita bread with veggies, or for breakfast, the loaded hashbrowns – amazing!
The Thunderbird Lodge dining room has fantastic views of Rainy Lake, and the menu is extensive. Try the brisket poutine appetizer – it’s an interesting take on a northern favorite, and it’s really good. The garlic cheese curds were great, too – crispy on the outside, light and fluffy in the middle. Unfortunately, we were less impressed with the walleye dinner or sandwich – both were overpriced for the portion and seemed as if the meat had been frozen rather than fresh-caught as advertised.
We recently spent a fun afternoon on the sunny deck of Sha Sha Resort overlooking the lake, enjoying appetizers and washing it down with our favorite local beer. Sha Sha is more casual than the other two resorts in the area, and the menu is more limited. The walleye bites were really good, crispy and fresh. The nachos, a signature dish, were not bad but not amazing, either. Don’t get us wrong, after a day of paddling on the lake, we devoured the entire platter and were happy to do so. If you can’t decide which meat (beef or chicken) on the nachos, go half-and-half.
Other lodging and dining options
The other lodging options available when visiting Voyageurs National Park consist mainly of lakeside resorts near the park’s other gateway communities of Orr / Pelican Lake, Kabetogama, and Ash River. The number of rooms for rent at these resorts is relatively low, and they tend to fill up quickly, especially during the busy season of May – September. If you plan to stay at one of these resorts, it’s best to reserve your room or cabin at least 6 months in advance.
The dining options in Orr, Kabetogama, and Ash River are mostly limited to the resort restaurants and dining rooms, many of which are very good. There are also some good local restaurants, like Boondocks Bar & Grill, Crane Lake Bar & Grill, and Montana Cafe.
That’s all we’ve got for now on the subject of where to stay an eat when visiting Voyageurs National Park. We’ll update this page with new finds and reviews, so check back often!
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