Great Summer Getaway: Grand Rapids, MN

By KBJR News 1

August 6, 2010 Updated Feb 21, 2012 at 11:47 AM CDT

We wrap up our search for great summer getaways that are close to home and won't break the bank. Our destination will teach you a thing or two about Minnesota history as long as you follow the Yellow Brick Road.

The classic 1930's film The Wizard of Oz continues to captivate audiences both young and old. In Grand Rapids the legacy of a hometown movie star lives on.

"There was Judy mania before beetle mania," said Judy Garland Museum Executive Director John Kelsch.

The Judy Garland museum pays tribute to the star of yesteryear in the town in which she grew up.

"This was the first celeb museum in the country started back in 1975."

From photographs to personal belongings and to the original outfit worn by Dorothy the collection here is unlike any other. It Includes Abraham Lincoln's carriage used in the Wizard of Oz and 200 other films.

"I think people will understand Judy's vast career, beyond the wizard of oz, how talented she was both vocally, she could dace, act in both comedy and drama," said Kelsch.

Connected to the museum is the home where Garland spent her formative years.

"You need to suspend disbelief and walk back into 1925. It's a time piece."

Everything inside the home is based on eyewitness accounts and official records.

"This home is historically a national treasure, not just a Minnesota treasure," Kelsch said.

Nestled in Minnesota's wilderness you can get a firsthand look at one of the state's first industries. Logging.

"We try to take history and make it relevant for people and I think the surprise comes when they say we never thought about it that way," said the Forest History Center Program Supervisor, Ed Nelson.

Inside the visitor's center you can walk through time and learn about the hardships and successes of loggers as well as put yourself in the seat of simulator.

"I'll bet most of the people that get in there for the first time or two, they are pretty humbled," Nelson said.

After you've scoped out the exhibits, it's on to a tour of a logging camp. They are presented in first person interpretation.

"I suppose being from the city you are not use to these conditions, any given evening we've got 70, 72 men sleeping in here," Nelson said.

Ed Nelson, dressed in 1900's costume, takes us back in time to the height of the logging industry.

"(It's) Designed so that when you go up to the cook shack there is a cook there, and she is getting ready to feed the men for the evening."

Nelson says the Forest Center isn't just an ordinary museum. Here, children are priority.

"We'll make them lumberjacks, put them to work, and they can earn wooden nickels doing some of the chores. Gosh. We may even have a little fun and teach them how to spit too!"

A wealth of history and education on your next summer getaway.

For more information, visit:
Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce
MN Forest History Center
Judy Garland Museum