Plan to spend some time getting to Ely. They don't call it the "End of the Road" for nothing! If you take a commercial flight to Minnesota, plan to rent a car to get to Ely. It's about four hours from the Twin Cities, or two hours from Duluth.
Primary highways are wide and well-maintained summer and winter, but secondary county roads in the vicinity of Ely are often narrow, hilly, and have a gravel or dirt surface. The scenic Echo Trail (County Road 116) heading north of town is beautiful, but especially rugged.
International Wolf Center,, 1396 Hwy 169, ☎ +1 218 365-4695 (TTY relay service dial 711. Email: email@example.com), . Summer schedule from mid-May through mid-October open daily (hours vary). Winter schedule from mid-October through mid-May open weekends only. $8.50-4.50 (kids under age 3 free).
North American Bear Center, 1926 Hwy 169, ☎ +1 218 365-7879, toll-free +1 877-365-7879, . Summer schedule from May-Nov daily (hours vary). Winter schedule from Dec-May open Saturdays only except by appointment. $8.50-4.50 (kids under age 3 free).
In the winter: Dog sledding, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and a variety of other winter activities, since the lakes have frozen over and are covered with snow. One place to book winter trips is through Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge
Dorothy Molter Museum,  just north of Ely tells about the life of the Root Beer Lady. Here you can learn about how she lived in solitude on Knife Lake, and how she made and sold root beer.
International Wolf Center, along the Fernberg Road just north of Ely. Here, learn about wolves and even see them up close. This is also one of the places where you might want to watch the safety video about the Boundary Waters, so why not pop into the Wolf Center and learn something!
Canoeing This is why most people venture all the way up to Ely in summer. One of the options is of course to bring your own canoe and gear. But, if you don't own this type of outdoor gear, there are plenty of commercial canoe outfitters in Ely. Also, the Girl Scouts' Northern Lakes Canoe Base is a perfect way for Girl Scout troops or individual girls to go on canoeing trips, and is great for girls ages 11 and up and their mothers/troop leaders as well. The Boy Scouts have a similar program at the Northern Tier Boy Scouts High Adventure Base. And fishing is a possibility too (remember to get a permit). In the summer: Besides canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota and the Quetico Provincial Park in Canada.
When you go out into the Boundary Waters, winter or summer, make sure that you have an up-to-date map and compass with you, and someone who knows how to use them. Be prepared for all types of weather, but pack as light as possible. No need to bring a fresh shirt for every day you are out there. A lighter load will make those portages enjoyable. Still, though, bring enough food. You will be surprised how much more you eat out there since you are constantly doing things. Also be aware that there may be a fire ban in the summer due to extreme dry weather. If this is the case, use a camp stove and bring enough fuel. But mostly, enjoy yourself out there, relax, and enjoy some of the best things that nature has to offer!
In town, there are homely, casual amusements and a relaxed atmosphere -- a bowling place, mini golf, karaoke club, and several parks.
For all of your outdoor needs, there is Piragis. To save some money, check out their outlet shop, a block away on Sheridan Street. There also is Wintergreen, which also offers outdoor supplies. Steger Mukluks will keep your toes warm. And there are probably two dozen other outfitters and equipment suppliers where you can get good quality and a good selection of most any outdoor stuff you want.
There are many fun gift shops as well. Some feature woodsy and down-home items, some have lovely artistic decor items, or furniture, or quirky widgets. There's plenty of fun shopping.
And the usual utility things: For groceries, there is Zup's right in the middle of town. Along the main street you also find laundry mats.
There is a hemp store, also called Music Outfitters, and a surplus store. Good food at a variety of restaurants and eateries.
Ely is a small town, it's fun just to walk around the town and explore these places for yourself.
Piragis Northwoods Outfitters, 105 N Central Ave, ☎ +1 218 365-6745 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Every kind of gear, equipment, maps, clothing, gifts and more. You can shop in town or online. There's also an outlet store a block away on Sheridan Street, featuring end-of-season discounts, "experienced" equipment, etc. You can even get a shower there when you come off the trail!
Brandenburg Gallery, 11 E Sheridan St, ☎ +1 218 365-6563, . Photo gallery by Jim Brandenburg, reknowned National Geographic photographer who lives in Ely, and whose work includes lush views of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.
BaskeTree, 34 W Sheridan St, ☎ +1 218 365-6010. Gift shop and bakery. Also the registration office for A Stay Inn Ely (look below in Sleep).
Chris Perry Gallery, 447 E Sheridan St, ☎ +1 218 365-8665, . Chris Perry Gallery features photography of the Ely area and Boundary Waters by local photographer Chris Perry. Find fine art prints of the northern lights, Minnesota landscapes and all of the treasures of the north woods!edit
The Chocolate Moose, 101 N Central Ave, ☎ +1 218 365-6343. A unique spin on traditional dishes. Ingredients include fresh meats, vegetables, and fruits. Daily pasta and pizza specials. Burgers, sandwiches, quesadillas. Gourmet dinner specials. Famous pie baked fresh daily, in many flavors, and other great, tasty desserts!edit