Judy Garland Grand Rapids MN

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Let’s follow a well-known celebrity for part of this post: Judy Garland, Grand Rapids, MN. Of course, there’s information about Grand Rapids and all of the attractions and lakes around the area. By the way, I’ll have more pictures to add after my scheduled trip.

Grand Rapids Table of Contents

Judy Garland Grand Rapids – General Information

Judy Garland Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids MN Map
(Click or tap to bring up the interactive map)

Grand Rapids includes both the Mississippi River and several lakes on the edges of town. The town remains one of the larger northern Minnesota towns, with almost 12,000 population.

Still, not a large town, but plenty of things to do since it’s on a main highway (US-2), and the nearest town of comparable or larger size is Hibbing, about 35 miles away. Or Duluth, about 80 miles away.

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More to see and do in Grand Rapids

Anyway, back to Grand Rapids. There are many lakes near Grand Rapids. First, Crystal Lake “splashes in” at the edge of town and provides a walkway, a fishing pier, and public access. Second, Hale Lake hosts a city campground on the east end of the lake also in the city. Third, Forest Lake gives you another park on the east end of it. Fourth, the Mississippi widens to become Sylvan Lake. Of course, the Mississippi itself provides boating experiences and runs through Veterans Memorial Park.

Another key point: the interactive map above shows eating places, museums, and lakes. But I may add a few more places when I visit there next. Of course, I need to visit all or nearly all of the places mentioned in these posts. I’ll take a trip through northern Minnesota in August or 2023.

Grand Rapids provides a home to five museums/art places

The visit to Judy Garland Grands Rapids becomes worth the stop (or the trip) just to see the Judy Garland museum and birthplace. Of course, you need to stop at many other places as well! I’ve given a brief overview of five museums and art places below.

Judy Garland Grand Rapids Museum

Judy Garland’s birthplace and childhood home became a museum in Grand Rapids. Later in the post, there’s a bit more about her. The museum showcases Judy Garland’s life, although it’s much more than her life in Grand Rapids.

Since it’s a museum, there isn’t a certain amount of time one could spend here. Some will walk through in less than an hour and grab a few photos. However, others will spend half a day there. Of course, you could spend that much time seeing everything. But you can even see the ruby slippers!

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While I have many pictures from there, above a few of them, picked at random to give an overview. The house became a showplace. Additionally, the museum next door contains many artifacts and displays from her career.

Children’s Discovery Museum

The Children’s Discovery Museum in Grand Rapids is a fun and educational destination for families with young children. Particularly, the museum features a variety of interactive exhibits and hands-on activities designed to spark children’s curiosity and creativity.

Some of the exhibits include a farm-to-market area, a water table; a pretend play kitchen, a mini-golf course, and a construction zone. The museum also hosts special events and programs throughout the year, such as storytimes, art classes, and science workshops. Overall it’s a great place for families to spend a day learning and playing together!

Itasca County Historical Society

The Itasca County Historical Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of Itasca County. Significantly, the society operates a museum in Grand Rapids, which features exhibits on the area’s Native American heritage, logging industry, mining history, and more. In addition, the society also hosts events and educational programs throughout the year and maintains an extensive collection of artifacts, photographs, and documents related to the history of Itasca County.

Forest History Center in Judy Garland Grand Rapids hometown

The Forest History Center in Grand Rapids showcases the history of Minnesota’s forests and the people who worked and lived in them. The center is operated by the Minnesota Historical Society and features interactive exhibits, live demonstrations of historical logging techniques, and a recreated 1900s-era logging camp. However, visitors can also explore the nearby trails and learn about the region’s natural environment. The Forest History Center is a great destination for anyone interested in Minnesota’s history, forestry, and outdoor recreation.

Reif Performing Arts Center

The Reif Center for the Performing Arts is a theater and performing arts center located in Grand Rapids. In effect, it was named after Joseph Reif, the man with the money to build the center. The Reif Center hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including plays, concerts, dance performances, and community events. It also offers educational programs and workshops for students and adults. Overall, the center’s mission is to enrich the cultural and artistic experiences of the community and promote the performing arts as an essential part of life.

Judy Garland Grand Rapids Home

Judy Garland, of Wizard of Oz fame, hails from Grand Rapids. Although she’s a typical American girl from Grand Rapids, they didn’t stay here very long. She spent her first four years here.

Early Life and Career

Judy Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10, 1922, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. She was the youngest of three daughters born to Frank and Ethel Gumm. Her parents were vaudevillians who ran a movie theater in town. The family moved to California in 1926, where they began performing as a singing and dancing trio called The Gumm Sisters.


Judy’s childhood was marked by her mother’s relentless ambition for her daughters. Ethel Gumm was known for pushing her children to perform, sometimes at the expense of their education and well-being. Judy later recalled that her mother would give her pills to help her stay awake during long rehearsals and performances.

Despite these challenges, Judy showed a natural talent for singing and dancing from a young age. She made her first public appearance at the age of two and a half, singing “Jingle Bells” at a Christmas show. By the time she was a teenager, she had already appeared in several films and radio programs.

Early Performances

Judy and her sisters performed in vaudeville shows as a child and toured the country with their parents. They also appeared in several short films for Warner Bros. and MGM. In 1935, Judy signed a contract with MGM and began appearing in feature films.

Her breakthrough role came in 1939 when she starred as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.” The film was a huge success and made Judy a household name. She went on to star in several more films for MGM, including “Meet Me in St. Louis” and “Easter Parade.”

Later life

Despite her success, Judy’s personal life was often tumultuous. She struggled with addiction and had several failed marriages. Whereas she gave birth to three children, Liza Minnelli became her most well-known child. During her life, she married five husbands, the last just three months before her death. She died of a drug overdose on June 22, 1969, at the age of 47. Significantly, her fifth husband delivered drugs to her hotel room, and they hit it off. So not an auspicious start to a marriage.

Surely a tragic end for an often tragic life.

Grand Rapids Area Lakes

  • Crystal Lake – This lake remains a favorite spot in Grand Rapids. It’s a beautiful lake that’s perfect for swimming, fishing, and boating. You will love spending a summer day lounging on the beach, soaking up the sun, and dipping in the refreshing water.
  • Hale Lake – Hale Lake is a hidden gem. Located within the Grand Rapids city limits, this 142-acre lake is managed for largemouth bass and panfish. And the fishing here is top-notch.
  • Forest Lake – Forest Lake is a favorite lake near Grand Rapids. Located just 20 minutes north of the city, this lake is a hidden gem that not many people know about. It’s a small lake, only about 30 acres in size, but it’s perfect for a quiet day of fishing or kayaking.
  • Sylvan Lake – the Mississippi River forms this lake as part of the river. There are many lakes similar to this one. The largest and one of the most well-known is Lake Pepin on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border.
  • …and the Mississippi River provides nearly endless boating as well as fishing along its length. For boating purposes, you can travel back to within about 20 miles of the source or all the way down to the Twin Cities.

Summary of Judy Garland Grand Rapids

I hope you enjoyed the information in this Judy Garland Grand Rapids post. Did you know Grand Rapids became Judy Garland’s birthplace? Well, you do now! Remember, it’s Grand Rapids, MN, not Grand Rapids, MI. While searching, if you don’t specify, you’ll likely find the Michigan city. Of course, the Michigan one is much larger, and the boyhood home of President Gerald R. Ford and the site of his presidential museum. (If you want a distraction, you can also go here and look at that one!)

So, just enjoy the Minnesota version in more lake country.

Classic Rock Recollection

“Small Town” by John Mellencamp

Well, I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Probably die in a small town
Oh, those small communities

Written by John Mellencamp (no, he’s not from Minnesota, but I thought it fit)