Famous for its frequent mention on TV weather reports as the Lower 48’s cold spot, temperatures in the Icebox of the Nation often dip in to the minus 30s Fahrenheit during the long winters: The all-time low is minus 46°.
The 6,000 hardy souls who live here are rather proud of their frigid lifestyles, though you are very unlikely to encounter any of these extremes. The local Convention and Visitors Bureau, hoping to attract more visitors outside the summer months, doesn’t discuss the cold very much, though they will quickly point out that the mean high temperature from June through August is an idyllic 77°.
While they stay mum on the winter weather to tourists, they actively promote the frozen north to companies who need to do cold-weather product testing.
As the name suggests, International Falls is tucked up along the border with Canada, though the long series of rapids that provided the second half of the name lies buried behind the hydroelectric dam.
Founded in 1895 as Koochiching, the town was nearly wiped out by a fire in 1902, and the rebuilt community renamed itself the next year. Its original Algonquin moniker means Mist Over the Water, referring to the thick rainbow-filled cloud the waterfall threw up as the lake emptied into the river.
Though the cold put the town on the map nationally, it is paper and tourism that keeps it going. The dam went up in 1908, and it powers a paper mill on each side of the border. Boise Paper Solutions  employs 850 in town, and you won’t just see how immense their operations are, you’ll probably smell it too—don’t worry, you get used to it quickly.
Also important to the local economy are the tens of thousands of people stopping by on their way to Voyageurs National Park , which begins about ten miles to the east.
Ranier, a quaint village with a historic Rainy Lake waterfront and lift bridge, sits three miles to the east on Highway 11 (turn at the giant Voyageur statue) and should be a part of any visit here.
What could be more appropriate in International Falls than Icebox Days. Held each January, the wintry events include turkey bowling, snow sculpting, a polar bear dip, and the Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard 10K and 5K races.
The International Falls Bass Championship (www.ifallsbass.com ) offers a lot more than fishing. For three days in late August, locals and visitors enjoy entertainment into the evening, a car show, an art fair, kiddie games and rides, and more.
Falls International Airport (3214 2nd Ave. E., 218/283-4461, www.internationalfallsairport.com ) just south of town, is served by Delta Airlines (800/221-1212), which flies to the Twin Cities  several times a day. If you are coming from or heading on to Canada, there is scheduled air and bus service from Fort Frances across the river. Avis (218/285-7799), Ford (218/283-8486), and National (218/283-3471) have car rental offices at the airport.
The U.S. Port of Entry (2 2nd Ave., 218/283-2541) is staffed 24 hours a day. You will need your passport to enter Canada and to reenter the United States. Keep in mind that Canada places limits on the importation of alcohol and live bait. Anyone with a criminal record (including drunk driving) may be prohibited from entering Canada.