The natural beauty and numerous four-season attractions of Duluth, Minnesota, are hard to beat for adventurers seeking outdoor enjoyment. Duluth, located on the northern shore of Lake Superior, takes pride in its harborside location and is renowned as the region where water meets sky. This coastal city has a rich nautical history that visitors enjoy learning about, and freighters still depart from here for trans-Atlantic trips.
Duluth captivates with magnificent panoramas, a vast public park system, excellent restaurants, shopping, and museums, and lots of options to enjoy the water, as it sits on the westernmost tip of the Great Lakes.
This port city is home to the Great Lakes’ largest port and a plethora of water-themed activities.
You can take a walk along the lakefront promenade, tour waterside houses, and even say hi to some fishy friends in an aquarium.
There are many other activities available, such as visiting museums and relaxing in parks.
Duluth is also proud to be the hometown of legendary folk musician and national treasure Bob Dylan. Dylan was born in 1941 and spent his first six years of life in Duluth, which is commemorated each May with the week-long Duluth Dylan Fest and the nearly two-mile-long Bob Dylan Way, a delightful walking route that includes locations associated with the star as well as notable cultural destinations.
Best Things To Do In Duluth MN
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North Shore Scenic Drive
The 148-mile drive along Highway 61 provides tourists with fantastic opportunities to experience life near Lake Superior, with dramatic panoramas and the beautiful majesty of the lake at every turn.
Begin walking northeast from Duluth’s waterfront Canal Park. Aerial views of acres of aspens, the spectacular Sawtooth Mountains, waterfalls, cliffs, and beaches vie for your attention along the journey.
Stopping in at attractive, little northern shore communities along the way is where the real pleasure begins. Each is a unique jewel, with one-of-a-kind shops, restaurants, and regional cuisines.
Just 27 miles north of Duluth, Two Harbors is worth visiting. The lights, lenses, and artefacts from Minnesota’s longest continuously functioning lighthouse have been meticulously restored to its former 1891 glory, and visitors may get up up and personal with them. Split Rock Lighthouse, located nearby and majestically off Highway 61, is a must-see.
Gooseberry Falls State Park is a full year-round playground, equipped with hiking (winter-touring) trails, picnic spots, beautiful scenery, and a breathtaking cascade. The Superior Hiking Trail, sometimes known as the “Appalachian Trail of the Midwest,” is located in Lutsen, further north along the route.
In the winter, the principal activities are skiing and snowboarding, with chairlift rides and BMX riding accessible from spring through fall at the Midwest’s largest ski facility.
At the northernmost end of the trip, you’ll find the artist enclave of Grand Marais, where you’ll find unique galleries, innovative restaurants, and boutique shopping. Canoeists and kayakers can enjoy crystal-clear glacier-formed lakes just minutes from the famous Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
Why You Should Visit ?
If you’re planning a long road trip, travelling down this highway route will reward you with breathtaking vistas of lush forests and glistening waterways.
What To Do ?
Staying in the car and stopping at sites along the road is not a good idea. You can enjoy mountain biking, skiing, or even trekking up to waterfalls in Duluth’s bustling metropolis.
Canal Park & The Lakewalk
Canal Park, which hugs the shoreline of Lake Superior, is the heart of Duluth’s downtown family activities. Lakewalk, a promenade with walking and bike routes winding through the waterfront area past stores and restaurants, is more than a traditional park in this popular Duluth entertainment area.
Sit and watch the ships sail into the harbour, or take a walk along the water and people-watch. The eastern end of Lake Walk leads to Leif Erickson Park and Duluth Rose Garden, both of which are beautiful places to visit for a picnic and a harbour view.
It should be noted that Erikson’s Viking ship, a wooden sailing vessel that travelled from Norway to Boston before arriving in Duluth in 1927, is currently being restored off-site.
Playfront Park, the city’s largest playground, will appeal to children of all ages. It was built as a community project in 1989. Canal Park offers a variety of water sports, including the rental of electric boats, Seadoos, paddle boards, canoes, and kayaks. Bike rentals and carriage trips are also available.
While you’re in the neighbourhood, pay a visit to the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum. This former 1912 church (the original organ is still there) at 902 East 1st Street, just a few minutes’ walk from Canal Park, holds an extraordinary collection of rare books and vital historical papers.
Why You Should Visit ?
This trail, which hugs Lake Superior’s coastlines, is the best site for both locals and tourists to take in the scenery. It’s a low-cost but satisfying way to take in the scenery by the sea.
What To Do ?
Finish your date with a romantic walk along the lake. Couples should add a walk along the paved route to their list of things to do in Duluth MN.
Aerial Lift Bridge
The Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth, which is more than 115 years old, continues to enchant visitors as an engineering and architectural marvel. The most photographed structure in Duluth, spanning a short hole connecting Park Point to Duluth’s mainland, is open 24 hours a day, rising and falling to permit freighters, cargo ships, sailboats, and tour excursions from the port into the main lake entrance. Just before sunset, photographers get the best shots.
When the sun sets, though, the action continues since the bridge is extremely attractive at night, with hundreds of LED lights illuminating the arch. Take in the sights from Canal Park and the Lake Walk, which are both nearby.
Why You Should Visit ?
By gradually moving up, the movable bridge provides a one-of-a-kind kind of entertainment that elevates it to the ranks of Duluth’s most exciting attractions.
What To Do ?
Find a beautiful position near Canal Park with clear views of the bridge and watch the ships pass beneath it.
Glensheen, the Historic Congdon Estate
The Glensheen mansion, which sits high on the cliffs overlooking the city and the lake, is Minnesota’s most visited historic residence. Chester Congdon, a well-known Duluth industrialist and philanthropist, lived in the early twentieth-century mansion, which has more than 20,000 square feet of living area. Congdon and his wife Clara outfitted the house with the most cutting-edge modern comforts, which were unheard of at the time.
Allow additional time to walk the 12-acre estate, which was beautifully manicured by famed landscape architect Charles Wellford Leavitt Jr. Actual furnishings, clothing, photographs, well-preserved letters, and memorabilia from the Congdons are on display during guided tours, affording a look into turn-of-the-century living. There are a variety of tour alternatives available, including some that are festively themed.
Why You Should Visit ?
Back in the day, this ancient home was the height of opulence. Its magnificent gardens and spectacular interior are still as impressive as they were when it was built. During your stay, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported back in time.
What To Do ?
View how the elite lived in the past by taking a tour of the 39-bedroom home. You have the option of following a tour guide or going it alone.
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Great Lakes Aquarium
The beautiful Great Lakes Aquarium, located adjacent to Bayfront Festival Park and alongside Duluth’s port, inspires visitors as a centre of discovery with habitats, animals, and sea creatures from the neighbouring Great Lakes Basin and beyond. Guests learn about the geological forces that sculpted the mystery of this region over aeons.
Amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and invertebrates are on show, with some of them in touch pools for the little ones to grasp. The two-story aquarium is especially active at feeding times, so keep an eye on the schedule to see bullheads, black crappies, and porcupine fish in settings that are similar to those found in the wild.
The kids will also enjoy a trip to the Lake Superior Zoo, where they can participate in a number of interesting animal activities. The zoo, which opened in 1923, today features a selection of adorable foreign and North American animals, as well as playgrounds and a miniature railway (tours are also available).
With its hands-on displays and activities, the Duluth Children’s Museum provides a few hours of enjoyment for people travelling with younger children and toddlers.
Lake Superior Maritime Visitors Center
The Lake Superior Maritime Visitors Center is one of Duluth’s most popular tourist destinations. One of the best free things to do in Duluth MN, this instructive museum in Canal Park pays homage to the lake’s famous maritime heritage, as well as the pivotal role Duluth Harbor had in developing the early American steel industry and Midwestern cargo transportation across the world. There’s also a great exhibit about the Edmund Fitzgerald, the tragic freighter.
The original 1905 Fresnel lens that lit the Inner Range Light over the Duluth Ship Canal’s south dock, cabin displays of early cargo vessels, and comprehensive route charts and maps are among the artefacts to be discovered here. The museum’s gift shop sells one-of-a-kind Lake Superior artefacts and historical publications at reasonable pricing.
Enger Park & Tower
The 80-foot Enger Tower, built in 1939 of native blue stone as a tribute to Norwegian-American businessman and philanthropist Bert Enger, stands high atop Duluth’s bluffs.
Enger Tower, which stands 531 feet above the lake and is ornamented with a green beacon, is located in Enger Park and offers spectacular views of the city and Duluth Harbor. Visitors can climb the tiny ladder to the top, where fierce gusts blow and breathtaking 360-degree vistas provide unrivalled photo opportunities.
Visitors who stroll the grounds are greeted by immaculate perennial gardens. Be sure to view and ring the Japanese Peace Bell, which was installed as a gift from Duluth’s sister city, Ohara, Japan.
Take the opportunity to hike the portion of the Superior Hiking Trail that runs along the gardens’ edge. It runs parallel to the slope above Skyline Drive and provides numerous photo possibilities with views of the lake and the city.
Climbers and boulderers love the park’s rugged short boulders right off the trails adjacent to the Twin Ponds parking lot (Hank Jensen Drive). Climb with the locals at Slab Boulder on the park’s east end and the Upper and Lower Walls on the park’s west side.
Lake Superior Railroad Museum
The Lake Superior Railroad Museum is located near Duluth’s bustling downtown waterfront. The museum, housed in the historic 1892 French chateau-style Union Station, provides visitors with up-close views of the rolling stock and trains that helped shape the region’s colourful past.
There are steam, diesel, and electric trains on display, as well as a three-quarter scale model of downtown Duluth in 1910, during the city’s industrial boom. A rare example of the diesel-powered Great Northern 92 Engine, one of only ten manufactured between 1946 and 1947, is especially notable.
If you travel during the summer or fall, you’ll have an even greater time. During these months, the historic Duluth Union Depot offers a regular schedule of rail trips on these historical trains. The North Shore Scenic Railroad travels along the historic lakefront line, passing through downtown Duluth and Canal Park before heading along Lake Superior’s beachfront. The excellent commentary from local historians about the area’s history adds to the adventure.
Spirit Mountain Adventure Park
Spirit Mountain, a true four-season adventure park, is only 15 miles north of Duluth. Skiing, snowboarding, tubing, Nordic trails, and snowmobiling are all popular winter activities. Downhill mountain biking, an alpine coaster, ziplines, chairlift rides, disc golf, and a big “jump pillow” for the youngsters are all available from spring through fall.
The real fun begins in the winter months, when skiing, snowmobiling, and snowboarding are all on the menu. The Park is huge, a paradise for adventurers. During the winter, you can go snow tubing, and during the rest of the year, you can zipline.
As you fly through the trees, you’ll be able to get up close and personal thanks to the double seats.
For kilometres around, you’ll find the best mountain bike tracks. Don’t forget to ride the Timber Twister, the Midwest’s first Alpine Coaster. The coaster whizzes through the forest and up the mountain on a 3200 foot elevated track.
When you’ve had your fill of adrenaline, head to the park’s café for a cold drink and a hot dinner.
For the best access, visit the park on a weekday and arrive early in the day for the lowest ride queues. Also, on the Alpine Slide, take advantage of the “automatic photographs.” Riders can purchase individual images or a CD of the complete family in action to share when they return home.
When visiting Duluth, birdwatchers will be in for a treat. The Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, regarded as one of the best in the country, is nestled in a 365-acre natural reserve with more than four miles of hiking trails. The greatest time to visit for nature enthusiasts is from mid-August to November, when thousands of broad-winged hawks migrate through the area, with the “big days” for bird-watchers being in mid-September for a week or two.
Split Rock Lighthouse
The iconic Split Rock Lighthouse in Two Harbors, located less than an hour north of Duluth along the picturesque northern shore of Lake Superior, is one of Minnesota’s most well-known monuments.
Visitors can learn about the lighthouse’s beginnings in 1910 and get a glimpse inside lighthouse life. The keeper’s house, oil house, signal structure, and lighthouse are among the four original buildings on the site (guided tours are available).
Split Rock is Minnesota’s most photographed lighthouse, perched high above the cliffs. The wayside rest station on Highway 61, just south of the lighthouse, offers an interesting long-shot vista.
Photographers who want to shoot the lighthouse from the north will find the ideal vantage position near the northernmost end of the hiking trail that runs along the cliffs just in front of it. For those who want to get out on the water for a different perspective, there are excursion boats available on Beaver Bay.
Positive Energy Outdoors
Positive Energy Outdoors (PEO), a unique nonprofit education institution that supports human and animal-powered outdoor experience, offers kayaking, dog sledding, rock climbing, and sleigh rides. To take advantage of this tiny tour operator’s offers, you’ll need to plan ahead, since their day trip trips often sell out weeks in advance. Small group numbers ensure that everyone receives personalised teaching from PEO’s experienced volunteers, making it ideal for families or couples.
Their most popular service is dog sled tours in the winter. Prepare for the elements, as the trips are just two hours long but frequently last longer. Guests learn how to harness the dogs, tie them up, and visit them in their kennels. Kayaking or rock climbing experiences from spring to fall provide the same hands-on learning experience and are suitable for all ability levels.
Vista Fleet Cruises
Taking a cruise around Lake Superior gives you a new perspective on the city. There are a variety of cruise alternatives, including sightseeing cruises, dinner cruises, and even a pizza boat. The tours go anywhere from 45 minutes to 105 minutes.
Vista offers two year-round vessels: the Vista Star, which can carry 220 passengers, and the Vista Queen, which can hold 50 passengers. Make bookings online or purchase tickets using their mobile app, which allows customers to board without stopping at their dockside ticket office, avoiding huge waits on the dock.
Indoor and outdoor seating is available on the cruises. Arrive 30 minutes prior to departure, as they operate a tight ship that sails on time.
Wisconsin Point Lighthouse
The city of Superior, Wisconsin, is located across the Saint Louis River and is well worth a visit. The Wisconsin Point Light should be your first stop. This magnificent backdrop for photography may be found near the shipping entrance to Lake Superior at any time of day (though of course sunsets are particularly spectacular here). It was built in the 1890s and is positioned on what is said to be the world’s longest freshwater sandbar, running 10 miles from here to Duluth.
The Fairlawn Mansion and Museum are also worth seeing. This finely furnished historic home, built in 1891, has been amazingly well preserved and has displays of period furniture in rooms that can be admired during instructive tours.
It also has a four-story turret, as well as magnificent gilded ceiling murals, beautiful fireplaces, and authentic stained-glass windows. Spend some time wandering through the gorgeous grounds.
The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, which includes a variety of well-preserved military vehicles, a fully restored P-38 Lightning fighter plane, and plenty of intriguing relics, is also worth a visit for those interested in the history of combat.
Take A Romantic Lake Walk
Lake Superior’s edge is traced by the magnificent Lake Walk. A promenade with lights runs through the area, passing restaurants and businesses. Canal Park in Duluth, Minnesota, is home to the Lake Walk Promenade. It’s a buzzing hub of activity, with a diverse range of outstanding eateries and charming art galleries.
In Duluth, Minnesota, cosy pubs and pavement cafés provide a variety of options for a dating night. Canal Park is the heart of Duluth’s arts and entertainment scene. There are plenty of things to do in Duluth, including theatres, movies, art galleries, and museums. Canal Park connects the busy downtown area to the waterfront.
Along the way, the Promenade connects with Leif Erickson Park and the Rose Garden. Take a picnic lunch and a glass of bubbly to a picnic table in the Rose Garden. The lake may be seen from the park.
Roses fill the paths that go through the gardens, adding beauty and aroma. Water elements and fountains add interest among the roses.