Duluth, Minnesota is a stunning city with sidewalks that stretch along the lakeside and shops that fill the downtown core. No matter what time of year, you’re guaranteed to find beautiful green trees, a vast blue lake, golf courses and country inns.
Vacation in Duluth, where you’ll find more than a hundred shops, galleries and restaurants on the city’s historic waterfront. This vacation destination has something for everyone, from wealthy to poor. From fancy to casual. Everyone looks for different things when going on vacation. Some people will Google Duluth restaurant, while others will type in the Duluth hotel to stay at. Here’s some of my favorite vacation spots during my stay in Duluth:
Have you been wanting to plan a vacation with your family and friends? If so, you have come to the right place. This is an educational blog post about vacation in Duluth.
Ah, vacation. Time to do as little as possible, just lounge around and enjoy the comforts you have at home — right? Absolutely. But I challenge you to do it in Duluth. Use this guide for great ideas for eating, shopping and managing your summertime fun without spending a lot of money.
Vacation In Duluth
Duluth, Minnesota is a city located in the Great Lakes region of the United States (about 500 miles from Chicago) and is home to nearly 73,000 active residents. The area is known for hosting many outdoor festivals with a wide range of cultural and performing arts.
For adventure lovers seeking outdoor fun, it’s hard to beat the natural beauty and diverse four-season attractions of Duluth, Minnesota. Perched along the northern shore of Lake Superior, Duluth revels in its harborside locale and is known as the land where the water meets the sky. This seaport city enjoys a long maritime history visitors love to explore, and freighters still head out to sea from here bound for transatlantic crossings.
Sitting upon the westernmost point of the Great Lakes, Duluth captivates with panoramic vistas; an expansive public park system; sophisticated dining, shopping, and museums; and plenty of opportunities to enjoy the water.
Duluth is also proud to lay claim to being the birthplace of iconic folk singer and national treasure, Bob Dylan. Born in 1941, Dylan lived here for the first six years of his life – a connection that’s celebrated each May at the week-long Duluth Dylan Fest, as well as on the nearly two-mile-long Bob Dylan Way, a fun walking route that takes in landmarks linked to the star, as well as top cultural attractions. To learn more about other upcoming events and things to do here, be sure to peruse our list of the top attractions in Duluth.
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
1. North Shore Scenic Drive
With dramatic vistas and the stunning beauty of Lake Superior at every turn, the 148-mile drive along Highway 61 provides tourists with wonderful opportunities to experience life along the lake.
Begin at Duluth’s waterfront Canal Park and amble northeast. Views along the way captivate as acres of aspens, the majestic Sawtooth Mountains, waterfalls, cliffs, and beaches compete for attention.
The real fun comes from stopping at charming, small northern shore towns along the way. One-of-a-kind shops, restaurants, and local flavors make each a special gem.
Two Harbors is worth exploring, just 27 miles north of Duluth. Two Harbors Lighthouse is lovingly restored to its original 1891 splendor and offers visitors up close views of the various lanterns, lenses, and artifacts from Minnesota’s oldest continuously operated lighthouse. Nearby, Split Rock Lighthouse sits majestically off Highway 61 and is a must-see.
Gooseberry Falls State Park is a true all-season playground with hiking (winter-touring) trails, picnic areas, splendid scenery, and a spectacular waterfall. Continuing north along the route, Lutsen is home to the Superior Hiking Trail, otherwise known as the “Appalachian Trail of the Midwest.” Skiing and snowboarding are the main things to do here in winter, with chairlift rides and BMX biking available spring through fall at the largest ski area in the Midwest.
The artist colony of Grand Marais is at the northernmost end of the drive, where funky galleries, inspired dining, and boutique shopping await. Here, canoe and kayak enthusiasts experience crystal-clear glacier-formed lakes just along the famed Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
2. Canal Park & The Lakewalk
Hugging the shoreline of Lake Superior, Canal Park is the epicenter of Duluth downtown family fun. More than a conventional park, this popular Duluth recreation area is home to Lakewalk, a promenade with walking and biking trails meandering through the waterfront area past shops and restaurants.
Sit and watch the ships sail the harbor or stroll along the water for some great people watching. Lake Walk’s eastern end connects to Leif Erickson Park and Duluth Rose Garden, a magnificent place to visit to enjoy a harbor view and a picnic. Note that the replica of Erikson’s Viking ship, a wooden sailing vessel that made the journey from Norway to Boston before ending up in Duluth in 1927, is currently off-site undergoing restoration.
Kids of all ages will enjoy Playfront Park, the city’s largest playground, built as a community project in 1989. Water sports of all varieties are accessible in Canal Park including rentals of electric boats, Seadoos, paddle boards, canoes, and kayaks. Bike rental and carriage rides are also easily arranged.
While you’re in the area, check out the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum. Just a few minutes walk from Canal Park at 902 East 1st Street, this former 1912 church (the original organ is still there) houses an impressive collection old books and important historical documents.
3. Lake Superior Zoo & Zoological Society
Open year-round, the Lake Superior Zoo gives visitors the chance to see over 140 species of animals from around the world. Among its most popular residents are the two-toed sloths in the Nocturnal Building, which is also home to several unique species, including the large-spotted genet and kinkajou. The Primate Conservation Center is one of the zoo’s most visited exhibits. This rainforest habitat is home to colobus monkeys, Callimico monkeys, cotton-top tamarins, and ring-tailed lemurs.
The Australia & Oceania area is another top destination, with exotic animals form Down Under, including kangaroos and wallabies. At the Asian Caravan, zoo guests can see endangered Amur tigers and snow leopards, as well as endangered Asian birds. Visitors can also see a family of African lions in their own habitat. The zoo is also home to a population of brown bears who live peacefully with North American river otters, as well as a range of reptiles, amphibians, and other birds and mammals.
Visitors can book behind-the-scenes tours to learn even more about their favorite animals, including opportunities to watch carnivore and nocturnal animal feedings and get up close to bears and otters. One of the most popular special activities is Primate Painting, where visitors watch Callimico monkeys create works of art on an iPad; prints of the final artwork are included in the price. All these tours must be booked at least one week in advance.
Address: 7210 Fremont Street, Duluth, Minnesota
Official site: https://lszooduluth.org
4. Aerial Lift Bridge
More than 115 years old, Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge enthralls visitors daily as an engineering and architectural marvel. Spanning a narrow opening connecting Park Point to Duluth’s mainland, the most photographed structure in Duluth operates 24/7, rising and lowering to accommodate freighters, cargo ships, sailboats, and tour excursions from the harbor into the main lake passageway. Photographers get favored shots just before sunset.
The action is not over when the sun goes down, however, as the bridge is particularly beautiful at night, with hundreds of LED lights illuminating the structure. Take in the view from nearby Canal Park and along the Lake Walk.
Address: 601 S. Lake Ave, Duluth, Minnesota
5. Glensheen, the Historic Congdon Estate
The 39-room Glensheen mansion, sitting high atop the bluffs overlooking the city and the lake, is the most visited historic home in the state of Minnesota. The early 20th-century manse, with more than 20,000 square feet of living space, once housed Chester Congdon, a noted Duluth industrialist and philanthropist. Together with his wife Clara, Congdon equipped the home with the ultimate in modern amenities, which were remarkable for the time.
Plan extra time to walk the meticulously landscaped 12-acre estate; the gardens were created by noted landscape architect Charles Wellford Leavitt Jr. Guided tours are available and feature actual furnishings, clothing, photographs, well-preserved letters, and ephemera from the Congdons, providing a glimpse at turn-of-the-century living. A variety of tour options are available, including fun Christmas-themed options.
Address: 300 London Road, Duluth, Minnesota
Official site: http://glensheen.org/
6. Great Lakes Aquarium
Alongside Duluth’s harbor, adjacent Bayfront Festival Park, is the spectacular Great Lakes Aquarium, inspiring visitors as a center of discovery featuring habitats, animals, and sea creatures representing the regional Great Lakes Basin and beyond. Guests learn about the centuries of geological forces that shaped the mysteries of this area.
Amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and invertebrates are displayed – some in touch pools allowing the tiny tot set to handle the friendlier species. The special two-story aquarium is particularly active at feeding times, so keep close watch on the schedule in order to witness fish such as bullheads, black crappies, and porcupine fish in habitats that mirror what’s found in the wild.
For those traveling with younger kids and toddlers, the Duluth Children’s Museum offers a few hour’s entertainment with its hands-on exhibits and activities.
Address: 353 Harbor Drive, Duluth, Minnesota
Official site: http://glaquarium.org/
7. Lake Superior Maritime Visitors Center
Lake Superior Maritime Visitors Center is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Duluth. One of the top things to do for free in Duluth, this informative museum in Canal Park gives the nod to the storied maritime history of the lake and the important role Duluth Harbor played in shaping the early American steel industry, as well as Midwestern cargo transport across the globe. There’s also a fascinating exhibit relating to the fate of doomed freighter, the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Artifacts to discover here include the original 1905 Fresnel lens that lit the Inner Range Light over the Duluth Ship Canal’s south pier, cabin displays of early transport vessels, and detailed route charts and maps. The museum’s gift shop has one-of-a-kind Lake Superior inspired memorabilia and historical books at budget-friendly prices.