5 Ways to Do Duluth

By Caitlin Rick

Duluth lift bridge

Dubbed the “Best Outdoor City in America” and the “Craft Beer Capital of Minnesota,” Duluth has long been a destination for its great outdoor activities, unique arts and culture, delicious dining and much more along the North Shore of Lake Superior. Whether you’re a family, a foodie or a history buff, you’ll find plenty of things to see and do in this eclectic and vibrant port city.

For Families

North Shore scenic railroadA wide range of indoor and outdoor activities will keep you and your family busy no matter the time of year. Perched on the shore of Lake Superior is the Great Lakes Aquarium, home to river otters, wetland birds and reptiles, sharks, stingrays, and hundreds of tropical fish. There are also exhibits dedicated to the ecosystem of Minnesota, as well as daily feedings and educational programs.

Visit the indoor island-themed Edgewater Hotel and Water Park to float down the lazy river or take a ride down the four-and-a-half-story waterslides. At the Duluth Children’s Museum, kids can dig for dinosaur bones and participate in science experiments. Or head to the Adventure Zone in Canal Park to burn off some energy playing laser tag and mini-golf, scaling the rock climbing walls or hitting the batting cages.

Do your kids love trains? Book a ride on the North Shore Scenic Railroad to experience life on the rails, with regular excursions to the Lester River and Two Harbors, along with music and pizza nights that run spring through fall. Themed tours like princess tea time and rides on Thomas the Train are also available on select dates.

On a nice day, Park Point Recreation Area is a great place for a picnic, with playgrounds, a paved trail, volleyball courts and more. Or take a thrilling ride on the Timber Twister, a 3,200-foot alpine coaster that runs year-round at speeds up to 26 mph, or the Timber Flyer, a 700-foot-long zip line, both at Spirit Mountain.

For fun on the water, board a sightseeing cruise with Vista Fleet. Kids will love the Queen Pizza Cruise.

For Foodies

fitger's brewhouse

Duluth is a destination for foodies, thanks to the many ingredients that can be sourced locally. Every visitor should try a wild rice burger, served at many restaurants including Fitger’s Brewhouse, Black Woods Bar and Grill and the Duluth Grill. For a taste of the big lake, visit Northern Waters Smokehouse to find a wide variety of smoked fish spreads and tasty sandwiches.

For a romantic dinner, the rotating JJ Astor Restaurant inside the Radisson Hotel serves local produce and fresh catches from area fishermen, coupled with expansive views of downtown Duluth and Lake Superior. After dinner, visit the PortLand Malt Shoppe just off the Lakewalk for a frozen treat while watching the ships go by.

The city of Duluth has been brewing beer since 1881. From the oldest brewery, Fitger’s, to one of the latest additions, Bent Paddle Brewing Co., beer lovers have many opportunities to sip and sample a variety of locally made brews.

The craft spirits scene in Minnesota is also booming, with one of the state’s first distilleries, Vikre Distillery, located in Canal Park. Visit the cocktail room to sip gins made with foraged botanicals from the north woods; aquavit, a traditional Scandinavian distilled spirit; or vodka made with water from Lake Superior.

For Outdoor Enthusiasts

Superior Hiking Trail Alyssa Hei
Photo by Alyssa Hei

Duluth’s wide variety of outdoor pursuits include hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and more. The Superior Hiking Trail is a 310-mile footpath that stretches from south of Duluth to the Canadian border. Parking lots located every five to 10 miles along the trail make it accessible for both day hikes and camping. Enger Park, with its gardens, trails and famous tower, is another must-see.

The waterways of Duluth offer great opportunities for kayaking and learning. The Duluth Experience leads tours on Lake Superior and the St. Louis River that reveal the cultural and natural history of the city. For a truly memorable experience, book a sunset tour on the lake.

Mountain bikers will love Spirit Mountain, which offers the state’s only lift service, picturesque views of Lake Superior and the St. Louis River, and is designed for riders of every skill level. Other trails can be found at Brewery Park, Hartley Park, Lester Park, Piedmont and Mission Creek.

In the winter, the mountain is a popular destination for downhill skiing, and fat tire bikes make it possible to keep riding in the snow. There are also plenty of trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

For History Buffs

Glensheen MansionAt the turn of the 19th century, Duluth was home to more millionaires per capita than anywhere in the nation. Many stately homes from that time can be found throughout the city, including the famous Glensheen Mansion. The recently renovated estate features gardens, bridges, and has 39 rooms that can be toured year-round. Themed tours and special events, including live music in the summer and holiday decorations in December, are also available.

Duluth is a major destination for cargo ships carrying goods across the world. The S.S. William A. Irvin, a ship that carried iron ore and coal to Great Lakes ports for 40 years, now houses a museum that features a 2,000-horsepower steam turbine engine, delicate antique fixtures and historic exhibits. Brave souls can plan a visit in October for the haunted ship tour.

Near the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge, you will find the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center. This free museum seeks to preserve the maritime heritage of Lake Superior and the Port of Duluth-Superior by showcasing artifacts, documents, publications and photographs. While you’re there, ask for a shipping schedule to view incoming barges.

For Art Lovers

Bayfront Blues Festival DuluthDuluth has a rich arts scene that showcases a variety of music, visual art and theater. The Duluth Art Institute rotates exhibits throughout the year, and the Tweed Art Museum features more than 9,000 pieces representing a range of cultures and art history periods.

See a show at The Duluth Playhouse, or catch the Teatro Zuccone improv troupe or an independent film at the Zeitgeist Center. Duluth is also a hub for live music, and was home to famous acts such as Bob Dylan and Trampled by Turtles. Annual music fests include the Bayfront Blues Festival, Bayfront Reggae & World Music Festival and Duluth Homegrown Music Festival.

Find more things to do, places to stay, and places to eat and drink in Duluth.