Duluth, Minnesota may not be the first place you think of when planning a trip, but there's a lot more to this city than meets the eye. The city has a history rooted in steel, shipping, and the railroad. Its location along Lake Superior makes it the perfect place for outdoor adventure, scenic drives, and winter fun. If you're looking for a laid back, friendly place to spend a few days, Duluth should be next in your trip planning.
The best way to take in the view of Duluth and the surrounding areas is to go for a drive on the Skyline Parkway. This route showcases the entire city and provides amazing views of the St. Louis River and Lake Superior. There are plenty of overlooks and observation points along the way where you can see some of the region's most popular landmarks, including the five-story Enger Tower, the Stewart Creek Bridge, and the Magney-Snively Natural Area.
The SS William A. Irvin was once the flagship of U.S. Steel's Great Lakes Fleet, transporting iron ore and coal to various ports along the shores of the Great Lakes from 1938 until it was retired in 1978. Today, it's located in the heart of Canal Park in Duluth. Considering the ship spent 40 years traveling around the lakes, it remains in pristine condition. Daily tours are available where you get a close look at the gorgeous oak and walnut in the decorated luxury cabins and the lounge where guests of U.S. Steel were once entertained.
One of the best places to explore nature in Duluth is the Hartley Nature Center. This 660-acre park is the perfect way to experience the outdoors. Whether you want to go mountain biking, hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing, you'll love exploring the 10 miles of multi-use trails. Harley Pond is ideal for bass and perch fishing, and the surrounding streams and trails are the perfect place for birding. You may even see a beaver or two.
Fitger's Brewhouse Brewery and Grille is home to award-winning ales and lagers made with local ingredients and water from Lake Superior. Not only do they have delicious brews on tap but the pub food is incredible. The menu was put together to complement their brews and everything is made using fresh, seasonal, and local ingredients, some from their own farm. Options include everything from salads to burgers to specialty sandwiches and desserts.
Canal Park is in the heart of the city, the connection between the beautiful lakefront and downtown. One of the best outdoor spaces in the city, the district offers views that are uniquely Duluth. Sit in awe of the giant freighters crossing the lake, watch the Aerial Lift Bridge, and walk, bike, rollerblade, or run on the paved path right next to the water. Not only is the path lined with interesting sculptures, but there are also plenty of shops, cafes, galleries to keep you busy.
Railroading is important to Duluth, so the Lake Superior Railroad Museum hopes to bring some of this history to life, starting with the building itself. The museum is housed in the restored Historic Duluth Union Depot and exhibits include electric locomotives, cabooses, passenger cars, and more. In the warm months, they also operate a heritage railroad offering train rides through Duluth and along the shores of Lake Superior.
You'll find the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory along the East Skyline Parkway, a great spot to pull off the road and take in the view. The Observatory's main focus is to protect both migratory birds and birds of prey. The best time fo go is from mid-August through November, the prime season for hawk migration. Mid-September sees a lot of activity with tens of thousands of broad-winged hawks flying overhead. In October, you're likely to see larger birds like golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, and rough-legged hawks.
Glensheen is one of the most beautiful places in Duluth. This historic house and museum were built between 1905 and 1908. It includes 39 rooms, each stunningly decorated with the original furniture, most of which have been in the home for more than 100 years. The rooms feature trim and paneling made of mahogany, walnut, and birch and the hallways are still lined with the original stenciling and wood carvings. The grounds are gorgeous, too, and include trails, English-style landscapes, formal gardens, and a vintage pier on the lake.
The Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad was first built in the 1870s. Today, you can take a ride on vintage railroad equipment along the six miles of track that remain. Experience what travel was like back then as you take your journey in a restored passenger car from 1912 pulled by an engine from 1946. The ride takes about two hours and travels along Spirit Lake, Mud Lake, and the St. Louis River estuary. Along the way, you'll get a narrated history of the railroad in Duluth. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, too. You're likely to see everything from deer to ducks to bald eagles overhead.
One of the most popular parks in Duluth is Leif Erikson Park which sits on the shore of Lake Superior. It features a statue of the park's namesake, the Norwegian explorer who first landed on the shores of North America nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus arrived. A replica of Erikson's Viking ship even sits in the park. One of the popular spots is the stone stage where outdoor concerts, plays, and summer movies in the park are held. The park's biggest attraction is the Duluth Rose Garden, which features about 2,000 rose bushes and more than 100 rose varieties.