Duluth is a Great Place for a Getaway
I absolutely love spending time in Duluth, whether it’s a quick weekend getaway or a longer visit when possible. I’ve visited Duluth many times over the years for vacation, as a lunch stop on the way up to the North Shore and even a wedding. My brother-in-law lived there for three years as well, and that gave us a great excuse to drive up from the Twin Cities and visit him often. After a number of trips to Duluth, this is a roundup of my favorite things to do, see and eat in Duluth!
Where We Stayed
Duluth has a ton of options from bed and breakfasts, to boutique hotels, Airbnbs and everything in between. When narrowing down your search, I suggest you first start with what part of town you want to be in. We chose to stay in Canal Park because we wanted to easily walk around and not drive everywhere. We grabbed take out, relaxed at outdoor patios and sat in the harbor watching the waves crash. Being able to walk to all of that is really nice. You can find cheaper options on the outskirts of town, just know you’ll need to drive to get to most of the hot spots, and sometimes parking (especially in the peak summer months) can be a real challenge.
With all of that in mind, we chose to stay at The Inn on Lake Superior. We’ve stayed here a handful of times because it’s reasonably priced and right in the heart of Canal Park. Here you’ll find large clean rooms, a great view of either Lake Superior or the Aerial Lift Bridge depending on which side of the hotel your room is, free breakfast, access to lakeside fire pits, free s’mores and free bike rentals. This past trip we had a lakeside room and spent a lot of time relaxing on the balcony enjoying the view.
1. Kick Off Your Morning With Coffee
There are a handful of great coffee shops in Duluth. Whether you’re looking for a sit down diner or more of a grab and go option, there’s something for everyone. I love Yellow Bike coffee, which is located on the lower level of Fitger’s. They brew quality coffee and offer simple breakfast treats, like pumpkin muffins, which you can take with you and enjoy by the lake.
2. Take a Tour of Glensheen
For an incredible step back in history, you’ll want to visit the Glensheen Mansion. The Congdons were an impressive family of very forward thinking people. If you’ve never visited Glensheen, I highly recommend you add it to your bucket list. In the winter, their Christmas trees and decorations are whimsical and beautiful, and you can even go snowshoeing on the property. In the summer, you can enjoy the gardens and listen to live music on the lawn. Here are a few fun facts about Glensheen:
- Glensheen was built from 1905-1909
- The mansion has 39 rooms, 10 bathrooms and 15 fireplaces
- It’s 32,000 sq. feet
- It cost $855K to build, which is roughly $24M today
If there’s only one point to make about the Congdon family, it’s that they weren’t just a wealthy family, they were brilliant, creative, kind and so far ahead of their time in terms of their ideas and accomplishments. Plan to spend at least 90 minutes taking the tour of the house and walking around the property.
3. Walk Around Canal Park
Canal Park is definitely where you’ll find a lot of energy in Duluth. There are a ton of shops and restaurants, plus a brewery and distillery. You’ll also find the iconic lighthouse and lift bridge and can enjoy walking around the harbor or skipping rocks into the lake. This part of Duluth definitely feels a little touristy, but it’s still a fun spot to check out!
4. Explore the Great Outdoors
Duluth and the surrounding areas are known for incredible hikes, all of varying lengths and difficulty. I like to use the All Trails app while planning my hikes to see the distance and difficulty of each trail. You can also check out the Visit Duluth site for more information on hikes in the area. Some of my favorites are Chester Creek, Condgon Trail, and the Hartley Nature Center.
If you visit during the summer or fall, check out Enger Park Golf Course, which is a public course. It has incredible views of the lake from a high vantage point. And if you’re visiting during winter, head over to Spirit Mountain to ski and snowboard.
5. Get on the Water with Vista Fleet
I’ve been able to take two Vista Fleet cruises in Duluth, once down the St. Louis River and another time into Lake Superior. These cruises offer tours with varying duration and topic, and some offer just drinks for purchase, while others include full meals. The tour guides always provide tons of history and interesting facts about Duluth. This is a really fun and relaxing way to see Duluth and learn about it’s history.
6. Visit a Brewery, Cidery or Distillery
7. Spend Time Shopping
Duluth has a lot of really great shops! There are a bunch in Canal Park, on Superior Street in downtown Duluth and a handful more inside Fitger’s. Some of my favorites are Northwoods, Duluth Trading Co. and Free Air Life Co. You’ll also want to stop by the Lake Superior Art Glass shop where you can purchase handblown glass, and even make your own items to bring home! If you don’t plan to make or buy anything, it’s still a fun place to visit and watch other people work on their creations. This store is easy to spot because there is usually a large crowd gathered around.
8. Enjoy Duluth’s Fantastic Food Scene
There are so many places to eat in Duluth, and so many of them have great views of Lake Superior. The Duluth Grill definitely has the best breakfast but be prepared for long wait times on the weekends. Va Bene Caffe has the best Italian food, Pickwick is known to be a great bar food, Vitta Pizza has excellent Neapolitan wood-fired pizza, and Northern Waters Smokehaus has awesome smoked salmon, pork sandwiches and more goodies that are great for a grab and go option.
9. Get Your Sweet Tooth Fix
If you’re looking for quality chocolate, stop by Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Canal Park. You’ll find chocolate covered apples, fudge, truffles and more. This tiny store is often very busy! Another popular spot is the Portland Malt Shop. Be prepared for long lines in the warm summer months. Also, be sure to plan ahead because they are only open April through October.
10. Drive Across the Lift Bridge to Park Point Beach
Park Point Beach is one of my absolute favorite places in Duluth because it reminds me of the Long Island beaches I grew up visiting. Unlike most beaches on the North Shore, this beach has sand and even sand dunes! When we visited the waves were crashing and the sun was out. And the best part, is that this beach is entirely free and open to the public. I highly suggest you bring a good book, a comfortable chair and cooler and spend several hours enjoying this great beach.
11. Walk Along the Lakewalk
The Lakewalk was badly destroyed a few years ago when several severe storms tore it apart. Now, it’s freshly paved and is a busy spot for runners and bikers. The Lakewalk is 7.5 miles long and allows for several opportunities to get close to the water. One time we grabbed take out and sat on a bench in the sun just a few feet from the lake.
12. Stop and Smell the Roses at Leif Erickson Park
The Leif Erickson Park and rose garden are a stunning spot in Duluth. Sitting high up on the northern side of Duluth, this park has an incredible bird’s eye view of Lake Superior. You can literally stop and smell the giant roses here, or sit on a bench and soak up the sun.
13. Drive to the Best Lookout Point
Another spot in Duluth for a great view is Enger Tower. You can drive right up to this lookout point, no hike necessary. Climb the tower for an awesome view, or walk across the parking lot to the covered patio and peer over the steep ledge.
14. Take a Day Trip to the North Shore’s Best Spots
While I love spending time in Duluth, I also love how easy it is to get to some of my favorite North Shore locations from Duluth. Many of them are within a one-hour drive including Black Beach, Tettegouche State Park, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, Gooseberry Falls State Park, Palisade Head, and Betty’s Pies. Venture north for a day trip, then head back to Duluth for the night. For more North Shore inspiration, check out my post on the 9 epic State Parks along the North Shore and the 20 must-see places along the North Shore.
Duluth Has So Much to Offer
Duluth is an incredible place with such beauty during any season. From skiing and snowboarding to shopping, sipping cider and swimming in Lake Superior there’s really no bad time to go to Duluth.