16 of the Best Things to Do in Duluth, MN


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As the writer behind Via Travelers, a modern travel blog focused on helping you learn the best travel tips and hacks and as a Minnesota-based travel blogger, I’m excited to provide an overview of this charming, northern Minnesota town. Nested on the banks of Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake, Duluth is one of the most scenic cities in the U.S. state of Minnesota. The list of best things to do in Duluth, MN is long and exciting, so there’s lots to cover.

16 Things to do in Duluth, MN

The city sets against pristine forest and rocky cliffs, making it an ideal place for both adventure and nature lovers. The city is only a couple hours drive from MinneapolisIf you’re looking for some outdoor fun or relish the beauty of nature, visit this eye-pleasing city.

The List of the Best Things to do in Duluth

Below, we have put together a few fun and exciting things to do in Duluth.

1. Visit Aerial Lift Bridge

Earlier known as Aerial Ferry Bridge, Aerial Lift Bridge is the landmark of this port city. It is a steel-made structure, completed in the year 1905. The height of the bridge is 69 m, while the length is 153 m in total.

The bridge connects the Mainland with Minnesota Point, which is a five-mile-long sandbar. The Aerial Lift Bridge is one of the no-doubt Duluth attractions and is also mentioned in the National Register of Historic Places.

The feature that makes this bridge unique from others is its deck, which can be lifted up to 135 ft. to let the large ships pass.

For localities, the bridge is much like the Eiffel Tower is to the people of Paris. So whenever you’re in the city, you must visit this historical landmark, as it is one of the best free things to do in Duluth.

Best Time to Visit: Throughout the year

How to Get There: The address of this bridge is 601 S Lake Avenue, Duluth, MN 55802, United States. Public transport is readily available to the bridge from most parts of the Duluth.

Ticket: No Charges      

 

2. Spend Some Quality Time in Canal Park

The heart of Duluth, Canal Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region. The park is spread across the Interstate 35 freeway from Downtown Duluth. 

Much of what the Duluth has to offer is related to Canal Park. It is the gateway to Park Point, connecting the convention center with the Bayfront Festival Park. If you’re visiting the city for a short time, head to Canal Park. There is so much to do in this area – you can spend the whole weekend here.

Canal Park has something for everything. If you’re an art lover, you can visit quaint art galleries. For foodaholics, this park has a range of world-class restaurants, hotels, and outdoor cafes. 

Adventure lovers can participate in various adventurous activities such as bawling, bike riding, rollerblading, and more. Moreover, you can also have a great view of the Aerial Lift Bridge from Canal Park. I used one thest best travel credit cards to book my hotel stay. It was located near all the restaurants and featured a view of the bridge. It was well worth it. . 

Best Time to Visit: Throughout the year

How to Get There: 394 Lake Avenue South, Suite 314, Duluth, Minnesota. Public transportation is available to the Canal Park from all nearby places such as Swenson Hall, Black Woods Convention center, Loon’s foot Landing, etc.

Nearest stations to Canal Park include:

  • Canal Park Dr & Buchanan (5 min walk)
  • Lake Avenue & Buchanan Street (7 min walk)
  • Park Inn (8 min walk)
  • Canal Park Dr & Sutphin (8 min walk)

Ticket: No charges until you’re participating in any activities.

 

3. Watch Native Animals at Lake Superior Zoo 

Visiting Lake Superior Zoo is another best things to do in Duluth, especially if you want to have close encounters with native animals. 

Also known as Duluth Zoo, the Lake Superior Zoo is the best place to visit with both friends and family. The zoo was founded by a local businessman, Bert Onsgar, in 1923 and has been on everyone’s Duluth sightseeing list ever since.

bear at Lake Superior Zoo

Some of the major attractions of the zoo include African Lion, Reg Kangaroo, Sugar Glider, Baby Doll Southdown Sheep, Flemish Giant Rabbit, Prairie Dog, Swift Fox, African Straw-Colored Fruit bat, and more.

The zoo runs educational programs round the year to educate people about animals and mother nature.

Best Time To Visit: You can visit the zoo round the year

Timings: Monday to Sunday

  • 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
  • For Adults: $13.00
  • For Children (3-12): $6.50
  • For Seniors(62+): $12.00
  • For Children (2 or below): Free

How to Get There: The zoo is located 10 minutes drive from downtown Duluth.

Contact No. +1 218-730-4500

 

4. Head to Maritime Visitor Center Lake Superior

If you have an interest in historic places and want to explore the maritime region of Duluth, you must visit this maritime visitor center. It is located on South Lake Avenue, adjacent to the Aerial Lift Bridge and is one of my favorite Duluth activities.

The museum is run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Came into existence on September 29, 1973, the museum has exhibits that focus on the history and operations of commercial shipping in the upper Great Lakes. 

Some of the exciting things available in the center include a three-story steam engine, 50 scale models of ships, a pilothouse, and historically accurate replica cabins. Moreover, you can also get detailed information about the Aerial Lift Bridge too. 

One other thing to consider on Lake Superior is taking a cruise with the Vista Fleet. They do a variety of cruises, including sunset cruises and cocktail cruises, as well as some family friendly tours as well.

Best Time to Visit: All-year-round

Hours: Sunday to Saturday from 10 am to 4.30 pm. Contact: +1 218-788-6430

How to Get There: Address: 600 South Lake Avenue, Duluth, Minnesota. You can take private taxis or public transport to the museum. Some of the closest stations to Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center include:

  • Marine Museum (2 min walk)
  • Lake Avenue & Morse Street (2 min walk)
  • Lake Avenue & Buchanan Street (4 min walk)

Ticket: Visitors are welcome to visit this museum without any charges.

 

5. See Some Rare Collection at Glensheen, The Historic Congdon Estate

Glensheen is a 20,000 square foot mansion, operated by the University of Minnesota Duluth as a historical museum. Built-in Jacobean style, the palace was built in 1908. It was the home of Chester Adgate Congdon and his family. This 39-room mansion has a rare collection of original furnishings and art and is one of my favorite things to do in Duluth, MN.

Glensheen in Duluth

The museum is surrounded by English style landscapes and terraced gardens. Localities can rent this mansion for parties, weddings, and other functions. The movie You’ll like My Mother was also filmed at the Glensheen Mansion starring Patty Duke and Richard Thomas.

Best Time to Visit: All year long

Hours: Sunday to Saturday: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Phone No: +1 218-726-8910

How to Get there: Address: 3300 London Road, Duluth, Minnesota 55804-2010. Nearest stations to Glensheen Historic Estate is, London Road Glensheen Mansion (3-minute walk)

Ticket for Full Mansion Tour

  • Adult: $30.00
  • Senior (62+): $28.00
  • Veteran: $28.00
  • Child (6-15) $19.00
  • Child (5 or below) $5

 

6. Go for Bird Watching Tour (Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory)

The port city attracts numerous migration birds, especially raptors. So, if you’re interested in bird watching or wildlife photography and are looking for fun things to do in Duluth, MN, visit Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory.

Fun Things to do in Duluth, MN: Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory

Established in the year 1951, this nature preserve and hawk watching area focus on protecting birds of prey and other migratory birds. The observatory also hosts hawk watching workshops and educational programs on birds. Bring your binoculars with you if you want to view hawks soaring high in the sky as this is one of the most fun things to do in Duluth, MN.

Best Time to Visit: Mid August to November

How to Get there: The address of this bridge is: 3980 East Skyline Parkway, Duluth 55803-300

Ticket: There is no charge to visit this bird observatory. However, you can contribute a donation to support this organization. 

 

7. Relish Marine life at Great Lakes Aquarium

Great Lakes Aquarium is our another pick for the best things to do in Duluth. Inaugurated in the year 2000, the aquarium features a range of water animals and habitats. The aquarium exhibits more than 200 species of amphibians, fish, reptiles, and mammals.

Great Lakes Aquarium

Great Lakes Aquarium has a total floor space of 62,000 sq. ft. that includes various permanent exhibits such as Baptism River, Saint Louis River, Isle Royale, Pictured Rocks, and more.

Best Time to Visit: All year round

How to Get There: Address: 353 Harbor Drive, Duluth, MN 55802. Phone No. 218-7403474

To reach the place, you can use both public transit or private taxis. The Port Town Trolley is another option (a free service) that connects Downtown, Canal Park and Bayfront Festival Park. This trolley stops near the aquarium with service of every 10 minutes from 11 am to 6:40 pm. 

Apart from this, private taxis are readily available from the North Shore area, Twin Cities area, Wisconsin, and Iron Range cities.

Tickets:

  • Adult Ticket: $16.99
  • Child:$10.99
  • Senior: $13.99

To know the current ticket rates, you may go to this page.

 

8. Visit Duluth Children’s Museum with Your Kids

If you’re taking your kids along, don’t miss your chance to visit this place. Situated in Clyde Park, Duluth Children’s Museum offers a wide range of fun activities and interactive programs that your kids will love to participate in during their Duluth visit.

Their exhibits are specially designed for children and toddlers of age 10. They can play with a robot dinosaur or dig for ancient fossils. This children’s museum has a collection of around 25 thousand unique historical artifacts. Apart from this, kids can also take pleasure in theater and storytime.

Best Time to Visit: Throughout the year

How to Get There: The address of this bridge is 115 S 29th Avenue W, Duluth, MN 55806, United States. To get Directions to Duluth Children’s Museum, click here.

Ticket:

  • Adult: $9.00
  • Child: $9.00
  • Children under 2 are free

 

9. Get adventurous at Spirit Mountain, Duluth, Minnesota

There are many fun and interesting things to do in Duluth for adventure lovers. Spirit Mountain allows adventure seekers to take pleasure in skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, and more. It is a recreation area that was founded in the year 1974. It is the second tallest ski hill in Minnesota. From some of its slopes, you can have great views of St. Louis Bay and Lake Superior and there are some great tours to take as well.

Spirit Mountain, Duluth

Best Time to Visit: You can plan to visit Spirit Mountain both in winter and summer. 

Contact information: +1 800-642-6377. Here are the operating hours of the Spirit Mountain.

How to Get There: The address of Spirit Mountain, Duluth is 9500 Spirit Mountain Pl, Duluth, MN 55810, United States. Spirit Mountain has well-connected roads to all nearby cities. It takes around 2 hours drive from the Twin Cities and St. Cloud to reach this place.

 

10. Relish Delicious Food at New Scenic Cafe

New Scenic Cafe is a must-visit place in Duluth where you can relish some delicious light meals along with world-class coffee. This intimate cafe is situated on the north shore of Lake Superior between Duluth and Two Harbors.

The cafe is nestled between a magical garden full of beautiful flowers, ripe vegetables, and herbs. A really rich menu and friendly atmosphere make this place one of the best places to visit in the city. Oysters and lobster rolls are their two popular dishes.

How to Get There

Address: 5461 N Shore Dr, Duluth, MN 55804, Phone: 218-525-6274. To reach this place, drive along the North Shore of the lake between two harbors and Duluth.  

 

11. Enjoy the Scenic Drive of Skyline Parkways

If you’re planning to go on a road trip in Duluth, you must take Skyline Parkways drive, which overlooks Duluth and Lake Superior. Along the way, you will find various observation points offering some great views of the city, a nice free thing to do in Duluth, MN.

Some of the popular observation points include Bardon’s peak (the area of Haines road), Enger park with its five-story tower, picnic areas, and gardens. 

Scenic Drive of Skyline Parkways in Duluth

Skyline Parkway has many parks and trails in the way that offer you recreational activities such as cross-country skiing, hiking, bird watching, and more.

How to Get There: Skyline Parkway stretches around 40 km across the brow of Duluth.

 

12. Explore the Lake Superior Railroad Museum

The Lake Superior Railroad Museum is the Midwest’s largest indoor train collection. The museum is located in downtown Duluth, in the platforms at yard of the original Historic Union Depot, built in 1892.

Lake Superior Railroad Museum

There are dozens of beautifully restored locomotives and train cars, and considering how much of a train fan and overland travel fan I am, it is like heaven on earth. Inside the museum you can also walk the streets of Depot Square, a realistic, life-size depiction of this town at the turn of the 20th century, a true Duluth experience. A little fact from that time you wouldn’t have likely thought was true — the population of Duluth at 1910 was about the same as today, roughly 80,000 people.

From here, in summer and fall several trains a day depart the historic Duluth Union Depot for a trip through downtown Duluth and then along the shore of Lake Superior and deep into the north woods. Narrated tours tell the history of Duluth, the harbor, and the stories of the railroads that built northern Minnesota.

Summer Hours: Memorial Day-Labor Day 9:30am-6pm daily.

Winter Hours: Mon-Sat/10am-5pm and Sun/1pm-5pm.

Ticket:

  • Combination tickets let you save money on a tour of the museum, the Depot and a ride on the North Shore Scenic Railroad.
  • sdg

Contact information: +1-218-727-8025

 

13. Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC)

The Duluth Entertainment Convention Center is a multi-purpose arena and convention center complex that has been home to the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldog hockey team since 1966. The DECC is located on the waterfront near Duluth’s famous Aerial Lift Bridge.

In addition to being the home of college hockey team, you can also see things here such as the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra or a variety of other concerts and convention events.

Location and Parking: 350 Harbor Drive and a daily pass for parking is $5 per vehicle with re-entry all day that’s valid until midnight, which makes it a good place to park for seeing things in the area, such as Bayfront Festival Park and the Aerial Lift Bridge.

 

14. Bob Dylan Way

The 1.8-mile Bob Dylan Way runs through downtown, extending from Michigan Street at 5th Avenue West to 15th Avenue East and London Road. The route follows Michigan Street and London Road (which leads to the “Highway 61 Revisted” of the famous 60s album), linking some of Duluth’s celebrated cultural assets, including the Depot and the old Armory.

Things to do in Duluth, MN: Bob Dylan Way

The Duluth Dylan Fest takes place every year in May and has some great folks music to choose from. Lastly, Fitger’s Brewery Complex houses a exhibit about Bob Dylan. Stop by to learn more about this local legend.

Two Bonuses — Things to Do Near Duluth, MN — Split Rock Lighthouse

Just a little less than an hour’s drive north of Duluth along the scenic northern shore of Lake Superior, you’ll find this well known landmark. Visitors gain a peek into lighthouse life, centering around this lighthouse opened in 1910. There are four original buildings on the grounds, including the keeper’s house, oil house, signal building, and of course, the lighthouse.

Split Rock Lighthouse near Duluth, MN

Just south of the lighthouse on wayside rest stop on Highway 61 you can get the one of the best views and photography vantage points. Another good shot can be taken on the hiking trail running along the cliffs just in front of the lighthouse on the north side.

How to Get There: 3713 Split Rock Lighthouse Road. It is about 45 miles north of Duluth on MN Hwy. 61 in Two Harbors.

Contact information: +1(218) 226-6372

Tickets: Open year-round. No admission. Programs always free.

Hours: Spring (mid-March thru May): 10am-4:30pm daily; Fri. and Sat. closing at 6pm. Summer (June thru mid-Oct): 10am-9pm daily. Fall (mid-Oct thru mid-Dec): 10am-4:30pm daily. Winter (mid-Dec thru mid-March): 10am-4:30pm Fri, Sat, and Sun.

And the Superior Hiking Trail

 

Final Words

Duluth is counted among the top 10 U.S cities to visit. And why not? It is an ideal place to enjoy delicious cuisine, vast cultural diversity, and beauty of nature, altogether.

Over the years, the city has developed into a hip destination for travelers. If you need some break from city life, head to this amazing place along with your friend or family. In this post, we covered some of the popular activities you can enjoy in Duluth. So do participate in these activities whenever you’re in Duluth.

What do you think about these things to do in Duluth? What sorts of experience have you had there, if you’ve been?  

Author Bio: Kyle is the Co-Founder and Editor of Via Travelers. Via Travelers is a modern travel website focused on helping you learn the best travel tips, travel hacks and itineraries to explore the world. Find your wanderlust. Follow us on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter


About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.