Duluth travel guide

Duluth Tourism | Duluth Guide

You're Going to Love Duluth

Like a mini version of San Francisco, but on the coast of Lake Superior, Duluth will surprise and exceed your expectations. This lovely lakefront city has everything weekend getaway fans could need, from fantastic ski slopes to world music festivals.

Don't expect a gray port city when you visit Duluth. All of that's in the past. Modern Duluth is a vibrant tourist destination. For example, Canal Park is Minnesota's finest boutique shopping district. Pick up unique Native American jewelry at Spirit Bay Trading Co. or irresistible caramel apples at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

Hang out with the folk musicians at cafe venues like Beaner's Coffeehouse or Amazing Grace. Sample Minnesota's craft ale scene at Lake Superior Brewing Co or dine on platefuls of steak at Pickwick Restaurant.

With food, music, museums, ski slopes and lakeshore scenery, Duluth is a city that demands attention, so don't cross it off your list. Instead, make it your next weekend getaway destination.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Duluth

The Lake

Duluth grew up as a port on Lake Superior, shipping millions of tonnes of coal and grain as far as Europe and Africa (and it's still a thriving port city). Nowadays, the lake is also a tourist attraction, offering wonderful views, chartered fishing tours, and fascinating marine life.

Skiing

Not many cities in America have world-class ski resorts within their city limits, but Duluth does. When the snow settles from November, head to the slopes of Spirit Mountain or Mont Du Lac for downhill skiing, cross country hiking and snowboarding - all a few minutes from city-center hotels.

Music

Duluth is one of the musical hubs of the northern states. Not only is it the home of Bob Dylan, one of America's most famous musical sons, it's also a great place to catch live acts at events like the Bayfront Reggae and World Music Festival or evening concerts at intimate venues like Amazing Grace Bakery.

Scenery

One of Duluth's most attractive aspects is its stunning setting. Situated on an inlet in Lake Superior, the city climbs steeply to areas like Chester Park, which offer beautiful views across the port.

History

Duluth has done a great job of preserving its industrial heritage, and if you love steam railroads, there's no better city to visit. You can ride the Scenic Railroad to Two Harbors or stay in Duluth to visit the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, which features an exact replica of Abraham Lincoln's funeral train.

What to do in Duluth

1. Canal Park: Duluth's Hub of Activities

Canal Park is Duluth's focal point of entertainment, with hotels & restaurants overlooking the shore of Lake Superior. If you love animals, explore the Great Lake Aquarium and learn about the 205 species of freshwater fish. The aquarium also has exhibits on birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. For the creative souls, take step-by-step painting lessons at the On the Rocks Art Studio; their gallery features photography, pottery and fine arts made from local artists. For an amazing adventure, take one of the Duluth Tours: an outdoor adventure comprised of storytelling, visits to local craft beer brewers and more.

2. Aerial Lift Bridge: A National Register of Historic Places Monument

You can't leave Duluth without driving your car on the Aerial Lift Bridge (a span drive configuration movable lift bridge) and seeing the city from below. The Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge historically dates back to 1901 and sits on Lake Avenue as a route to Duluth's Ship Canal. It's also known as a famous inland transportation route -- as Duluth's hub, it connects to the Minnesota Point peninsula island. If you want to see the bridge raised up to 135 feet while ships pass, view it from the Canal Park skyline. You will hear its accompanied loud hoots of two Westinghouse Airbrake locomotive horns.

3. North Shore Scenic Railroad: Locomotion in Style, and Art

If you are a locomotive enthusiast, you'll fall in love with the collection of vintage trains. Take your family on a Day Out with Thomas and go on a 25-minute ride. Amongst the many activities offered is an entry to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum and Imagination Stations that include sandboxes, coloring blocks and much more. For the art lovers, enjoy a beaded bracelet and earring class onboard the Duluth Zephyr train or a 2.5-hour excursion that includes a step-by-step instructed painting class aboard the North Shore Scenic Railroad.

4. Glensheen Historic Estate: Best Historic House Museum in Midwest Minnesota

The Glensheen Mansion stands atop the scenic coast of Lake Superior and was built by Chester and Clara Congdon. The Midwestern estate covers 12 acres, has 39 rooms and its exterior is surrounded with beautiful gardens and bridges detailing Duluth's history. Attend a guided tour of the entire mansion, including the Third Floor and Attic. Examine Clara's letters lying in the desk drawer and Chester's top hat hanging inside the closet. The most exclusive tour is the Director's Tour, that explores the entire mansion including areas that had been previously restricted.

5. Lake Superior Maritime Museum: Home to the Original Fresnel Lens

The Maritime Museum offers free admission and exhibits the original Fresnel Lens that was used to light the Inner Range Light located on the South Pier of the Duluth Ship Canal. The classic rotating 5th Order Fresnel lens is valued at $250,000. Its original mechanical clockworks have been preserved while the base of the lens has been reinstalled at the Knowlton Gallery.

1. Canal Park: Duluth's Hub of Activities

Canal Park is Duluth's focal point of entertainment, with hotels & restaurants overlooking the shore of Lake Superior. If you love animals, explore the Great Lake Aquarium and learn about the 205 species of freshwater fish. The aquarium also has exhibits on birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. For the creative souls, take step-by-step painting lessons at the On the Rocks Art Studio; their gallery features photography, pottery and fine arts made from local artists. For an amazing adventure, take one of the Duluth Tours: an outdoor adventure comprised of storytelling, visits to local craft beer brewers and more.

2. Aerial Lift Bridge: A National Register of Historic Places Monument

You can't leave Duluth without driving your car on the Aerial Lift Bridge (a span drive configuration movable lift bridge) and seeing the city from below. The Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge historically dates back to 1901 and sits on Lake Avenue as a route to Duluth's Ship Canal. It's also known as a famous inland transportation route -- as Duluth's hub, it connects to the Minnesota Point peninsula island. If you want to see the bridge raised up to 135 feet while ships pass, view it from the Canal Park skyline. You will hear its accompanied loud hoots of two Westinghouse Airbrake locomotive horns.

3. North Shore Scenic Railroad: Locomotion in Style, and Art

If you are a locomotive enthusiast, you'll fall in love with the collection of vintage trains. Take your family on a Day Out with Thomas and go on a 25-minute ride. Amongst the many activities offered is an entry to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum and Imagination Stations that include sandboxes, coloring blocks and much more. For the art lovers, enjoy a beaded bracelet and earring class onboard the Duluth Zephyr train or a 2.5-hour excursion that includes a step-by-step instructed painting class aboard the North Shore Scenic Railroad.

4. Glensheen Historic Estate: Best Historic House Museum in Midwest Minnesota

The Glensheen Mansion stands atop the scenic coast of Lake Superior and was built by Chester and Clara Congdon. The Midwestern estate covers 12 acres, has 39 rooms and its exterior is surrounded with beautiful gardens and bridges detailing Duluth's history. Attend a guided tour of the entire mansion, including the Third Floor and Attic. Examine Clara's letters lying in the desk drawer and Chester's top hat hanging inside the closet. The most exclusive tour is the Director's Tour, that explores the entire mansion including areas that had been previously restricted.

5. Lake Superior Maritime Museum: Home to the Original Fresnel Lens

The Maritime Museum offers free admission and exhibits the original Fresnel Lens that was used to light the Inner Range Light located on the South Pier of the Duluth Ship Canal. The classic rotating 5th Order Fresnel lens is valued at $250,000. Its original mechanical clockworks have been preserved while the base of the lens has been reinstalled at the Knowlton Gallery.

Where to Eat in Duluth

Gourmet dining is one of Duluth's best kept secrets, and food fans will be in their element when they visit. Check out the Tex Mex burgers and grilled meats at Little Angie's Cantina & Grill, order a mountain of beef and lamb at the Timber Lodge Steakhouse or munch on wild rice burgers and down local beers at the Brewhouse Brewery and Grille. There are also plenty of places that mix great cooking with live music, like the popular Amazing Grace Bakery or the Lake View Coffee House. Expect to pay around $15 for a mid-range meal.

When to visit Duluth

Duluth in March
Estimated hotel price
C$ 115
1 night at 3-star hotel
Duluth in March
Estimated hotel price
C$ 115
1 night at 3-star hotel

When you visit Duluth depends on what you want to see and do. Summer offers the best sight-seeing conditions, so if you want to shop at Canal Park, ride the steam railroad or see the harbor's historic ships, visit between June and August. However, while winter is very chilly, there's still plenty to do in the city center, as well as the constant attraction of ski slopes a few minutes out of town.

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How to Get to Duluth

Plane

Duluth International Airport is directly accessible from Detroit, Minneapolis and Chicago airports, with plenty of connections from other American locations, and it's the easiest way to get to Duluth. Many of the hotels on Lake Superior offer shuttle buses, but if you don't have access to a transfer service, there are cab firms and limousine operators at the terminal. Expect to pay around $20-25 for a taxi to the city center.

Car

Driving to Duluth is a great option if you are coming from cities in the northern part of the USA. Highway 8 connects the City to Minneapolis-St Paul. Those coming from Chicago need to take I-90, then I-94 before switching to Route 53 at Eau Claire.

Bus

Greyhound is the city's major intercity bus operator, and their major stop is at 4426 Grand Ave. They provide daily connections to cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, and St Louis, as well as a wide variety of indirect routes from other cities. Jefferson Lines also serve Duluth, and connect it to a number of Mid-Western destinations.

Airlines serving Duluth

United Airlines
Good (2,468 reviews)
KLM
Good (293 reviews)
Air France
Good (299 reviews)
Delta
Excellent (2,660 reviews)
Aeromexico
Good (788 reviews)
Aer Lingus
Good (307 reviews)
Copa Airlines
Good (446 reviews)
Korean Air
Excellent (118 reviews)
Virgin Atlantic
Good (196 reviews)
Sun Country Air
Good (121 reviews)
Air New Zealand
Excellent (36 reviews)
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Where to stay in Duluth

Most of the best accommodation in the Duluth area is close to the shore of Lake Superior. One of the best hotels is the Solglimt Inn Bed and Breakfast, with a lakefront location and a reputation for serving healthy organic, locally-sourced food. The Sheraton and Pier B Resort are both in Downtown Duluth near the port and offer comfortable city-center accommodation. Cheaper accommodation can also be found at motels like the Super 8 and Comfort Inn on Route 35, just to the southwest of the city.

Popular neighbourhoods in Duluth

Downtown Duluth – You'll find Downtown Duluth between Mesaba Avenue and 4th Avenue East, and it's the business and cultural center of the city. As in many northern cities, you can get around the center via a network of skywalks, elevated pathways built to deal with the winter temperatures. Downtown is home to many of the major attractions, from the Lake Superior Aquarium to the Entertainment Convention Center, so many visitors choose to make it their base.

Chester Park – Duluth's most youthful, relaxed and creative district, Chester Park is where tourists go to be entertained and unwind at the city's best bars and music venues. Try the local brews at the Tavern on the Hill, mix with the students of U. Minnesota at Sara's Table cafe and wander through the hilly woods of Chester Park itself when the weather's fine.

Cody – Located on higher ground in south-western Duluth, Cody is the best place to stay if you intend to mix urban sight-seeing with getting back to nature. The area has miles of trails and ski slopes and wonderful views of the harbor, particularly along the Skyline Parkway route.

Where to stay in popular areas of Duluth

Most booked hotels in Duluth

South Pier Inn
Excellent (9.1, Excellent reviews)
C$ 172+
Hampton Inn Superior Duluth, WI
Excellent (8.6, Excellent reviews)
C$ 195+
Boarders Inn & Suites by Cobblestone Hotels - Superior/Duluth
Excellent (8.3, Excellent reviews)
C$ 144+
Days Inn & Suites by Wyndham Duluth by the Mall
Good (7.9, Good reviews)
C$ 151+
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Superior, An Ihg Hotel
Good (7.9, Good reviews)
C$ 197+
The Inn on Lake Superior
Good (7.7, Good reviews)
C$ 212+
See all hotels

How to Get Around Duluth

Public Transportation

Local buses are operated by the Duluth Transit Authority and provide a handy way to get around the city center (but aren't so useful if you are staying in the suburbs). Off-peak fares are as low as $0.75 but rise to $1.50 during rush hour. If you plan to use the buses a lot, weekly passes at $17 or $4 day passes are a sensible purchase.

Taxis

If you don't have your own set of wheels, taxis are a great way to see Duluth and local rates are reasonable. Fares vary between different companies, but typically the meter drop will be around $2.50 with a subsequent charge of $2 per mile. Using Uber can save you money, with a $1 basic fare, then $0.75 per mile (with the company's basic UberX vehicles).

Car

Many people choose to rent a car during their stay in Duluth and with branches of Avis, Thrifty, and Hertz in the city center and at the airport, it's easy to pick up a vehicle if required. Expect to pay around $20 per day. Getting around is fairly easy, with a regular grid pattern next to the lake. The only thing to worry about in central Duluth are the steep gradients on roads leading out of the harbor district - so make sure your car's brakes are in good shape!

The Cost of Living in Duluth

Shopping Streets

Duluth's major shopping area is definitely Canal Park, which is studded with bothindependent and chain stores selling a wide range of items. You can find boutique kitchenware and home furnishings at the Blue Heron Trading Co., check out the toys and puzzles at J Skylark or pick up jewelry and ornaments inspired by Native American art at Spirit Bay Trading Co. Alternatively, you'll find plenty of major brands at Miller Hill Mall, just outside of town, including American Eagle Outfitters, Claire's and J.C. Penney.

Groceries and Other

Duluth is an affordable city to live in, with reasonable grocery prices. The best places to shop for food and drink are supermarkets like Super One Foods and Cub Foods, and there are up-market options like Whole Foods as well. Expect to pay around $3 for a gallon of milk, $2.35 for a pound of apples and $12 for a bottle of wine.

Cheap meal
C$ 15.33
A pair of jeans
C$ 39.84
Single public transport ticket
C$ 1.92
Cappuccino
C$ 4.90
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