25 Best Things to Do in Duluth (MN)

Source: Flickr / Sharon Mollerus | CC BY 2.0

Duluth is home to the largest and busiest port on the Great Lakes, not to mention it is the world’s farthest inland port accessible to large ships. Along with the neighboring city Superior, the two cities are known as Twin Ports.

The scenic harborside town is quite popular amongst tourists interested in the maritime history of Minnesota. With many museums and parks, Duluth is the perfect weekend getaway or day trip. Also, the port city along the shores of Lake Superior is the starting point for those driving from the Mid-West towards Canada.

Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in Duluth (MN)

Source: Map data @2022 Google

1. Canal Park

Canal Park
Source: Flickr / Sharon Mollerus | CC BY 2.0

Surrounded by Lake Superior, Canal Park is where everything happens in Duluth, from local stores and restaurants to popular touristic attractions. There is plenty to do including walking to both lighthouses at the end of the pier, watching the bridge being lifted for boats to pass through, plenty of shops and dining options, and beautiful views of Lake Superior and Duluth.

Historic statues, beautiful scenery, ships, restaurants, shops, gardens, walking trails… It is all there. So, stop for a while and simply enjoy it. You can spend 15 minutes looking at the lake or hours upon hours walking around and shopping. 

2. Glensheen

Source: Flickr / vofuth | Public Domain

Glensheen offers tours of a historic 39-room mansion with its original furnishings intact, plus extensive grounds. The full house tour includes the 3rd floor and the attic which are definitely worth seeing.

It is recommended to research the Congdon family before going. It is interesting to learn where their money came from, and their history so you could relate better touring their home. The architectural details and woodwork, fireplaces, and moldings are so marvelous. Not to mention is it quite interesting to see the decor of the time period and to learn how rich people lived back then. With various gardens and fountains, the grounds outside are just as amazing as the house itself. 

3. Jay Cooke State Park

Jay Cooke State Park
Source: Flickr / Northfielder | CC BY 2.0

With a suspension bridge and a historic cemetery, Jay Cooke State Park offers camping, hiking, and cross-country skiing. The park’s highlights include the pristine and beautiful Thomson Trail loop, starting from the swinging bridge. The prettiest area is definitely at the start and the view from the bridge is breathtaking filled with waterfalls and rapids.

Although, the Carlton Trail does not stay far behind as one of the public’s favorite hikes at Jay Cooke Park. The trail is extremely rocky, with lots of roots and elevation changes. In total, it is about 3.5 miles in one direction. Along the entire trail, you will be rewarded with gorgeous scenery as you never stay far from the river. Even though you are hiking through a pretty dense forest as well.

4. Great Lakes Aquarium

Great Lakes Aquarium
Source: Wikimedia / Crown Star Images | CC BY 2.0

The waterfront Great Lakes Aquarium displays fish, reptiles, birds, and other animals, plus hands-on touch tanks. In fact, this is the only freshwater aquarium in the US and its exhibits are focused on different lakes and their inhabitants. You can learn more about all the fish found in Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes as well as fish from other countries, such as Piranhas from the Amazon River.

And the interactive exhibits allow you to pet jellyfish, for example. Also, the play areas are so much fun with all the water tables and the big tree with the slide. The gift shop at the end is well stocked and offers unique items to remember your trip.

5. Aerial Lift Bridge

Aerial Lift Bridge
Source: Flickr / Pete Markham | CC BY-SA 2.0

The 1905 landmark of Aerial Lift Bridge is a steel bridge whose deck can be lifted 135 ft to allow for the passage of large ships. Located in Paulucci Building, the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge was built from 1901 to 1905 and its style is significantly rare in bridge architecture. The engineering that keeps the bridge functioning all these years after its inception is without a doubt a tremendous design and even more, the mechanical skills to erect and keep this device working requires Herculean efforts.

You can see this beautiful structure from all around the waterways of Duluth. With a beautiful atmosphere and big boats, the kids will love the boat horns.

6. Lake Superior Marine Museum

Lake Superior Marine Museum
Source: Flickr / Gary Todd | Public Domain

Featuring exhibits documenting and preserving the heritage of the region, Lake Superior Marine Museum displays a lot of great information and cool things to look at. It is a small museum that explains the evolution of the port and how boats and the port changed over time. Very nice and interactive, kids particularly love the recreation of an old ship bridge.

Overall, it is an informative center for people who love learning the history of some great ships, renowned captains, and related people as well as their stories. Not to mention the engineering behind the bridge that gets raised right next to it.

7. Fond-du-Luth Casino

Fond-du-Luth Casino
Source: Flickr / Michael Hicks | CC BY 2.0

The adult gaming center of Fond-du-Luth Casino houses blackjack tables with a broad range of limits, over 750 slot machines, and bar service. The place is not as huge as other casinos, but it does have 2 levels. It is usually not overly crowded and therefore, can be quiet and relaxing.

Situated in downtown Duluth, its location is the main attraction there. Also, the staff is extremely friendly, and the whole establishment is separated between smoking and non-smoking floor which is really nice.

8. Minnesota’s North Shore Scenic Drive

Minnesotas North Shore Scenic Drive
Source: Flickr / Sharon Mollerus | CC BY 2.0

From Duluth to the Canadian border near Grand Portage, Minnesota’s North Shore Scenic Drive is also known as the All-American Road Highway 61. The road passes through seven state parks and several lakeside towns on the shores of Lake Superior. There are many beautiful parks, points of interest, overlooks, and hikes along the way.

Some of its attractions include the 1910 Split Rock Lighthouse, a fishing museum in Tofte, the harbor town of Grand Marais, and golf courses in Lutsen. And of course, the Aerial Lift Bridge and Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth.

9. Lake Superior Zoo

Lake Superior Zoo
Source: Flickr / Amy Meredith | CC BY-ND 2.0

Lake Superior Zoo is home to big cats, primates, and a barnyard, plus tours on a mini train as well as a cafe. The zoo offers many animals both indoors and out, which means you can enjoy it despite the weather. You can see species from across the world including lions, wolves, bears, and tigers, just to name a few. The zoo itself sits in a beautiful valley with a river and falls running right through the middle of it.

There, you can get so close to the animals for an up-close and personal experience. They also host special events such as the Halloween themed Boo at the Zoo with trick or treats and magic acts throughout the year.

10. Black Bear Golf Course

Black Bear Golf Course
Source: Pexels / Markus Spiske

At Black Bear Golf Course, a challenging and scenic golf course is waiting for you. The fairways are a bit tight, but if you can keep the ball in play, then you will have no trouble. The course is maintained well, there are paved paths throughout the entire course, and the carts have electronic scorekeeping/distance measures. The course can be a bit difficult for beginners, but for those who have golfed before, this is an inviting place to spend the day.

The clubhouse offers drinks and food at a reasonable price. Also, going to the Black Bear Casino’s buffet before and/or after is a great way to spend the day. The casino features a great selection of slot machines as well as new games.

11. Enger Park

Enger Park
Source: Flickr / Greg Gjerdingen | CC BY 2.0

Enger Park features a stone tower with panoramic views, a Japanese peace garden, and walking paths. The views from this location are absolutely stunning and make the trip there worth it. The large volume of trails makes this an awesome location if you enjoy hiking and outdoor adventures so bring the whole family and make a fun day out of it.

Located on the Duluth West Side, Enger Park is a beautiful place to watch the ships come in. You can climb up the Enger Tower and have breathtaking views of the Duluth harbor, Lake Superior, and the surrounding hills.

12. Brighton Beach

Brighton Beach
Source: Flickr / Sharon Mollerus | CC BY 2.0

Brighton Beach is a great spot to check out on the north shore of Lake Superior featuring lots of parking spread out along the shore with multiple grill spots. Check out the landscape of Duluth city on the horizon. This is the perfect place to take an early morning walk or to go in the afternoon to do some rock picking and go for a swim

Depending on which part of the shore you are on, it is not necessarily the best beach for little kids. There are places where you can walk onto larger rocks and go out quite far, but then the water is very deep. For older kids, the rocks are a ton of fun and it is great for cannonballing into the water.

13. Adventure Zone Canal Park

Adventure Zone Canal Park
Source: Flickr / Sharon Mollerus | CC BY 2.0

If you are looking for an escape from the outdoors due to weather or just need a break, make sure you check out Adventure Zone Canal Park. The park is even great for adults with batting cages, laser tag, climbing walls, and sports simulators. The games are decently affordable and the laser tag always has specials if you pay attention to the night you visit. The facility is clean and has a nice little food area.

Also, the building used to be an old industrial complex and displays relics of the building’s history providing a great backdrop for its modern life.

14. North Shore Scenic Railroad

North Shore Scenic Railroad
Source: Flickr / Gary Todd | Public Domain

Located in Historic Union Depot, North Shore Scenic Railroad offers seasonal narrated train tours following a historic transport corridor for short, long, and themed rides. The train ride takes you on a couple of hours through the countryside of Duluth. The staff is very knowledgeable, and the tour is nicely narrated with historic and fun facts about the region. If the weather is nice, sit on the open-air car to make the best out of your ride.

After getting off the train, go inside the Union Depot and check out all the interesting stuff they have there. All the exhibitions are interesting, but the top is the old trains exhibition on the lower level. 

15. Duluth Rose Garden

Duluth Rose Garden
Source: Flickr / Sharon Mollerus | CC BY 2.0

Located in Lake Erikson Park, Duluth Rose Garden is a treasure any time of the year if you like flowers. Truly riding a bike or walking up and around the lake walk and the Rose Garden is well worth your time and a good adventure. The gardeners, most if not all volunteers, do a beautiful job at maintaining the space clean and organized.

So, take your time walking through Lake Erickson Park and smell all the beautiful varieties of roses. Besides all the roses, there are lilacs, tulips, and so many other plants and flowers to see as well. The park features a nice amount of walking paths, nice benches to sit, and friendly people.

16. Historic Union Depot

Historic Union Depot
Source: Wikimedia / McGhiever | CC BY-SA 4.0

If you love trains and learning about local history, the Historic Union Depot is a must stop. Opened in 1892, this beautiful old building was designed to be a railroad station serving 50 railroads and 50 trains. Inside the building, there are re-creations of old-time shops which were set up beautifully with great attention to detail. The space is very immersing and historically accurate.

This building also houses the train museum which is excellent with many exhibits nicely put together and real-life trains from the 18th and 19th centuries as well as scale models. 

17. Hartley Nature Center

Hartley Nature Center
Source: Flickr / Sharon Mollerus | CC BY 2.0

Featuring a large refuge for hiking, cycling, cross-country skiing, and fishing, Hartley Nature Center is Duluth’s Central Park. After a drive down a winding, narrow road you pull into a horseshoe parking lot that leads to the Nature Center building.

Hartley features great hiking opportunities with lots of easy paths as well as challenging ones. The trails are wonderfully maintained and there are plenty of activities to do in any season. Also, there is a large pond on-site where you can rent canoes. The park is dog friendly with bags provided in case you forget to bring one.

18. Lake Superior Railroad Museum

Lake Superior Railroad Museum
Source: Wikimedia / GavinTheGazelle | CC BY-SA 4.0

Featuring exhibits of historic railcars as well as equipment in a former depot, Lake Superior Railroad Museum also counts with excursions on the regional history. To stand physically next to one of these giant machines is incredible. To read the history of the hardships people endured to build the rail system and the effort it took, gives one an appreciation for our ancestors.

You can touch many items and go on several of the pretty amazing trains. The exhibit is set up like an old-time town with lots of quality displays. They also have a demonstration experience of what the train looks and sounds like in operation.

19. Zero Hour Escape Rooms | Duluth, MN

Zero Hour Escape Rooms Duluth, MN
Source: Wikimedia / Hudson Bloom | CC BY-SA 4.0

At Zero Hour Escape Rooms, the puzzles are invigorating and exciting leaving you with a buzz of adrenaline afterward. The whole idea is to solve mysteries in order to escape one of the rooms which include the Prison Break, Serial Killer Box, and The Wheelhouse. The puzzles are cohesive, well thought out, and challenging.

The game masters are great at explaining everything, keeping you on track throughout your experience. Also, if you and your team need more clues, the staff will be happy to help without giving away any answers.

20. The Duluth Lakewalk

The Duluth Lakewalk
Source: A. E. Crane | Public Domain

The Duluth Lakewalk offers a very nice walk with great views of Lake Superior with plenty of places to sit, take in the view and watch the boats coming in and out of the lake. The Lakewalk provides everyone with a wide view of Duluth on one side and Lake Superior on the other side.

This whole area has a lot of scenery, shops, and eateries. Whether you decide to walk or ride a bike, this is a beautiful way to see some of the lakeshore, gardens, parks, and patio areas of some of the restaurants along the way.

21. Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory

Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory
Source: Flickr / Andy Witchger | CC BY 2.0

Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory is an excellent place to visit to see the Hawk migration as well as other bird species. During the migration season, there are staff members to offer help and information. The park features many trails marked by color and difficulty. There are viewing platforms for birders with viewing scopes and photography equipment. Not to mention a fantastic view of Duluth’s skyline which includes the lift bridge, harbor, and St. Louis River.

Be aware that there is not a specific entrance to the park, you just park alongside the road and more or less pick a trail you want to hike.

22. Tom’s Historic Logging Camp

Toms Historic Logging Camp
Source: Pexels / Craig Adderley

Featuring antiques and pictures, Tom’s Historic Logging Camp offers a fantastic trip back into the past of logging camps. The tour offers a great look at how logging actually worked in the past. Lots of history is packed on this site and you will leave more knowledgeable of the old-time forestry industry.

They also provide some interactive activities where you can feed fish, goats, and llamas. However, to be able to feed the animals you must go on the tour. The gift shop always has lots of cool little things, from clothes to wall decor.

23. Duluth Children’s Museum

Duluth Childrens Museum
Source: Wikimedia / McGhiever | CC BY-SA 4.0

The longtime center of Duluth Children’s Museum features creative and educational exhibits, plus programs as well as activities for children. This is a fairly small children’s museum with a play area on two levels. There are many toys and exhibits to play with featuring local culture. The museum’s highlights include the exhibits of Marcus Children’s Theater, Ore Boat, STEM Stations, Cirrus Airplane, and much more.

They offer hands-on activities throughout the day and have lots of random things to explore, climb, and spark imaginative play. The indoor treehouse/jungle gym is a good alternative to a snowy, slippery, cold playground.

24. Superior Entry Lighthouse

Superior Entry Lighthouse
Source: Flickr / Pete Markham | CC BY-SA 2.0

A paved walkway, rocky in some spots, leads to the picturesque Superior Entry Lighthouse which was built in 1913. From there you have some fantastic all-round views of the taconite (iron) ore docks and the portals for Superior into Lake Superior. You also have a great view of the beach area, and various boats and water activities, and sometimes some great cloud peeping.

The walk to the lighthouse is across large boulders and could be very difficult if you struggle with balance, so be careful. Also, do not miss the Indian burial grounds on-site.

25. Grandma’s Saloon & Grill

Grandmas Saloon and Grill
Source: Flickr / donireewalker | CC BY 2.0

The enduring place of Grandma’s Saloon & Grill serves classic American dishes in a quirky, old-timey decor building featuring a seasonal roof deck. Opened in 1976, the restaurant has old memorabilia, authentic antiques, and collectibles displayed all around. Located next to the Aerial Lift Bridge, it also offers spectacular views of Lake Superior.

The food itself is delicious and the restaurant holds many awards for it. Grandma’s Saloon & Grill is most known for its sandwiches and burgers. Not to mention their specialty pasta and wild rice dishes.