Nestled on the North Shore of Lake Superior, Duluth, Minnesota is a unique getaway destination with family-friendly attractions ranging from museums and harbor cruises, to shore-side parks and a freshwater aquarium. Each season brings with it a whole new set of outdoor activities and landmarks, such as the lift bridge and the Entry Lighthouse, which creates a unique maritime feel right in the heart of the Midwest. Book a stay at a cozy Duluth vacation rental with panoramic views of mighty Lake Superior. Check out a few kid-friendly activities to add to your exciting lakefront vacation itinerary.
1. Visit the Great Lakes Aquarium
A must-see during your family trip to Duluth, Great Lakes Aquarium is situated on the shoreline and offers stunning views of the lake and the Lift Bridge. You’ll also find interactive exhibits and tanks housing fish and lake life from Lake Superior and beyond. Check out the replica lodge and pond, where little ones can pretend to be beavers. Be sure to stop by the touch pool, where you’ll see stingrays and horseshoe crabs. Kids of all ages love watching the crazy antics of the energetic river otters, seeing the shark-like Lake Superior sturgeons in the freshwater tank, and seeing the turtle exhibits.
2. Embark on a Harbor Cruise
The whole family can enjoy a relaxing cruise along the harbor, where they can spot seagulls, float by massive ore boats, and learn about the history and economics of the area from a knowledgeable tour guide. Many cruises offer both open upper-deck seating and closed lower-deck seating, so you can enjoy the best views or escape from the chilly lake breeze.
3. Spend an Afternoon at Canal Park
Spend a laid-back afternoon in the tourist-friendly heart of the city, Canal Park. At Canal Park, you can view artifacts at the free Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, stroll across the walkway to the Entry Lighthouse, and snap photos in front of the Lift Bridge. Kids can also search for agates along the lakefront boardwalk or buy souvenirs in the shops. You can even rent some bikes and explore the area or ride in the back of a horse-drawn carriage.
4. Take a Ferry to the Apostle Islands
If you’re traveling with older kids who are up for an exciting day trip, take a ferry to the breathtaking rock formations of the 21 Apostle Islands, where you can view gaping lake caves, lighthouses, and beaches. Once you reach one of the islands, embark on a hiking journey, and look out for whitetail deer, black bears, beavers, and otters.
5. Go for a Swim at Park Point
The waters of Lake Superior may be chilly year-round, but on a hot summer day, kids of all ages are sure to love splashing or boogie boarding at the sandy beach of Park Point. This remote wilderness beach is never too crowded, and kids are sure to enjoy pointing out the Superior Entry Lighthouse nearby. This beach is also a great place to comb the sand for Lake Superior agates.
6. Ski or Hike at Spirit Mountain
Enjoy the sweeping view of Duluth and Lake Superior from the chairlift as you ride up to the summit to ski or snowboard down the slopes during the winter. For younger kids, the easier bunny hill is a great place to practice some basic skiing skills. Traveling to Duluth during the summer? Enjoy the hiking trails in Spirit Mountain, or ride the exciting alpine coaster down the hill.
7. Check Out the S.S. William A. Irvin Ore Boat Museum
Kids of all ages marvel at the chance to board the S.S. William A. Irvin Ore Boat, which is permanently docked at the harbor. A knowledgeable tour guide brings visitors up multiple steps and ladders to the reach the deck, the captain’s and crew’s quarters, and even the kitchen. If you’re planning a trip in October, don’t miss the Haunted Ship attraction.
8. Explore the Lake Superior Railroad Museum
Step into the Lake Superior Railroad Museum to see restored locomotives from every era parked both inside and outside the building. See interesting exhibits, such as the exact replica of the Abraham Lincoln funeral train car that carried the president’s coffin, and take a complimentary train ride before buying the kids a model train from the gift shop that they can play with back at your vacation rental.
9. Ride a Train Along the North Shore Scenic Railroad
An old-fashioned train ride through the North Shore wilderness offers stunning views of Lake Superior from a historic train car. Kids of all ages have a blast on the two and a half-hour Music & Pizza train ride, which offers complimentary pizza, soda, and sweet desserts, and live music. If you’re visiting Duluth during special days during July, August, and September, you can even ride in a historic steam-powered train.
10. Visit the Lake Superior Zoo
While it may be a small zoo, kids are sure to love petting the llamas and goats, seeing the elusive snow leopards, and venturing through the dark exhibits of the nocturnal building. The zoo also boasts an African lion exhibit, a Primate conservation center, and a Northern Territory exhibits with Minnesota animals, including bald eagles and white-tailed deer.
11. See Duluth From the Top of Enger Tower
Take a short drive from your vacation rental to stroll through Enger Park, and enjoy beautiful views of the city and shoreline from the top of the stone tower, which has 105 steps in total. Kids of all ages also enjoy walking through the Japanese pavilion and hiking the wilderness trails.
Ready to go? Check out these amazing Duluth, Minnesota vacation rentals on Tripping.com.