One of Minnesota’s largest cities and the largest US city on Lake Superior, Duluth is a longtime favorite tourist destination in the Midwest.
Back in 1869, Duluth was a critical port to both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the US. This advantage helped the town grow so quickly that some speculated it would surpass the population of Chicago. But when industry declined in the late 1960s, Duluth shifted to a tourist town and was renovated to accommodate beachside visitors.
Now, Duluth features several waterfront cafés and shops in its vibrant downtown area. Visitors come regularly from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan to relax on the beach in summer, take a ski trip in the winter, and enjoy the local arts and entertainment year-round.
Things to do in Duluth
Situated on the world’s largest freshwater lake (by surface area), Duluth has lots of lake-related activities, including the Great Lakes Aquarium. It’s the only aquarium in the United States dedicated solely to freshwater organisms and habitats, featuring 205 species of fish and other animals.
In the Park Point neighborhood, you’ll find Minnesota Point – a 7-mile sandy stretch of land with a forest. Visit Canal Park to access Minnesota Point, and while you’re there, take a walk along the 4.2-mile lakewalk for gorgeous views and good exercise. Watch boats along the lakeshore or walk out along the pier to get up close to Duluth’s lighthouse.
You can also stop by the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center to learn more about the history of shipping along the Great Lakes and check out a three-story steam engine.
Locals and tourists are welcome to join in hunting for the Lake Superior agate, Minnesota’s state gem, along the lakeshore. Join runners around the world for Grandma’s Marathon each June, or the North Shore Inline Marathon in September.
While sailing is a favorite summertime activity in Duluth, try skiing on Spirit Mountain in the winter. Spirit is the second tallest skiing spot in Minnesota, with 22 runs and drops up to 700 feet. If skiing isn’t your forte, check out the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in January, featuring racers who go on to compete at the Iditarod in Alaska.
Day trips from Duluth
Many Minnesotans know Duluth as the perfect starting point for a road trip along the North Shore; you’re only miles from some of the greatest fall foliage trips and beach views in the country. The North Shore stretches from Duluth to Ontario, with many waterfalls, stony beaches and scenic views.
Start your trip with a tour of Glensheen Mansion, which was built for a wealthy Duluth lawyer in 1908. The estate takes up 12 acres with gardens, a fountain, bridges, clothing and furniture that remain intact from the original owners’ time at the mansion.
From there, head to Two Harbors, a quick drive up the Lake Superior Coastline. Take a hike along the Superior Hiking Trail, or stop by the trail office in town for maps and souvenirs. Snowshoeing along the trails of Two Harbor is a popular winter activity. Take the Sonju Lakewalk for a variety of flat and rougher trails, but be sure to fuel up at the Vanilla Bean Bakery & Café for breakfast beforehand.
Lastly, head up to Lutsen for a glimpse of the Superior National Forest, a beautiful section of preserved land. Visit Lutsen Mountains ski resort for some of the northernmost skiing mountains you’ll find in the contiguous United States. Lutsen offers fall color tours in their Summit Express Gondola, where you’re likely to see all types of local wildlife as well as gorgeous aerial views of the lake and the Sawtooth Mountains.
Tripping.com offers a variety of rentals in Duluth, including log cabins, luxury hotel suites, beachside homes and much more. Select from 200 unique spots for the perfect Duluth vacation. You can find rentals in the downtown Duluth area as well as along Minnesota Point, so you’re sure to get the best views of Lake Superior. Whether you’re looking for a spot where you can bring the family dog, or perhaps you’d like a fireplace or a hot tub to warm up after a day of skiing, Tripping.com has the options for you to enjoy your stay in Duluth.
Transportation in Duluth
Duluth has an international airport with car rentals and a shuttle. If you’re coming by car, you’ll reach Duluth by I-35 from the Twin Cities area or US Route 53 from Wisconsin. The University of Minnesota Duluth has a bus station for Amtrak travelers on its campus.
For those looking to bike or hike around town, enjoy Duluth’s section of the Superior Hiking Trail, a 39-mile portion of the longest trail in the US (the North Country National Scenic Trail!).