40 of the Best Things to Do in Duluth, MN

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Things to do in Duluth MN include Carriage Rides in Canal Park.
Carriage Rides in Canal Park are a popular way to get around in Duluth. Photo credit: Amanda Williams

Duluth is a picturesque city on the shore of Lake Superior and is teeming with activities for families, romantic weekends, girlfriend getaways or solo sojourns. Truly, this small city has it all! There are so many reasons for you to visit Duluth, even in the winter!

Read More: Where to Stay in Duluth MN, from the Lakefront to Downtown

Things to do in Duluth MN include checking out Canal Park.
Canal Park is a large neighborhood with shopping, dining, and lake views! Photo credit: Amanda Williams

1. Canal Park

Canal Park is an epicenter of action and has a lot of options for dining, sightseeing, and hotel stays. Make sure to save an afternoon to explore several Duluth attractions along the lakeshore.

  • Grandma’s Restaurant is here; this is also where the famous marathon finishes each June.
  • Many lakeside eateries and spots to take in the view
  • Great points to access the Duluth lakewalk and some of the best views in the Midwest

2. Adventure Zone

Great for kids to burn off some steam, this Canal park business has a bunch to do and is conveniently adjacent to Famous Dave’s for easy kid-friendly feeding. Adventure Zone is fun when you want to be inside.

  • Huge arcade
  • Climbing walls
  • Laser tag
Things to do in Duluth MN include seeing the Aerial Lift Bridge in Canal Park.
The Aerial Lift Bridge in Canal Park is an Instagram-worthy selfie spot in Duluth. Photo credit: Amanda Williams

3. Aerial Lift Bridge

The aerial lift bridge is perhaps the most iconic structure in Duluth. You can walk or drive across or just sit in Canal Park and wait for ships to cruise by. There is a mini lift bridge sculpture near the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center where you can take selfies (or just frame up the real thing!)

4. North Shore Drives

The North Shore of Lake Superior is a broad term for the approximately 150-mile shoreline stretching up Highway 61 north to Grand Marais, MN. This is a trip in itself, but visitors to Duluth can enjoy several highlights along the lakeshore.

  • North Shore Scenic Drive – which is “Old Highway 61” and extends from Duluth to Two Harbors, this is the prettier, albeit slower route.
  • Congdon Overlook – just a few miles out of town with great craggy views
  • Make a reservation and head to the New Scenic Cafe

5. Breweries and Distilleries Abound

You can quench your thirst and get your drink on (responsibly, of course – Duluth does have rideshare services) at one of many area watering holes, including:

  • Canal Park Brewing Company
  • Ursa Minor Brewing Company
  • Vikre Distillery
  • Lake Superior Brewing Co.
  • Hoops Brewing
  • Fitger’s Brewhouse

6. Splash About at Edgewater

This is a somewhat dated hotel, but is a great spot to take the kids. The Edgewater has a few slides, a small lazy river, activity pools, and both indoor and outdoor hot tubs. Check it out if you’re traveling with the younger set.

7. Lester Park Trails and Playground

Perfect for hot summer days, Lester Park is a shade-rich park and has playgrounds and lots of trails to while away an afternoon. If you want to swim here, take care, it’s not staffed by lifeguards and has led to several drownings in the past.

8. Duluth Entertainment Convention Center

For a small city, Duluth attracts some big talent. Enjoy musicians, comedians, ballet, and more at this event venue adjacent to the Duluth harbor. You’ll also see it called “the DECC.”

Things to do in Duluth MN include renting or borrowing a bike to explore.
There are many places to rent or borrow a bike to explore. Photo credit: Amanda Williams

9. Willard Munger State Trail: Mountain Biking

Its fantastic hilly landscape makes Duluth a perfect location for mountain biking! The Munger trail is relatively flat but incredibly scenic and stretches about 70 miles. You can also get hooked up with some hilly trails at Spirit Mountain Adventure Park. More on that in a minute.

10. Spirit Mountain Adventure Park

Let’s not just stick to ONE season – Spirit Mountain Recreation Area is great for snowboarding, skiing, mountain biking, and just playing! It’s also open year-round.

  • Scenic chair lift
  • Bounce pillow
  • Timber Twister Alpine Coaster
  • Hiking trails
  • Restaurant and chalet
  • Zipline
  • Tons of family fun!

11. The Great Lakes Aquarium

This is my favorite place to visit in Duluth, whether I’m there as an adult traveler or visiting with my kids. The exhibits are fresh and fun. Many are interactive. You can spend a whole day at the aquarium easily.

  • Freshwater fishes, otters, ravens and skunks!
  • Saltwater fishes and jellies
  • Shipwreck displays
  • Scuba diving exhibits
  • Children’s play area
  • Informative and interactive exhibits and presentations
  • Touch tanks
Things to do in Duluth MN include exploring miles of manicured lakeside trails at the Lakewalk.
The Lakewalk offers miles of manicured lakeside trails to explore. Photo credit: Amanda Williams

12. The Lakewalk

Feel like walking miles of lakeshore? You can. The Lakewalk is a popular place to bring dogs, kids, bikes, and folks of all ages and abilities. This accessible trail is boardwalk when you’re near Canal Park; other spots are merely paved. All of the trail boasts great views from the shore of Lake Superior!

13. Glensheen Mansion – Historic Congdon Estate

Get fancy at Glensheen Mansion, especially at the holidays. The historic estate is both interesting and grand, so book a time to experience opulence from days of yore.

14. University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota – Duluth is home to the Bulldogs hockey team and a beautiful campus. The neat thing about the campus for the public is the Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium. The planetarium hosts public shows and events regularly. Some are specifically for kids!

Things to do in Duluth MN include taking a tour of the historic SS William A. Irvin.
Take a tour of the historic SS William A. Irvin in Duluth. Photo credit: Amanda Williams

15. SS William A. Irvin

This gigantic ship spent four decades carrying iron ore and coal across Lake Superior. The William A. Irvin remains in fabulous condition today and is open for public tours. Don’t miss the spooky season with special haunted tours.

Things to do in Duluth MN include boating on the lake (3 sailboats on the water).
See the water from the water on a boat. Photo credit: Amanda Williams

16. Vista Fleet Cruise

The best way to see any of the Great Lakes is to get on a boat and onto the water! You’ll get a whole new perspective. Vista Flee Cruises offers:

  • Dinner cruises
  • Sightseeing cruises
  • Duluth waterfront cruise
  • Family cruises
  • Sips on Superior booze cruise

17. Enger Park and Enger Tower

Want a great view without the crowds? Climb this stone tower (while channeling your inner Rapunzel) and enjoy a beautiful vista of Duluth reaching down toward Lake Superior. This is one of the best things to do in Duluth with kids. You must be able to climb stairs in order to get up to the top of Enger Tower, but the stairs are generously sized and enclosed, so not scary. Sometimes a coffee and ice cream food truck hangs out by the parking lot so you can reward yourself with a treat for having done the climb!.

18. Duluth Rose Garden

Late August into early fall is when the roses are in bloom. The rose garden is on the waterfront and has easy, flat paths to enjoy. Parking here can be a bear but the views are worth it.

19. North Shore Scenic Railroad

The North Shore Scenic Railroad is a historic railroad that travels between Duluth and Two Harbors through 28 miles of the Lakefront Line. A popular event for the real young kiddos is the Day Out with Thomas event, which comes to town full of activities for families who love trains.

20. Brighton Beach

A local favorite, Brighton Beach is often less busy than the popular Park Point sandy beach spots in the summer. It’s a rockier shoreline, so depending on whether you are looking for a beach day or beautiful views, you might try this easy pull-out from a north shore drive.

21. Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center

This free visitor center in Canal Park is the place to learn about the history of Duluth in relation to the water.

SheBuysTravel Tip: This is also the place to find public restrooms when you’re exploring the neighborhood.

22. Take a Carriage Ride

One of the top romantic things to do in Duluth is take a carriage ride in Canal Park. The horse-drawn carriages are a lovely sight on summer days along the lake.

23. Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory

Another personal favorite and a spot where you can avoid some of the downtown Duluth and Canal Park crowds is getting out to a more cliffy area where you’ll find a bird’s eye view. The best time to visit Hawk Ridge is in the fall during migration (and for superior views of the beautiful fall colors in the forest).  

24. Minnesota Point and Park Point

Enjoy a beach day and feel the sand between your toes. Parking here can be a little tough on hot summer days, but once you find a spot to ditch the car, you can walk for miles along the shore! Park Point is great for open sandy beaches, and if you want to continue as far as you can, you’ll arrive at Minnesota Point.

Things to do in Duluth MN include checking out the local lighthouses, such as this one in Canal Park.
This lighthouse is in Canal Park. To see the Split Rock lighthouse, you’ll need to road trip. Photo credit: Amanda Williams

25. Split Rock Lighthouse

This one is actually claimed by the town of Two Harbors, but is absolutely one of the places you should go on a Duluth day trip! The Split Rock Lighthouse is a neat piece of history important to the port city and those making their way across the sometimes unforgiving Greatest Lake.

Things to do in Duluth MN include exploring downtown via scooter.
Scooters are all around town and offer a great way to explore. Photo credit: Amanda Williams

26. Shop along Superior Street

Superior Street has a plethora of spots to dine as well as window shop at some of the premier stores known for their Duluth origins. Frost River, Love Creamery, OMC Smokehouse, Hungry Hippie Tacos, Burger Paradox, and the Duluth Children’s Museum are all along this great route.

27. Go Scuba Diving

Because Lake Superior can be unforgiving, there are several shipwrecks dotting her shores, which make fantastic spots to dip down and get your fins wet. You’ll need to be scuba certified and you MAY want to have a dry suit, since the water temperatures in Lake Superior rarely get above 70F (20C).

28. Duluth Children’s Museum

Housed in an older building in West Duluth, this kiddo hang-out is pretty cool. There are many differently themed rooms with spots to play. The Duluth Children’s Museum is definitely geared toward the younger crowd, but families shouldn’t miss this stop.

29. The Lake Superior Zoo

The Lake Superior Zoo is a family classic, just a few exits from Canal Park on I-35. You can walk the paved and accessible trails for hours, stopping by big cats, farmyard favorites, and nocturnal creatures.

The primate exhibit is so much fun. The indoor education area allows touching and gentle petting of animal ambassadors. You can upgrade your day with more interactive special elements like painting with monkeys.

30. Bayfront Festival Park

One of our favorite spots to let the kids play (both at young ages and as they grow) Bayfront Festival Park has a wonderful sprawling playground. In addition, it’s right where the party is during the Bayfront Blues Festival and other amazing performers, especially in the warm summer months.

31. Leif Erickson Park

The park is home to Duluth’s Rose Garden and includes a historic amphitheater stage area. If you’re looking for a lovely backdrop for selfies or romantic pics with your favorite person (or pet!) Leif Erickson Park is a lovely spot to spend a summer afternoon or stop before your fall color tour.

32. NorShor Theatre

From fun modern plays to classic films, this restored historic theater has a great scene. Kinky Boots is a popular musical that can be spotted on a flyer for the NorShor Theater or, you might opt for Spamalot. So, if you’re a Cyndi Lauper fan and you want to have a great time, here’s your ticket.

33. Lake Superior Railroad Museum

Duluth has a pretty happening train scene! In addition to being able to take a scenic train ride, there is a ton of history to learn about. The museum is located in downtown Duluth.

34. Visit the Bentleyville “Tour of Lights”

During the holiday season, roughly around Thanksgiving until the New Year, Duluth lights up the night with the spectacularly family-friendly Bentleyville Tour of Lights. This walk-through experience includes a complimentary stocking cap, visit with Santa, cookies, and hot cocoa. Dress warm! Stay at Pier B if you want to have the best access without having to drive (or, in some suites, just look out the window!)

35. See the Blue Angels at the Duluth Air Show

This happens in July. Bring your ear protection and a chair. Lots of walking and lots of engine noise, but incredible aerial acrobatics and general aviation displays and fun! The Blue Angels are certainly a sight to see at the immensely popular Duluth Air Show.

36. Duluth Art Institute (DAI)

Located in the historic Union Depot building, this collection is where art lovers can explore contemporary art from the Twin Ports Region and the Upper Midwest.

37. Explore Hartley Nature Center

This large nature refuge is equipped for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing & fishing adventures. Rent equipment or bring your own. The nature center has exhibits, and there is also a preschool and nature camps hosted at this site. They take nature seriously!

38. Jay Cooke State Park

Okay, this isn’t technically in the city of Duluth, but it’s a great Minnesota state park and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Jay Cooke State Park is about a 30-minute drive from downtown Duluth.

39. Thompson Hill Overlook

Head toward Proctor to this easy-access overlook that gives you great views of the big lake. Thompson Hill Overlook also has a ton of visitor information, restrooms, and is a sweet spot for selfies.

40. Helicopter Tour

This will be a quick flight — reportedly under 10 minutes. But you’ll have the best view in the house. Even better than from Enger Tower! Helicopter tours are unique and a great way to splurge while on vacation.

Amanda Williams is a journalist in rural Minnesota. Her stories have been published in Matador Travel Network, Midwest Living, Family Handyman, and several other publications. A solo mother of two young boys, she writes about adventures from National Parks to waterparks. She loves sharing tips and insider information for others to use to make their trip just a little bit better. She and her kids scuba dive and live for new experiences and thrills. Road trips are always on the horizon and she’s embraced van life and has driven from the Midwest to Alaska (via Canada) with her kids encompassing 32 days of wild adventures. Amanda is classically trained as a wildlife biologist and has worked as a National Park Ranger, in addition to other exciting jobs like being a wildland firefighter and even playing the part of a living historian, as a cook in a turn-of-the-century logging camp. Because of these outdoorsy experiences, stories relating to outdoor adventure are often a focus of her writing. She hopes to inspire other solo parents to take on Disney, camping, and trips abroad with their families with the confidence to make those memories, even as the lone adult in the mix! Her most recent obsession is photographing adventures from the land, water, AND skies, as a licensed small unmanned aircraft system (drone) pilot. Learn more about her at https://www.wayfaringmandy.com/ or follow her on Instagram, @WayfaringMandy.
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