Duluth, Minnesota is a port town located on Lake Superior and is a gateway of activities no matter the season. We’ll get you the best and most fun things to do in Duluth to maximize your visit.
With a plethora of activities in Duluth, it might be hard to know where you want to start. This article will focus on what things we feel are worth seeing during your visit!
No matter if you are in town for the things to do in Duluth, or just passing through, you don’t want to miss these things to do when visiting!
Duluth is a city with rich history and culture. It was founded by William D. Hussey back in July of 1883 and has been growing ever since.
The options for activities in Duluth are endless with sights to see as well as things to do for all ages. No matter what age group you fall into, there are things to do in Duluth that will fit you.
Table of Contents
- Fun & Best Things to do in Duluth, MN
- Glensheen Mansion
- Leif Erickson Park
- Bayfront Festival Park
- Enger Park
- The Duluth Lakewalk
- NorShor Theatre
- Lake Superior Railroad Museum
- Norwegian Windmill
- Split Rock Lighthouse
- Elsa Beskow’s Children’s Book Illustration Museum
- Take a Boat Ride on Lake Superior
- Go on a Craft Brewery Tour or Crawl
- Duluth Children’s Museum
- Go to the Duluth Air Show
- North Shore Scenic Railroad
- Lake Superior Marine Museum and Maritime Visitor Center
- Wolf Ridge Nature Center
- The St. Louis County Depot
- Duluth Rose Garden
- SS William A Irvin Museum
- Aerial Lift Bridge
- Lake Superior Zoo
- Spirit Mountain Adventure Park Recreation Area
- Duluth Art Institute (DAI)
- Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory
- Lake Superior National Seashore
- Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium
- Fitger’s Brewery and Grille
- Hartley Nature Center
- Great Lakes Aquarium
- Watch Ships Go Through the Duluth Canal
- Visit a Frozen Waterfall at Jay Cooke State Park
- Minnesota’s North Shore Scenic Drive
- Superior National Forest
- Lake Vermilion
- University of Minnesota – Duluth
- Duluth Entertainment Convention Center
- How do I spend a day in Duluth, MN?
- What is there to do in Duluth, MN?
Fun & Best Things to do in Duluth, MN
If you’re looking for an unforgettable vacation in Duluth, then the Glensheen Mansion is an absolute must on your list of things to do.
It is a popular thing to do in Duluth that will leave you mesmerized and excited for more! Glensheen was originally built back in 1905 by prominent citizens Chester Thorne and his wife, Anna.
The mansion sits on 80 acres of land with tons of things to see around it as well as things to do inside.
The Glensheen Mansion is a National Historic Landmark and is the only National Historic Landmark in Duluth recognized for its architectural design.
Chester Thorne was an architect and incorporated many of his original designs into the mansion’s layout.
This is by far one of the best museums in Duluth to visit.
Leif Erickson Park
Set in the park of the Congdon family since the mid-1800s, Leif Erikson Park has much to offer both locals and visitors.
The park is set right along the lake and offers beach access, a swimming pool, and a garden.
You can picnic by the beach, or you can enjoy a walk with your human family and fur babies. You can take a swim in the pool, rent kayaks and paddleboards, or take your pet for a walk on one of the walking trails around the park.
Leif Erickson Park is open all year round and has plenty of activities for people that love outdoor adventures.
The park is a pet-friendly place, so you can bring your furry friends with you! This is one of the top Duluth parks to visit by far.
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Bayfront Festival Park
Bayfront Festival Park is not just a place to hang out but it is also a location for many annual events. It is located right on the lake next to some of the best Duluth attractions in the city and beautiful scenery that will leave you wanting more of what this park has to offer!
Bayfront Festival Park offers daily activities from May until October each year.
You can enjoy their concerts and other events that are held year-round, as well as in the summer. You can attend these concerts for free with a simple walk through the Bayfront Festival Park during the event.
Bentleyville is an annual festival hosting a massive Christmas lights display and even a Santa Claus that parachutes out of an airplane!
Yeah, it’s Christmas on steroids.
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The Enger Park in Duluth is one of the things to do in Duluth that locals enjoy year-round.
This park is great for families, local or visiting, and offers a variety of things to do, including outdoor activities and indoor events too. Enger Park is located on Ravine Road with walking trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, and more!
The park features a golf course called the Enger Park Golf Course that offers a 9-hole course for all ages and abilities. It is open to the public year-round and provides golfers with beautiful scenery throughout the course.
Enger Park in Duluth also has different dance groups that perform at a variety of locations throughout the Twin Ports throughout the year.
These dance groups are mainly focused on ballroom dancing, including salsa dance and ballroom dancing.
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The Duluth Lakewalk
Are you looking for a fun, relaxed, and fun day out in Duluth?
The Duluth Lakewalk is the perfect way to enjoy both the hottest and coldest months in Duluth, making it one of the most fun things to do in Duluth, MN.
The Duluth Lakewalk stretches almost 8 miles and offers a variety of things to do in both summer and winter. The best feature of the lake walk is that it is maintained by volunteers from around the area, and it’s free!
You can rent bicycles or rollerblades on the trail for your stay in Minnesota as there are rentals available.
The Lakewalk is open year-round, so you can enjoy a day out on the lake regardless of when you visit! If you’re adventurous, swim to the edge of the lake over the Duluth & Brighton Beach.
See Related: 13 Best Things to Do in Hinckley, Minnesota
A historic theatre that has been renovated several times over the years, NorShor Theatre is known for its architectural design and overall sense of history.
In the early 1900s, this theatre was used for vaudeville shows and films but now it’s mainly a place where people come to watch plays, musicals, operas, concerts, and other types of live entertainment.
The impressive architecture and design are certainly worth seeing and the overall event space itself is also something worthy of seeing.
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Lake Superior Railroad Museum
The Lake Superior Railroad Museum is located in between Superior St. and Canal Park at the historic union depot. The museum is home to exhibits that showcase historic railroad equipment.
Lake Superior Railroad Museum is open from March until December, so make sure you stop by if you’re visiting in that window.
The museum is a meet and greets railroad museum, just behind the Duluth Depot with interpretive and tourist amenities. Lake Superior Railroad Museum is one of the best things to do in Duluth, MN if you want to learn the history of this lakeshore city.
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Inspired by the architecture of Norway, this historic windmill is located in a park along the waterfront next to NorShor Theatre.
The windmill construction was completed in 1929 and was built from steel with a wooden interior. It is now part of an interpretive center that showcases Minnesota’s Scandinavian heritage.
The purpose of the windmill was to pump water from the ground into a holding tank, allowing nearby farms to have fresh water.
Split Rock Lighthouse
One of the best things to do in Duluth, Minnesota is to visit one of the four iconic lighthouses found in the North Star State.
The Split Rock Lighthouse is located on the lake and was built in 1905, with the last tower addition constructed in 1923.
Split Rock Lighthouse is home to a museum that honors the lightkeepers and their families that served at this location from 1858 until the lighthouse was automated in 1966.
The lighthouse itself was decommissioned in 1972 and it’s now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s easy to access off Highway 61, just take Split Rock Lighthouse Road.
Elsa Beskow’s Children’s Book Illustration Museum
The Elsa Beskow Children’s Book Illustration Museum is located next to the Duluth Depot and was originally a library that was built in 1887.
It was eventually converted into an art museum focusing on children’s books from around the world.
Take a Boat Ride on Lake Superior
Climb aboard the Great Lakes Schooner for tours of Lake Superior. This historic ferry is a restored 1912 vessel and offers tours aboard the ship throughout the summer months.
The Spirit of Duluth, Minnesota’s only tall ship, departs from Bayfront Park in downtown Duluth each season offering a variety of different cruises such as dinner cruises and also sails to Wisconsin ports in the summer months.
Go on a Craft Brewery Tour or Crawl
If you want to go on a classic Minnesotan drinking spree, you are in good hands in Duluth, MN. There are plenty of great restaurants, bars, and craft breweries in Canal Park or along Superior St. in downtown Duluth, Minnesota.
On the bar side of things, make sure you check out Grandma’s Saloon in Canal Park.
The Canal Park Brewing Company is located in Duluth’s historic Canal Park and the brewery offers a variety of beers and other beverages for your enjoyment while touring around Lake Superior.
Located just down the street from Canal Park Brewery is Bent Paddle Brewing Co-Op, which is home to Bent Paddle’s headquarters and a taproom that showcases an in-house brewery, offering tastings for customers.
Check out these other top breweries in Duluth, Minnesota to build your own brewery tour!
Duluth Children’s Museum
The Duluth Children’s Museum is located in Canal Park and is the largest children’s museum in Minnesota with over 140,000 square feet of exhibits.
The Duluth Children’s Museum is a great thing to do with kids in Duluth, MN, as it offers a variety of different interactive exhibits and fun activities for children.
The art studio, science center, and train room are some of the highlights to be found at this Duluth attraction. The museum hosts special events and holiday events throughout the year for kids.
Go to the Duluth Air Show
The annual Duluth Air air show is held at the Duluth International Airport and is one of the things to do in Duluth that focuses on entertainment, which also includes an aviation trade show.
The show features various aerial performers and local pilots who fly up to the skies in a variety of military and civilian aircraft.
Local food vendors also offer tasty treats for visitors of all ages!
The show is free to attend, but make sure you take advantage of free parking at the Radisson Hotel Duluth.
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North Shore Scenic Railroad
The North Shore Scenic Railroad, is certainly a stretch of railroad that was built in Duluth-based logging, the classic rails of which are still visible.
Today, the railroad is that now runs on its original route from Duluth to Two Harbors, MN.
This tourist train has become a huge attraction cause of the most beautiful scenery and scenes with Lake Superior and lakeside vistas.
Lake Superior Marine Museum and Maritime Visitor Center
The mission of the Lake Superior Marine Museum & Maritime Visitor Center is to:
- (1) Be a leader in presenting maritime history, science, and culture.
- (2) Preserve Duluth’s historic shipwrecks and artifacts.
- (3) Provide educational outreach to students and teachers.
- (4) Share the shipping heritage of Lake Superior with current ship operators.
- (5) Work in concert with the Lake Superior shipping industry to promote safe lake transportation.
The museum and visitor center are located in the Duluth Ship Canal, just south of Aerial Lift Bridge.
It features two galleries housed in a 1776-foot long former ore dock with exhibits on Great Lakes maritime history, shipwrecks, and lighthouses.
The Lake Superior Marine Museum also has exhibits related to Duluth’s canal system, which has been used to ship ore since the 1890s.
Wolf Ridge Nature Center
The purpose of this center is to improve our understanding of ecosystems through a variety of interactive programs that lead participants outdoors to explore the natural world.
The center offers educational opportunities to families, children, and adults, including summer camps, school field trips, workshops, and outings year-round.
The St. Louis County Depot
The St. Lous County contains the beginnings of Duluth’s aerial lift. The depot is located in Canal Park, where a small railway station was built in 1907 by Samuel Hill.
The depot is considered a vital part of the city’s history and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Depot is now home to a variety of museums, shops, and restaurants.
Check out some of these other top restaurants in Duluth to build your list of dining excursions.
Duluth Rose Garden
The Duluth Rose Garden is an urban garden, appointed and created by the Duluth-native and nationally recognized rose designer, Tom Johnson.
The garden showcases over 2,000 roses that are planted in the shape of a scallop shell.
The garden is open April through October and offers visitors a fragrant escape in the heart of downtown Duluth.
The gardens are highly romantic and warm with both a full and mini sanctuary. Step inside the Rose Garden, famous for its fragrant blossoms, and enjoy its breathtaking views.
SS William A Irvin Museum
The newly renovated SS William A. Irvin Museum is an eclectic exploration of the ship-breaking industry.
Examine the wreckage at the William A. Irvin Museum. This terrific museum ship is located on the campus of Lake Superior College and is only a three-minute drive inland from Duluth’s city waterfront.
The William A. Irvin Shipwreck Museum tells the epic story of one of Lake Superior’s most well-known maritime disasters. This museum features many artifacts and was actually built by Capt. William A Irvin.
The museum is open seven days a week, from 10 am to 4 pm.
For more information, visit the William A Irvin Museum website.
Aerial Lift Bridge
The Aerial Lift Bridge tours, from the hour before sunset until about an hour after sunset, every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. It offers a chance to visit one of the longest bridges in Minnesota.
The bridge’s northern end is farther south, which means tourists may get a closer look at Duluth’s skyline and see Lake Superior on both sides of the structure.
The tour will last about an hour, from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm, and includes narration by the pilots as they share information about Duluth harbor and the Aerial Lift Bridge, the history of this structure, and other interesting facts.
The cost for a tour is $8 per person for adults and $4 per child and admission to the lighthouse is included in the price of the tours.
Lake Superior Zoo
The Lake Superior Zoo is home to more than 400 animals and offers a variety of both indoor and outdoor exhibits.
As one of the best things to do in Duluth, this zoo contains African lions, monkeys, giraffes, red pandas, mountain goats, and more.
The zoo is open year-round, with the exception of December 25 and January 1.
Spirit Mountain Adventure Park Recreation Area
Spirit Mountain Adventure Park is a complete family recreation center with world-class facilities and a variety of both indoor and outdoor activities such as mountain biking in the summer and skiing in the winter.
Enjoy a day exploring or zip down the Timber Twister Alpine Coaster (an alpine coaster in the summer), one of Minnesota’s best things to do.
Spirit Mountain is located on Duluth’s city waterfront. In the winter, Spirit Mountain is a great spot for skiing, snowboarding, tubing, ice skating, and snowshoeing.
Spirit Mountain is open year-round except December 25 and January 1st.
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Duluth Art Institute (DAI)
Established in 1891, the Duluth Art Institute is the oldest art school along the northern shores of Minnesota. Dedicated to encouraging artistic talent in Duluth and the surrounding communities through classes in all media, exhibitions of student and professional artwork, and special programs for adults.
DAI is a popular tourist attraction and one of the best things in Duluth, MN if you love art history.
Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory
Provided as an environment for bird-watching and learning about the diverse species of Minnesota’s native and other migratory birds. Hawk Ridge is also a great charter attraction to the environment and surrounding Great Lakes.
See birds of prey such as hawks, eagles, and owls with a trained guide or volunteer through Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory.
Lake Superior National Seashore
The Lake Superior National Seashore is just north of Duluth. With its pristine Lake Superior shoreline, enjoy walking trails and a sandy beach.
The park is open year-round in the winter from 6 am to 10 pm every day except December 25 and January 1.
From May till October, it’s open from 6 am to 7 pm on weekends, and weekdays are closed. In both seasons the park remains open at all times.
The station is open to provide visitors with hiking, camping, and a variety of other outdoor activities like canoeing and kayaking.
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Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium
The Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium is the largest planetarium in Minnesota. It offers an exciting display of the universe, life and earth science, meteorological topics, and special presentations of Native American culture.
The Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium is located on the campus of Lake Superior College on Duluth’s city waterfront.
Fitger’s Brewery and Grille
At Fitger’s Brewhouse brewery, you can learn the history of the old Dutch building under the watchtower and about its beer.
Celebrate the build-up and modernization of Fitger’s live brew for delicious, fresh-tasting beer. You can even purchase a Fitger’s Brewhouse Brewery and Grille souvenir or shirt at the gift shop.
Fitger’s Brewhouse opened in 1902 as the first copper retail store in Duluth, Minnesota.
To learn more about this historic structure, visit Duluth’s Fitger’s Historic District.
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Hartley Nature Center
Hartley Nature Center is located in Duluth’s Lester Park. It is hands down one of the best things to do in Duluth, Minnesota.
The Center was established in 1968 and opened in 1970. It is a part of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR).
It is dedicated to protecting and restoring nature. It offers programs and activities for children, families, schools, and adults.
Hartley Nature Center has 44 acres planned with lakes, woods, prairie restoration.
The facility contains a wildlife observation tower equipped with spotting scopes that are accessible via a 130-foot paved trail at Hartley Park.
The center houses many species of animals ranging from foxes to monarch butterflies.
Hartley Nature Center is open Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm, weekends from 8 am to 4 pm. It is closed on holidays.
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Great Lakes Aquarium
Great Lakes Aquarium is a private, non-profit aquarium along the waterfront of Duluth housing more than 250 species. It was opened in 2000 and is one of the largest freshwater interactive aquariums in the state, full of adventures and things to do in Duluth, Minnesota.
It is located on Duluth’s city waterfront and houses more than 300 species of fish, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, and other sea creatures. Great Lakes Aquarium is known to mimic and feature habitats found in the Great Lakes and other freshwater locations.
Great Lakes Aquarium is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, with the last admission at 4 pm. It is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
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Watch Ships Go Through the Duluth Canal
The Frigate Star could come at any hour of day and night and the canal is open from May until late September. Watch the ships come into the harbor at the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center.
It’s the best place to watch ships carrying iron ore or grain through Duluth’s harbor to the big lake freighters.
This is a great place to watch the iconic ships of the Great Lakes. The ships are so huge and they pass right in front of you.
Visit a Frozen Waterfall at Jay Cooke State Park
A frozen cascade of waterfalls is known as a “frozen waterfall” when it freezes in winter and can be seen throughout the summer, depending on the arrival of warm weather.
The best place to see a frozen waterfall is at Jay Cooke State Park located in Northern Minnesota in the heart of a 7,000-acre wilderness area.
Visitors can enjoy over 32 miles of hiking trails through pristine forests, along waterfalls, and past small lakes known as “songs of the wild.”
Check out these other top state parks in Minnesota.
Minnesota’s North Shore Scenic Drive
This drive is the ONLY scenic drive that follows Minnesota’s Interstate 60 and toward Interstate 55.
This scenic drive in Duluth, MN follows five cities, iconic waterfalls, and lighthouses, starting from Duluth to Two Harbors, and is even worth driving to Grand Marais.
It is an 11-mile drive that takes you past several historical landmarks like the Gitchi-Gami State Trail.
The drive is best to be taken between late May and mid-October, depending on weather conditions.
Some sections of this road are closed during winter due to heavy snowfalls. The views are magnificent as you go through the rolling hills, past lakes, streams, and forests.
North Shore Scenic Drive offers a trip into the past and also opens up beautiful vistas of the lake.
This drive is highly recommended to be taken when visiting Duluth as it offers a unique experience for everyone. It can be enjoyed by anyone who likes to bike, hike or just drive through scenic routes and enjoy the beauty of mother nature.
The drive starts at Two Harbors and ends in Duluth, Minnesota.
But you can also take it in reverse and start from Two Harbors going back to Duluth as this route has signposts at most intersections.
The scenery changes as you drive west in Duluth towards Two Harbors – it gets a lot more crowded here, with buses taking tourists, street lights on most corners, and other facets of the city.
The route gets less congested after Two Harbors, with more fields and fewer residences. The journey is full of gorgeous vistas as you meander around rolling hills dotted with lakes and small rivers flowing into larger bodies of water.
Alongside some roads are forested areas that give privacy to those who want to enjoy this route’s scenic views. The best cultural and sporting sights will not be missed by the drive-through of this scenic byway.
It is the perfect destination for hiking along a trail and it is within a short drive from Split Rock, byway 61.
A great way to spend some time is by going on a hike at Gooseberry Falls State Park which is an easy stop on this scenic drive.
This is a favorite destination for many people who love the outdoors and want to experience the beauty of nature. It’s also a very family-friendly location.
It is best to see this breathtaking beauty in Autumn when Gooseberry Falls is at its most vibrant and looks like a giant bouquet of gorgeous flowers.
Check out these other top parks along the North Shore:
Superior National Forest
Discover what Superior National Forest is all about by following the scenic byway of Minnesota’s Highway 61.
You can also stop at many great places on Minnesota’s Highway 61 where there are plenty of things to do and see; it is a great place for camping, hiking, biking, and fishing.
This easy trip takes you through the heart of Lake County, running through forested hills, past lakes, and streams.
Take this is on Lake Vermilion and observe the forest changing. If you want to be in the forest for a weekend visit the Superior National Forest and Rode’s Reservoir or The Lutsen Point Trail (6.75 miles).
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This beautiful lake holds some good fishing opportunities from shore or by boat. It also boasts a 14-mile walking trail around it.
You can paddle from the entrance at Caribou, towards Birch Park to catch some good fish. The lake is home to many species of waterfowl like cranes and loons, which are the Minnesota state bird.
A variety of birds visit the lake in spring and fall to nest; it is great to watch them.
The picturesque northern view of the lake area is a major attraction as there are plenty of places to stop and enjoy scenic views.
The rustic beauty of Iron Range Country can be seen here, where you will see low slung hills with lakes surrounded by trees and the occasional farmhouse in the distance.
Check out these other best lakes in Minnesota to visit.
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University of Minnesota – Duluth
When you are in Duluth, MN, consider visiting the University of Minnesota Duluth campus (UMD). It is a private research university with about 3,000 students that offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in the arts, sciences, and professional studies.
The University of Minnesota-Duluth is situated on the shore of Lake Superior right next to Duluth. The campus has been named one of the best activity centers in North America.
In addition, if you didn’t realize hockey is a pretty big deal in Minnesota – as well as being The Land of 10,000 Lakes, it’s also known as The State of Hockey, and UMD has one of the best student hockey programs in the world. Attend a game if you can (IF you can even find a ticket!). They play right at AMS Oil Arena in the heart of Canal Park.
It’s a great experience to see what passionate hockey is all about.
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Duluth Entertainment Convention Center
The 170,000 square foot Duluth convention center features state-of-the-art meeting rooms, exhibition halls, and multiple ballrooms.
The convention center is located east of I-35 East on Second Street near the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center in downtown Duluth and caters to a wide array of events like trade shows, conventions, banquets dinners, ice shows, and concerts.
A range of clubs, bars, and restaurants are close to the convention center. If you have kids, you can make a stop at the Discovery Museum or Lake Superior Zoo.
Duluth serves as an ideal location for corporate meetings and conferences because it’s easily accessible from all over the US with numerous flights to Twin Cities’ main airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul International.
How do I spend a day in Duluth, MN?
If you only have one day in Duluth, Minnesota be sure to explore Duluth’s rich history at Canal Park where you can trace explorer Duluth’s path, consider walking by sightseeing boat on scenic Lake Superior, visit homes designed by famed architect Ralph Rapson, or visit the historic Glensheen Mansion.
What is there to do in Duluth, MN?
Duluth is a smaller city that feels like a town. The beauty of Duluth, Minnesota is that many activities are free or low-cost. In no particular order, here are great ideas for visitors: visit the Glensheen Mansion, take a drive to Gooseberry Falls State Park, enjoy Duluth from atop Spirit Mountain, or take a boat tour to get scenic views of Canal Park and the famous Aerial Lift Bridge.
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