There are four places in the world that I consider “home”, and Duluth is one of them. From long walks along the beach on Park Point, to hiking through waterfalls and eating your way around the city, there are so many things to do in Duluth, MN.
However, Duluth’s popularity as a tourist destination doesn’t get nearly enough recognition beyond the Midwest region. And even Minnesota natives overlook the town’s culture and cuisine. Yet, there’s a reason why Lonely Planet listed Duluth as one of the top 10 cities in the U.S. to visit. BUT, in case you, or your travel buddy, need a little bit extra convincing…
Here are 20 things to do in Duluth, Minnesota:
- Breweries in Duluth
- Have a drink at the Rathskeller
- Have breakfast at the famous Duluth Grill
- Have a sunset dinner atop the rotating restaurant overlooking Duluth
- Ski or snowboard on spirit mountain
- Rock climb, play lazar tag or bumper cars at Adventure Zone
- See a movie at the boutique "Zinema"
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Outdoor activities in Duluth
Hike along Lake Superior
If you’re wondering what to do in Duluth, start with exploring Lake Superior and the surrounding nature. This is such a bucket-list activity that I wrote an entire guide to hiking trails in Duluth. The Superior Hiking Trail extends over 300 miles from Minnesota into Canada and Wisconsin. But don’t worry, you don’t have to hike the full length! You can hike just a portion of the trail, which is suitable for all skill levels. My favorite is the 24th street portion, featured in the picture above.
Walk along Park Point’s Beach
The long, sandy beach and sand dunes of Park Point will forever be my happy place. Even though yes, I live in Croatia now with tons of beaches, I often really miss walking for miles along Park Point’s shore. It’s quite popular to visit here in the summer, but even in the fall or a sunny winter day, it’s worth it to bundle up and get some fresh superior air.
Kayak along Lake Superior
Kayaking in Duluth is one of the best ways to experience Lake Superior, even if it is too cold to swim. There are several places that you can rent kayaks around the Duluth area. Also, the Duluth tourist board does offer kayaking tours around Duluth, the Glensheen estate, and even some of the caves further along on the North Shore.
Museums in Duluth
Visit the Gleenshen Mansion Estate
The Glensheen Mansion is one of the most historically significant sites in Duluth. The Congdon family built the estate in the early 1900s, costing an equivalent of $22 million today. With 39 rooms with intricate art nouveau details, the house sit on Lake Superior’s shore.
Taking a tour of the Glensheen Mansion is one of the best ways to learn about the importance of the Congdon family to Duluth’s history, and also how Duluth evolved over the 1900s. However, don’t expect the tour to mention the world-famous murder that occurred here in the 1970s.
The tours have decided not to exploit the death of one of the Congdon family members, but you can find many books and information about the murder online.
Visit the Great Lakes Aquarium
Perhaps Duluth most popular indoor attraction is the Duluth aquarium, which displays a variety of Freshwater fish and species from Lake Superior. The aquarium is one of the best ways to learn about the natural environment of the region, and exactly what is in the vast Lake Superior.
Visit Duluth’s Boat Museum
When driving into Canal Park, you can’t miss the large freight ship, also known as the William A Irvin Museum. Most months during the year, you can take a tour of the massive vessel that carried iron and coal for 40 years in Duluth’s port. However, in the month of October, the William A. Irvin is converted into a seriously terrifying haunted house. Unfortunately, the haunted house is closed for the fall 2018 season.
Day trips to take from Duluth
Gooseberry Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in Minnesota. You can actually swim in some of the areas in the summer, but in the fall and spring it’s still breathtaking. There is also a portion of the Superior Hiking Trail here that leads to the surrounding lakeside region.
The falls are about an hour North of Duluth, so it’s an ideal for a day trip.
Split Rock Lighthouse
Another popular day trip not far from Gooseberry falls is Split Rock, a lighthouse that sits upon the edge of a cliff on the North Shore. It was constructed after a series of ships smashes into the surrounding rocks; now, it serves as the North Star of the North shore. The area is beautiful for walking and hiking around the nearby paths and beaches.
Brews and bites in Duluth
Breweries in Duluth
With a longstanding brewing tradition dating back to the 1850s, Duluth is filled with breweries in just about every neighborhood. Bent Paddle Brewing hails over the Lincoln Park neighborhood, while Canal Park Brewing serves delicious food and brews along Canal Park’s lake front. Duluth also has a couple cideries and distilleries as well. You can check read about them and Duluth breweries here.
Have a drink at the Rathskeller
One of the coolest things to do in Duluth is definitely having a cocktail at the Rathskeller, which is Duluth’s old city hall building. Located in the basement of Tycoons restaurant, the Rathskeller is truly like stepping back into a time machine in the speakeasy era. The bartender can prepare just about any type of cocktail combination to suit your needs, and it’s definitely one of the coolest places to be for a night out on the town.
Have breakfast at the famous Duluth Grill
You seriously can’t take a trip to Duluth without visiting the legendary Duluth Grill. Featured on HGTV’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, The Duluth Grill takes a sustainable approach to typical, American diner food. Most of the produce is locally sourced from their own garden in the parking lot, while the rest is sustainably sourced from within the Duluth area.
Have a sunset dinner atop the rotating restaurant overlooking Duluth
If you’re looking for an epic date-night dinner location, JJ Astor is probably your best bet. The rotating restaurant atop the Radisson provides a 360 degree view overlooking the Duluth. And the food is actually just as good as the backdrop! You can read about my other favorite places to eat in Duluth here.
Things to do in the Winter in Duluth, Minnesota
Walk through the Bentleyville lightshow
To me, the most magical time of the year in Duluth is actually winter, especially around Christmas. Bentleyville is one of the largest light displays in the country, with the entire bayfront area converted into a winter-wonderland walkway. It’s a perfect place to go with the family or on a date for some hot cocoa and marshmellos.
Ski or snowboard on spirit mountain
Spirit Mountain is one of the best places in Minnesota to ski, and perhaps in the Midwest as well. There are a variety of hills suitable for all skill levels. One of my favorite parts about Spirit Mountain is the gorgeous view over the entire Duluth region from atop!
Rock climb, play lazar tag or bumper cars at Adventure Zone
The arcade in Canal Park might look small from the outside, but inside it is almost a mini amusement park. Adventure has lazar tag, mini golf, bumper cars, and a variety of arcade games that are perfect for a cold or rainy day.
See a movie at the boutique “Zinema”
In the winter or even a rainy day in the summer, one of my favorite places to go is Zietgeist and the Zinema. Zietgeist takes a modern take on classic American dishes in a slightly upscale environment. While the Zinema is a boutique theatre playing mostly indie films.
Live Music in Duluth
Visit the Red Herring Lounge
Despite Bob Dylan, Trampled by Turtles, and Cloud Cult all having roots here, Duluth is still underrated as a music destination. There are many music venues throughout the town, but my favorite small venue is the Red Herring. It’s definitely a hipster hangout, but the crowd is always relaxed and friendly. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover the next Bob Dylan here!
Attend a Festival at Bayfront Festival Park
I saw Trampled by Turtles here a few years ago for a day festival, and to this day it was one of my favorite concerts.
Last, but certainly not least is one of my favorite memories in Duluth: concerts in Bayfront Park. The venue is strategically located on a hill overlooking the lift-bridge, harbor, and Lake Superior region. You’ll find lots of festivals here throughout the year, including the Jazz and Reggae festival.