Perched on the banks of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world, and set against rocky cliffs and pristine forests, the port city of Duluth is one of Minnesota’s most scenic places to visit. There are also endless opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors, both on land and sea, from watersports to walking trails to fishing.
If you’re planning a trip to Duluth and are looking to put together an itinerary of things to do during your stay, then you may well find our list below useful. Our suggestions may not all feature in the tourist guides, but we say that’s all the more reason to follow them. So without further ado, here’s our pick of the 12 most unique things to see and do in Duluth.
1. Uncle Harvey’s Mausoleum
The true story behind this concrete structure close to the Duluth shoreline on Lake Superior is a perpetual source of dispute. Perhaps the most likely is that offered by the local tourism authority which gave rise to the landmark’s nickname. It’s claimed that the structure was the foundation of an unloading dock built by local businessman Harvey Whitney in the early 20th century, but that an abandoned project to build an adjoining harbour rendered it obsolete. Nonetheless, today it remains a striking feature on Duluth’s coastal landscape, and in the summer months attracts visitors who swim out to sunbathe on it or dive from the top.
LOCATION The Lake Walk HOURS Mon-Sun All day
2. On the Rocks Art Studio
Visitors are invited to explore their creativity at this hugely popular arts venue, located in Canal Park in a third-story building overlooking Lake Superior and downtown Duluth. They provide all the supplies needed for an adventurous time creating your very own masterpiece inspired by the Duluth area & North Shore. No experience is necessary, whether you’re an absolute beginner or a budding Monet, and an instructor will guide you through the painting step-by-step. The venue also accommodates parties of all kinds, while public classes are listed on their website.
LOCATION 307 Canal Park Drive HOURS Tues-Fri 12pm-5pm; Sat 10am-5pm; Closed Sun-Mon
3. S.S. William A. Irvin
Another Duluth landmark with a fascinating back-story is this giant vessel that was once the flagship of the U.S. Steel company’s Great Lakes fleet. In addition to its prestige as a workhorse of the seas, the Irvin was also used as an upscale transport ship for company guest who were wined and dined among the oak panes and brass railings of the lavish dining room. The ship was retired in 1978 and today sits in Duluth Bay as a part of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, performing a myriad of roles including museum, haunted attraction and theatre venue.
LOCATION 2600, 350 Harbor Drive
4. Blacklist Artisan Ales
The number of independent breweries in Duluth have sky-rocketed in recent years and at the vanguard of this trend has been Blacklist Artisan Ales. A European-inspired brewery that specialises in unique, artfully-crafted ales, Blacklist is located in the city’s downtown district and attracts visitors from far and wide, all keen to come and sample its distinctive produce. The brewery creates small batch brews, all honouring traditional European techniques, meaning you can be sure you’ll find something truly special.
LOCATION 120 East Superior Street HOURS Mon-Thurs 3pm-12am; Fri 1pm-1am; Sat 11am-1am; Sun 11am-10pm
5. Bayfront Reggae & World Music Festival
International performers will entertain while you enjoy ethnic foods, beverages and artisans displaying their wares. Revellers can enjoy Lake Superior views from this beautiful outdoor venue as they listen to renowned musical arts. So far, confirmed performers for 2018 include Jamaican dancehall artist Konshens and South African roots reggae star NKulee Dube, plus Christopher Martin, NoMaddz, Natty Nation, Salsa del Sol, Urban Empress, Fanaka, and DJ Sound of Fujun. Check out the festival website for more info on tickets, accommodation tips including camping, and directions to the venue.
LOCATION Bayfront Festival Park. 5th Avenue West and Railroad Street DATES 21 July HOURS 11am-11pm
6. Sara’s Table Chester Creek Café
This charming Duluth café has come a long way since its beginning as a converted trailer selling espressos and not much else. Today it is one of the city’s busiest social spots, thanks to its acclaimed farm-to-table menu, craft cocktails and laid-back, earthy vibe. In keeping with the owners’ focus on sustainability and animal welfare, the locally and seasonally produced food includes a variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes. The décor is impressively eco-conscious too, with a tin ceiling in the rear dining room and booths, tables, wait-station and bookshelves all made from salvaged lumber.
LOCATION 1902 East 8th Street HOURS Mon-Sat 7am-9pm; Sun 7.30am-9pm
7. Park Point Art Fair
One of the region’s most cherished cultural events, the outdoor Park Point Art Fair near the shores of Lake Superior dates all the way back to 1970. Each year the event attracts arts lovers from far and wide who come to admire and purchase visual works by 120 juried artists working in clay, photography, painting, printmaking, mixed media, sculpture, fibre, jewellery, wood and glass. Run by volunteers and free to enter, the fair also features arts demonstrations and workshops, live music and entertainment, plus food vendors selling everything from BBQ and gyros to kettle corn and ice cream.
LOCATION Park Point Recreation Area DATES 23-24 June 2018
8. Little Angie’s Cantina
If you’re a fan of interesting food, a vast selection of tequilas, and tasty margaritas, then this is one Duluth attraction you simply have to visit during your stay. Located in the heart of Duluth’s historic Canal Park, Little Angie’s is an energetic cantina-style venue that combines an eclectic atmosphere with exceptional food and drink. Standout dishes include delicious fish tacos, sizzling fajita platters, amazing salads, and char-grilled cowboy burgers. There’s also a seasonal deck overlooking Lake Superior where patrons can relax, socialize, and admire the views, ensuring it’s not only their taste buds enjoying a sensory overload.
LOCATION 11 East Buchanan Street HOURS Mon-Thurs 11.30am-10pm; Fri-Sun 11am-11pm
9. Lake Superior Art Glass
Fans of sculpted glass are in for a treat in Duluth, thanks to this impressive glass studio and gallery. The venue showcases glass artwork of all types made by over 60 artists from the Midwest and beyond, including stained, fused, torch-worked, furnace worked and plenty more. Visitors can come and admire the displays, watch live demonstrations or, if you’ve got the time and inclination, you can even join a class and learn how to sculpt glass into something beautiful yourself.
LOCATION 357 Canal Park Drive HOURS Mon-Wed 10am-6pm; Thurs-Sat 10am-7pm; Closed Sun
10. Grandma’s Marathon
Celebrating its 42nd year, Grandma’s Marathon is the eleventh largest marathon in the United States and the biggest annual event on the calendar in Duluth. Held over a three-day weekend, it draws more than 19,000 participants for its race events each year, with runners from all over the world traveling to take part in the festivities. There is something for everyone during marathon weekend – from the free kids’ races at Bayfront Park to the entertainment tent in Canal Park – the entire community comes together to partake in Grandma’s Marathon weekend.
LOCATION Two Harbors to Duluth DATES June each year
11. Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum
Home to part of the world’s largest private collection of original manuscripts and documents, this magnificent museum is spread across several US locations, each a veritable goldmine of historical treasures. Among the documents to have made their way to the Duluth outpost down the years include Egyptian sandstone carvings and ship models, Bob Dylan’s handwritten lyrics, and the world’s first ever baseball card. The venue’s 50-foot rotunda also plays host to regular concerts and other events.
LOCATION 902 East 1st Street HOURS Tues-Fri 10am-4pm; Sat-Sun 11am-4pm; Closed Mon
12. Spirit Valley Days Festival
Celebrating the neighbourhood of West Duluth, this five-day annual extravaganza is one of the year’s most eagerly events, bringing together thousands of locals who come to mark the summer and further strengthen community bonds. Funded and organised by local businesses and community leaders, there’s food, activities, vendors and entertainment, along with a huge parade, a street dance, and the region’s largest gathering of classic cars.
LOCATION West Duluth DATES 2 August 2019