For adventurers looking for outdoor fun, it’s hard to beat the natural beauty and diverse four-season attractions in Duluth, Minnesota. Located on the northern shore of Lake Superior, Duluth is reviving its harborside location and is known as the land where water meets sky.
This seaport city enjoys a long maritime history that visitors love to explore, and freighters still head to sea from here on their way to transatlantic crossings. Sitting at the westernmost point of the Great Lakes, Duluth captivates with panoramic vistas; an extensive park system; fine dining, shopping and museums; and many opportunities to enjoy the water.
1 North Shore Scenic Drive
With dramatic vistas and the breathtaking beauty of Lake Superior at every turn, the 87-mile drive along Highway 61 offers tourists wonderful opportunities to experience lake life. Start from the waterfront of Duluth Canal Park and walk northeast. Roadside views captivate as acres of aspens, the majestic Sawtooth Mountains waterfalls, cliffs and beaches vie for attention.
The real fun comes from stopping along the way in charming little towns on the north coast. Unique shops, restaurants and local flavors make each a special gem. Two Ports is worth exploring, just 30 miles north of Duluth. Lovingly restored to its original 1891 splendor, Two Harbors Lighthouse offers visitors up-close views of the various lanterns, lenses and artifacts from Minnesota’s oldest continuously operated lighthouse. Nearby, Split Rock Lighthouse sits majestically next to Highway 61 and is a must-see.
Gooseberry Falls State Park is a true all-season playground with hiking trails (winter tours), picnic areas, beautiful scenery and a spectacular waterfall.
Further north along the route, Lutsen is home to the Superior Hiking Trail , also known as the “Appalachian Trail of the Midwest.” Skiing and snowboarding are the top things to do in the winter, with chairlift rides and BMX biking in the fall at the largest ski area in the Midwest.
The Artist Colony of Grand Marais is at the northern end of the drive, where funky galleries, inspired dining and boutique shopping await. Here, canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts experience crystal clear glacial lakes right next to the famous Boundary Waters Canoe Area .
Read also: Explore the Historic Rideau Canal
2 Canal Park
Located on the shore of Lake Superior, Canal Park is the epicenter of family fun in downtown Duluth. More than a conventional park, this popular recreation area of Duluth is home to Lake Walk , a boardwalk with walking and biking trails, winding along the waterfront past shops and restaurants. Sit and watch the ships sail the harbor or take a walk along the water for great people watching. Lake Walk’s eastern end connects to Leif Erickson Park and Duluth Rose Garden , a beautiful place to enjoy harbor views and have a picnic. Be sure to see the replica of Erikson’s Viking ship, a wooden sailing ship that made the journey from Norway to Boston and then to Duluth centuries ago. Children of all ages will enjoy Playfront Park , the city’s largest playground, built as a community project in 1989.
Water sports of all kinds are accessible at Canal Park, including rentals of electric boats, Seadoos, paddleboards, canoes and kayaks. Bicycle rental and carriage rides are also easily arranged.
3 Editor’s Pick Aerial Lift Bridge
More than 100 years old, Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge captivates visitors daily as an engineering and architectural marvel. Spanning a narrow opening that connects Park Point to the mainland of Duluth, the most photographed structure in Duluth operates 24/7, rising and lowering to accommodate freighters, freighters, sailboats and tours from the harbor to the lake’s main thoroughfare . Photographers get favorite shots just before sunset. The action doesn’t end when the sun sets, however, as the bridge is particularly beautiful at night, with hundreds of LED lights illuminating the structure. Enjoy the views near Canal Park and along the Lake Walk .
Adres: 601 S. Lake Ave, Duluth, MN
4 Historic Glensheen Congdon Estate
This 39-room mansion, high atop the bluffs overlooking the city and lake, is the most visited historic home in the state of Minnesota. The early twentieth-century manse, with more than 27,000 square feet of living space, was once home to Chester Congdon, a noted Duluth industrialist and philanthropist. Together with his wife Clara, Congdon equipped the house with the ultimate in modern amenities, which were remarkable for the time. Plan extra time to stroll the meticulously landscaped 30-acre estate; the gardens were designed by renowned landscape architect Charles Wellford Leavitt Jr. Guided tours are available showing the Congdons’ current furnishings, clothing, photographs, well-preserved letters and ephemera, which give an impression of life at the turn of the last century.
Adres: 300 London Rd, Duluth, MN
Official site: https://glensheen.org/
5 Great Lakes Aquarium
Next to the Port of Duluth is the spectacular Great Lakes Aquarium, which inspires visitors as a center of discovery with habitats, animals and marine life that characterize the regional Great Lakes Basin and beyond. Guests will learn about the centuries of geological forces that have shaped the mysteries of this area . Amphibians, reptiles, mammals and invertebrates are displayed – some in contact pools allowing the tiny toddler to sense the friendlier species. The special two-story aquarium is particularly active during feeding times, so keep a close eye on the schedule and see fish such as fatheads, black crappies and porcupinefish in habitats similar to what can be found in the wild.
Adres: 353 Harbor Drive, Duluth, MN
Official site: https://glaquarium.org/
6 Lake Superior Maritime Visitors Center
Lake Superior Maritime Visitors Center is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Duluth. This free museum in Canal Park gives the nod to the lake’s storied maritime history and the important role Duluth Harbor played in shaping the early American steel industry; Freight transportation all over the world all over the world; and even the fate of doomed freighter, the Edmund Fitzgerald . Artifacts to discover include the original 1905 Fresnel lens that created the Inner Range Lightabout the south pier of the Duluth Shipping Canal, cabin displays of early transport ships and detailed route charts and maps. The museum’s gift shop features unique Lake Superior-inspired memorabilia and historical books at budget-friendly prices.
Adres: 600 S. Lake Ave, Duluth, MN
Official site: https://www.lsmma.com/
7 One Tower
Built in 1939 of native bluestone as a tribute to Norwegian-American businessman and philanthropist Bert Enger, the 80-foot Enger Tower sits high atop Duluth’s bluffs. Located in Enger Park and adorned with a green beacon, the Enger Tower looms 531 feet above the lake and offers the best views of the city and Duluth Harbor. Visitors can ascend the narrow stairwell to the top, where strong winds blow and spectacular 360-degree vistas provide unparalleled photo opportunities.
Immaculate perennial gardens greet visitors who stroll the grounds. Make sure you have the. Admires and rings Japanese peace bell , which was installed as a gift from Ohara, Japan, Duluth’s sister city. Take time to walk the Superior Walkway section of the walk running along the edge of the gardens. It parallels the ridgeline above Skyline Drive and has plenty of great photo opportunities with views of the lake and city. Rock climbers and bouldering enthusiasts enjoy the steep, short boulders right off the trails adjacent to the park’s Twin Ponds parking lot (Hank Jensen Drive). Climb with the locals to Slab Boulder on the east side of the park and the Upper and Lower Wallson the west side.
Official site: https://www.engertowerduluth.com/
8 Lake Superior Railroad Museum
Near Duluth’s bustling downtown is the Lake Superior Railroad Museum. Housed in the historic 1892 French chateau-style Union Station , the museum offers visitors an up-close view of the rolling stock and trains that helped forge the region’s colorful past. Steam, diesel and electric trains are all on display here, as is a three-quarter scale replica of downtown Duluth in 1910, the heyday of the city’s industrial boom. Particularly notable is a rare example of diesel engines Great North 92 engine , one of only 10 such built between 1946 and 1947.
Adres: Historic Union Depot, 506 W. Michigan Street, Duluth, MN
Official site: https://www.lsrm.org/Home/index.html
9 Spirit Mountain Adventure Park
Spirit Mountain is a true four-season adventure park located just 16 miles north of the city. Winter fun includes skiing, snowboarding, tubing, Nordic trails and snowmobiling. Spring through fall offers adventures in downhill mountain biking, an alpine coaster, zip lines, chairlift rides, disc golf, and a huge “jump pillow” for the kids. Plan a weekday visit to the park for the best access and start early in the day for the shortest driving lines. Also take advantage of the “automatic photos” taken on the Alpine Slide . Riders have the option to purchase individual photos or an entire drive of the family in action to share when you get back home.
Adres: 9500 Spirit Mountain Place, Duluth, MN
Official site: https://spiritmt.com/adventure-park
10 Split Rock Lighthouse
Less than an hour’s drive north of Duluth along the scenic north shore of Lake Superior, the famous Split Rock Lighthouse in Two Harbors is known as one of Minnesota’s most famous landmarks. Visitors learn about the lighthouse’s origins in 1910 and get a glimpse into lighthouse life. Explore four original buildings on the property, including the keeper’s house, oil house, signal building, and lighthouse.
Perched atop the cliffs, Split Rock is the most photographed lighthouse in Minnesota. A unique long-shot perspective can be found from the bus stop on Highway 61, just south of the lighthouse. Photographers looking to shoot from the north will find the best vantage point on the north side of the clifftop walkway just in front of the lighthouse. Excursion boats on Beaver Bay are available for those who want to get out on the water for yet another perspective.
Adres: 3713 Split Rock Lighthouse Rd, Two Harbors, MN
11 Positive energy outdoors
Kayaking, dog sledding, rock climbing, sleigh rides – it’s all here at PEO, a unique non-profit training center that encourages people and animal-powered outdoor exploration. Advance planning is required to take advantage of this small tour operator’s offering, as their day trip excursions can book weeks in advance. Great for families or couples, the small group sizes ensure that everyone receives personalized instruction from PEO’s trained volunteers. Winter dog sledding games are their most popular offering. Prepare for the elements, as the tours are scheduled for two hours but often run longer. Guests learn how to equip the dogs, put them on leashes and even visit them in their kennels.
Address: 4757 Datka Rd, Duluth, MN
Official site: https://www.outdooredventures.org/
12 Vista Fleet Cruises
Cruising around Lake Superior offers a different perspective of the city. A number of cruise options are available, including sightseeing cruises, dinner cruises, and even a pizza cruise. Tours range from 45 minutes to 105 minutes. Vista has two ships that operate year-round – The Vista Star seats 220 passengers, and the Vista Queen sails with up to 50 passengers. Avoid long lines at the dock by booking online or using their mobile app for tickets, which allows guests to board directly without stopping at their dockside ticket booth. The cruises offer indoor and outdoor seating. Make sure you arrive 30 minutes before departure because they run a tight ship, right on schedule.
Adres: 323 Harbor Drive, Duluth, MN
Official site: https://www.vistafleet.com/daily-cruises-tickets/