15 Best Things to Do in Duluth, MN

Duluth, MN
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The port city of Duluth is known for many things.

Music lovers would recognize this Minnesotan city as the birthplace of legendary musician Bob Dylan.

However, travelers across the nation would surely know that this city possesses Minnesota's genuine beauty.

Duluth is considered a principal city in St. Louis County.

It mainly offers travelers like you plenty of activities and places to visit.

After being incorporated into a city in 1857, Duluth continued to prosper over the next century.

This city, perched along the scenic northern shores of Lake Superior, is also a premier skiing destination.

Moreover, it's best known throughout Minnesota for its famous steel lift bridge, massive aquariums, railroad museums, and well-preserved century-old mansions.

Duluth is also a haven for those who seek outdoor adventure.

You'll be mesmerized by its lakeside natural trails, state parks, and nature preserves.

Meanwhile, its downtown offers a bustling but tight-knit scene featuring local shops, restaurants, and galleries worthy of exploring.

But before you pack your stuff, read this list of the best things to do in Duluth, Minnesota, as your travel reference.

Wander the Glensheen Mansion

Exterior view of Glensheen Mansion
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Glensheen Mansion is a turn-of-the-century building known for its rich history and beautiful architecture.

You can find this historical attraction along Duluth's London Road.

This mansion, completed in 1908, features 39 elegant rooms offering a rare glimpse of Duluth's 20th-century life featuring Minnesota's most influential and wealthy families.

Horse stable at Glensheen Mansion
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One of the best sections of this mansion is a 12-acre estate with gardens, walking trails, vegetable gardens, and a boathouse with a pier on Lake Superior.

Besides historical tours, Glensheen Mansion hosts various community events, including the sought-after summer concert series.

So, don't miss checking out this famous mansion when visiting Duluth.

Interior view of Glensheen Mansion
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Shred Some Snow atop the Spirit Mountain Recreation Area

The Spirit Mountain Recreation Area is a premier outdoor destination, especially during winter.

This massive 175-acre area features 22 runs from its three skiable terrains 700 feet above the ground.

If you're an avid skier or snowboarder, don't forget to pack your skiing gear, especially if you're visiting Duluth during winter.

Thousands of visitors flock to this famous recreation area for winter-related outdoor activities and sports.

Meanwhile, during summer, it remains a sought-after destination for outdoor recreation, such as hiking, climbing, mountain biking, and sightseeing.

Ascending the mountain is a fulfilling experience as you'll see a magnificent bird's eye view of Duluth and Lake Superior.

Upon arriving in Duluth, head straight to the Spirit Mountain Recreation Area for some outdoor thrill.

Dive into the Underwater World of the Great Lakes Aquarium

Exterior view of Great Lakes Aquarium
Crown Star Images, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of Duluth's most iconic modern attractions is the Great Lakes Aquarium.

You can find this massive aquarium facility along Harbor Drive, just beside Lake Superior.

Spending an hour or two at this Duluth attraction is a one-of-a-kind experience.

It's a fantastic place to see hundreds of fish, mammals, amphibians, invertebrates, and reptiles up close in huge facilities.

Interior view of Great Lakes Aquarium
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The Great Lakes Basin's habitats make this attraction in Duluth more impressive.

The facility has a two-story aquarium where you can feed fish and enjoy various hands-on activities and exhibits.

Overall, the Great Lakes Aquarium is a magnificent place of natural wonders kept in a single location, perfect for a family outing.

Fishes at Great Lakes Aquarium
Crown Star Images, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Witness the Engineering Marvel of the Aerial Lift Bridge

Night view of Aerial Lift Bridge
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One of the reasons why Duluth became famous throughout the nation is the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge.

You can visit this massive steel and cable structure along S. Lake Avenue.

Also known as the "Aerial Ferry Bridge," this famous landmark opened in 1095 as the nation's first transporter bridge.

A ship passing through the Aerial Lift Bridge
Edgar Lee Espe / Shutterstock.com

It is fascinating to watch this lift bridge rise and lower to let freighters and cargo ships pass underneath it.

While visiting, you can explore the nearby Canal Park from its harbor to the central lake passageway.

An excellent way to enjoy your time at the Aerial Lift Bridge is to take stunning photos of its massive structure.

The best time to see this bridge is at night when the lights illuminate the entire structure.

Closer view of Aerial Lift Bridge
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Ride Vintage Trains at the North Shore Scenic Railroad

A train passing along the North Shore Scenic Railroad
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The North Shore Scenic Railroad is the perfect place to explore the magnificent sceneries of Lake Superior through train excursions.

This attraction lets you hop aboard vintage pull cars, such as the Steam Engine #28, featuring various themes and destinations.

While aboard, enjoy passing by various places, such as Duluth's downtown skyline, Northwoods, Lester River, and other destinations.

Interior view of the train passing along the North Shore Scenic Railroad
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Besides the train excursions, enjoy a historical side trip at the historic Duluth Union Depot, where they stationed the train.

The entire North Shore Scenic Railroad excursion usually lasts an hour or two and ends in the neighboring city of Two Harbors.

Experiencing this spectacular train ride is a must-do activity, especially if you want a quick tour through Duluth's significant attractions.

Get a 360-Degree View of Duluth at Enger Tower

Stone architecture of Enger Tower
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Enger Tower is a historical attraction famous for its 360-degree view of Duluth City.

You can find this tower in Enger Park.

This tower, constructed in 1939, is a testament honoring Norwegian-American philanthropist Bert Enger.

View from Enger Tower
Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock.com

It stands 531 feet above Duluth Bluffs, where visitors can ascend and enjoy some of the best views of Duluth's skyline.

While on top of the Enger Tower, take as many photos as possible for souvenirs.

After climbing this famous tower, you can proceed to Enger Park and see another historical attraction, the Japanese Peace Bell.

Duluth's Japanese sister city, Ohara, gifted this peace bell back in the day.

Enger Tower lit up during night
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Meet Hundreds of Animals at Lake Superior Zoo

Besides the Great Lakes Aquarium, Duluth is also home to an equally-massive attraction, the Lake Superior Zoo.

You can visit this famous zoo along Fremont Street, where you can see up close and personal with over 400 animals.

You'll also enjoy meeting its animal ambassadors, making it an exciting attraction to visit, especially with kids.

Besides the usual zoo animals, Lake Superior Zoo is also home to threatened animals such as the Amur Tiger, snow leopard, swamp monkeys, and others.

These animals are in safe captivity to help their repopulation efforts.

This famous zoo in Duluth is open year-round, giving you enough reason to visit and see hundreds of animals in a single location.

Travel Back in Time to Lake Superior Railroad Museum

Exhibits at Lake Superior Railroad Museum
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Lake Superior Railroad Museum is famous throughout the nation.

The USA Today named it America's "Best Transportation Museum," making it a spectacular historical attraction you must see.

Situated near Duluth's downtown waterfront, this museum houses some of the nation's well-preserved and functional steam, electric, and diesel engine trains which once ruled the railways until the 1940s.

View of Lake Superior Railroad Museum
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Check out these trains and engines up close through fascinating guided and self-guided tours, and learn about the railroad industry's history.

At the same time, don't forget to see the replica of Duluth's 1910 downtown area, giving you a more nostalgic experience.

There are also permanent and interactive exhibits featured at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum that are equally worth seeing.

View of the train engine parts at Lake Superior Railroad Museum
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Have Outdoor Fun at Bayfront Festival Park

Christmas decorations at Bayfront Park
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The Bayfront Festival Park is probably the city's most famous outdoor attraction.

This park facing Lake Superior is famous for its yearly outdoor concerts and events.

Besides the events hosted by this park, it also offers parkgoers a fantastic view of the Aerial Lift Bridge seen from a distance.

If there are no events, you'll undoubtedly appreciate the calm atmosphere of Bayfront Festival Park, making it an ideal place to rest your mind and body.

A playground, picnic areas, and other park amenities are also available, making your visit to this park extra convenient.

During cold months, this park becomes a winter wonderland featuring an ice skating rink and other holiday-related activities.

Browse the Tweed Museum of Art

Entrance to Tweed Museum of Art
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The Tweed Museum of Art is a significant art collecting and teaching institution within the University of Minnesota Duluth.

It houses more than 9,000 European and American artworks of famous art collector Alice Tweed.

After opening in 1958, it has welcomed countless visitors who want to see its massive collection up close.

Visiting Tweed Museum of Art offers a fascinating experience, whether you're an avid art enthusiast or a simple tourist.

Join guided and self-guided tours to browse thousands of fantastic artworks for a worthwhile visit to this art museum.

Spot Birds of Prey at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory

Hawk at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory
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Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory is a haven for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.

You can visit this observatory and nature preserve established in 1951 at the East Skyline Parkway.

This observatory is Duluth's best location to see majestic birds of prey, particularly hawks, during the migration season.

Falconer holding a hawk at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory
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Avid birdwatchers will surely admire the various hawk species stopping by before continuing their migration.

The entire area spans over 365 acres offering a haven for migratory hawks and other migratory bird species.

So, always pack your binoculars and head to the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory to see these majestic birds of prey.

Close up of a hawk at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory
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Traverse the North Shore Scenic Drive

Before returning home, take your loved ones on a memorable road trip through the North Shore Scenic Drive.

Driving through this famous Minnesota thoroughfare offers you some of the most picturesque attractions.

This thoroughfare, also known as Highway 61, usually takes about five hours to complete from Duluth to Grand Portage.

During the trip, you can pull over and see attractions such as the Two Harbors, Gooseberry Falls State Park, Iona's Beach and Split Rock Lighthouse, Beaver Bay, Lutsen, Grand Marais, and Grand Portage State Park.

Driving through the North Shore Scenic Drive is worth all the hours spent on the road, especially when you pull over to see scenic places along the way.

Spend Your Happy Hour at Fitger's Brewhouse Brewery

Exterior view of Fitger's Brewhouse Brewery
Elkman, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Duluth's locals also love to have a good time, and one of their watering holes is the Fitger's Brewhouse Brewery.

You can find this local brewery along E. Superior Street.

Besides being one of the city's most famous watering holes, it also offers you a historical side trip since it's Duluth's oldest brewery.

Once served as a copper retail store back in the day, it reopened in 1995 as a brewery, eventually becoming a local favorite.

If you're a beer connoisseur, you'll surely appreciate its award-winning range of signature craft beers.

So, head to Fitger's Brewhouse Brewery if you're looking for a place to spend your happy hour.

Catch a Foul Ball at Wade Stadium

Baseball Game at Wade Stadium
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Wade Stadium is a historic sports venue where the Duluth Huskies play in the Northwoods League.

Established in 1941, this massive stadium along N. 35th Avenue could fit as many as 4,200 people.

It's usually packed when the Huskies play their home game.

Whether you're a huge baseball fan or a tourist fascinated to see Duluth's sports scene, catching a game at Wade Stadium offers an exciting experience.

Besides the Huskies, college and high school teams play at Wade Stadium, which is equally worth watching.

Take a Bite of the Famous Juicy Lucy at the Breeze Inn

Delicious food served at Juicy Lucy at the Breeze Inn
Ken Lund, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Your Duluth travel adventure won't be complete without tasting the famous "Juicy Lucy" at The Breeze Inn.

You can find this famous local restaurant along Jean Duluth Road.

Drop by this restaurant and taste its iconic hamburger listed in Time Magazine's "17 Most Influential Burgers."

The owners purposely misspelled its iconic burger's name.

However, it became trendier when they invented the cheese-stuffed double beef patty, giving its burger a tasty twist.

Hands down, this famous burger in Duluth is a must-try.

Besides its unique name and patty, "Juicy Lucy" at the Breeze Inn became the talk of the town.

The Juicy Lucy came about after numerous restaurants had a feud claiming to be its origin.

Despite the controversy, this burger remains a famous food you must taste whenever visiting Duluth.

Final Thoughts

Visiting this charming lakeside city is an excellent travel experience.

This city takes you to historic places, stunning sceneries, and other spectacular things you won't find anywhere else.

Whether you're an outdoor adventurer seeker or someone who wants to take a break from your usual routine, Duluth has something exciting waiting for you.

Prepare for a one-of-a-kind adventure and discover the best things to do in Duluth, Minnesota!

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