Like a mini version of San Francisco, but on the coast of Lake Superior, Duluth will surprise and exceed your expectations. This lovely lakefront city has everything weekend getaway fans could need, from fantastic ski slopes to world music festivals.
Don't expect a gray port city when you visit Duluth. All of that's in the past. Modern Duluth is a vibrant tourist destination. For example, Canal Park is Minnesota's finest boutique shopping district. Pick up unique Native American jewelry at Spirit Bay Trading Co. or irresistible caramel apples at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.
Hang out with the folk musicians at cafe venues like Beaner's Coffeehouse or Amazing Grace. Sample Minnesota's craft ale scene at Lake Superior Brewing Co or dine on platefuls of steak at Pickwick Restaurant.
With food, music, museums, ski slopes and lakeshore scenery, Duluth is a city that demands attention, so don't cross it off your list. Instead, make it your next weekend getaway destination.
Duluth grew up as a port on Lake Superior, shipping millions of tonnes of coal and grain as far as Europe and Africa (and it's still a thriving port city). Nowadays, the lake is also a tourist attraction, offering wonderful views, chartered fishing tours, and fascinating marine life.
Not many cities in America have world-class ski resorts within their city limits, but Duluth does. When the snow settles from November, head to the slopes of Spirit Mountain or Mont Du Lac for downhill skiing, cross country hiking and snowboarding - all a few minutes from city-center hotels.
Duluth is one of the musical hubs of the northern states. Not only is it the home of Bob Dylan, one of America's most famous musical sons, it's also a great place to catch live acts at events like the Bayfront Reggae and World Music Festival or evening concerts at intimate venues like Amazing Grace Bakery.
One of Duluth's most attractive aspects is its stunning setting. Situated on an inlet in Lake Superior, the city climbs steeply to areas like Chester Park, which offer beautiful views across the port.
Duluth has done a great job of preserving its industrial heritage, and if you love steam railroads, there's no better city to visit. You can ride the Scenic Railroad to Two Harbors or stay in Duluth to visit the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, which features an exact replica of Abraham Lincoln's funeral train.
Canal Park offers a day's worth of sight-seeing and activities in itself. Head to the Lake Superior Aquarium to meet the lake's marine life, board the William A. Irvin - a restored coal transporting ship or shop in the wide range of boutiques, toy stores and souvenir shops in the area.
During the winter months, Duluth receives a steady diet of snow, and the mountains around the city become an excellent place to ski. The best resort in town is Spirit Mountain which offers 22 runs, snowboarding parks, and cross-country trails.
The shore of Lake Superior is truly beautiful, and there's no better way to see it than by boarding the North Shore Scenic Railroad. Based next to the Convention Center, every morning the scenic railroad covers the 30 miles between Duluth and Two Harbors, where you can grab a bite to eat before heading back to your hotel in the afternoon.
One of the best things about Duluth are the views from its highest terrain, and nowhere commands a more spectacular vista than Enger Tower. Located in Enger Park (which itself has a gorgeous Japanese garden to explore), the tower is the ideal place to take your holiday photos.
Duluth has a famous musical heritage, being the home of folk and rock legend Bob Dylan, and there's no shortage of venues in which to hear the latest local talent. Grab a beer and a steak at Amazing Grace Bakery before the action begins, or sip cocktails at the Red Herring Lounge.
When you visit Duluth depends on what you want to see and do. Summer offers the best sight-seeing conditions, so if you want to shop at Canal Park, ride the steam railroad or see the harbor's historic ships, visit between June and August. However, while winter is very chilly, there's still plenty to do in the city center, as well as the constant attraction of ski slopes a few minutes out of town.
Duluth International Airport is directly accessible from Detroit, Minneapolis and Chicago airports, with plenty of connections from other American locations, and it's the easiest way to get to Duluth. Many of the hotels on Lake Superior offer shuttle buses, but if you don't have access to a transfer service, there are cab firms and limousine operators at the terminal. Expect to pay around $20-25 for a taxi to the city center.
Driving to Duluth is a great option if you are coming from cities in the northern part of the USA. Highway 8 connects the City to Minneapolis-St Paul. Those coming from Chicago need to take I-90, then I-94 before switching to Route 53 at Eau Claire.
Greyhound is the city's major intercity bus operator, and their major stop is at 4426 Grand Ave. They provide daily connections to cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, and St Louis, as well as a wide variety of indirect routes from other cities. Jefferson Lines also serve Duluth, and connect it to a number of Mid-Western destinations.
Most of the best accommodation in the Duluth area is close to the shore of Lake Superior. One of the best hotels is the Solglimt Inn Bed and Breakfast, with a lakefront location and a reputation for serving healthy organic, locally-sourced food. The Sheraton and Pier B Resort are both in Downtown Duluth near the port and offer comfortable city-center accommodation. Cheaper accommodation can also be found at motels like the Super 8 and Comfort Inn on Route 35, just to the southwest of the city.
Downtown Duluth – You'll find Downtown Duluth between Mesaba Avenue and 4th Avenue East, and it's the business and cultural center of the city. As in many northern cities, you can get around the center via a network of skywalks, elevated pathways built to deal with the winter temperatures. Downtown is home to many of the major attractions, from the Lake Superior Aquarium to the Entertainment Convention Center, so many visitors choose to make it their base.
Chester Park – Duluth's most youthful, relaxed and creative district, Chester Park is where tourists go to be entertained and unwind at the city's best bars and music venues. Try the local brews at the Tavern on the Hill, mix with the students of U. Minnesota at Sara's Table cafe and wander through the hilly woods of Chester Park itself when the weather's fine.
Cody – Located on higher ground in south-western Duluth, Cody is the best place to stay if you intend to mix urban sight-seeing with getting back to nature. The area has miles of trails and ski slopes and wonderful views of the harbor, particularly along the Skyline Parkway route.
Local buses are operated by the Duluth Transit Authority and provide a handy way to get around the city center (but aren't so useful if you are staying in the suburbs). Off-peak fares are as low as $0.75 but rise to $1.50 during rush hour. If you plan to use the buses a lot, weekly passes at $17 or $4 day passes are a sensible purchase.
If you don't have your own set of wheels, taxis are a great way to see Duluth and local rates are reasonable. Fares vary between different companies, but typically the meter drop will be around $2.50 with a subsequent charge of $2 per mile. Using Uber can save you money, with a $1 basic fare, then $0.75 per mile (with the company's basic UberX vehicles).
Many people choose to rent a car during their stay in Duluth and with branches of Avis, Thrifty, and Hertz in the city center and at the airport, it's easy to pick up a vehicle if required. Expect to pay around $20 per day. Getting around is fairly easy, with a regular grid pattern next to the lake. The only thing to worry about in central Duluth are the steep gradients on roads leading out of the harbor district - so make sure your car's brakes are in good shape!
Duluth's major shopping area is definitely Canal Park, which is studded with bothindependent and chain stores selling a wide range of items. You can find boutique kitchenware and home furnishings at the Blue Heron Trading Co., check out the toys and puzzles at J Skylark or pick up jewelry and ornaments inspired by Native American art at Spirit Bay Trading Co. Alternatively, you'll find plenty of major brands at Miller Hill Mall, just outside of town, including American Eagle Outfitters, Claire's and J.C. Penney.
Duluth is an affordable city to live in, with reasonable grocery prices. The best places to shop for food and drink are supermarkets like Super One Foods and Cub Foods, and there are up-market options like Whole Foods as well. Expect to pay around $3 for a gallon of milk, $2.35 for a pound of apples and $12 for a bottle of wine.
Gourmet dining is one of Duluth's best kept secrets, and food fans will be in their element when they visit. Check out the Tex Mex burgers and grilled meats at Little Angie's Cantina & Grill, order a mountain of beef and lamb at the Timber Lodge Steakhouse or munch on wild rice burgers and down local beers at the Brewhouse Brewery and Grille. There are also plenty of places that mix great cooking with live music, like the popular Amazing Grace Bakery or the Lake View Coffee House. Expect to pay around $15 for a mid-range meal.