Hawk’s Ridge circa 2007
Originally inhabited by tribes of the Sioux and Ojibwe, and later occupied by French explorers, the city of Duluth is nestled on the southwest banks of Lake Superior. Originally established as a fur-trading settlement, the Age of Exploration soon advanced into the Age of Industry and Duluth became a boom town. As the only city in the country to offer waterways to both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans Duluth became rich of off its exportation of ore, wheat and timber. By the year 1860, with the arrival of the railroad, Duluth was the fastest growing city in the country and was poised to be the largest city in the Midwest until the Stock Market crash of 1873.
With the future of Duluth unknown, expansion of the city came to a halt. After a few decades of recovery the turn of the 20th century brought forth the Gilded Age. Thought to be home to more millionaires per capita than any city in the world, Duluth was booming once again. An afternoon drive down the mansion lined London Road will extol the riches of robber barons and industry tycoons like Chester Congdon whose Glensheen mansion was built in 1905 and boasts 38 rooms. But as with any boom there comes bust. In the 1950s Duluth saw significant decline in its output of ore. Foreign competition began to gain momentum in the 1970s and led to the eventual closure of US Steel Duluth Works in 1981 and the city took a huge economic hit. With its significant drop in industry jobs Duluth began to focus its efforts on tourism in hopes to bring jobs back to the area. This has clearly paid off because just this past June the city of Duluth was named the best outdoor city in America – once you visit it is not hard to see why.
Duluth holds a special place in my heart. My husband spent 10 years of his life living there and is an alum of UMD; Duluth is also home to some of our dearest friends. There are more things I love about this city than I care to write about in one post, but here are my four must-dos every time we visit!
Sir Benedict’s Tavern
If you are in need of a great sandwich, some hot soup and amazing local brews then Sir Ben’s is the place! An English style pub located on East Superior Street, Sir Ben’s boasts open views of beautiful Lake Superior with an outdoor patio for summertime enjoyment. Affectionately known as the “local hangout” we always seem to run into someone we know. Sir Ben’s offers a cozy, friendly and welcoming atmosphere where you can easily find yourself chatting away with the people sitting next to you. We eat at Sir Ben’s every single time we are in Duluth – we were there twice this past Saturday: once for lunch and once for after-hiking beers!
Duluth is a city built around nature. A quick drive through Seven Bridges Road or Skyline Drive can leave you feeling like you are deep in the woods – which I am sure contributed to its position as best outdoor city in America. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be an “outdoor” person, hiking a trial is a must in Duluth. There are tons of great parks and trails like Chester Creek and Congdon Park that are nestled into the city proper, but if you are looking for an all-day adventure pack your bag and head out to the Superior Hiking Trail or Gooseberry Falls. You will not regret it!
The largest freshwater sandbar in the world, Park Point is a must-visit when you are in Duluth. Reminiscent of white sand beaches you would find on the eastern seaboard, Park Point is the perfect place to take-in the beauty and splendor of Duluth. A hot spot for swimming and sunbathing in the summer, Park Point offers recreational activities like volleyball courts, a softball field, a boat launch and picnic areas to keep you busy all weekend long! Visit at night to see the lift bridge, Canal Park and the hillside of Duluth twinkle under brilliant starry skies as you listen to the peacefully rolling waters of the lake. Park Point is truly a splendid place to visit anytime of the year!
Maybe the most well-known attraction in Duluth, Canal Park is home to shops, restaurants, the Aerial Lift Bridge, the Lighthouse Pier, Maritime Museum and Lakewalk. In the summer you can take a carriage ride around the park, walk down the pier and watch the freight ships come in, grab some ice cream from the Box Car, jump around on the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior or just sit in the grass taking in the surroundings. Canal Park is the epicenter of Duluth events: Grandma’s Marathon, film, art and music festivals, the Tall Ship festival, Bentleyville Holiday Light display and a myriad of other year-round activities take place here. We love going down to Canal Park in the winter to stand under the lift bridge and listen to the giant ice chunks creek and crack as they run into one another.
As my home-away-from-home Duluth offers much needed reprieve every time we visit. We have the luxury of staying with friends when we venture up to the north shore but as far as accommodations go I would highly recommend the Hawthorn Suites, Fitger’s Hotel or drive up the shore and stay at the Larsmont Cottages. As you can see, there is so much the city of Duluth has to offer. If you are a local Minnesotan or find yourself traveling here from out of state, please make your way up to Duluth. Just a few hours’ drive from the Twin Cities it is the perfect place to spend a day or a weekend away!
Other Duluth Attractions:
- Enger Tower
- Hawks Ridge
- Seven Bridges Road
- Skyline Drive
- Fitgers Brewhouse
- Grandma’s Saloon & the Ice Cream Box Car
- Pizza Luce
- The Electric Fetus
- The Anchor Bar (Superior, WI)
- Glensheen mansion
- Great Lakes Aquarium
- Spirit Mountain
- Scenic Highway
- Jay Cooke State Park
- The Depot
- Duluth Rose Garden
- SS William A. Irvine
- Lake Superior Maritime Museum
- Bentleyville Holiday Light Display