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Things to do in Duluth

Glensheen Estate  Glensheen Estate Duluth, Minnesota
The Glensheen Estate sits beside Lake Superior on 7.6 acres with 38 rooms and constructed in the Jacobean style, inspired by the beaux-arts style of the period for Chester and Clara Congdon. The beautiful mansion was designed by state architect Clarence H. Johnston Sr. with the interiors designed by William French, the formal terraced garden and English landscape by Charles W. Leavitt and the entire project started in 1905 and finished in 1908. By looking at the image to the right you will notice the intricately crafted staircase, the exquisite balustrade and paneling with complementing ceilings that are sure to be the envy of the craftsman of today since these early master cabinet makers and carpenters used only the basic tools. The interior showcases Victorian styling, with decorative arts and crafts, as well as art nouveau style, with French designing the furniture to coordinate with each styled room. They are all trimmed or paneled in Circassian walnut, mahogany, fumed oak, American walnut and cypress with the furniture in each room complementing the woodwork by being created with the same type of wood. The magnificent furniture was brought here in 1908 and 1909 and is still the original long lasting and functional pieces that has graced the mansion for more than a century. The hallways highlight the original stenciling in the arts and crafts style with spectacular wood carvings. The wall and ceiling coverings are made of silk, wool, gold leaf and filled burlap with the doors throughout the beautiful home are made with only two types of wood, oak on the hallway side and the types of wood that are installed in the rooms on the other to complete the luxurious ensemble. The furniture on the third level is decorated with ebony inlaid motifs that copy those in the paneled walls, and Chester's art collection is still resplendent as it is hanging where he place it originally. These gorgeous paintings include works by Childe Hassam, Charles Warren Eaton, Peter Alfred Gross, Henry Farrer, Albert Lorey, David Ericson, Henri Harpignies, Lawrence Mazzonovich, C. F. Daubigny, Hamilton King and Henry Ward Ranger. The beautiful silk embroidery that is housed here was created by Japanese artist/embroiderer Yozo Nagara.  The house is full of more surprises, with a very colorful history that does include murder and mystery, so should be well worth visiting to learn more about this stylish mansion sitting astride the biggest of the Great Lakes in Minnesota.

Leif Erickson Park & Rose Garden
Leif Erickson Park Rose Garden Duluth, MinnesotaThe Leif Erickson Park Rose Garden houses more than 3000 rose bushes that showcase 100 different varieties of roses, amidst the flowering plants that beautify this marvelous garden retreat. It is one of the Midwest's few formal English style rose gardens and has become one of the most architecturally interesting sights that cross over the city's Interstate 35 expressway; with thousands of cars and trucks speeding along just below your feet. The garden is covered until June because of the possible threat of late spring killing frosts, but when the wraps come off, the blossoms spring into life and fill the air with such magnificent aromas that you will want to just sit and smell the roses for the remainder of your day. It is a peaceful, serene retreat, perfect for those hectic times when you need a place to enjoy the warm early summer weather after a long hard cold winter. These is a wild flower area in the gardens that will surprise and delight you, with its own particular smell that also can be overpowering but certainly not unpleasant. When traveling into the Duluth area, it is well worth your time to stop by and certainly smell the beautiful roses.

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S. S. William A. Irvin Ore Boat MuseumSS William A. Irvine Ore Boat Museum Duluth, Minnesota
The SS William A. Irvine was a lake freighter that was used as a bulk freighter on the Great Lakes, and sits in dock in Duluth, Minnesota, a unique museum that showcases what the great flagships of the US Steel company's fleet of ships for the lake hauling looked like. From the worst depression of our nation, in 1938, until 1975 this great old vessel was first used as a flagship and then workhorse to carry cargo around the Lake Superior and Great Lakes region. She was retired in 1978, and proudly lies next to the dock, a former queen of the silver stackers that has been well taken care of and is the best example of a straight decker that didn't include a self unloading system; which meant that it could be somewhat faster than those that did. She was launched in November, 1937 from the American Ship Building company yard in Lorain, Ohio and first voyage was in June, 1938. She was a first in four ship class, that included her, the Ralph A. Watson, Governor Miller and John Hurst, with the cost of each vessel around $1.3 million. Gertrude Irvin, William's wife, christened the Irvin, and after her first sea trials, was able to start carrying bulk cargoes from Lake Superior to the steel mills of US Steel along Lake Michigan and Lake Erie. The Irvin had excellent passenger quarters and would often carry company guests. She worked for the Pittsburgh Steamship Division of US Steel for her entire career and set a record in 1940 that still stands today, unloading 13,856 tons of ore in 2 hours and 55 minutes with Hulett unloaders. After her faithful years of hard work, she would sit in West Duluth, for 8 years before being purchased by a nonprofit for $110,000 to add to their convention center along the city's waterfront. The ship is 610 feet long, 60 feet wide, and 32.6 feet deep with a full load capacity of 13,600 tons, showing that the record she broke was above that capacity and faster than any other vessel of her class at that time. Most of the lake steamers had a deck of two tiers, but the Irvin had three, another feature that raised her status among the lake freighters, and it was used to house a suite of 4 guest rooms and guest lounge, with small space for dining. The guest area was elaborately decorated with oak paneling and walnut veneers along with the usual brass railings. William A. Irvin had been the fourth president of the steel company, whose father had died when he was in the eighth grade, when he was forced to drop out of school to help support his mother. She was powered by geared steam turbine engines, other than the normal two storied reciprocating engines that had been used in the older freighters of that period. She is a marvelous vessel to visit, giving folks a great example of the freighters used in that period, with some passenger amenities.  

 Enger Park & Tower
Enger Park & Tower Duluth, Minnesota
The Enger Tower, located in Enger Park, Duluth, Minnesota, is a five story, eighty foot tower made of blue stone and used as an observation tower on Enger Hill, sitting gallantly 451 feet above Lake Superior with the most expansive and gorgeous views of Twin Ports. Every level of the tower contains a lookout spot that is accessible by stairs and offers a fantastic panoramic view of the region. There is an eerie green beacon atop the tower that can be seen for many miles with the tower begin dedicated by Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Martha of Norway in 1939, and honors Bert Enger, a Norwegian immigrant who gained fame and fortunes as a furniture seller, who had donated the property for the park. The park area is beautiful with its Japanese gardens, perennial and rock gardens are also showcased.

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Local Restaurants in Duluth

Fitger's Brewhouse
Appetizers; brewhouse beer battered onion rings with blue cheese or horseradish sauce; beer battered French fries with ranch dressing; hummus platter is mix of ground chick peas, tahini, fresh garlic, olive oil & lemon juice with warm pita bread & fresh veggies; artichoke dip with parmesan, cream cheese, jalapenos & garlic with fresh veggies & warm pita bread; chicken strips dipped in lite breading, fried crispy with bbq sauce or ranch dressing; chips & salsa is basket of blue corn tortilla chips with housemade salsa of cilantro and roma tomatoes; ultimate nachos is blue corn tortilla chips smothered in housemade veggie chili, topped with Monterey jack and cheddar cheese, sour cream, roma tomatoes & scallions with fresh salsa. Salads; with choice of blue cheese, ranch, smoked, Caesar, French, Thousand Island, chipotle vinaigrette, Maple vinaigrette, balsamic vinaigrette; tossed green salad with romaine, cucumbers, roma tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, sunflower seeds; classic Caesar with hearts of romaine, freshly shredded parmesan cheese & croutons, garnished with roma tomatoes with warm pita bread. Specialties; artichoke chicken sandwich, Philly steak sandwich, bbq chicken patty melt, California chicken sandwich, lakefront chicken, smoke turkey Reuben, authentic hummus platter, grilled portabella mushroom sandwich, black bean burrito platter, harvest moon wild rice platter, garlic herb hummus wrap, black bean veggie chili platter, black bean veggie chili.

Vabene Cafe
Antipasto; polenta balsamic polenta is sautéed with fresh peppers & portabella mushrooms in balsamic reduction; antipasto superiore is selection of imported meats, cheese & olives, roasted peppers; gianfrancesco is Italian sausage & roasted red & yellow peppers sautéed in garlic & olive oil on bed of mixed greens; roasted red pepper spread is warm, cheesy, sweet slather with grilled ciabatta; caprese is fresh basil, mozzarella, sliced tomatoes drizzled with extra virgin olive oil & balsamic vinegar; bruschetta is sliced ciabatta grilled & topped with house tomato, garlic & basil mix; artichoke dip is roasted red peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, leeks & parmesan cheese with warm grilled ciabatta.  house made crostini with honey goat cheese with pear topped with fresh rosemary; or portabella mushroom with fresh mozzarella sautéed in olive oil & balsamic vinegar; or prosciutto & gorgonzola with fig jam; or Sicilian tuna, capers, olives & red onion. Carne e pesce; filetto con pancetta e gorgonzola is beef tenderloin wrapped in pancetta stuffed with gorgonzola, served with green beans & rosemary garlic baby potatoes; salmone alla griglia is salmon steak grilled & finished with apricot citrus glaze, with green beans & rosemary garlic baby potatoes. 




Philly Steak Sandwich Fitger's Brewhouse Duluth, Minnesota


BBQ Chicken Patty Melt Fitger's Brewhouse Duluth, Minnesota






 Sicilian Tuna Vabene Cafe Duluth, Minnesota

Pancetta wrapped Filet Vabene Cafe Duluth, Minnesota

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Lake Superior Railroad Museum Lake Superior Railroad Museum Duluth, Minnesota
The Lake Superior Railroad Museum is found in the old railroad depot in Duluth, Minnesota and houses a number of outstanding engines and other railroad stock, with a great number of memorabilia. There are more than 40 items of rolling stock, eleven diesel locomotives, seven steam engines and two electric locos, that includes the William Crooks, the very first steam engine that was run in the state in 1861; as well as the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway # 227, a 2-8-8-4 Yellowstone engine that was one of the biggest steam engines ever run. It runs a heritage railroad called the North Shore Scenic Railroad that offers an excellent ride along the lake with spectacular views and exciting rides. The museum sits in the former Duluth Union Station, which has been transformed into the St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center's historic Union Depot that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It also houses the St. Louis County Historical Society, the Duluth Playhouse, the Duluth Arts Institute, the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra and the Duluth Children's Museum. With all these venues in one place, you and your family will certainly have a full plate with more opportunities than could be visited in one day. It is a great location as well, the old depot is in great condition after having been refurbished to contain the other venues, and is centrally located in the heart of the city. The railroad scenic ride alone is another exciting time for you and your family to enjoy as you travel around the lower parts of Lake Superior.

Park Point Nature Trail
Park Point Nature Trail Duluth, MinnesotaPark Point Nature Trail includes the longest freshwater sandbar in the world, in Duluth, Minnesota, along Lake Superior, which is also called Minnesota Point and is 7 miles long, so that when added with the adjacent Wisconsin Point's 3 miles length is the longest. There are numerous points of land here, jutting out into the great lake, which held Ojibwa tribes long ago, coming onto the points of land to park their canoes and use the land as stopover points along their journey to the lower lakes. It is believed that Daniel Greysolon Sieur du Lhut was the first European to see the point when he was exploring the region in 1679, landing here to rest the night and begin the journeys of many furtrappers, explorers, settlers and traders that arrived here to head into the interior lands for whatever purposes they had in mind. Some chose not to leave the point area, which was becoming well traversed, and it soon grew into a small village in 1854, and not annexed into Duluth until 1889; although it did play an important part in the city's development. The park was started during the 1930s, by the WPA, that included adding the current beach house, as well as a splendid playground area that is loved by the children that come here to get their daily dose of exercise and fun. There has been some more venues added over the years since then with a boat launch, volleyball courts, picnic grounds and softball fields, and during the mid 1950s, the Oatka Boat Club became one of the social gathering places of the area, with regattas and other events happening, until it burned down, although the Duluth Rowing Club has constructed a new boathouse. There are four miles of trails located here as well, giving walkers and runners quite the challenge since half of it runs through the soft sand along the waters edge. It contains numerous types of trees and plants that are beautiful in the spring and fall periods with an old growth forest and settlers cabin by the Superior entrance. You might spot white tailed deer, nesting birds, migratory song birds and waterfowl anywhere in the park, but you will need to be quiet so you can watch them or see them without scaring them off. There are many beach plants along the shoreline that help keep the dunes from eroding and include; purple sweet pea, grasses, ground covering plants, Starry False Solomon's seal, sand cherry, false heather and blue black berries; with occasional poison ivy.

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Lake Superior Maritime MuseumLake Superior Maritime Museum Duluth, Minnesota
The Lake Superior Maritime Museum is located in the visitor center that is run by the US Army Corps of Engineers by the Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth, Minnesota and looks out over the entry to the Duluth-Superior harbor. The entire area, grounds and museum are the property of the US government, and visitors are free to enter and enjoy the facility's amenities and exhibits. The Lake Superior Marine Museum Association does accept donations to help offset the costs of staffing, new exhibit development, general maintenance, acquisitions and upkeep of the structures. The displays showcase the operations and history of the upper Great Lakes commercial shipping heritage and the Aerial Lift Bridge. There are three copied historical cabins and a pilothouse from the typical types of ships that traveled the lakes carrying cargoes and often passengers from one city to another, as well as a three story steam engine, numerous interactive exhibits and 50 scale models that are exciting and enjoyable for the visitors that come here. Today, there are one thousand foot long freighters that come with 200 feet of the museum, going below the Aerial Lift Bridge that goes up and down to allow the ships and other vessels to pass by underneath. The visitor center and museum welcomes more than 400,000 people each year and continues to grow and expand with memorable objects of interest.

Great Lake Aquarium
Great Lakes Aquarium Duluth, MinnesotaThe Great Lakes Aquarium is the only one of its kind in the United States that concentrates on freshwater displays and aquatic animals. It is located in a three story structure in Duluth, Minnesota, right by Lake Superior with many big and small satellite tanks that make up the 120,000 gallon institution that was constructed over a 3.5 year period and cost $34 million. There is 62,000 square feet of space inside the aquarium that are based on authentic habitats in the Lake's basin region. There are displays that are based on the Otter cove region, St. Louis River, Kakago Slough, Baptism River, Isle Royale, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore area that encourage visitors to get up close and personal. Permanent exhibits include; the Amazing Amazon, the newest that opened in 2008 and showcases freshwater fish from the biggest river in the world that include; a macaw, piranha, pacu, thorny catfish, poison dart frogs and arowana; Isle Royale that is the heart of the aquarium and main display with an 85,000 gallon tank with fish like lake sturgeon and trout. The Baptism River display is a faster moving type with waterfall, sculpin, longnose suckers, brown, brook and rainbow trout; Otter Cove contains two otters with a cove that was designed after the one in Pukaskwa Provincial Park, with a bald eagle living here called, Bogey. The St. Louis River is the slower moving display that has channel catfish, perch, gar, walleye and sturgeon with other species as well. The other areas are just as exciting and enjoyable that will thrill you and your entire family with the finest in freshwater aquatics in the nation.

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Superior National ForestSuperior National Forest Duluth, Minnesota
The Superior National Forest can be found in the Arrowhead region of Minnesota between Canada and the US border on the north shore of Lake Superior. It is located within the greater Boundary Waters that parallels the border between the two great nations, that had become one of the most significant fur trading routes and exploration period of British North America. Under the umbrella of the US Forest Service, the national forest spans 3,900,000 acres of waters, woods and beautiful wild lands, being multi-used, for recreational and logging activities that include; fishing, boating and camping. Just over a quarter of the land space has been preserved as a wilderness reserve area that is called the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, where canoeists can paddle along interconnected lakes, rivers and historical portages that was initially used by the First Nations tribes and then European fur traders and finally explorers and settlers. The forest is headquartered in Duluth, Minnesota, but really starts some 50 miles north of the city, with more than 445,000 acres of waters that include 2000 rivers and lakes, with 1300 miles of cold water steams and 950 miles of warm water streams, with the majority of depressions formed after the glaciers were slowly leaving the region. It is a raw, hard and beautiful region that goes on for miles and miles, offering one of the most natural and humanly sparse areas in the nation that isn't desert or water. Some of the varieties of trees include; spruce, paper birch, pine, mountain ash, fir, maple, oak and aspen, with water plants of wild rice and water lilies. Fish include; brown trout, walleye, rainbow trout, northern pike, lake trout, smallmouth bass and brook trout with grey or timber wolves, black bear, white-tailed deer, moose and Canadian lynx often viewed running wild. On the northern edge of the range you can often see hummingbirds and close to the southern range you will see the Canadian jay. The forest houses 163 varieties of nesting birds, which is the biggest number of any of our national forests and include numerous raptors and bald eagles, northern waterfowl and common loons. In June of 2008, the government sold some 6700 acres to a mining company that was interested in mining palladium, nickel, copper and platinum.

Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad
Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad Duluth, MinnesotaThe Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad (LS&M) was the initial rail connection between the twin cities and Duluth, beginning in 1863, when financier, Jay Cooke, chose Duluth to become the northern stop for a new railroad. Lyman Dayton, who was a local businessman, gave $10,000 to start the original surveys to the region and would be the railroad's president until he passed on in 1865. The railroad was finished in 1870, and paralleled the course of the St. Louis River to Duluth, and eventually passenger trains would follow the route back and forth. The company was one of the many victims of the Panic of 1873, since the company was overextended and had many financial problems in its commitments to the Northern Pacific Railway company. In 1877 it had to reorganize and be renamed the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad and soon folded into the Northern Pacific. The north route would be relocated and stay in service to the 1930s, but again the economic depression only made matters worse. In 1981, the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad would be started when the volunteer Lake Superior Transportation Club incorporated and became a heritage railroad company that would offer passenger excursions along the scenic St. Louis River. Much of the new line follows the right-of-way from the LS&M that was constructed during the 19th century.  Currently, the locomotive that carries the train is a GE Center cab 50T type industrial switcher that was constructed in 1946 and worked hard until 1984 for the Flambeau Paper Mill in Park Falls, Wisconsin as a switch engine, and donated to the present company in 1985. The coaches include the 29 that was constructed in 1912 by the American Car & Foundry for the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway and remodeled in 1939 with numerous original fittings still running perfectly included; the 85 that was also built that year by the same company and converted to a crew bunk car in a wrecking train and now has been refitted with seats from a 1950s coach car. The last car on the train is the safari car that was constructed by the Siems-Staubel company of St. Paul in 1928 for the Northern Pacific and donated by the Hollack Dock company to be transformed into a open air passenger car for the fabulous trips along the river.

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Lake Superior Zoo & Zoological SocietyLake Superior Zoo & Zoological Society Duluth, Minnesota
The Lake Superior Zoo is located in the Fairmont Park area of West Duluth, Minnesota sitting on 16.5 acres near the bottom of Spirit Mountain with rocky hillsides, gorgeous Kingsbury Creek, beautiful pines and scenic areas that run into the heart of the zoo that helps to accentuate the beauty of the entire picture and area. It all began in 1923, when Bert Onsgard opened the zoo with the assistance of the city and community, with a white-tailed deer named Billy starting the whole show that has continued to grow over the decades and now houses 220 animals, reptiles and birds. Home to many native and exotic animals, there are Kodiak bears, polar bears, Siberian tigers, African lions, Alaskan grizzly bears, snow leopards and cougars with numerous hoof stock that can be viewed here in an almost completely natural environment and habitat. The main building, which was built in 1927, showcases the Safari Cafe and Tiger's Paw gift shop, a two story red-ruffed lemur display, Griggs Learning Center and Siberian tiger viewing deck. The learning center contains outreach animals that are taken to schools and other venues to educate the public and community about the wonderful animals that live here and their general habits. There are many barnyard animals that children love to feed and stroke, but especially the pigmy goat, llama and donkey. There is a marvelous primate Conservation Center that houses goeldi's monkeys, cotton-topped tamarins, Angolan colobus monkeys and other endangered species that make their home here and a nocturnal wing in this center that contains South American porcupines, two-toed sloths, bats, kinkajous, pallas cats and more exciting animals that really help these children become aware of the outstanding animals and other creatures that live in their world and are part of the entire structure of the environment. The Polar shores has the polar bear and seal training shows, with the northern territory housing Trouble, the Alaskan grizzly bear and the Kingsbury Creek area containing the almost extinct Pere David deer. In the Australian connection you can view the kookaburras, exotic birds, kangaroos and big salt-water aquarium that is filled with beautiful barrier fish. It is a wonderful way to spend the day and learn more about our endangered species, as well as threatened animals that this great zoo cares for, that houses ring-tailed lemurs, snow leopards, peregrine falcons, bald eagles, white-napped cranes and others. 

Hawk Ridge
Hawk Ridge Duluth, MinnesotaThe Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth, Minnesota is dedicated to preserving predatory birds and other migratory birds that live, thrive and nest in the Western Lake Superior Region by researching, stewardship and education. The reserve offers some of the finest autumn hawk watching in the continent, with a seasonal average of some 94,000 raptors that migrate through the preserve from mid-August until November. Prior to 1950, the only folks that watched the raptor migration were the local hunters that used the birds for target practice until finally the killing was stopped by the Duluth Bird Club, which is now the Duluth Audubon Society; that would publicize the illegal shooting and kept the city's ordinances against shooting the birds enforced. In 1951, the first Hawk watch was held, and as the raptors were watched, their large migration soon became realized, and before long, the few days in September that were their watching period increased to include August to November. The society used a loan obtained through the Minnesota Chapter of the Nature Conservatory to buy the highest part of the ridge in 1972, to better view and watch the magnificent creatures, and the next year purchased another 200 acres that lay adjacent to the ridge. That would become the buffer zone between the hunters and the Nature preserve, and now, with a trust agreement with the city, the observatory manages some 315 acres of land as a nature preserve that is open to the public to study the beautiful birds and enjoy them. In the same year they opened the ridge, 1972, the first count started and the banding research station was constructed and opened with the naturalist program starting in 1974. The Friends of Hawk Ridge were organized in 1979 to support the various programs and to take care of research on the ridge. It has now become one of the main sites for watching the raptor migration with visitors coming here from around the world during the fall to be thrilled by these marvelous birds. People have come here from every state in the union and more than 40 countries.

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