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11 Awesome Duluth Attractions You Don’t Want to Miss

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August 28, 2021

Are you looking for a list of the Duluth attractions that you absolutely shouldn’t miss?

In this article, we’ll highlight the best things to see in Duluth, Minnesota as well as provide you with helpful tips for visiting there.

Whether you’re looking to experience Lake Superior, learn about Duluth’s shipping industry, or visit an aquarium, zoo, museum, or adventure park, Duluth truly has it all!

Regardless of if you’re dining or sipping brews in Canal Park, or visiting Duluth’s historic mansion, these are the fun things to do in Duluth, MN that you shouldn’t miss.

Start planning your Duluth sightseeing now!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. 

Discover the best Duluth attractions from top U.S. family travel blog, Travel With A Plan:  View of Canal Park
View of Duluth’s harbor and Canal Park

Top-Rated Duluth Attractions

When it comes to Duluth, MN tourist attractions, there are some things you just can’t miss!

In fact, our list of top-rated Duluth attractions has been made after having visited them year after year with our kids.

In other words, these are the places we always come back to, enjoy, and recommend to others.

Be sure to read our 3-Day Duluth family vacation itinerary to find out the best time to visit, and how to order your time there.

Discover the best Duluth attractions from top U.S. family travel blog, Travel With A Plan:  Canal Park in Duluth
Duluth pier and lighthouse in Canal Park

1. Canal Park

The most fun thing to do in Duluth is to spend a day in Canal Park.

Located directly across from Downtown Duluth, Canal Park is a large neighborhood district that sits along Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake.

Not only are there amazing Canal Park restaurants and breweries, but it is the central hub for Duluth sightseeing and home to many of the other top-rated Duluth attractions.

Canal Park is experienced by parking in one central open-air parking lot from which everything is then accessible by foot.

Be sure to leave plenty of time to browse Canal Park’s many gift shops, as well as to spend time on the 7.5 mile Duluth Lakewalk.

The newly resurfaced Duluth Lakewalk follows the shoreline from Canal Park to Brighton Beach providing beautiful views of Lake Superior.

It has both a wooded pedestrian boardwalk, as well as an asphalt pathway perfect for bikes, rollerblades, and skateboards.

Discover the best Duluth attractions from top U.S. family travel blog, Travel With A Plan:  Aerial Lift Bridge
Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge

2. Aerial Lift Bridge

Located in Canal Park, Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge is its most iconic attraction.

The Aerial Lift Bridge goes across the Duluth ship canal and connects Canal Park to an area known as Park Point.

This gigantic steel vertical lift bridge is impossible to miss, along with hearing its blaring horns that sound when a ship or larger vessel passes underneath.

It takes 1 minute for the bridge to rise to its full height of 135 feet and averages 26 lifts per day during the busy spring and summer months.

Though most people walk up to the bridge from below in order to watch ships pass by, you can also walk across the bridge for a unique and more exhilarating experience!

Discover the best Duluth attractions from top U.S. family travel blog, Travel With A Plan:  Duluth Maritime Museum
Maritime Visitor Center

3. Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center

As one of the best free things to do in Duluth, don’t miss visiting the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center.

Also located in Canal Park, the visitor center is located at the foot of Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge and houses the Maritime Museum of Duluth.

The museum depicts the history of Lake Superior and its shipping industry, as well as provides fun facts about the canal.

Kids love seeing the model freighter ships, getting to spin the gigantic wooden ship’s steering wheel, and seeing the replica living quarters used by sailors.

Plan to spend at least 30 minutes here and be sure to stop at the stationary binocular viewing area to get a farther look out onto Lake Superior.

4. Vista Fleet Duluth Cruises

Vista Fleet cruises are an exciting Duluth attraction because they give you the opportunity to get out and actually explore Lake Superior on the water.

They offer exciting narrated sightseeing tours, sunset dinner cruises, relaxing cocktail cruises, and pizza cruises that provide entertainment for the whole family.

The Vista Fleet boats are fully enclosed and climate-controlled allowing sailings to take place rain or shine, and in the spring, summer, and fall.

All cruises depart from the waterfront dock at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (DECC) which is located just outside of Canal Park.

Choose between 45-minute, 75-minute, and 1 hr. 45-minute cruises with tour information and ticket prices found here.

Glensheen Mansion
The backside of Glensheen Mansion

5. Glensheen Mansion

Glensheen Mansion, the Historic Congdon Estate, is a must-see Duluth attraction.

This 39-room (15 bedrooms) mansion is positioned on a magnificent property that occupies 12 acres of waterfront on the shores of Lake Superior.

With several different tour options available, you’ll find that the young and old alike will enjoy touring the beautiful grounds and grand rooms that are still fully furnished.

Be sure to visit our entire article dedicated to Glensheen Mansion Tours, which includes its history, and the top 5 tips you need to know when visiting there.

Greak Lakes Aquarium
Great Lakes Aquarium

6. Great Lakes Aquarium

There are many reasons to visit Duluth’s Great Lakes Aquarium, including that it is both family-friendly, and located within walking distance of Canal Park.

You won’t miss the sight of this 3-story brightly-colored structure and will be pleasantly surprised by the enriched experiences that you’ll have here.

The aquarium is a private nonprofit and features animals and habitats found within the Great Lakes region of the United States.

With its pristine tanks and abundant opportunities to engage with water and wildlife, guests can enjoy touch tanks, re-created habitats, and live animal observations.

This is a great indoor attraction in Duluth that is perfect to do on a cold or rainy day!

7. North Shore Scenic Railroad

The North Shore Scenic Railroad offers fully narrated train rides through downtown Duluth, Canal Park, and along the shore of Lake Superior.

As one of the most unique things to do in Duluth, these tours tell the history of Duluth, the harbor, and the stories of the railroads that built northern Minnesota and Wisconsin all while offering breathtaking views of Lake Superior.

Most visitors bundle their North Shore Scenic Railroad tickets with tickets to the attached Lake Superior Railroad Museum (with a train ticket, museum passes are 50% off).

Both ticket booths and attractions are located in The Duluth Depot.

People of all ages enjoy the rides, museum, and excursions as history comes alive when both viewing and riding real locomotives.

Alpine Coaster
Spirit Mountain alpine coaster

8. Spirit Mountain Adventure Park

One of our favorite things to do in Duluth in summer is to spend an afternoon at Spirit Mountain Adventure Park.

This ski resort-turned adventure park in summer is another must-do Duluth attraction when looking for fun and excitement while visiting Duluth.

In our opinion, the best thing to do at Spirit Mountain Adventure Park is the alpine coaster!

The Timber Twister alpine coaster (for ages 3 & up) is a self-maneuvered coaster car that races along a 3200-foot elevated track.

The coaster twists and turns down the mountain and through the forests while providing glimpses of Lake Superior.

Another attraction here, the Timber Flyer zip ride (also for ages 3 & up), is a bench-style seat secured with safety belts, that operates like a traditional zip line.

In a 90-second ride, the Flyer takes you zipping through the treetops for 700 feet and then pulls you back up.

Spirit Mountain Adventure Park is also home to a small miniature golf area, a giant jumping pillow, a disc golf course, and scenic chairlift rides (tickets can be bought individually or via an all-day wristband).

Additional planning tip: Be sure to check the Adventure Park’s website prior to your arrival if the weather is questionable for these outdoor activities. The daily “Mountain Message” will notify you of closures and/or adjusted hours of operation.

William A. Irvin

9. The SS William A Irvin

Touring the SS William A Irvin is your chance to board a legendary Great Lakes ore boat!

This must-see attraction in Duluth is positioned permanently along an inlet in Canal Park for guests to tour and enjoy year after year.

This now-retired ore boat was the flagship carrier of ore and coal for over 40 years and was once at the top of its game as far as workload and luxury.

The SS William A. Irvin has a 30-45 minute self-guided tour (available for purchase) with knowledgeable staff members stationed throughout the ship to answer questions. Many of the staff here have actually worked on the Great Lake ships.

Tours give visitors a glimpse into what it was like to work on the ship, as well as provide access to places like the Engine Room and Captain’s Quarters.

In October, this Duluth Attraction becomes a Halloween favorite as The Haunted Ship!

Additional planning tip: The Irvin is not ADA accessible and includes multiple staircases to access certain locations.

Enger Tower
Enger Tower

10. Enger Park and Tower

Another one of the most popular things to do in Duluth is to spend time at Enger Park and Enger Tower.

Enger Park rests above Duluth’s West End on a site once called Grand Mountain. The high elevation of this park provides amazing panoramic views of Lake Superior and Duluth’s shipping harbor.

These are views you don’t want to miss!

In addition, the park includes the American-Japanese Peace Bell, beautiful landscaping, park benches, and access via a short path to Enger Tower.

This 80-foot high, five-story stone observation tower has indoor steps (that are safe and secure for little ones) that bring you to the top of the tower for an impressive view of Lake Superior.

Enger Park and Tower are full of fun and photo-ops!

Additional planning tip: There is no fee to tour Enger Park or Enger Tower.

If you have additional time, find additional stellar views by driving Skyline Drive from Enger Park. Skyline Drive winds along a wooded ridge high above the city and overlooks the expanse of Lake Superior.

11. Lake Superior Zoo

Duluth is also home to Lake Superior Zoo.

If you’re looking for additional things to do with kids in Duluth, this is the place!

Duluth Superior Zoo is a beautiful well kept zoo that has animals such as African Lions, tigers, several species of monkeys, brown bears, sloths, kangaroos, reptiles, and exotic birds.

With affordable admission, we love both the indoor and outdoor areas of this zoo, as well as the fact that its size makes it easy to tour in a few short hours.

Things to Do Around Duluth, MN

There are several locations essential to your Minnesota bucket list that are easily accessible from Duluth.

For instance, Duluth is the starting point to the famous North Shore Scenic Drive.

Featuring a plethora of rushing waterfalls, scenic hiking trails, the historic Splitrock Lighthouse, and epic views of Lake Superior, the pristine beauty of the North Shore Scenic Drive cannot be missed.

Be sure to follow the scenic highway all the way to Grand Marais, MN, and read about the best things to do in Grand Marais here!

For a big city experience, travel 2 hours south of Duluth to Minneapolis/St. Paul, otherwise known as the Twin Cities.

Here you can tour the Minnesota capitol building, visit the famous Mall of America and indoor theme park Nickelodeon Universe, stay and play at the indoor waterpark at Great Wolf Lodge, or cheer on one of Minnesota’s professional sports teams.

Finally, consider heading 3 hours north to experience Voyageur’s National Park.

Voyageurs National Park consists of 500 islands, 655 miles of shoreline, and more than 200,000 acres of land and water, most of which are only accessible by boat. 

Discover the Voyageur’s National Park lodging options here, and find tips for visiting there.

If you enjoyed reading about our these popular Duluth attractions, click here to check out our Related Posts:

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*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*

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Welcome Friends!

We are the Brommer family from Minnesota, and I'm Jen - the travel planner for our family of 5! We are passionate about traveling together for it's what keeps us happy and healthy at home. The free family vacation itineraries and tips you'll find here are crafted with love to be shared with you. We hope our experiences inspire you to start planning your next family adventure!

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