Our Duluth family vacation itinerary is one that we do year-after-year with our kids!
This article will highlight all of the best things to do in Duluth, Minnesota, as well as feature an attraction-packed Duluth 2-day itinerary that is perfect for both kids and adults.
Don’t miss out on the absolute best things to do in Duluth MN by discovering what to see, where to stay, and how to get around Duluth!
With this Duluth travel itinerary, you’ll have plenty of time to experience the best that a Duluth family vacation has to offer.
Look no further for the best all-encompassing, family-friendly Duluth itinerary for spending 2 days in this beautiful northern Minnesota port city!
Duluth Family Vacation
Dubbed one of the “Best Outdoor Cities in America,” and “The Craft Beer Capital of Minnesota”, visiting Duluth, MN is one of our family’s absolute favorite weekend getaways.
Situated in Northern Minnesota, Duluth sits on the north shore of Lake Superior, which is the largest of the 4 Great Lakes of North America.
This active port city provides loads of activities for those seeing outdoor lakeside leisure. Therefore, it is best to plan your Duluth family vacation in the spring, summer, or fall when the weather is pleasant.
Not only does it have a nautical and vibrant atmosphere, but there are many amazing free things to do in Duluth, MN as well. For this reason and so many more, Duluth is an ideal destination for families with children of all ages!
If you happen to live within driving distance of the northern reaches of Minnesota, be sure to take advantage of incorporating a Duluth family vacation into your travel plans!
Duluth Family Vacation: Day 1
- Visit Enger Park and Climb Enger Tower
- Tour the Duluth Depot
- Explore Canal Park and watch active cargo ships
- Have lunch at Grandma’s Saloon and Grill
- Continue to explore Canal Park, the Lighthouse Pier, and Maritime Museum
- Take an afternoon Vista Fleet cruise in the harbor
- Walk the Lakefront Trail and have dinner in the Fitger’s Complex
Enger Park and Enger Tower
As one of the best things to do in Duluth, we always start the morning of Day 1 off with a trip to Enger Tower located within Enger Park.
Enger Tower stands at an elevation of 531′ above Lake Superior, providing panoramic views of Lake Superior and Duluth’s west end.
After strolling around the beautifully landscaped gardens of the park, be sure to climb the many staircases of historic Enger Tower itself. Each level provides fantastic photo ops from every vantage point.
Time spent: 30-45 minutes
Afterward, head down the hill to visit the Duluth Depot.
A child’s delight Duluth Depot is a historic train station built in 1892 that served seven different railway lines.
Now on the list of U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the Depot is home to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum and Lake Shore Scenic Railroad.
Lake Shore Scenic Railroad offers narrated train rides along the rugged North Shore of Lake Superior.
Best sure to check out the weekly schedule to see if your trip aligns with the ever-popular Music & Pizza Train ride or Thomas the Train event.
Time spent: 1 hour at the Depot museums; various lengths of train
Canal Park, Duluth
After touring the Duluth Depot, head across the Interstate to spend the rest of the day in Canal Park.
Located in the harbor of Lake Superior, Canal Park is the cornerstone of any Duluth travel itinerary.
Canal Park is the conversion of an old warehouse district into a variety of restaurants, shops, art galleries, indoor and outdoor cafes, and lakeside hotels.
While strolling through Canal Park, the highlight is watching ships from around the world entering the harbor.
Be sure not to miss an incoming or departing ship by reviewing the daily ship schedule!
Kids never get tired of watching the port’s famous Aerial Lift Bridge rise up and down to let passing ships through as its iconic whistle notifies onlookers.
Additional planning tip: Regardless of ‘big ships’ coming through, the Aerial Lift Bridges rises on the hour, and half-hour throughout the entire day to let scheduled resident and tourist boats pass under.
Likewise, some of Canal Park’s must-do attractions include a 4.2-mile long lake walk, a lighthouse pier, the (free) Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, multiple splash fountains, and the William A. Irvin floating ship museum.
Additional planning tip: There are open-air parking lots located directly within Canal Park that require either a pre-paid hourly or daily fee.
Time spent: All afternoon and evening
In order to fully experience Duluth and Lake Superior, I recommend taking a narrated sightseeing tour on the Vista Fleet.
With the dock and ticket center located directly in Canal Park, hopping aboard a Vista Fleet cruise is not only convenient, but it is one of the most memorable things you’ll do in Duluth.
On the 75-minute Duluth Waterfront Tour, for instance, you’ll get to cruise under the Aerial Lift Bridge and sail along Duluth’s shoreline while learning about Lake Superior.
Afterwards, the tour takes you for a behind-the-scenes sail into the shipping harbor as you learn about cargo ships, the Coast Guard, and Duluth’s shipping industry.
With several other cruise options available, the amazing views you’ll see on the open decks of the Vista Fleet are completely unique to this area.
In order to maximize your Duluth 2-day itinerary, I highly recommend that you stay in a hotel that is located within Canal Park.
Although there are other options on where to stay in Duluth with kids, the convenience of staying within Canal Park is off the charts.
Your final selection of Canal Park Duluth hotels will be based on availability, as these popular hotels book up extremely fast during the summer months.
Each of the links below contains valuable images, descriptions, and reviews of my favorite hotels in Canal Park.
We’ve stayed at each one of these locations and recommend them time and time again. You cannot go wrong with any of these choices, as they are all within Canal Park and are just steps from the lakefront.
And our favorite, The Suites Hotel of Waterfront Plaza. The Suites is pet-friendly, as is the rest of Canal Park. It has an amazing pool area that includes a separate kiddie pool, hot tub, and sauna. Wake up to the best free, hot breakfast in Canal Park.
For a complete search of Duluth hotels along with a great rate, use the following search:
Where To Eat and Drink in Duluth, MN: Day 1
Have lunch at the original Grandma’s Saloon and Grill.
Enjoy salads, sandwiches, and entrees on the patio while practically sitting at the foot of the Aerial Lift Bridge.
Treat the family to an afternoon ice cream cone or float at Grandma’s Ice Cream Boxcar. We visit the Boxcar, which is located right next to the Maritime Museum, every time we visit Canal Park.
Later, walk 1 mile down the paved Lakewalk and enjoy dinner at Fitger’s Brewhouse Brewery and Grille. Fitger’s Brewhouse has award-winning lagers and ales handmade from locally harvested ingredients and Lake Superior waters.
The pub food is designed to complement the beer and is made from fresh, local ingredients as well.
My favorites are their wheat ales and the Brewhouse Fish Tacos!
Rain Option: Day 1
If you are seeking shelter or an indoor attraction located directly in Canal Park, check out Adventure Zone.
Choose single play or a daily pass to play laser tag, mini-golf,
Duluth Family Vacation: Day 2
- Take a stroll on the Canal Park Lakewalk and enjoy the shops in Canal Park
- Head over to Park Point or Brighton Beach
- Have lunch and a beer at Canal Park Brewing Company
- Visit the Great Lakes Aquarium
- Visit Lake Superior Zoo
- Stop for dinner at Duluth Grill
Canal Park Lakewalk
Wake up in the morning and have breakfast at your hotel located in Canal Park. Grab a coffee and join the many other people that start off their morning by strolling along the beautiful lakefront.
Spend the entire morning enjoying Canal Park by way of its scenic Lakewalk.
One of the most popular trails in the state, it includes both a paved bike trail and a boarded walking path. The Lakewalk is both stroller and pet-friendly too!
Read its suggested mile-by-mile guide here while being sure to stop for plenty of rock skipping along the way!
Purchase a 1 hour rental from Wheel Fun rentals! Whether its a 3-6 person surrey, deuce coup, quad sport, kids bike, or cruiser, everyone in the family can find the right vehicle. Cruise along and stop at your leisure while experiencing the pier in this fun and unique way!
Swim at Park Point
After lunch, drive across the Aerial Life Bridge and visit Park Point, Duluth’s only sandy beach and world’s longest peninsula.
With an average temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit, Lake Superior is not our favorite swimming hole.
A short trip across the Aerial Life Bridge, however, and you can stop at this iconic beach, places to skip stones, and dip your feet into the chilly Great Lake!
Time spent: 1 hour
Finally, finish off the day by visiting one, or both, of these animal-related experiences.
Great Lakes Aquarium
A popular Duluth attraction, The Great Lakes Aquarium is unique in that it features freshwater animals and habitats.
There are more than 200 different species of amphibians, birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles. Explore the specific living in the Great Lakes through a verity of interactive exhibits.
Lake Superior Zoo
Located 7 miles from Canal Park, Lake Superior Zoo an indoor/outdoor zoo with animal exhibits and feedings, as well as education programs.
The region’s only zoo, this 16-acre attractions houses favorite an African Lion, tigers, kangaroos, deer, and nocturnal animals.
There is a lot of walking required at this zoo, but the wide variety of animals make it well worth your time.
Where to Eat and Drink in Duluth, MN: Day 2
After you’ve strolled the Lakewalk, be sure to stop for lunch and a beverage at Canal Park Brewing Company.
This is another must-do for us and has become something that we look forward to every time we visit Duluth!
With plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, a patio with fire pits and corn hole, its laid back atmosphere could find you here for hours!
Craft beer, cheese curds, and Lake Superior in the background….yes, please!
On your way out of town, stop for dinner at Trip Advisor’s #1 ranked restaurant in Duluth, Duluth Grill.
Known for serving the highest level of comfort food, Duluth Grill has been featured on Food Network’s Diners and Drive-Ins.
It is a favorite for both tourists and locals alike!
Rain Option: Day 2
If you are in need of an indoor activity, venture outside of Canal Park and tour Glensheen Mansion, The Historic Congdon Estate.
This fascinating tour is a favorite of many!
Duluth Family Vacation: If you have more time
Spirit Mountain Adventure Park
Kids will be excited to visit Spirit Mountain Adventure Park that is open seasonally during the warmer months.
With kid-friendly attractions such as an alpine coaster, zipline, mini-golf, disc golf, and scenic chair-lift rides, there is enough adrenaline here for your whole family of thrill-seekers.
When it comes to wintertime, visit Spirit Mountain for winter sports including skiing and snowboarding.
Spirit Mountain also offers camping, hiking, and mountain biking, so be sure to plan ahead if adding this to your list of things to do in Duluth with kids!
*Thank you to Visit Duluth for the hosted experience on the Duluth Waterfront Tour aboard the Vista Star, the tickets to the Lake Superior Zoo, and a fabulous dinner at Grandma’s Saloon! All opinions are my own.
Where is your favorite restaurant or brewery in Duluth? We’d love to see your comments! -Jen
*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*
If you enjoyed reading about the Best Things to do in Duluth, click here to check out our Related Posts:
- 11 Free Things to do in Duluth, MN This Summer
- Minnesota Bucket List: 13 Absolute Best Things to do
- Top 5 Fun Things to Do in Minneapolis With Kids This Winter
- United States Bucket List: Places to See Before the Kids Leave the Nest
- Top 10 Tips for Mastering A Family Road Trip
- A Fun-Filled Day at Nickelodeon Universe (Mall of America)