Minnesota, The Land of 10,000 lakes, is a place of natural beauty that will take your breath away. The lake calls to you in a way that our nation’s nature often can do. It doesn’t matter if you are a camper, a hiker or like us and want to spend more time comfortably in your car and staying in a hotel. We spent some time in Duluth and the surrounding area and have compiled some of our favorite, must-do’s of Northern Minnesota.
Duluth as a city has lots to offer and if you love nature, this is the place for you. A focal point of the city is The Aerial Bridge. This is a movable lift bridge constructed in 1901 and is a rare type of bridge engineering that is a must-see. The loud alarm bell will inform you when the bridge will raise followed by the bottom part rising to let a ship pass through. This bridge is certainly impressive and a symbol of the city. Near the bridge is Park Point. This park is a 22-acre recreational area that has family-friendly sand beaches complete with lifeguards. Another popular spot is The Lakewalk, which boasts scenic views of the town and lake. This is perfect for taking a leisurely stroll or you can rent bikes for a lovely ride.
You can visit the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center and get a touristy picture with the steering wheel of a ship or check out The Duluth Depot Train Museum and Train Rides. Their most popular train rides are a 90-minute scenic ride and a day trip to Two Harbors.
We skipped the train and drove the scenic highway up to Two Harbors. Whatever your activities for the day is filled with, you’ll want to visit Canal Park. This area is filled with local shops, local and chain restaurants, and a local distillery. It’s also filled with tourists, so pack your patience.
The drive is beautiful. Lake Superior on one side, woods on the other, dotted with log cabins. There are many memorable spots to stop on your way up the scenic ride from Duluth all the way up to the Canadian border. Some must-see spots include Iona’s Beach Scientific and Natural Area. This hidden gem is a beach full of smooth pink rocks. The pink rocks are formed from fallen pieces of a nearby rhyolite cliff.
Just down the road is the Black Beach that’s part of Black Beach Park. This beach is known for its distinctive charcoal-colored sands that is a result of tacit waste rock dumped into Lake Superior decades ago.
Another must is getting your pie fix at The World Famous Betty’s Pies. That’s right, to add to the beautiful scenery, Minnesota gives us beyond delicious, home-made pie to complete your Lake Superior experience. Of course, you can also take in the sights with boat tours, fishing trips, kayaking and hiking trails. The winter season also gives different reasons to visit including cold and LOTS of snow, over 80 inches annually. Perfect for skiing, snowboarding, sledding, ice fishing and snowmobiles.
Everything has to start somewhere! Did you know this is the area of the top of the Mississippi River? To see it, take a short, dirt road in Itasca State Park. This is a great spot for wading or just enjoying the tranquil surroundings.
If nature is not your thing, there’s still plenty to enjoy. Take a tour of the SS. William A. Irwin ship. This ship museum was once an active lake freighter and is a well-maintained example of Duluth’s maritime history. If you visit during the fall, it becomes a “haunted house” ship, and we understand they go all out to get you in the Halloween mood.
Also, go see the childhood home of Robert Allen Zimmerman better known as Bob Dylan. For those interested in seeing some big spots from his life click here.
You can also follow the yellow brick road, all the way to The Judy Garland Museum. Home of The Wizard of Oz festival, this museum includes the world’s largest collection of Judy Garland and The Wizard of Oz Collectibles. You can also visit the 1892 House where Judy grew up. This museum is a must-see for any Wizard of Oz fan.
Another feast for the eyes is the Glensheen Historic Estate. Take a mansion tour and gaze upon the family home of Chester Adgate Congdon. With 12 acres of waterfront property on Lake Superior, there’s plenty of rich architectural design, craftsmanship, and landscaping to excite your senses.
There is so much to see and do in Northern Minnesota and we’ve still not told you about the lakeside town we loved most Grand Marais or the Native History you will find at Grand Portage National Monument and more. We will have to tell you more about that in a second installment. But for now, get planning a trip to one of our favorite socially distanced trips from 2020.