10 Best Things To Do in Duluth with Kids in the Summer

Girl in front of Aerial Bridge in Duluth Minnesota in Summer

Raise your hand if you’re more than ready for a road trip this summer! A venture to Duluth Minnesota often tops our list when we want to escape town for the weekend. While we can’t guarantee you’ll be able to fit this Top 10 list into your own weekend plans, it sure will be fun to try!

– 10 Things To Do in Duluth in the Summer with Kids –

Explore Canal Park

There’s enough for the whole family to enjoy in Duluth’s Canal Park to fill an entire summer day if you can set aside the time. Securing a spot at one of the waterfront hotels allows for completely walkable easy access to explore the attractions and dining (even for those with young children) and is our favorite way to experience the park. Here’s our quick list of the top 10 things to do at Canal Park:

Father and son sitting on the rocks along Lake Superior in Canal Park, Duluth Minnesota
Canal Park Lakefront
1) Duluth Lakewalk

Stroll it, jog it, roll it, bike it. The 7.25-mile trail runs the entire length of Canal Park and beyond. The Duluth branch of Wheel Fun Rentals “peddles” surrey bikes, mountain bikes and bikes for kids if you need some transport along the boardwalk.

2) Climb on the rocks

While I prefer the sturdy Lakewalk under my sandals, the kids would rather take the same route over the boulders. Skip a few rocks while you’re at it. You may want to dress to get wet while you do this.

3) Canal Park sculptures

There are public art and artifacts scattered all around the park. What can you find? Make a scavenger hunt out of it!

4) Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center

Climb into a replica pilothouse and explore other interactive exhibits that are quite kid-friendly. The museum is free of charge.

5) Grandma’s Boxcar

Step up to the bright red boxcar for a scoop of ice cream or a box of popcorn. (Watch out for the gulls!)

6) Aerial Lift Bridge

It’s always an adventure to walk (or drive) across the iconic bridge.

Girl standing, arms spread, in front of Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth Minnesota
During the summer, Duluth’s lift bridge rises on demand for bigger ships and on the half hour for smaller boats.
7) Boat watch

Enormous vessels often sail under the Aerial Lift Bridge into Duluth Harbor. Get a front row seat and listen as the navigation is piped over an outdoor speaker.

8) Pier lighthouses

Both the north and south piers on Canal Park have lighthouses you can walk right out to. You’ll get a great view of the boats entering the harbor.

9) Fountain of the Wind

We are not touting this as a splash pad, but walk across the stones and you might catch some cooling mist.

Three girls crossing stepping stones by the Fountain of the Wind in Canal Park in Duluth, Minnesota.
Fountain of the Wind by artist Douglas Freeman was built to be a “participatory fountain”. Walking the stepping stone bridge is encouraged.
10) Playfront Park

Fun, creative playground equipment close to the waterfront and the Aquarium. Playfront Park is home to Duluth’s largest playground, and the perfect place for a play break and possibly a picnic.

Swim or wade at Park Point Beach

Park Point Recreation Area, 5000 Minnesota Ave, Duluth, MN 55802

The shocking cold of Lake Superior is relentless almost year-round, making a traditional trip to the beach more about wading and splashing than swimming. To get your feet wet take Lake Avenue South over the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge and continue down the skinny spit of land until you reach Park Point Recreation Area. Here you’ll find plenty of pristine beach, a beach house, and a playground. Can you take the chill?

Park Point beach is open and guarded daily during the summer months. There is no admission fee.

Boy digging a hole for water to pool in the sand on the shores of Lake Superior at Park Point Beach in Duluth, Minnesota.
Follow Minnesota Avenue until it ends at Lake Superior to find Park Point Beach

Great Lakes Aquarium

353 Harbor Dr #100, Duluth, MN 55802

Depending on the size of your family, the Great Lakes Aquarium can be a splurge, but it’s a swell way to entertain a wide range of ages – especially if the fickle summer weather in Duluth forces you indoors. Our family enjoys the large, two-story tank of alien Great Lakes fish and getting hands-on with the dive cam. The kids can’t resist the otters splashing around in a beautiful rocky replica of their natural habitat. Featured animals include many different species of amphibians, reptiles, and fish. Our toddler has had a great time exploring nooks and crannies designed just for her: a bear’s den, a forest treehouse, a tank of fish she can touch. There are many interactive exhibits throughout the outdoorsy space, perfect for curious little hands.

Three photos of Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth Minnesota: (1) Giant fish sculpture wearing a Santa hat, (2) rocks within aquarium and (3) girl watching fish in aquarium.
Plan to spend 2 to 3 hours exploring the Great Lakes Aquarium

Don’t miss the Great Lakes Water Table! Kids can navigate their boats from Superior to the Atlantic time and again, working the locks, running the falls, generating electricity, and getting wetter than you might wish.

Great Lakes Aquarium is open daily, $12-$18/pp plus $5 parking.

Enger Park Tower & Peace Garden

Enger Tower Dr, Duluth, MN 55806

There is no view over the city of Duluth to “top” that of the Enger Park Tower. Push yourself to climb the striking stone tower (I didn’t count the steps but there are many) to the observation deck and see for miles over the port of Lake Superior.

Boy looking out over Duluth Minnesota from the top of Enger Park Tower.
GoDuluth.com tells us there are 105 steps to the top of Enger Park Tower.

Far below, the Peace Garden is laid out with shady paths and bright blooms. My kids will tell you not to miss sounding the peace bell in the Japanese Garden.

Enger Park is open seasonally, May 1-October 30. There is no admission fee.

Two girls ringing the Peace Bell in Enger Park Peace Garden, Duluth, Minnesota.
Ringing the Peace Bell is the highlight of this Japanese Peace Garden.

Edgewater Resort & Waterpark

2400 London Rd, Duluth, MN 55812

While The Edge is not my favorite lodging in the city (I prefer something a little closer to waterfront) it is hands-down the kids’ choice and, according to them, the closest to waterfront you can get. The room rate does NOT include waterpark wristbands; those must be purchased separately for $10-$15/pp depending on the reservation date. Or, if you are not an overnight guest, a limited number of day wristbands may be available.

Collage of family fun at Edgewater Resort in Duluth Minnesota: 1) Tiki Thriller & Tiki Tumbler Waterslides, 2) Turtle Crossing. 3) Paradise Playground kid-size slides
Look for seasonal deals in January!

If you’re planning to spend the night at the resort, amenities such as large rooms with bunk beds, an onsite breakfast buffet, and a free local shuttle to Duluth attractions make the Edgewater a great choice for families. Kids will get a kick out of the tiki totems and South Seas motif carried throughout the resort and enjoy the waterpark with its waterslides and lazy river. Special during the summer, the outdoor pool and mini golf course are open for the business of play.

Spirit Mountain’s Adventure Park

9500 Spirit Mountain Pl, Duluth, MN 55810

Spirit Mountain is a summer vacation destination in its own right. Perched high above the city of Duluth, the resort is complete with winter and summer attractions, lodging and multiple dining choices. It can also make a great base camp for exploring the city of Duluth. Good news for those on a schedule: you need not be an overnight guest to pop in and sample the summer activities. Starting Memorial Day weekend, purchase an all-day wristband or a la carte tickets to the Timber Twister alpine coaster (pictured above, making my teen happy, always important), Timber Flyer zipline, chairlift rides, jumping pillow and miniature golf course. Since a full day of fun for a large family can be on the spendy side, we like to choose just one of the attractions, then balance it with free fun in one of Duluth’s beautiful parks.

Kids riding the Spirt Mountain Timber Twister Alpine Roller Coaster in Duluth Minnesota
Spirit Mountain’s Timber Twister Alpine Roller Coaster is the longest in Minnesota

Lake Superior Zoo

7210 Fremont St, Duluth, MN 55807
The Lake Superior Zoo is a nice, medium-sized attraction that you can enjoy with kids without completely wiping them out. After exploring the indoor exhibits and the outdoor zoo animal trail, you’ll likely have energy to spare – meaning you can combine a day at the zoo with another fun outing(s) in Duluth. The zoo features 140+ species of animals including deer, kangaroos, big cats like lions and tigers, and a petting barnyard with goats, sheep and llamas, small playground and picnic space.

Lake Superior Zoo is open Thurs-Sun, 10am-5pm. Admission is $12/adults, $6/ages 3-12.

Girl watching bears at the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth, Minnesota.
Set aside an hour or two to walk through the Lake Superior Zoo.

DISCOUNT IDEA: Take advantage of your membership benefits to get in FREE if you belong to a participating ASTC museum. Check your membership benefits if you belong to any of these Twin Cities Museums: The Bakken Museum; Bell Museum; Science Museum of Minnesota or The Works Museum.

North Shore Scenic Railroad & Duluth Depot Museum

506 W Michigan St, Duluth, MN 55802

Now boarding for scenic trips along along the North Shore! Kids love trains. Their adults want to see the sights. Board at the historic train station and everyone wins with a ride on the Duluth Zephyr, a 75-minute train trip through downtown Duluth and along the shore of Lake Superior. Coach seats are $20/adults & $9/ages 3-13.

Add a meal to your excursion on one of the special Pizza & Music Trains, a 2.5 hour trip that includes a personal pizza & beverage per ticket and live music from local musicians. Tickets are $28/adults & $18/ages 3-13. Ages 2 & under are free, but pizza is not included. Reservations are required.

For families with smaller train-lovers, consider timing your visit for the annual Day Out With Thomas event, which includes train rides and other Thomas the Tank Engine fun.

Great Northern Engine #192 pulling orange and black train across a bridge. Text: "North Shore Scenic Railroad."

Duluth Zephyr runs daily through mid-October, departing at 11am, 1pm & 3pm. Pizza trains run daily through Labor Day (and then weekends only), departing at 6pm.

Can’t get enough trains? The LAKE SUPERIOR RAILROAD MUSEUM in the historic Duluth Depo is filled with rolling stock that you and the kids can climb aboard and explore.

Admission is $12/adults and just $6/kids.

Kids Exploring Duluth Depot, a historic railroad station in Duluth, Minnesota.
Portions of Duluth Depot are FREE to visit, but the Lake Superior Railroad Museum and train rides require tickets.

Explore the William A Irvin

350 Harbor Drive, Duluth, MN 55802

These kids give big cheers to big boats on Lake Superior – and the William A. Irvin is no exception. It’s a hulk that once plied the Great Lakes transporting both iron ore and prestigious guests of the US Steel Company. Now retired, she rests in Canal Park waiting for families to clamber all over her.

William A. Irvin accepts guests May 1-mid September, starting at 9am. Adult admission/$15, students & seniors/$9 and kids 10 & under are FREE!

Small kids standing in front of the USS William A. Irvin in Duluth Harbor, Duluth, Minnesota
The USS Irvin is a steel bulk freighter built in 1938

Visit During Duluth Summer Festivals

There’s loads of fun festivities to be had in the city of Duluth during the summer. Please check the city events calendar for exact dates of these annual events:

  • Late June: Park Point Art Fair
  • July 4: Fourth Fest
  • Mid-July thru August: Movies in the Park
  • Mid-July: Taste of Duluth
  • Late July: Duluth Airshow
  • Early August: Bayfront Blues Festival
  • Mid August: Tall Ships Duluth
  • Late August: Art in Bayfront Park
Children flying kites in Duluth Bayfront Festival Park, Duluth, Minnesota
Bayfront Festival Park

Where to Find Ice Cream for a Hot Day in Duluth:

Fitger’s Brewhouse Brewery & Grille

600 E Superior St, Duluth, MN 55802

If you are both hungry and hot, Fitger’s Brewhouse serves Root Beer Floats along with a full menu of traditional pub foods made with local ingredients – including burgers, beer-batter fish and a kid’s menu.

Grandma’s Boxcar

As we mentioned in our top 10 Canal Park attractions, this cherry colored boxcar is a great stop for a scoop of ice cream or a box of popcorn.

Love Creamery

366 South Lake Avenue, Duluth, MN 55802
1908 West Superior Street, Duluth, MN 55806

With shops in both Canal Park and Lincoln Park, a top for handcrafted artisan ice cream or milkshakes is a treat.

Portland Malt Shoppe

716 E Superior St, Duluth, MN 55802

Watch ships and sailboats on Lake Superior as you try out the malts and ice cream treats at Portland Malt Shoppe.

More Ideas for Family Fun in Duluth:

Adventure Zone in Canal Park

329 S Lake Avenue, Duluth, MN 55802

This indoor amusement park has an arcade, mini golf, laser tag, batting cages, climbing walls, VR games and more in the 50,000+ square foot facility. It also has a pizza café onsite, so it could be a fun family night out. Find current daily deals here.

Duluth Children’s Museum

2125 West Superior Street, Duluth, MN 55806 ​

Yes, we have our own Children’s Museum in Saint Paul, but readers tell us it is an excellent museum for the toddlers and preschool-age kids, in particular. Bonus, it is only $7/pp and children under 2 are FREE. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9am to 4pm​, with a special Early Explorers for littles tots 3 and under time on  Saturdays from 8am – 9am.

Leif Erikson Park

1301 London Rd, Duluth, MN 55805

The stage near the entrance of this park looks like a castle – perfect for some imaginative play if there is no entertainment. Otherwise find a spot on the hillside to watch a concert. Stroll through Duluth’s Rose Garden. Roll up your pants and wade in the cold Lake Superior or just stay on the shore and skip rocks. Visit on a Wednesday evening to watch sailboat races. FREE.

Lester Park

61 Lester River Road, Duluth, MN 55804

A perfect place for a family picnic. Families with bigger kids can hike the 9+ miles of hiking trails or bring your mountain bikes to bike it. Smaller kids can play on the playground, explore the bridges and creek, and view the beautiful waterfall — that is close enough to the parking area for even the smallest kids to “hike”. FREE.

Miller Hill Mall

1600 Miller Trunk Hwy, Duluth, MN 55811

If you need a free, climate-controlled place to pop in if the weather gets uncooperative, the mall has a children’s play area right across from Legacy Toys near the southeast entrance. FREE.

Spirit Mountain Adventure Park

9500 Spirit Mountain Place, Duluth, MN 55810

You may think of skiing in winter when you think of Spirit Mountain, but it has summer attractions, too. Ride the Timber Twister roller coaster, Timber Flyer Zip Ride or the chairlift. Families with smaller kids will like the giant jumping pillow, putt-putt golf or disc golf. This resort is located on the trail heads of Superior Hiking Trail.

Thinking about traveling to Duluth Minnesota for a winter vacation or holiday getaway? You’ll want to get planning with our list of 10 Things to Do in Duluth Over Winter & Holidays.

Duluth Lift Bridge across Lake superior snowy and frozen over. Text: "10 Things to Do in Duluth Over Winter & Holidays"

The journey to your destination is half the fun! Plan some breaks along the way to Duluth with our list of Twin Cities to Duluth – 10 Fun Stops for Families.

Twin Cities to Duluth - 10 Fun Stops for Families.
Learn more about fun family stops on the road to Duluth

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