Raise your hand if you’re more than ready for a road trip this summer! A venture to Duluth 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 –
There’s enough for a family to enjoy in Canal Park to fill an entire summer day if you can set aside the time. Securing a spot at one of the waterfront hotels makes exploring the attractions and dining completely walkable (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:
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.
2) Climb the rocks – While I prefer the sturdy Lakewalk under my feet, my kids would rather take the same route over the boulders. Skip a few rocks while you’re at it.
3) Canal Park sculptures – There are public art and artifacts scattered all around the park; what can you find?
4) Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center – Climb into a replica pilothouse and explore other interactive exhibits. The museum is free of charge.
5) Grandma’s Boxcar – Step up to the bright red boxcar for a scoop of ice cream.
6) Aerial Lift Bridge – It’s always an adventure to walk (or drive) across the bridge.
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 Winds – We are not touting this as a splash pad, but walk across the stones and you might catch some cooling mist.
10) Playfront Park – Fun, creative playground equipment close to the waterfront.
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.
GREAT LAKES AQUARIUM IS OFFERING REDUCED TICKET PRICES FOR THE SUMMER OF 2020 TO REFLECT CHANGES IN THE EXPERIENCE.
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. 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.
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.
4) Enger Park Tower & Peace Garden
There is no view over the city of Duluth to “top” that of the Enger Park Tower. Push yourself to climb the striking 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. 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.
THE EDGEWATER RESORT WATERPARK IS OPEN, BUT OPERATING AT 50% CAPACITY. CURRENTLY YOU MUST BE A RESORT GUEST TO PURCHASE WATERPARK ADMISSION.
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.
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 IS CLOSED FOR THE SUMMER OF 2020. IT PLANS TO REOPEN IN THE FALL.
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.
THE LAKE SUPERIOR ZOO’S INDOOR EXHIBITS ARE CLOSED FOR THE SUMMER OF 2020; THE OUTDOOR EXHIBITS ARE NOW OPEN WITH RESTRICTED CAPACITY.
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 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, a petting barnyard, small playground and picnic space.
Lake Superior Zoo is open Thurs-Sun, 10am-5pm. Admission is $12/adults, $6/ages 3-12.
8) North Shore Scenic Railroad & Duluth Depot Museum
THE 1PM EXCURSIONS HAVE BEEN CANCELLED FOR 2020; ALL OTHER TRAINS ARE DEPARTING DAILY WITH LIMITED CAPACITY.
Now boarding for scenic trips along along the North Shore! Kids love trains. Their adults want to see the sights. 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.
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 is filled with rolling stock that you and the kids can climb aboard and explore. Admission is $15/adults and just $6/kids.
THE WILLIAM A IRVIN IS CURRENTLY CLOSED.
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!
DULUTH FESTIVALS IN JUNE & JULY 2020 HAVE BEEN CANCELLED BUT CONSIDER VISITING IN AUGUST WHEN TALL SHIPS DULUTH SETS SAIL.
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
- August 13, 2020: Tall Ships Duluth
- August 22-23, 2020: Art in Bayfront Park
Thinking about traveling to Duluth 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.
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.