Duluth – More than We Expected

Duluth – More than We Expected

Spending the summer in a place nowhere near a major city has its pluses and minuses. Our first ten days in Wisconsin’s Northwoods whizzed by. We had no trouble adjusting to small-town living or lake life … well, except for that annoying buzzing sound of Wisconsin’s state bird – the mosquito. 🤣 Although, I think Minnesota shares that honor. Boy, they grow’em big up here, and there’s nothing more annoying than laying in bed at night hearing that buzzing sound around your ear.

But lake living is awesome. Yeah, living on lakefront property is pretty sweet, and we are most definitely enjoying every minute staying with family in this picturesque spot.

And speaking of family, upon our arrival the third week in June, Al’s sister asked for some suggestions in remodeling her kitchen. Well, suggestions turned into action and Al and I dove in with both feet. But finding materials and certain paint products would require a trip(s) to the big city of Duluth, Minnesota, a two-hour drive away from Hayward, Wisconsin.

A two-hour drive to an unfamiliar city is no problem for this traveling duo. Our shopping list was made, Google maps was reviewed, and the GPS was set up as a backup.

However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that this would not be our first time driving through Duluth. It would be our first time stopping. In years past, we drove through this city every summer on our way to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area located north of the little town of Grand Marais.

We’re having a great time this summer traveling down memory lane as we revisit sites from vacations past!

Exploring Duluth, Minnesota

At the westernmost tip of beautiful Lake Superior and along an international harbor sits Duluth, Minnesota. During the past six and a half weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to visit this historic city a few times, and with each visit, I’ve discovered this jewel of Minnesota offers more than we ever expected.

With each sojourn, we do our necessary shopping and then set off exploring. I won’t bore you with the shopping details. Let’s just say Home Depot, Menard’s, Sam’s Club, and Super One Foods usually has everything we’re looking for and then some. If errands take us longer than expected, I’m able to get my Chipotle fix for lunch. Oh, and we even managed to stop in at the Duluth Trading Company just so we can say we stopped and shopped.

The architecture and churches are amazing in Duluth. Parking was a challenge for us until we ventured further away from attractions which introduced us to more interesting sites.

Canal Park

Canal Park is the entertainment hub of Duluth. The old warehouse district has been converted into an attraction offering an array of restaurants, shops, cafes, and hotels. The building conversions began in the 1980s in an attempt to promote tourism. They did a great job and I’d say the project is a huge success if crowds are any indication. This is a must-see part of the city.

Some of Canal Park’s attractions include a 4.2-mile long lake walk, a lighthouse pier, the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, the Great Lakes Aquarium, a floating ship museum, and the famous Aerial Lift Bridge, Duluth’s landmark. Watching vessels from around the world enter/exit Duluth’s port is interesting to watch. You don’t realize how huge these ships/barges are until you stand near one.

I loved watching the Aerial Lift Bridge rise and then a 1,000-foot ship glide through the canal. Be warned … those horns are loud!

Parking near Canal Park can be a challenge for those of us driving big trucks. There are quite a few parking lots available for a modest fee of $3.00, but the lots are designed for regular size vehicles.

Leif Erikson Park

When I heard Duluth had a rose garden, I just had to see it for myself. I adore flowers!

Once again parking was an issue for us and we had to park several blocks away and walk. Ah, we needed the exercise anyway. The metered street parking was a bargain at twenty-five cents for 40 minutes. We loved the old buildings and partially brick-paved streets.

The garden did not disappoint. Unbeknownst to us, the blooms were at their peak according to locals (mid-July).

The Duluth Rose Garden is an extension of the Leif Erikson Park and offers a stunning arrangement of more than 3,000 rose bushes and other flowering plants.

Even my husband enjoyed walking around and reading the names of the various rose bushes. The park sits high above the lakeshore offering a beautiful view of Lake Superior and Canal Park in the distance.

Beyond the rose garden, we were even able to take a paved trail down to the shore of Lake Superior.

Enger Park

This park is a gem even though I had trouble finding it. I pride myself in my navigation skills, but feeling defeated, I resorted to the use of the GPS. In retrospect, I should’ve just followed the signs to the Enger Golf Course.

Ah, but once we arrived, it was all worth the getting turned around. Enger Park Tower and Gardens sits 600 feet above Lake Superior and provides a panoramic view of Duluth and the harbor. This park offers another stunning garden that planted a perpetual smile on my face.

Enger Park

Having spent the last twenty-some years living in either Colorado or Arizona where gardening is quite different than in the Midwest, I haven’t been around the shade-loving hostas in years. There are hundreds of hostas, perennials, and nearly 4,000 daffodils planted in Enger Park, plus a lovely Japanese garden.

The park and adjacent golf course were developed on land purchased with money donated by West End furniture dealer Bert Enger in 1921. His 1931 Will included more money for the park’s development, and in 1939 Enger Tower was built in the park in his honor. Today the park includes the American-Japanese Peace Bell, a gift from Duluth’s sister city of Ohara-Isumi, and serves as a popular location for weddings.

Al and I enjoyed sitting on a bench overlooking Duluth harbor and Canal Park. I wanted to stay for sunset, but alas, we had a two-hour drive to return home. So, home it was.

Next – a vacation from our vacation.

These visits to Duluth were never long enough. Thus, a plan was hatched. I’ll share more Northshore adventures in my next post.

I’ve missed gardens like these!

Trivia: Originally settled by the Sioux and Chippewa, French fur traders and explorers Radisson and Groseilliers were perhaps the first white men to see the present site of Duluth, Minnesota. Following them was Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Luth, the French adventurer for whom the city is named.

In 2014, Outdoor magazine held an online competition for the “best outdoor towns in America” and Duluth was the winner. Duluth topped 64 cities in a competition with six rounds of voting. Trailing second to Duluth was Provo, Utah. The 64 favorite towns ranged from mountain escapes to beachside getaways and powder hot spots with available outdoor recreation being the focus.

In Duluth, the summers are comfortable, and the winters are freezing, snowy, and windy. It’s partly cloudy year-round. Over the course of a year, the temperature varies from 7°F to 78°F and can dip below -15°F or above 88°F. Based on tourists, the best time of year to visit Duluth for warm-weather activities is from early July to late August.

I’m sure driving these hilly streets during the winter can get dicey.

During our short visits, we didn’t have time to explore any of the fabulous hiking/biking trails available, but I have read about them. It’s all about outdoor recreation in Duluth all year long. Although the locals love their winter activities every bit as much as activities the rest of the year, I’ll stick to visiting during the summer months. Considering I’ve become a winter desert dweller with reptile-like blood, I can’t imagine enjoying the harsh winter weather around here let alone driving the ice-covered hilly roads. Yep, Duluth is a great place to visit … in the summer … and maybe even the fall, but I’ll leave the windy, snowy, icy, below zero degrees Fahrenheit temps to the hearty locals!

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