Duluth – More than We Expected

Duluth Minnesota Canal Park

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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49 thoughts on “Duluth – More than We Expected

  1. We have Hostas all around our house, they spread quickly, split easily to other beds and are nearly impossible to kill. 😉

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    1. I used to have Hostas in my yard in northern IL, but once we moved to Colorado, the rules and plants of gardening changed drastically. I’ve enjoyed immersing myself in the familiar Midwestern landscape this summer.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Ingrid,
    High on our list when we are on our cross-country rv trip is exploring the Great Lakes…Duluth wasn’t on our radar, per se, but you make it look very interesting!

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    1. I was hoping to do a Lake Superior loop trip this summer, but time got away from us. Tomorrow we head off exploring the UP for the week (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Too bad we skipped that city while we were in the neighborhood. It looks like a beautiful town with lots to offer especially architectural aesthetics. Thanks for taking me there for I know we won’t be heading in that direction 🙂

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    1. Everytime I drive by the Cub Foods, I think of you 😃 Haven’t stop in there yet but may on my next trip. We’ve been pleasantly surprised with all that Duluth has to offer.

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  4. What a beautiful place Duluth is. The parks are awesome and I especially liked the Enger Park.
    I imagine the landscape and nature is very much different there than in Arizona, both great in there own way.
    Thank you for sharing…

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    1. Arizona to Wisconsin … we couldn’t have gone more extreme 😆 Vastly different landscapes. Ah, that’s the draw of the RV lifestyle. And yes, there is beauty to be found in every state. Loved Enger Park!

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  5. Hi, Ingrid,
    Thanks for sharing this with us. We only spent one day in Duluth and it was a chilly, drizzly, dreary one at that. We did visit Canal Park and watched the bridge go up for a large vessel, but that’s about all I remember. Obviously, there is a lot that we missed. BTW, great picture of you in the garden with your camera. 😀

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    1. Thanks Joe! Yes, the weather around here can be quite unpleasant. I try to time my visits to Duluth based on weather, but I haven’t always succeeded. We’re already talking about returning to WI next summer and spending more time exploring the north shore. Next week we head into the U.P. for a few days.

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  6. We spent several days in Duluth and were pleasantly surprised. We loved riding our bikes along the river. We also too the boat tour which was excellent. Nice places to eat with river view as well. Glad you enjoyed some of its splendor ( in the summer).

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    1. Duluth was definitely a pleasant surprise. Oh, how I wished we had our bikes. The trails along Lake Superior look amazing. We saw the boat for the tours and will consider that next year. Can’t believe how fast our summer is moving along.

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    1. I know, I didn’t either! The Gitchi-Gami trail sounds like a fun trip for cyclists. We’re almost done with the remodel and I’m hoping to share some before and after pics.

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    1. Yep, super fun summer although the kitchen remodel has curtailed some of the travel plans I thought we’d do. We don’t mind though and Al has been having fun with the power tools … can you hear the Tim Allen grunting 🤣

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  7. It sure looks and sounds like you’re having a fantastic – and diverse – summer at the lake, Ingrid. Apart from the state bird. 🙂 Enjoy the rest of your family time, remodeling, helping your SIL downsize, and hanging out by the lake. And, taking beautiful photos.

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    1. Thank you Liesbet. The kitchen remodel wasn’t something we planned on doing initially, but we’re enjoying working on the project … almost complete. Lake living is the best!

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    1. We’ve always enjoyed our visits to Minnesota and actually almost moved to the Twin Cities in the early 90s. Ah, life happens and we ended up moving west … no regrets, but it has been fun returning to some familiar territory from our past this summer.😊

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  8. Hi Ingrid, The state bird made me smile. We lived in the Yukon where they were called “mini helicopters.” A challenge when peeing in the woods:) The lakefront property is beautiful! I find myself breathing easier just looking at the photos. Duluth’s history is evident in your photos. And at the same time, the Aerial bridge shows modern technology. I enjoyed the trivia bonus section of your post. Visiting Duluth is now on my list:)

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    1. I’m sure your mosquitos are so big they have numbers on the side (my husband was a pilot and loves saying that). Oh, how I can relate to your peeing in the woods comment. 🤣 I’m sure the Yukon is beautiful, but I can’t image the winters. Chicago winters were bad enough for me!

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  9. It’s so amazing to me to see these places I associate with bitter cold winters so incredibly green during the summer. I guess all that snow provides all the moisture plant life needs to thrive! But I’m with you – I would never ever visit during winter. I am a total cold weather wuss these days!

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    1. Well, ya know I’ve turned into a reptile spending as much time as I do in the desert southwest. So I am definitely a winter weather wuss. However, for a split second, I thought it might be fun to visit areas around Lake Superior during the winter to photograph ice caves but my sanity quickly returned 😁. I am enjoying the lush green landscapes and abundance of lakes this summer and even hoping to go blueberry picking soon! But come September, I’ll be ready to head back to AZ.

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  10. Where did you stay in Duluth? We were there a few years ago and camped at the Marina. A+ location, but a lousy spot to live for a few nights. We are headed there again next month, but haven’t decided where to stay.

    We will have a shortened snowcation in the southwest, but hope to stumble across rye is you and Al somewhere.

    Cheers.

    Judy

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    1. Hi Judy. Most times I’m doing a day trip to Duluth from Hayward, WI (staying at sister-in-laws lake house for the summer). A few weeks ago, we stayed at the Burlington Bay CG in Two Harbors so we could explore the northshore. The sites are a mixed bag but we loved the location. You can catch the Gitchi-Gami Trail or bike to the lighthouse.

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  11. Duluth and MN’s North Shore is God’s country to many of us. You did a wonderful job of capturing what makes Duluth so special. Problem is it Duluth is being discovered and in summer the crowds are incredible. Visit after Labor Day and it gets a bit better crowd wise but is still gorgeous. Hope you have gotten back to do some of the amazing hikes in Duluth.

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    1. I totally agree, the North Shore is stunning. I was in Duluth again yesterday running errands and didn’t even have time to snap one photo. I will definitely have to make a plan to spend more time. We did stay in Two Harbors a few weeks ago, but focused on all the sights along Highway 61 to Grand Marais (Sunday’s post). I know we’ll be back and plan more time. No surprise that Duluth is getting discovered!

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    1. A little shopping, a little exploring, yet our day never seems long enough. I could see Duluth being an actual destination. This weekend they have the “Tall Ships” coming into the harbor. According to the news, they’re coming through the Soo Locks and sailing their way through Lake Superior. I’d love to go up and see those boats but may not have time.

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  12. I grew up spending summers in and around the Duluth area. My spouse attended U of M there. It is a gem of a town with lots to see and do, especially outdoors. Thanks for bringing back the memories! Happy Day – Happy Exploring – Enjoy 🙂

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    1. Your welcome! You never cease to amaze me. I always learn more about you through comments. Yes, Duluth is a gem of a town, much to my surprise, but I don’t think I’d like to stick around for winter. Although, I have seen some stunning winter photos!

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      1. Every one of us has many facets and we learn more about people through their experiences. I love traveling along with you and sometimes find myself down memory lane – ha! I have moved cross country 4 times in my life and my spouse 3 times. We have experienced the Midwest, Out West and now Down South. Your idea of winter is probably like mine in being indoors by the fireplace with a blanket and a good book in hand or show on TV. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

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  13. When we discovered Duluth on our journey out west we hated leaving the area. So many hidden nuggets of beauty within its borders. Thank you for sharing some of them we did not see on our travel through. Great pics.

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    1. Thank you. I could see Duluth itself being a weekend summer destination. Not only is there plenty of beauty to see, but they have fun lakeshore events. This weekend they have a music festival and the Tall Ships event. Fun!

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  14. I’m from Illinois, and we enjoyed traveling up to northern Wisconsin in the summer. We stayed our Aunt’s resort in Hayward. I’ve never been to Duluth, but your pictures made me want to go. I’d love to spend August way up north. Yes, the pesky mosquitos. I remember as a kid seeing clouds of them. Deet was a constant companion.

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    1. I remember you being from IL, as am I. I think that’s what first attracted me to your blog. August is a great time to visit the Northwoods considering the mosquitos are no longer the big nuisance that they are in June. Now that you have that cute little trailer, there’s no reason not to head this way. So many great places to camp. Oh, and you’d love MN Northshore. I share that in Sunday’s post.

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        1. We’ll be in Wisconsin until mid September and return to Phoenix relatively quickly – by Oct 1. We have some things to tend to which won’t allow us to linger on our return trip. Then we’ll be in Phoenix all winter.

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    1. I do love my adventures. Next week, we leave for the UP. I planned our itinerary to take 4 days for an 8-hour drive 😏. But with no reservations, we’ll see how successful that excursion goes. Hope you get to visit some lakes soon 🤞

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