A Visit to the Big City

I love my time in nature. It’s my happy place, my church, my way to recharge and reflect, but there’s still a city gal lurking in me that requires a little hustle and bustle every now and then. Okay, maybe not too much hustle and bustle, it’s more about the shopping that’s at the real core of my city longings.

I grew up in the Chicago suburbs near one of the largest shopping malls in the United States, and as a newlywed, Al and I lived near the second-largest mall in the state of Illinois. I’m used to having lots of stores at my disposal and that includes grocery stores.

Obviously, with online shopping, the need to have shopping facilities in close proximity isn’t as much of a priority in my life as it once was, but it’s still nice to have choices especially when I’m on the hunt for something specific and can’t or don’t want to wait for delivery. Truth be told, I’m a hands-on kind of shopper.

Visiting Duluth, Minnesota

Wisconsin humor, driving distancesSpending the summer in the Northwoods of Wisconsin with the nearest town being a thirty-minute drive away (not too far), and boasting a population of less than 3,000, does not bode well for a city gal and her shopping desires.

So, two to three times a month, I hop in the truck and head for the nearest city located ‘a little ways’ away, and in less than two hours, I’m crossing a bridge taking me from Wisconsin into Minnesota and the city of Duluth.

With a population of less than 100,000, there was a time when I’d consider Duluth merely a town, but all things are relative, and these days, she’s the closest thing to a big city for my shopping excursions. Duluth does offer all the big box stores which allow me the ability to stock up on supplies and shop for those specialty items that I just can’t find in the small town of Hayward, WI.

Shopping aside, Duluth has some of the prettiest parks offering an abundance of lush vegetation and lots of trails to walk/hike.

Enger Park

One of the parks that I always make the time to visit is Enger Park. This park is a gem and one of my favorites. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and include a small Japanese Garden, a large climbable tower type of structure honoring land donator, Bert Enger, and at the opposite end of the park is an overlook showcasing an amazing bird’s eye view of Canal Park and the historic Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge.

(To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image.)

Enger Park Tower with fall colors, Duluth, Minnesota
Tower at Enger Park

Rose Garden – Leif Erikson Park

Next on my list of must-see parks is the gorgeous Rose Garden. 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. The park sits high above the lakeshore offering a beautiful view of Lake Superior.

Beyond the rose garden are trails/walkways leading further into the park and connecting to the Waterfront Trail near the shores of Lake Superior. According to some locals I spoke with, the best time to visit the Rose Garden is in July when the roses are blooming in abundance.

Leif Erickson Park and the Rose Garden

Canal Park

No visit to Duluth would be complete without a visit to 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. In my opinion, they’ve done a great job, and if crowds are any indication, I’d say the project is a huge success.

Along with the usual tourist type of shops, there’s one store in particular that I like to visit; the Duluth Pack store. A Duluth Pack is a specialized type of backpack made of heavy canvas and leather. The packs are a traditional portage pack which are nearly square in order to fit easily in the bottom of a canoe.

We still have our son’s Duluth Pack safely tucked away in our storage unit. For me, it’s always a nostalgic walk through the store which conjures up fond memories.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Minnesota
Al and our four-year-old son, Logan, head out into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota for an overnight. Logan carried his own Duluth Pack filled with camping essentials – cheerios, marshmallows, and juice boxes. Summer of 1991.

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.

canal park, Duluth, Minnesota, Aerial Lift Bridge
A ship going under the Aerial Lift Bridge. To the left of the bridge is Canal Park. Cross over the bridge to the right and you enter Minnesota Point.

I loved watching the Aerial Lift Bridge rise and then a 750-foot ship glide through the canal. Be warned … those horns are loud!

Minnesota Park Point

Park Point is the largest freshwater sandbar in the USA. The narrow Park Point extends 7 miles out from Canal Park and offers miles of public beach for everyone’s enjoyment.

Minnesota Point, Park Point, Largest freshwater sandbar, Duluth

More parks and waterfalls

I never seem to have enough time when I visit Duluth. I’m usually visiting just for the day and running errands which limits my explorations. When I have overnighted, I was able to explore more, but not enough. I’m still left with a list of parks I’d like to see, especially one’s with waterfalls. And let me tell you, there is no shortage of waterfalls in this neck of the woods.

On my Duluth list yet to visit are Lester Park, Congdon Park, and a tour of the Glensheen Mansion and her beautiful grounds. Did you know, you can even arrange to have lunch delivered to your picnic spot on the grounds of Glensheen? How cool is that! Visit their website for more details.

Hmm, perhaps I can squeeze in one or two more excursions to Duluth before we leave for the season.

Where to stay when visiting Duluth

There’s no shortage of lodging around Duluth. Peak season usually runs from mid-June to mid-August, and thus, prices can vary … a lot.

Last September, my daughter and I enjoyed a last-minute overnight at the Inn on Lake Superior located in the heart of Canal Park. We loved the location. From the hotel, we were able to walk to the Aerial Lift Bridge, stroll the local shops, dine at a couple of different restaurants, photograph the lighthouses, and stroll along the lakeshore.

Providing we choose not to stay in Canal Park, I think next time we would consider a vacation rental on Park Point or maybe stay at the Two Harbors Lighthouse for a unique experience.

The lodging choices are endless, and there really is a little something for everyone.

RV Parks – We’ve enjoyed camping at the Burlington Bay Campground located in the town of Two Harbors. It’s an easy thirty-minute drive east of Duluth, but for those wanting to stay as close as possible to Canal Park, consider staying at the Lakehead Boat Basin. Unfortunately, it’s parking lot style RVing. The sites are close together and depending on where cars are parked, it could be a challenge to maneuver. But it’s all about location at this place.

Lakehead Boat Basin – RV Parking

Another popular Duluth option for RVers is Indian Point Campground. It’s located on the west end of Duluth near the zoo and along the shores of the St. Louis Bay. It’s in a wooded state park kind of setting. Sites are a mix of gravel and grass. Huge bonus; near proximity to great hiking/biking trails.

Duluth DrivingTip

Navigation – Most cities have some form of a congested traffic area with interchanges. In Las Vegas, it’s called the Spaghetti Bowl. In Phoenix, it’s called the Stack and the Mini-Stack, and here in Duluth, it’s called the Can of Worms, and it really is a can of worms.

Can of Worms – Duluth interchange

This Duluth interchange, I-35 and Highway 53, is one of the busiest in the region. It can be congested and confusing to navigate and more so with an RV. This series of bridges and ramps are sometimes single lane with little room to merge or change lanes. I highly recommend using the aid of a GPS during your first time or two driving through this area. Construction to try and fix this mess begins soon making it even more fun for us to navigate with RVs. Yippee! (she says with sarcasm) By the way, I didn’t find the west end of the city (I-35 and Hwy 2) any easier to navigate due to short on-ramps.

Enger Park, Duluth, MN, walking trail through the woods

Final thoughts!

I’ve become quite smitten with this scenic city nestled on the shores of Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake. Pristine forest, rocky cliffs, waterfalls, and nice shopping make Duluth an ideal place for any getaway. This little big city continues to pull me back time and again nudging me to explore more … with camera in hand, of course!


#authenticDuluth #visitDuluth

67 thoughts on “A Visit to the Big City

  1. Lovely photos and descriptions. I swear I could live for a spell in Duluth or Two Harbors if it weren’t for those dang winters… but I suppose everyone says that.

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    1. Duluth is fun for me to visit because it’s not too big or difficult to get around. Plus the parks and trails around here are really nice. These northerners love their outdoor activities. Don’t you just love those photos we took when our kids were little? Where has the time gone?

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  2. What an interesting little city! Looks like just the kind of place we enjoy exploring. Thanks for the great tour guide…on our list for when we make it there. I love the lush, flower-filled parks! And that’s a wonderful photo of Al and your son.

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    1. There’s nothing like the lush vegetation and beautiful gardens found in this neck of the woods that this part-time desert dweller just can’t get enough of. I’m trying to soak it all in before the first snowflake flies and I hightail it back to the southwest. I think you and Eric would not only enjoy visiting the UP and northern Wisconsin but Minnesota’s Northshore as well. I love that photo of Al and Logan and it’s a reminder as to why we enjoy this part of the country so much.😊

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  3. Wow, I know all those places in Mn and WI. I’ve led 65 trips into the BWCA and just moved from Spooner (a few minutes from Hayward). Lots to enjoy. Winter Camping is next? Dog Sledding?
    Winter Pictures of the ice caves near Bayfield?

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    1. I would love to visit Bayfield in the winter, but I don’t want to ‘live’ in a traditional winter anymore 🤣 So I have quite the dilemma. I think I’ll settle for beautiful images of winter in the north land from fellow photo enthusiasts. We’ll be heading back to AZ in mid October after I’ve had my fill of autumn foliage photography. BTW … we always drive through Spooner on our travels between Hayward and Phoenix. Cute town!

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    1. I’m not sure I’ll be able to stop in at Glensheen this year, but next summer for sure. And this gal with reptile thin blood is already having trouble with the current temps. So, I don’t plan on being anywhere near the Northwoods or Northshore around the holidays 🤣 I’ll stick to pics of your beautiful winter wonderland.

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  4. Love the picture of All and your son.

    I had never heard of a lift bridge until we encountered one in Florida while we were sailing. It wasn’t nearly as big as the one in Duluth. We had to tip our boat to get under it.

    I’ve also heard of a messy interchange called spaghetti junction. That may have been in Atlanta, but I’m unsure. When I lived in Atlanta I rarely left the city.

    Duluth looks like a relaxing place despite its Can of Worms.

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    1. The Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth was the first of its kind that I’ve ever seen. Of course, I’ve seen plenty of draw bridges across the U.S., especially in FL. We’ve really enjoyed our time around Duluth and I’ve gotten very comfortable navigating the ‘can of worms’. It’s just a little confusing the first time or two.

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  5. Truth be told, Duluth has always been synonymous with COLD for me. And it is, but what I have come to appreciate is that the more snow a place gets in the winter, the more colorful and green it is during the summer. That certainly seems to be the case with Duluth. Looks like a great spot to spend some time (in the summer). 🙂

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    1. You should see photos of Duluth and the Lake Shore during winter storms 😱 All I can say … folks around here are a hardy bunch and they embrace their outdoor activities. They are also smart by building covered walkways (underground or bridges) between the buildings downtown so even a winter coat isn’t needed. Years ago, we merely drove through Duluth on our way to Grand Marais, MN. I’m so glad we’ve taken the time to explore this little city. We’ve been pleasantly surprised.

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  6. Duluth looks like a lovely spot to explore! I can see why you would want to spend more than just a day there.

    Love the picture of your son & Al all set to head out on an adventure. So sweet.

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    1. I’m so glad I had that photo of Al and Logan on my computer. Such wonderful memories! I’m already thinking about next summer’s visits to Duluth and will hopefully make a few reservations instead of waiting until the last minute only to find no openings.

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  7. Great shot of Al and Logan. Looks like Duluth is a pretty place to visit. 30 minutes to town of 30,000 is our everyday life and I love it. It’s an hour to 185,000 Knoxville area and I avoid it like the plague – not so for my girls who are there today.

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    1. Hey, a gal has to shop, ya know! 😆 And I know, you know. My city longings are few and far between these days. Even when we’re in Phoenix, we stay on the far north end of the valley with a much smaller city feel. So I can understand why you love where you live.

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  8. Okay, now you made me feel bad that we drove through Duluth a few years back and didn’t stop. The parks are lovely, and boats and bridges are always a draw for us. We often travel with a marine radio and follow marinetraffic.com. I had to laugh at the Wisconsin Units of Measurement. Here in our neck of the woods, if we say, “I’m running into town,” that means round trip drive time of an hour. The photo of Al and Logan is PRICELESS!

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    1. Ah, not to feel bad. For many many years, we too merely passed through Duluth on our way to Grand Marais, MN. Sometimes there are just too many places with too little time. I can relate to “running into to town” because that is also a one hour round trip drive for us to get to Hayward and the nearest grocery store. A far cry from our 5-minute endeavors in Phoenix.
      I treasure those photos from years ago and wonder where the time has gone!

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    1. Spot on Rene … Duluth is indeed a hidden gem. I was hoping to spend a week camping in the area again this summer, but alas, I waited too long to make reservations. It has been the busiest camping season ever 😏 We’ll target next summer and I’ll be more vigilant with my planning.

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      1. Up there as soon as you can book a spot you go for it. I remember when we would camp and literally have two laptops as well as two cell phones going to try to reserve those “hot spots”. Growing up sometimes my parents would go back to the same spot year after year and that at times would get them an in for a reservation. I have done this as adult for certain camping spots too. Wishing you the BEST – Good Luck!!! 🙂

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  9. Thanks for your wonderful capture of Duluth, one of my favorite places in the world! Arriving from over Thompson Hill is breathtaking. The whole North Shore has been incredibly crowded during the pandemic but I certainly can understand the need to be there.

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    1. You are welcome, and I agree, the views are breathtaking. I love the North Shore and really hope to spend more time there next summer. It’s one of my faves as well.😊

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  10. Ingrid,
    Our visit to Duluth was all too brief. We strolled through Canal Park to the Airlift Bridge and had a wonderful time browsing the shops and galleries. On our way there, we stopped about forty miles from Duluth to hike along the creek at Gooseberry Falls State Park–a fun time. We’re in Flagstaff where it is a delightful 72 degrees, but we saw where the temps in Phoenix hovered above 100. Linger in Wisconsin for a while, and enjoy. Stay safe up there. Joe

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    1. We intend to stay in WI until the first week in October and then we’ll meander our way back to Phoenix. We do don’t relish dealing with those triple digit temps.
      The waterfalls along the North Shore are beautiful. We never seem to plan enough time in this neck of the woods. Ah, next summer!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately, this has been a summer of unique challenges and a time to think outside of the box. Sometimes a virtual tour is the best way to travel.
      I guess leaving the warmth and comfort of my RV at 5:45 in the morning was worth it to capture that photo. It’s always a little unnerving to be on a remote dirt road by myself that early in the morning. I’ve run into turkey and deer and fortunately no bear 😏

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    1. The years do pass quickly, and the older I get, the faster they seem to go. I think we’ve already decided to return to northern WI next summer and hopefully we’ll be able to spend more time along Lake Superior’s north shore. 🤞 I have not had my fill.

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  11. That photo of Al and Logan is darling!
    Loved the rose garden near the water.
    Our temps have been fabulous out here in the Midwest. Actually we are not in the Midwest, technically we are right over the line in the Mid-Atlantic Region. The Midwest is “just up the road” …35 minutes away in Ohio. Lol!
    Nice post!

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    1. I love that photo of Logan and Al and so glad I had it on my computer. We’re looking at lovely weather this week and I’m hoping it’ll be warm enough and the water calm enough to get out on the kayak. This past week the weather wasn’t so great reminding me that we’ll be heading south before we know it. When do you leave the Midwest … I mean Mid-Atlantic 😁 and head to Phoenix?

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    1. Yes Cindy, we’re in no hurry to return to the valley with those current temps, but we also don’t want to stay here too long. We’ve already seen overnight temps in the 30’s. 🙄
      You would love it around here – northern WI and MN. You have the perfect trailer to visit the state parks and take in the sights.

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  12. When I was doing training seminars I got stuck in Duluth for five days in the middle of the winter due to high winds and ice. The wind was literally blowing the deicing fluid off the wings before it would do any good!
    One thing I discovered is that I discovered is Duluth has indoor connections to many of the buildings in town. I was able to walk to many places and never go outside.
    We stayed at the Lakehead Boar Basin in our RV for a few days. I agree it is not the nicest park, but certainly was a convenient location. We were able to walk or bike almost everywhere in town.
    Great post!

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    1. The weather in Duluth can be brutal. I can’t imagine driving some of the hilly streets during winter snow and ice conditions. The lake can also get brutally violent, and yet, Duluthians love their winter sports almost more so than summer 🥶 I’ll stick to my summer visits. Lakehead Boat Basin does have a fantastic location and we almost stayed there but ended up at Burlington Bay.

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  13. So many wonderful photos and parks, Ingrid! I would love to watch the bridge rise, the ships passing under. I passed through the Spaghetti Bowl a few days ago. Always a challenge when the cars come from Summerlin Parkway onto the 95!

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    1. Thank you John. It really is a pretty little city and the ships and ore docks are fascinating. I know a lot of Vegas has changed since we lived there. Summerlin hadn’t expanded south of Charleston yet, and the Summerlin Pkwy wasn’t all that crowded. I’m sure the Spaghetti Bowl is busier than ever.

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