Top Things to Do in Duluth

Happy 4th of July! For the first time in a while Megan and I did not have any concrete plans, so we had to come up with our own last minute celebration! I was still craving to hit the three State Parks on the North Shore that we didn’t reach previously this summer, so we decided to head back up there and explore Duluth while we were at it. Megan has been looking forward to showing me the town where she went to college as I have never spent much time there. Luckily, our friends, Lauryn and Joel, were able to accommodate us in their basement so we had a great launch point. Here are many of the top things to do in Duluth!

Thanks for hosting us Lauryn and Joel!

Gooseberry Falls State Park

We started our extended weekend at the #1 ranked park in Minnesota- Gooseberry Falls State Park. Get here before 10 AM as it gets packed. But only within about half a mile of the main Middle and Lower Falls area does the park seem too congested. As soon as we started branching out into the park further, we barely saw anyone. We did the Gitchi Gummi Trail first- a 2.5-mile loop trail that leads you around a bluff and provides fantastic overlooks of the Lake Superior coastline. Then we did the Fifth Falls Trail and Superior Hiking Trail Loop for a little over three miles to really get away from the crowds. The whole park is beautiful and really offers plenty to do for all age ranges.

Welcome to Gooseberry Falls State Park!

Where you can view multiple falls within a half mile.

The view of the shoreline!

Hiking the Gitchi Gummi Trail!

Look at that water!

We found the Fifth Falls!

Welcome to Gooseberry Falls State Park!

Where you can view multiple falls within a half mile.

The view of the shoreline!

Hiking the Gitchi Gummi Trail!

Look at that water!

We found the Fifth Falls!

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

Another top ranked Minnesota park- Split Rock Lighthouse State Park– was our next stop. The Split Rock Lighthouse might be the most photographed thing in Minnesota. We actually chose to do the ~ 5-mile Split Rock River Loop Trail that leads you more inland. This trailhead is located at the very southern portion of the park at a DOT wayside. After starting out, take your first right to go down some steep steps to a small bridge- this will keep you on the correct path. At the turn around point there is usually another bridge to cross the river, but it was out when we went. Never fear though, Megan and I both nimbly took a river rock path parallel to the bridge in order to cross and reach the second part of the loop trail. Excited about being on this part of the trail where many people probably chose to turn around, we found the best river oasis spot we could come across and took a dip! Relaxation at its finest. Near the end of our time in the park we drove further north toward the lighthouse to snag the iconic pic and experience Pebble Beach and Ellingson Island.

Here’s the first bridge to cross on the Split Rock River Loop Trail!

And the second (not so much) bridge!

We discovered the “Split Rocks”!

Hanging out in our own little oasis!

We finally snagged the lighthouse pic!

And got a great view from Pebble Beach.

Here’s the first bridge to cross on the Split Rock River Loop Trail!

And the second (not so much) bridge!

We discovered the “Split Rocks”!

Hanging out in our own little oasis!

We finally snagged the lighthouse pic!

And got a great view from Pebble Beach.

Castle Danger Brewery

The drive back down to Duluth brought us through the town of Two Harbors, where we briefly visited the Castle Danger Brewery. It’s a fine brewery with a big patio space and many wooden decorations that made Megan fall in love. But really, it’s their Cream Ale that will bring us back. No other Cream Ale beats Castle Danger.

Castle Danger Brewery

Their main bar Megan fell in love with…

Castle Danger Brewery

Their main bar Megan fell in love with…

Fitger’s Brewhouse

For dinner tonight we went to the oldest brewery in Minnesota- Fitger’s Brewhouse! It’s located in an old building that has a plethora of other cool stores inside it as well. And it is quite easy to get lost in there. But once you make it to the restaurant- all the beer is solid, and the food is hearty. Try their Apricot Wheat and wild rice burger!

Fitger’s Brewhouse for dinner!

The wild rice burger is fantastic!

Fitger’s Brewhouse for dinner!

The wild rice burger is fantastic!

Lakewalk

A short walk down to the shore from Fitger’s puts you on an ~8 mile stretch of pavement called the Lakewalk. It starts at the northern stretches of downtown Duluth and concludes in Canal Park. Everyone uses the Lakewalk: walkers, roller bladers, scooters, bikers, runners, you name it. It provides great views of the lake and downtown. Megan took me north up the path for a while to show off some other highlights and to walk off our monstrous dinner.

The Lakewalk

Leif Erikson Park and Rose Garden

Eventually we cut up some stairs off the Lakewalk and immediately were greeted by Leif Erikson Park. Megan told me in normal (non-COVID) times this is where the city plays outdoor movies with epic Lake Superior backdrops. When the movies are playing you will find food trucks lining the edge of the park to feed the crowd. A short walk just a bit further north will bring you to the Rose Garden, a neat little area purely focused on the photogenic flower.

Leif Erikson Park

The Rose Garden

Leif Erikson Park

The Rose Garden

PortLand Malt Shoppe

As we strolled back down the Lakewalk, dessert was on our minds. Fortunately, one of the top Minnesota ice cream places- the PortLand Malt Shoppe– was just up the street from Fitger’s! Unfortunately, they always have a line! Here they do liquid ice cream right by allowing you to pick any base flavor and mixing it with one of their many other dangerous selections. Mmmm.

Go here!

Enger Park

The next morning Megan brought me along Skyline Parkway to Enger Park! This is an awesome little park with a Japanese garden and the Enger Tower. You can climb the nearly 100 steps up this tower to get a full 360-degree view of the surrounding area! This venture is definitely worth it for anyone visiting Duluth for the first time.

The Enger Tower!

Ringing the gong in the Japanese Garden!

A view from the top of the tower!

The Enger Tower!

Ringing the gong in the Japanese Garden!

A view from the top of the tower!

Duluth Grill

Following the short morning walk we drove down to Duluth Grill, a classic breakfast staple in Duluth. With locally grown ingredients their food is a notch above the rest. We split our breakfasts, sweet and savory, and were very satisfied. We did not have their banana cream pie, as seen on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives!, but we did enjoy the caramel roll.

Our split breakfast at Duluth Grill

The College of St. Scholastica

Megan then took me to her old stomping grounds at The College of St. Scholastica! The main Tower Hall building is by far one of the most beautiful in Duluth. None of the buildings were open, but she led me on an outdoor tour of the campus and I got to see where she lived each of her four years up there! I even got to see the soccer field where she played and her study rock!

St. Scholastica- where Megan went to college!

Megan reliving her glory days.

St. Scholastica- where Megan went to college!

Megan reliving her glory days.

Chester Park

Since we did not get enough hiking on day 1, Megan next brought me to the most hidden park within a city ever- Chester Park. It has a loop trail about 2.5 miles long that we mostly conquered. Really the entire path along Chester Creek is spectacular, complete with small access points into the creek to cool off and relax!

A glimpse of Chester Park

Burrito Union

At the bottom of Chester Park is a fantastic restaurant known as Burrito Union. This place has a modern take on what to stuff inside a tortilla and it works perfectly. I got buffalo chicken and it was amazing. Thankfully, I also had one of their margaritas to cool my tastebuds down!

Burrito Union for lunch!

Park Point

After lunch we drove over the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge to reach Park Point. I don’t have enough good things to say about this space. It is the largest freshwater sand bar in the world and all good things come from that. It feels like you are in a small beach town on the east or west coast, but you’re in northern Minnesota… On any reasonably sunny summer day in Duluth, this is the place to be. Megan and I packed our backpack cooler and took the afternoon off to relax on the expansive beach. It was highly enjoyable to watch one college group from afar play slip n’ slide flip cup. We even took a dip into Lake Superior as the water was shockingly warm!

Our backpack cooler came in handy!

Park Point!

Our backpack cooler came in handy!

Park Point!

Canal Park

Fun in the sun finally came to an end and we drove back over the lift bridge to enjoy the Canal Park area for the evening. This is probably one of the busiest tourist spots in Duluth, but for good reason. Canal Park has it all- entertainment, boat cruises, numerous restaurants and bars, a brewery, and multiple shops- our favorite being Duluth Pack! We strolled around for a bit as we waited for our dinner reservation time.

Going over the lift bridge to hit up Canal Park!

Little Angie’s Cantina and Grill

In the heart of Canal Park is Little Angie’s Cantina and Grill, a solid Tex-Mex restaurant with gigantic margaritas as usual. They have some unique twists as well, like Megan’s favorite shrimp and asparagus quesadilla. But the perk here is to be seated on their patio for fantastic people watching.

Dinner at Little Angie’s!

310 Pub

For late night fun we hit the usually packed 310 Pub. But no one was in there due to COVID. Which is good! But sad at the same time. We had total access to pool tables, ping pong tables, cornhole, and shuffleboard- all without any wait. As things slowly return to normal, this bar is definitely a must visit for any activity-inclined couple. 

Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe

Our 4th of July started at Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe for some farm-to-table breakfast/brunch. We split our meals, sweet and savory again, and partook in a couple mimosas as well. We then walked around downtown Duluth a bit to prepare ourselves for a West Duluth afternoon!

4th of July breakfast at Sara’s Table!

Ursa Minor Brewing

When Megan went to St. Scholastica, she told me West Duluth was not a place to hang out. But now it seems like the city is reviving it into a bar, brewery, restaurant, and small business shopping district. Everything worthwhile here is pretty much within walking distance- and that’s exactly what we did! Our first West Duluth personal walking tour stop was Ursa Minor Brewing. All of their beers are solid, their logo is cool, they look after their employees, and they even have wood fired pizzas!

Ursa Minor Brewing patio

Ursa Minor’s bar

Ursa Minor Brewing patio

Ursa Minor’s bar

Duluth Cider

Just down the road is Duluth Cider, an up and coming cider brewery with already some accolades to show for it. We liked this place a lot mainly because it is a good switch up from your normal beer scene. They are doing some crazy stuff with ciders now too. We tried Beach Bum and Las Lajas and were blown away with how good they tasted.

Duluth Cider!

Duluth Tap Exchange

Further down the road next is the Duluth Tap Exchange– one of those self-serve beer tap bars popping up all over the country. It is pretty slick. You walk in, they link your credit card with a specialized bracelet, and then you place your bracelet over the tap beer you desire and let it flow into your glass! At the end, you walk back up to the main server to pay your tab by the ounce and you’re good to go! Cool concept, but there was not a ton of variety of beers here which capped our excitement.

Duluth Tap Exchange- self pour bar!

Bent Paddle Brewing Co

Literally two blocks down from Duluth Tap Exchange is most likely the best-known brewery in Duluth- Bent Paddle Brewing Co. They’re doing all things right when it comes to beer and they offer so many different types of brew that it is hard to choose wrong. The must-try list is endless- 14° ESB, Cold Press Black Ale, Happy Logger, Bent Hop, Classic, etc.… We went in, had a couple outstanding beers, played some cribbage, and then were ready for dinner.

Bent Paddle Brewing- also go here

OMC Smokehouse

Back up the same two blocks we just came down sits OMC Smokehouse, an elevated BBQ joint serving out all sorts of meats and beers. It was a perfect dinner to lead us into a 4th of July bonfire with Joel and Lauren after an afternoon full of taste testing. OMC stands for “Oink, Moo, Cluck” so yes, they are honestly dishing out delicious meat varieties to everyone. No doubt in our minds though- the ribs are where it’s at.

Our OMC Smokehouse dinner!

Love Creamery

Directly across the street from OMC is another booming Duluth specialty, Love Creamery. As the name suggests, it is solely an ice cream shop and they do it well. When we went in, they were offering eight different flavors. They sell flights of up to six flavors, with each scoop taking up one space inside a half dozen count egg carton. We thought this was brilliant and immediately listed the six flavors we wanted to try. It was a difficult decision to crown a winner, but mine was Salted Caramel. You’ll have to ask Megan what her choice was!

Megan’s goal the whole day 🙂

Enjoying our ice cream 6-pack!

Megan’s goal the whole day 🙂

Enjoying our ice cream 6-pack!

Dunn Brothers Coffee

For some reason, Megan insisted that we had to go to the Dunn Brothers Coffee shop on London Road for our final breakfast. I thought to myself- this Minnesotan chain of coffee shops can’t possibly have a Duluth location that is ultimately a cut above the rest of them, right? But so far, my Megan-led Duluth tour was excellent, so I went along for the ride. And then we arrived. And then it hit me as to why Megan loved this particular Dunn Bros… It is in a log cabin! Otherwise, it is a very normal coffee shop experience.

The Dunn Bros that Megan loves…

Jay Cooke State Park

On the way home we had one last sunny afternoon to adventure into the gateway to the North Shore- Jay Cooke State Park. Located only 10 miles southwest of Duluth, it definitely makes the list of things to do. Again, as one of the most popular parks in Minnesota, it gets packed near the main attraction, The Swinging Bridge over the St. Louis River, but then it thins out once you get a half mile into your hike. We first tackled the 3.5-mile Silver Creek Trail and then completed the much better 5.5-mile Carlton and Thomson Trail Loop.

Our last stop this trip- Jay Cooke State Park!

The Swinging Bridge!

The St. Louis River!

A final view on the Carlton and Thomson Trail Loop!

Our last stop this trip- Jay Cooke State Park!

The Swinging Bridge!

The St. Louis River!

A final view on the Carlton and Thomson Trail Loop!

There you have it! At least 25 top things to do in Duluth that we packed into an extended weekend. If you want hiking and adventure, they definitely have it. If you want good food/drink and relaxation, they’ve got that too. No wonder Megan loved going to college here!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Suzy Urick

    So, Meg, what was the favorite flavor?!

    1. Megan Urick

      I’d have to say the Salted Carmel won this time!

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