by Dawn Woolcott
If you are considering an upper Midwest or Great Lakes cruise, but not sure what there is to see in some of those towns on the itinerary you may never heard of before, prepare to be surprised. Take Duluth, Minnesota for example. You might be surprised with all the options on how to spend a day in Duluth: Learn something new, walk to honor an American icon, discover historic places, or satisfy your sweet tooth – you’ll have a wide variety of ways to stay busy when you visit Duluth.
You can start your day with a wander down the Bob Dylan Cultural Pathway – 1.8 mile walkway that parallels the waterfront through downtown. The cultural icon was born in Duluth in 1941 and there is an annual Bob Dylan festival for fans. Along the way you’ll see specially designed iron manhole covers each weighing 170 pounds. To create them, local artisans used iron recycled from iron radiators taken from the Split Rock lighthouse and the local courthouse. While you’re downtown, wander through the many shops. We always encourage shopping locally and discovering local products when traveling. Stop by the Art Dock – a gallery featuring Duluth area artists and artisans and perhaps find a treasure to take home as a remembrance and support the local community.
Next up is a trip back in time to discover some unique American history. Stop by the Karpeles Manuscript Museum – a unique and free museum dedicated to showcasing original handwritten letters and documents of iconic leaders of the past who have shaped history. Rotating exhibits travel the country to their collection of small museums from Tacoma to Jacksonville, and Buffalo to Pittsburgh. You might find an original copy of the surrender of the Empire of Japan ending World War II, or original set design drawings from Star Trek. Every visit is a surprise!
If you need a quick pick-me-up or time to stop for lunch, try the New London Cafe with a cozy atmosphere and hearty meals. Once you’re fueled up, there are some lovely historic homes to visit if you enjoy history and architecture. Fairlawn Mansion is an 1891Queen Victorian home with a four story tower topped with a widow’s walk that surely must have inspired thoughts of Rapunzel to the little ones who lived in the house during the forty years the home was a children’s home. Another beautiful home to visit is Glensheen Estate on the shores of Lake Superior. Wander the 12 acre garden, see the craftsmanship of early 20th century design, and admire elegant living without being ostentatious. If you’d like another garden to see, the Duluth Rose Garden is a 4.5 acre section of Leif Erickson Park along the waterfront that offers fabulous views and that heavenly scent of roses in summer.
Other options for historic exploration include a visit to the Old Firehouse and Police Museum for a self-guided tour of old fire rigs showing the change in firefighting techniques over the century. Upstairs is a police hall of fame exhibit. Head to the Great Lakes Aquarium for a wonderful facility displaying the area’s connection to Lake Superior and the waters beyond. Find unusual fish such as the long nosed gar or an electric eel, or if you prefer life above water, they have you covered too, with a raptor exhibit, local wildlife exhibit, and an art gallery. Their focus is on education and teaching everyone about the environment found around Lake Superior.
By afternoon you would enjoy a visit to local favorite the Portland Malt Shop along the waterfront for a double dip ice cream cone and sit by the riverside. Alternatively, if it’s happy hour, you might want to enjoy a swank cocktail at the Apostle Supper Club and feel like you could be swingin’ with ol blue eyes himself. This 1960’s Palm Springs style restaurant offers a hip vibe with a 360 degree harbor view. If cocktails aren’t your style, perhaps a visit to Fitgers Brewhouse is up your alley. This old brewery near the waterfront has been repurposed into a collection of shops, markets, hotel, restaurants, and of course, a brewpub. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and has a small museum on site for self guided tours.
No matter which explorations you choose, you are sure to have a wonderful day wandering this area and discover that there are always plenty of options to see and do. This is just a taste of what you can do in Duluth. Enjoy a step into a bit of the mid-west!