12 Attractions in Duluth, Minnesota

Last Updated on March 8, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Duluth is a vibrant port city located on the shores of Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota. With its scenic setting among wooded hillsides and along the world’s largest freshwater lake, Duluth offers visitors gorgeous natural landscapes and plenty of things to see and do.

AttractionDescription
Canal Park & LakewalkA vibrant area with scenic views, shops, restaurants, and the famous Aerial Lift Bridge.
Glensheen Historic EstateA historic mansion with original furnishings, offering tours and scenic grounds.
Great Lakes AquariumFeatures exhibits of local marine life, interactive displays, and educational programs.
Lake Superior Railroad MuseumOffers train excursions showcasing Duluth’s natural beauty and history.
Duluth Children’s MuseumInteractive exhibits fostering creativity and learning for children.
Enger Park & TowerA park with panoramic views, a Japanese garden, and the iconic Enger Tower.
Lake Superior ZooHome to various wildlife, focusing on species from cold climates.
SS William A. Irvin Ore Boat MuseumA museum aboard a historic ore boat, offering tours and exhibits.
Leif Erickson Park & Rose GardenFeatures beautiful gardens, a rose collection, and a Viking ship replica.
Duluth Art InstituteShowcases regional art, offers classes, and hosts cultural events.
Veterans Memorial ParkA waterfront park honoring military service members with various memorials.
Fitger’s Brewery & Entertainment ComplexA historic brewery site with dining, shopping, and entertainment options.

From its thriving arts and culture scene to its wealth of outdoor recreation options, Duluth makes for an ideal Midwestern getaway. The city’s rich maritime history and its location on a steep hillside overlooking the vast Lake Superior give Duluth an abundance of unique attractions that you won’t find anywhere else.

In this article, we will highlight 12 top attractions that you won’t want to miss during a visit to Duluth, Minnesota. From museums and historical sites to parks and cultural destinations, Duluth has something to delight travelers of all interests and ages.

1. Canal Park & Lakewalk

Name and Location: Canal Park & Lakewalk is located in Duluth, Minnesota, along the shores of Lake Superior. It is a popular waterfront area that features a variety of attractions, restaurants, and shops.

History and Significance: Canal Park was once an industrial area, but it has been transformed into a vibrant tourist destination. The Lakewalk, a scenic pedestrian path, stretches along the waterfront, offering stunning views of Lake Superior and the Aerial Lift Bridge, a historic landmark that has become a symbol of Duluth.

What to Expect: Visitors to Canal Park & Lakewalk can enjoy a range of activities, including strolling along the waterfront, watching ships enter and leave the harbor, visiting the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, and exploring the various shops and restaurants in the area. The Lakewalk also connects to other popular attractions, such as the Great Lakes Aquarium and the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

Visitor Information: Canal Park & Lakewalk is open year-round and is easily accessible by car or public transportation. Parking is available in several lots and ramps throughout the area. Many of the attractions and businesses in Canal Park have their own operating hours, so it’s best to check with individual establishments for specific information.

Canal Park is one of Duluth’s most popular areas, located along the lakefront and offering beautiful views of Lake Superior and the ships gliding through the nearby Duluth Ship Canal. This vibrant district contains restaurants, shops, hotels and attractions clustered around lighthouse pier and landmark Aerial Lift Bridge.

One of the top things to do in Canal Park is to take a relaxing stroll along the Lakewalk trail and pedestrian bridge. Hugging the shoreline for about 7 miles, this scenic walking and biking path connects Canal Park to other destinations like Brighton Beach and Leif Erikson Park. The views of Lake Superior are unbeatable along this flat paved trail accented with public art, benches and flowers.

During your time in Canal Park, don’t miss admiring the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge, which opens its central span to allow oceangoing vessels to access the Duluth harbor. Watching the bridge lift and lower to let ships pass underneath is quite a sight! Canal Park also offers dining cruise boats, pedal taxis and e-bike rentals for easy transportation around its attractions.

2. Glensheen Historic Estate

Name and Location: Glensheen Historic Estate is located at 3300 London Road in Duluth, Minnesota. It is a stunning 39-room mansion that sits on 12 acres of beautiful lakefront property along the shores of Lake Superior.

History and Significance: Glensheen was built between 1905 and 1908 for Chester and Clara Congdon, a wealthy and influential family in Duluth. The mansion was designed by prominent Minnesota architect Clarence H. Johnston Sr. and is an excellent example of Jacobean Revival architecture. The estate was donated to the University of Minnesota in 1968 and has since been operated as a historic house museum.

What to Expect: Visitors to Glensheen can take guided tours of the mansion and grounds, which showcase the estate’s rich history and stunning architecture. The tours provide a glimpse into the lives of the Congdon family and the servants who worked at the estate. Visitors can also explore the beautiful formal gardens, the carriage house, and the boathouse on the shore of Lake Superior.

Visitor Information: Glensheen is open for tours year-round, with varying hours depending on the season. Tickets can be purchased online or at the ticket house upon arrival. Parking is available on the estate grounds, and the mansion is accessible for visitors with limited mobility. The estate also hosts various special events throughout the year, including Christmas tours and summer concerts on the lawn.

History buffs will love exploring the 39-room Glensheen Historic Estate, an elegant mansion perched on Congdon Boulevard with postcard-worthy views over Lake Superior. This historic home was built between 1905–1908 by wealthy businessman Chester Adgate Congdon and still contains original furnishings and features.

Visitors can tour on their own or join a guided tour to admire the home’s Jacobean architecture style, intricate craftsmanship and time period decor that provides insight into life during Duluth’s mining boom era. The estate includes restored formal gardens and paths along the stretch of shoreline on the 12-acre grounds. Come experience this well-preserved piece of Duluth’s past for yourself!

3. Great Lakes Aquarium

Name and Location: The Great Lakes Aquarium is located at 353 Harbor Drive in Duluth, Minnesota, along the waterfront in the popular Canal Park area.

History and Significance: The Great Lakes Aquarium opened in 2000 and is dedicated to showcasing the diverse aquatic life and ecosystems found in the Great Lakes region. It is the only aquarium in the United States that focuses specifically on the flora and fauna of the Great Lakes.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Great Lakes Aquarium can explore a variety of exhibits featuring fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds from the Great Lakes region and beyond. Highlights include the Isle Royale exhibit, which showcases the unique ecosystem of the largest island in the Great Lakes, and the Baptism River exhibit, which features a two-story waterfall and a replica of a North Shore stream. The aquarium also offers daily animal encounters, such as otter feedings and sturgeon touch tank sessions.

Visitor Information: The Great Lakes Aquarium is open year-round, with varying hours depending on the season. Tickets can be purchased online or at the aquarium’s ticket counter. Parking is available in the adjacent Canal Park parking ramp or in nearby surface lots. The aquarium is fully accessible for visitors with limited mobility, and wheelchairs are available for use on a first-come, first-served basis.

One of Duluth’s top family-friendly attractions located right next to the lakefront is the Great Lakes Aquarium. This exciting facility houses over 200 exhibits showcasing animals and habitats native to the Great Lakes basin and other freshwater ecosystems worldwide.

Popular exhibits featuring Minnesota’s lake residents include the otter tank, trout stream and turtle terrace. Be sure to visit the daily diver shows to see staff feed the fish and swim with mesmerizing sharks, rays and sea turtles.

Aquarium highlights also include the glass tunnel walkway providing 360-degree views into massive tanks encircling visitors with aquatic life. With fun interactive elements for kids blended with informative displays for all ages, the Great Lakes Aquarium makes for an entertaining indoor adventure.

4. Lake Superior Railroad Museum

Name and Location: The Lake Superior Railroad Museum is located at 506 West Michigan Street in Duluth, Minnesota, within the historic Union Depot building.

History and Significance: The Lake Superior Railroad Museum was established in 1973 to preserve and interpret the railroading history of the region. The museum is housed in the former Union Depot, which was built in 1892 and served as a hub for passenger rail travel in Duluth for many decades.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum can explore a variety of exhibits showcasing the history of railroading in the region, including restored locomotives and passenger cars, a model railroad display, and interactive exhibits that allow visitors to experience what it was like to work on the railroad. The museum also offers train rides along the scenic North Shore of Lake Superior on selected dates throughout the year.

Visitor Information: The Lake Superior Railroad Museum is open year-round, with varying hours depending on the season. Tickets can be purchased online or at the museum’s ticket counter. Parking is available in nearby lots and ramps, and the museum is accessible for visitors with limited mobility. Train ride tickets should be purchased in advance, as they often sell out quickly.

Rolling along the North Shore Scenic Railroad from the Lake Superior Railroad Museum is a fantastic way to admire Duluth’s surroundings from a unique vantage point. Riders can take their pick from numerous rail excursions departing from the museum’s depot, all using preserved vintage railroad cars hauled by historic locomotives.

Popular trips include the Fall Color excursions taking passengers towards Lester Park, Two Harbors or Northern Minnesota when leaves are ablaze in autumn hues. Other family-friendly themed events offered include Polar Express rides in winter, Thomas the Tank engine trips for kids and murder mystery dinners while you ride the rails. For an unforgettable perspective on Duluth’s past and scenery, all aboard some old-fashioned train cars at this excellent museum and depot.

5. Duluth Children’s Museum

Name and Location: The Duluth Children’s Museum is located at 2125 West Superior Street in Duluth, Minnesota, in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

History and Significance: The Duluth Children’s Museum was founded in 1930 and has been providing hands-on learning experiences for children and families ever since. The museum moved to its current location in 2012, which features larger exhibit spaces and improved accessibility.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Duluth Children’s Museum can explore a variety of interactive exhibits designed to spark curiosity and creativity in children. Highlights include the Dino Dig, where children can uncover dinosaur bones in a realistic dig site, and the Adventure Treehouse, a multi-level climbing structure that encourages physical play and exploration. The museum also offers daily programs and activities, such as story times and science demonstrations.

Visitor Information: The Duluth Children’s Museum is open year-round, with varying hours depending on the day of the week. Tickets can be purchased online or at the museum’s front desk. Parking is available in the museum’s lot or on nearby streets. The museum is fully accessible for visitors with limited mobility, and sensory bags are available for checkout at the front desk for visitors with sensory processing needs.

Families visiting Duluth with kids won’t want to miss a stop at the Duluth Children’s Museum, conveniently located in the city’s central hillside. This museum tailors hands-on educational exhibits towards fostering creativity and curiosity for the younger crowd.

Popular sections include the clay studio, music lab, thingamajig workshop, hull of a ship and tall ship mast to climb. Kids can also dress up and perform in the theater, experiment in the inventor’s studio or play in the reading nest. Every room offers interactive play opportunities for children to learn through having fun. Just up the street lies the Duluth Art Institute, making this area a one-stop hub to inspire kids’ minds and foster artistic skills.

6. Enger Park & Tower

Name and Location: Enger Park & Tower is located at 16th Avenue West & Skyline Parkway in Duluth, Minnesota, offering stunning views of the city and Lake Superior from its hilltop location.

History and Significance: Enger Park was established in 1921 on land donated by Norwegian immigrant and businessman Bert Enger. The park’s centerpiece, the Enger Tower, was built in 1939 as a tribute to Bert Enger and his wife, Hilda. The tower stands 80 feet tall and offers panoramic views of Duluth and the surrounding area.

What to Expect: Visitors to Enger Park & Tower can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking trails, picnic areas, and gardens. The park is also home to a Japanese peace bell and garden, gifted to Duluth by its sister city of Ohara-Isumi, Japan. Climbing to the top of the Enger Tower is a must-do activity, offering breathtaking views of the city and lake from its observation deck.

Visitor Information: Enger Park is open year-round from sunrise to sunset, and admission is free. The Enger Tower is open seasonally from May through October, with varying hours depending on the month. Parking is available in lots near the park’s entrance, and the park is accessible for visitors with limited mobility, although some trails may be steep or uneven. The tower is not accessible for those with mobility issues, as it can only be reached by climbing stairs.

Enger Park encompasses 80 acres of pristine public green space donated by local brewer Bert Enger back in 1940s. Sitting atop the Duluth hillside bluffs, this sizable park contains bountiful gardens, wooded nature trails, a Japanese peace garden, picnic areas and splendid panoramic views over Lake Superior and the harbor below.

The park is also home to Enger Tower, an imposing five-story observation tower offering even loftier views out over the bay from its observation deck. Visitors can gaze out floor-to-ceiling windows or surveyed Duluth’s sights from open-air balconies.

Reaching Enger Tower involves a moderately steep walk, but the vistas looking over Duluth’s iconic Aerial Lift Bridge and Canal Park make it worth the exercise. Enger Park is easily one of the best city parks in Minnesota!

7. Lake Superior Zoo

Name and Location: The Lake Superior Zoo is located at 7210 Fremont Street in Duluth, Minnesota, nestled in the beautiful Kingsbury Creek Valley.

History and Significance: The Lake Superior Zoo was founded in 1923 and is one of the oldest zoos in the United States. It has undergone several expansions and renovations over the years, most recently in 2012 after suffering damage from severe flooding. The zoo is home to a variety of animals from around the world and is dedicated to conservation, education, and providing a memorable experience for visitors.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Lake Superior Zoo can see a wide range of animals, including tigers, lions, brown bears, primates, and a variety of birds and reptiles. The zoo also features several special exhibits, such as the Australian Outback and the nocturnal animals building. In addition to animal exhibits, the zoo offers daily keeper talks, animal encounters, and educational programs for visitors of all ages.

Visitor Information: The Lake Superior Zoo is open year-round, with varying hours depending on the season. Tickets can be purchased online or at the zoo’s entrance. Parking is available in the zoo’s lot, and the zoo is accessible for visitors with limited mobility, with wheelchairs and electric scooters available for rent. The zoo also offers a variety of amenities, including restrooms, concessions, and a gift shop.

For animal lovers visiting Duluth, the Lake Superior Zoo makes for an excellent family-friendly attraction to visit. Nestled among the forest and gardens of 40-acre Brisbane Woods, this zoo focused primarily on caring for animals adapted to cold climates.

Guests will see habitats and exhibit featuring beloved boreal forest residents like grey wolves, bald eagles, cougars, spotted bears and reindeer. The educational displays also incorporate enrichment activities you can spy animals engaged in.

Be sure to catch a training session or animal presentation to learn more about various wildlife behaviors from helpful zoo staff. With a philosophy of inspiring conservation, this intimate Duluth zoo makes for a memorable wilderness-themed excursion for visitors of all ages.

8. SS William A. Irvin Ore Boat Museum

Name and Location: The SS William A. Irvin Ore Boat Museum is located at 350 Harbor Drive in Duluth, Minnesota, anchored in the Minnesota Slip along the city’s waterfront.

History and Significance: The SS William A. Irvin is a retired Great Lakes freighter that was launched in 1938 and served as a flagship for U.S. Steel’s Great Lakes fleet for many years. The vessel was named after the former president of U.S. Steel and was known for its luxurious accommodations and state-of-the-art technology. The ship was retired in 1975 and has been operated as a museum ship since 1986.

What to Expect: Visitors to the SS William A. Irvin Ore Boat Museum can take guided tours of the ship, exploring its various decks and cabins and learning about life and work on a Great Lakes freighter. Highlights of the tour include the ship’s pilothouse, engine room, and the luxurious guest quarters that once hosted dignitaries and celebrities. The museum also features exhibits on the history of the Great Lakes shipping industry and the role of the SS William A. Irvin in that history.

Visitor Information: The SS William A. Irvin Ore Boat Museum is open seasonally from May through October, with varying hours depending on the month. Tickets can be purchased online or at the museum’s ticket office. Parking is available in nearby lots and ramps, and the museum is accessible for visitors with limited mobility, with ramps and an elevator providing access to most areas of the ship. Guided tours last approximately 60-75 minutes and involve climbing stairs and navigating narrow passageways.

Resting along the Duluth harbor sits the 610-foot long SS William A Irvin, providing visitors chances to come aboard and explore the entirety of this impressive Great Lakes freighter. As the last ship remaining from US Steel’s long fleet history, the Irvin makes for a unique floating museum.

This massive iron ore bulk carrier transported loads across the Great Lakes for over 40 years before being converted into a permanently docked attraction in 1979. Guest can self-tour the entire ship to view crew quarters, engine rooms, navigation bridge, cargo holds and more while learning about its history through displays. The sight of this iconic red vessel welcoming visitors along the harbor entrance has become quintessentially Duluth.

9. Leif Erickson Park & Rose Garden

Name and Location: Leif Erickson Park & Rose Garden is located at 12th Avenue East & London Road in Duluth, Minnesota, overlooking the shores of Lake Superior.

History and Significance: Leif Erickson Park was established in 1927 and named after the famous Norse explorer who is believed to have landed in North America around 1000 CE. The park features a statue of Leif Erickson that was donated by the Norwegian-American community in Duluth. The park’s rose garden was added in the 1930s and has since become a beloved destination for locals and visitors alike.

What to Expect: Visitors to Leif Erickson Park & Rose Garden can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including walking trails, picnic areas, and a playground. The park’s main attraction, however, is its stunning rose garden, which features over 3,000 rose bushes of various colors and varieties. The garden is in full bloom from late June through September and is a popular spot for weddings and other special events. The park also offers beautiful views of Lake Superior and the Duluth skyline.

Visitor Information: Leif Erickson Park & Rose Garden is open year-round from sunrise to sunset, and admission is free. Parking is available on nearby streets or in a small lot near the park’s entrance. The park is accessible for visitors with limited mobility, with paved paths winding through the rose garden and other areas of the park. Restrooms and a water fountain are available on site, and the park is a popular spot for picnics and other gatherings.

Duluthians adore the scenic 12-acre Leif Erikson Park near London Road, which contains lovely formal gardens, woodland trails, an arboretum and peaceful spaces overlooking Lake Superior. It provides an ideal location close to Canal Park attractions yet feels worlds away due to the lush roses, vibrant floral plantings and tall shady trees throughout the grounds.

In June, Leif Erikson really shines when nearly 1,500 rose plants burst into colorful blossoms, transforming the rose garden into a fragrant wonderland.

Other features include a replica Viking ship, historic sundial, Erickson statue and charming stair-stepping rock waterfall. Visitors appreciate meandering along the park’s Lakewalk extension and resting on hillside benches while soaking in breathtaking lake views at this Duluth gem.

10. Duluth Art Institute

Name and Location: The Duluth Art Institute is located in Duluth, Minnesota, with two locations: the Duluth Art Institute’s Depot location at 506 West Michigan Street, and the Lincoln Park Building at 2229 West 2nd Street.

History and Significance: The Duluth Art Institute was founded in 1907 and is one of the oldest arts organizations in Minnesota. The institute is dedicated to supporting and showcasing the work of regional artists and providing art education and programming for the community. The institute’s Depot location is housed in the historic Union Depot building, which also houses several other cultural organizations.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Duluth Art Institute can experience a variety of rotating exhibitions featuring the work of regional and national artists. The institute’s galleries showcase a range of media, including painting, sculpture, photography, and fiber arts. The institute also offers classes and workshops for artists of all ages and skill levels, as well as special events and lectures throughout the year. The Lincoln Park Building houses the institute’s ceramics studio and classroom space.

Visitor Information: The Duluth Art Institute’s Depot location is open Tuesday through Sunday, with varying hours depending on the day. The Lincoln Park Building is open for classes and events only. Admission to the galleries is free, although donations are welcome. Parking is available in nearby lots and ramps, and both locations are accessible for visitors with limited mobility. The institute’s gift shop features unique artwork and crafts by local artists, and restrooms are available on site.

The Duluth Art Institute serves as the area’s go-to center celebrating visual arts, housed within the historic 1893 Old City Hall brick structure along Duluth’s central Superior Street. This multi-level institute fosters local artistic talent while also offering cultural events, exhibits and classes for visitors to enjoy.

The galleries rotate works from talented Upper Midwest artists encompassing contemporary paintings, pottery, sculpture, fiber arts and more available to admire or purchase.

Guests can browse the gift shop’s handcrafted items or sign up for workshops held on-site covering most mediums. Families also delight in the institute’s monthly family days, offering free hands-on art exploration activities led by professional artists meant to inspire creative fun for all ages.

11. Veterans Memorial Park

Name and Location: Veterans Memorial Park is located at 405 East Superior Street in Duluth, Minnesota, along the city’s waterfront and near the Aerial Lift Bridge.

History and Significance: Veterans Memorial Park was established in the 1920s as a tribute to veterans of World War I. Over the years, the park has been expanded and rededicated to honor veterans of all wars and conflicts. The park features several monuments and memorials, including a World War II memorial, a Korean War memorial, and a Vietnam War memorial. The park is also home to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) and the annual Duluth Air Show.

What to Expect: Visitors to Veterans Memorial Park can explore the park’s various monuments and memorials, which offer a sobering and reflective experience. The park also features walking paths, benches, and green spaces that offer beautiful views of Lake Superior and the Duluth harbor. The DECC, which is located within the park, hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including concerts, conventions, and sporting events. The Duluth Air Show, which takes place in the park each summer, features aerial demonstrations by military and civilian aircraft.

Visitor Information: Veterans Memorial Park is open year-round from sunrise to sunset, and admission is free.

Dedicated in 1925, Duluth’s Veterans Memorial Park provides a peaceful waterfront area to pause and honor military service members across all branches. Situated along the lakeshore drive overlooking Lake Superior, this commemorative park contains numerous monuments and memorials recognizing the sacrifices of fallen soldiers.

Sculptures, plaques and flag displays mark contributions from veterans of World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and other 20th century conflicts. The symbolic beacon tower here includes an ‘eternal flame’ honoring Duluth natives who died serving their country. Benches and outlook platforms make this small memorial park a respectful place to reflect while appreciating panoramic North Shore views. The iconic four-column soldiers monument creates a stirring silhouette along the Lakewalk at sunset as well.

12. Fitger’s Brewery & Entertainment Complex

No visit to Duluth is complete without spending time at Fitger’s Brewery and adjoining entertainment center found within the historic Fitger’s Brewery building along Lake Superior’s shoreline. Originally built as a brewery in 1859, today it contains a popular restaurant, brewpub, gift shops, wine bar and hotel joined by a glassed-in passageway to Lakewalk level attractions like a bowling alley, movie theater, laser tag and escape rooms.

Guests can sample craft beers made on-site or enjoy gastropub cuisine at restaurants like Burrito Union and Endion Station while soaking in Fitger’s rich history and charm. This Duluth landmark seamlessly blends past industrial architecture with modern-day recreation conveniences to create an expansively fun destination for out-of-towners and locals alike. The lake views, ever-present railroad tracks and bridge outside remind you that you’re in quintessential Canal Park while making merry inside Fitger’s walls.

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Conclusion


With its unique blend of beautiful scenery, historic structures, cultural attractions and wealth of things to do both indoors and out, Duluth makes for a fantastic getaway full of pleasant surprises for Midwestern travelers. Gorgeous parks, top-rated museums, engaging tours and vibrant districts like Canal Park ensure visitors always find delightful ways to pass the time while exploring Duluth’s many charms.

From lakeside strolls and train rides to aquarium animals and interactive play, this lovely harbor city offers up attractions to connect with nature, learn captivating history and create memorable moments with family. The eclectic attractions covered here display just a small sample of what visitors can experience while visiting Minnesota’s jewel on Lake Superior.

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